Troop cut part of Chinese military reforms

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Old 14-Sep-2015
Post Troop cut part of Chinese military reforms

China’s much publicised announcement to prune 3 lakh troops from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will not give India a military edge over its neighbour.
An assessment made by the Indian security establishment indicates that China is linking the troop cut to military reforms. The focus will be to prune “non-essential” force, including office staff, while ramping up its air force, navy and strategic missiles.
On September 3, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced a reduction of 3 lakh troops. This is not the first troop cut by China. Beijing has done this periodically as it grows in terms of technology, officials say. The cuts are part of the military reforms scheduled to be completed by the end of 2017. It will be China’s 11th military reduction since 1949 and the fourth since the 1980s. In 1985, China cut the armed forces by more than 10 lakh, the largest cut ever. Troop numbers were reduced by 5 lakh in 1997 and by 2 lakh in 2003.
The cut announced by Xi indicate that the PLA is paying more attention to its operational capability. It is most likely to focus on helicopter and mechanised operations in the Tibetan plateau and Xinjiang—both bordering India. China’s military budget—$142 billion—could be invested in upgrading weapons and increasing attack prowess of combat units. India has a budget of $38.5 billion and that too at dollar exchange rates of last year.
For New Delhi, a red herring is that China and Russia have agreed to co-produce a heavy-lift helicopter. The Aviation Industry Corp of China and the Russian Helicopters signed a cooperation frame work in May this year. The copter will be capable of flying at altitudes up to 5,700 m. In simple words, it will be capable of flying all over Tibet and crossing the formidable Himalayas. With a capacity of carrying 10 tonne cargo or more than 100 persons, the copter is expected to from the airborne rapid deployment of future PLA. China has said it will need at least 200 such copters. In comparison, India is in the process of ordering 15 heavy-lift copters (CH-47 Chinook) from the US and has 137 medium-lift Mi-17 series helicopters.
Indian estimates are that the PLA could integrate the command headquarters of the three services into a unified joint command. In China, its military website today hinted at the expansion of its air force. It quoted Shen Jinke, spokesperson of the PLA air force, saying that “air force’s strategic capabilities should go with expanding national interests, in a bid to conduct diverse military missions”.

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