China has raised the rank and status of its western Tibet Military Command to widen its scope for missions and combat preparedness, in a move analysts in Beijing said was aimed in part at fortifying the border with India.
The move to raise the Tibet Military Command’s authority level would put it directly under the command of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) ground forces, the Party-run Global Times reported on Friday, and allow it “to shoulder more combat assignments”.
A military expert in Beijing told the newspaper that the command “bears great responsibility to prepare for possible conflicts between China and India”, but currently faced difficulties “to secure all the military resources they need”.
The move would raise its authority, including the designation of troops, but also “expand their function and mission”, the deputy director of the Political Work Department of the Tibet Military Command, Zhao Zhong, was quoted as saying. This would also boost their combat readiness, a military expert told the Global Times.
Following the reform, provincial military commands were placed under the control of a newly set up National Defence Mobilization Department under the Central Military Commission, which is headed by President Xi Jinping.
The Tibet Military Command, however, will be directly under under the PLA Ground Force, headed by General Li Zuocheng, who sits on the CMC.
“The Tibet Military Command’s political rank will be elevated to one level higher than its counterpart provincial-level military commands, and will come under the leadership of the PLA Army,” the newspaper quoted a report in the China Youth Daily as saying.
This suggested that “the command may undertake some kind of military combat mission in the future,” the Global Times quoted an unnamed source as saying.
“The promotion shows China is paying great attention to the Tibet Military Command, which will significantly improve the command’s ability to manage and control the region’s military resources, as well as provide better preparation for combat,” Beijing-based military expert Song Zhongping told the paper.
Song was quoted as saying that “the Tibet Military Command bears great responsibility to prepare for possible conflicts between China and India, and currently it is difficult to secure all the military resources they need”.
The newspaper noted that “border disputes between China and India have not been completely resolved”, and in April when Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar visited Beijing, his counterpart had said China “reacted positively toward setting up a military hotline with India” which was agreed during the visit.
Song, the military expert, said the Tibet Military Command required “specialist mountain skills and long-range capabilities, which need the deployment of special military resources”.
“The promotion of the command’s authority level shows the amount of attention China places on the defence of its southwestern borders. The higher the authority level is, the more military resources the command can mobilise,” he said.
The Xinjiang Military Command may also be elevated in the future, the report said. Both commands are under the newly created Western Theater Command, the largest of five newly reorganised military regions of the PLA. Before the reorganisation, the Xinjiang command was part of the military region responsible for the western sector of the border with India and the disputed Aksai Chin region, while the Tibet command fell under the military region responsible for the eastern sector of the border.