Chinese President Xi Jinping on the evening of January 18 held a rare conversation with People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers stationed along the India-China border through video link, State media in Beijing reported on January 19.
Mr. Xi, speaking from the PLA headquarters in the capital, addressed troops at a border defence station in Khunjerab under the Xinjiang Military Command and “inspected their combat readiness”, a report said. The Xinjiang border command was the only PLA army command Mr. Xi was shown speaking to. He also addressed a Chinese navy formation and an air force aviation brigade and “ordered them to remain alert and be ready for combat.”
The Xinjiang military command soldiers are among the troops involved in managing border areas along Eastern Ladakh in the Western Sector of the India-China boundary, which has seen tensions since April 2020 after the PLA carried out multiple transgressions.
Disengagement is yet to be completed in two friction areas among the seven that have seen tensions in the Western Sector, while tens of thousands of troops of both sides remain deployed in forward areas.
Mr. Xi in his remarks to the troops referred to how “in recent years, the area has been constantly changing” and asked how it had impacted the Chinese army. One of the soldiers replied that they were now carrying out “dynamic” and “24-hour” monitoring of the border. Mr. Xi then asked about their conditions and whether they were able to “receive fresh vegetables” in the inhospitable terrain.
State media reported Mr. Xi had asked the border troops “about their border patrol and management work” and “hailed the soldiers as models of border defence and encouraged them to persist in their efforts and make new contributions.”
In July last year, Mr. Xi held a rare meeting with top brass of the Xinjiang military district when he visited the regional capital Urumqi.
India and China last month agreed to keep communication channels open and to maintain peace in border areas as they held the 17th round of talks between military commanders, which have made slow progress in reaching an understanding to disengage in the remaining two friction points in Depsang and Demchok.