News Wrap


In eastern Ladakh, on 15 June 2020, at least twenty Indian soldiers, including a colonel were killed in a "violent face off" with Chinese troops, during a "de-escalation process", The Indian army claims that these were the first deaths in 45 years, along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Indian intercepts reveal that Chinese suffered 43 casualties, including dead and seriously injured, in face-off in the Galwan Valley. The last deaths on the India China border occurred in 1975, when Chinese troops ambushed an Indian patrol, near the Line of Actual control in Arunachal Pradesh. China has always claimed sovereignty over the Galwan Valley. Galwan is not among the 23 contested areas identified by the two countries, along the yet-to-be demarcated LAC, through the joint working group mechanism on the boundary question. Statements from both countries agreed that what happened on 15 June 2020 Night was a violation of the consensus arrived at during the 06 June commander' conference. A fortnight earlier, Indian authorities snapped the mobile Network of thousands of people, living in frontier villages.

Nepal's lower house of parliament, on 13 June 2020, displayed unity to pass a constitution amendment bill, revising its emblem to reflect a new map, with territories involved in a dispute with India. The new map includes Kalapani, Lipu Lekh and Lampiyadhura, which are in dispute between Nepal and India. The long standing territorial dispute had become an irritant in November 2019, after India put Kalapani in the new map to factor in the reorganization of Jammu and Kashmir. Nepal had protested recently after India opened a road to Kailash Mansarovar, via Lipu Lekh, calling it the China border on 09 May 2020.

Palestinian Militants
On 16 August 2020, Israel closed the Gaza Strip's offshore fishing zone, following a night of cross-border fighting with Palestinian Militants, the most intensive escalation of hostilities in recent months. Palestinian militants in Gaza fired two rockets into southern Israel, after Israeli air strikes targeted sites belonging to the territory's militant Hamas rulers. The Israeli military claims the Iron dome aerial defence system intercepted the two rockets that militants in Gaza launched in southern Israel. The Israeli army says that the strikes were a response to explosive balloons launched by Hamas - affiliated group over the border, and attempts by Palestinian protesters to throw explosives at the Israel - Gaza perimeter fence and soldiers stationed along it. Dozens of Palestinians took part in protests along the perimeter fence. Israeli military says the protesters burnt tires, hurled explosive devices and grenades, towards the security fence. The Gaza health ministry maintains that Israeli gunfire at protesters wounded two Palestinians.

The last war that China fought was its emasculated invasion of Vietnam in 1979. Incidentally, that war immediately exposes the lie that China likes to promulgate that it has never once invaded an inch of foreign soil. On that occasion, the PLA was soundly defeated and withdrew with its tail between its legs.

Of course, the PLA is a very different army now compared to 1979. It benefits from the second-largest defence budget in the world, and it has been re-equipping at an astonishing rate as its trajectory moves from a continental military to a maritime power. The effective combat power of the PLA is an important question for Asia and for others around the world, especially as Beijing displays a greater willingness to warmonger and to threaten. In the past few months alone, the world has witnessed Chinese violent advances along the Indian border, the splashdown of ballistic missiles in the South China Sea, continued bullying of South China Sea claimant nations, acute verbal and military threats against Taiwan, and boat swarms at the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands.

One expert who has examined the combat effectiveness of the PLA is Dr Bates Gill, a professor at the Department of Security Studies and Criminology at Macquarie University in Australia. This year he delivered an assessment for the Royal United Services Institute containing his conclusions.

Gill believes the current make-up of the PLA is 2 million active-duty personnel, of which the ground force comprises just over 50%, the PLA Navy (PLAN) and Marine Corps some 12.5%, the PLA Air Force (PLAAF) 20%, the PLA Rocket Force (PLARF) 6%, the PLA Strategic Support Force (PLASSF) 9%, and the remaining 4% is the Joint Logistics Support Force.

In addition, there are some 500,000 reserves, up to 40,000 contracted civilians and approximately 500,000 members of the People's Armed Police (including the China Coast Guard). Thus, China can field well over 3 million armed personnel. The PLA is certainly ambitious. Under orders from Chairman Xi Jinping, it restructured heavily at the end of 2015 in the "most sweeping and potentially transformative re- organisation in its history". Gill expects the PLA could do the following: extend its anti-access/area-denial envelope farther beyond the First Island Chain; enhance its long-range strike capabilities, including hypersonic weapons; possess advanced undersea and amphibious war fighting capacities; and significantly improve its capabilities in cyberspace and outer-space operations.

The only way to overcome an absence of combat experience is to conduct evermore-realistic exercises, and this is certainly the case in the PLA. The Chinese military is working both from the bottom up (small-unit tactics) and from the top down (theatre level) to exercise troops in realistic settings. Since 2016, in particular, there have been more large-scale exercises that allow headquarters and units to war game together. However, COVID-19 has impacted these exercises in 2020, delaying plans by a year or so.

Vol. 53, No. 15, Oct 11 - 17, 2020