Indian Naval ships (INS) Kolkata and Shakti entered Qingdao, China to participate in the International Fleet Review (IFR) as part of 70th Anniversary Celebrations of Peoples’ Liberation Army Navy (PLA Navy) on 21 April 2019.Entry ofthe IN ships was marked by firing of 21 gun salute to the Peoples Republic of China and they were welcomed into harbour by officials from PLA Navy’s North Sea Fleet.
Activities included courtesy calls to various dignitaries of PLA Navy, naval band performances in the famous May 4th Square and various other functions of IFR including the opening ceremony, planning conferences and table top exercise.IN ships took part in the parade of naval ships on 23 April which was reviewed by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Personnel from IN ships also participated in various sporting events, professional exchanges with participating navies and ship visit by PLA Navy personnel and local populace. The Indian Ambassador to China, Mr. Vikram Misri, hosted a reception onboard INS Kolkata for dignitaries, PLA Navy officers and delegations participating in the IFR.
While Indian armed forces are much sought after by their counterparts of many foreign friendly countries for joint exercises, China is the only “not fully friendly” country, to put it mildly, with which India has agreed to have joint military exercises. This IFR by PLA Navy was preceded by Two Sessions, 2019, China’s biggest annual political meeting of its two major political bodies—the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and the National People’s Congress, held in February this year.
In an article titled ‘Chinese military takes an increasingly open and assertive posture towards the world’ co-authored by Fan Yongqiang and Mei Shixiong, published in China Military Online, dated 15 March 2019, it is relevant to note what some PLA generals spelt out during the Two Sessions 2019.
“China has always been a builder of world peace, a contributor to global development, and a defender of the international order. China’s armed forces have always been a staunch force upholding world peace,” said Major General Ci Guowei, Chief of the Office for International Military Cooperation (OIMC) of the Central Military Commission, recently talking about the new look and new deed of Chinese military diplomacy in the new era.
China has established “defence and security consultation mechanisms” with 17 neighbouring countries and their “strategic mutual trust has been continuously strengthened”. Quoting an ancient Chinese poem, ‘A bosom friend afar brings a distant land near,’ Maj. Gen. Ci said, “China’s military diplomacy has been practicing a new security concept and continuously making contributions to promoting world peace and global development in order to build a community with a shared future for mankind.”
Hou Shengliang, a professor at the Army Academy of Border and Coastal Defense, was impressed with the result of China’s joint exercises. According to the material he read, in 2018 alone, the Chinese military participated in more than 40 joint exercises with its foreign counterparts and conveyed that the “contribution of military diplomacy to combat effectiveness has increased significantly”.
“Military diplomacy must facilitate the boost in military combat effectiveness,” said Maj. Gen. Ci. He stated that in the new era, the Chinese military has “mindfully planned joint exercises, training and competitions,” including the China- ASEAN joint maritime exercise 2018, the US-China Disaster Management Exchange 2018, the Shaheen-VII China-Pakistan joint air exercise, and the International Army Games. The actual combat capability is highlighted in terms of the theme setting, subject content, and training methods.
Gen. Ci went on to state, “With the increasing capabilities of the Chinese military, our international security responsibilities increase correspondingly…This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. The Chinese PLA will continue to actively carry out international military exchanges and cooperations, work together with others to address global security challenges and strive to play a positive role in promoting world peace, stability and prosperity”. What is not known worldwide but became obvious to Indian Army well after its 1967 skirmishes with PLA in Nathu La, Sikkim, is that the mighty PLA is shy of bloodshed of its soldiers and body-bags. Awesome power projection is a safer option.