New Delhi: Amid the dragging border standoff with India on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), China’s military has stepped up efforts to recruit more Tibetans and is holding special recruitment drives across Tibet Autonomous Region since the beginning of the year.
Quoting officials familiar with the development, a report by Hindustan Times said that People’s Liberation Army (PLA) officials have crisscrossed the Tibet Autonomous Region to hold recruitment drives and to pick up Tibetan recruits who were already at PLA camps.
There are also reports the PLA intends to create a Special Tibetan Army Unit, the people said, citing intelligence reports and communications intercepts from three separate intelligence agencies. If this were to go ahead, this would be the first PLA formation comprising soldiers from a specific ethnicity, the people added, according to the report.
PLA officials from Lhasa visited Rudok town in Ngari Prefecture in the far west of Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) in the third week of February to recruit Tibetans as soldiers, according to an intelligence report. These officials later travelled to Zanda or Tsamda County, one of the border counties of TAR to select Tibetan recruits from several PLA camps for possible induction into the special unit, the report said.
The PLA also reportedly carried out a recruitment drive in Lhasa to induct a sizeable number of Tibetans. This drive was conducted against the backdrop of the standoff in Ladakh and the PLA is expected to raise more border defence regiments comprising Tibetans, the people said.
Security officials in New Delhi have been keeping a close watch on these developments, which come at a time when the disengagement process along the LAC has stalled after a limited drawdown of troops, armoured formations and artillery on the north and south banks of Pangong Lake in February.
The latest meeting of senior Indian and Chinese military commanders held on April 9 ended without any forward movement on disengagement at other friction points such as Depsang, Hot Springs and Gogra, though the two sides agreed to maintain stability on the ground and avoid any new incidents.
“These new recruitment drives are being held at a time when there are reports that mainstream Chinese troops from lower altitudes faced problems during their deployment in Tibet. We have intercepts showing their troops suffered from health problems such as severe mountain sickness and high altitude pulmonary oedema,” the report quoted an official as saying. “It is also meant to send a message to India and to Tibetans in India,” the official added.