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China raises status and rank of Western Tibet Military Command

May 16, 2016

By Ananth Krishnan

India Today, May 13, 2016 - 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 that analysts in Beijing say is aimed at fortifying the border with India.

The move to raise the Tibet Military Command's authority 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".

This suggests "the command may undertake some kind of military combat mission in future", the newspaper quoted an unnamed source as saying.

A military expert in Beijing told the newspaper that the command "bears great responsibility to prepare for possible conflicts between China and India", but is currently facing 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 said.

China announced sweeping military reforms in January and February, aimed at creating a more nimble fighting force and unified military command. Following the reform, provincial military commands were placed under the control of a newly set up National Defence Mobilisation 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 a level higher than its counterpart provincial-level military commands, and will come under the leadership of the PLA Army," the newspaper quoting a report from the China Youth Daily, said.

"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 said.

Song was quoted saying: "The Tibet Military Command bears great responsibility to prepare for possible conflicts between China and India, and at present 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".

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