Wang Xiaofeng, Beijing & Roopa Debroy, Delhi
China has appointed a new military general , Lt General Xu Qiling , for commanding forces on the Indian border, as the two armies are locked in a tortuous stand-off for the last forty-odd days.
The new appointment has now been confirmed — Lieutenant General Xu Qiling will be the new commander of the PLA Western Theater Command Ground Force (Army).
Xu , born in Huaiyang District, Zhoukou, Henan in July 1963, has served in Jinan Military Region for a long time before serving as Commander of the 83rd Group Army. He was in charge of the Central Theater Command in 2016-17, after which he was appointed Commander of the 79th Group Army. He rose to become Commander of the Eastern Theater Command Ground Force in December 2018, replacing Qin Weijiang. On December 11, 2019, he was awarded the military rank of lieutenant general (zhongjiang) by Central Military Commission chairman President Xi Jinping.He was a delegate to the 13th National People’s Congress.
Lt Gen Xu will report to General Zhao Zongqi, who is overall commander of the Western Theater Command and oversees all forces there, including the Ground Force or Army, Air Force and Rocket Force. The command is responsible for the India border and is the biggest of five theater commands. Theater commands are usually headed by generals.
Gen. Zhao was also the Western Theater Commander during the 2017 Doklam stand-off. In October 2017, he was also appointed to the Communist Party’s 19th Central Committee.
Gen. Zhao’s counterpart in the Eastern Theater Command, General He Weidong, was previously in charge of the PLA’s Ground Forces in the west, before his promotion in January to head the entire Eastern Theater Command.
Lt. Gen Xu’s appointment can be thought of a lateral move, as he previously held the same position in the Eastern Theater Command as Commander of its Ground Forces.
Indian and Chinese forces have been in stand-offs along the LAC at Ladakh since early May. The June 6 talks between 14Corps commander Lt Gen Harinder Singh and Southern Xinjiang Military district commander Maj-Gen Liu Lin has broken some ice and some pullback by both armies from three of the four contested positions have been reported.
“The fact of the matter is some kind of planning has gone through before these multiple face-offs,” said Lt Gen (retd) S.L. Narasimhan, Member, National Security Advisory Board. “Earlier, they used to take place in one place. This time there have been multiple face-offs and geographically spaced out, in Sikkim, Pangong Tso and Galwan. The kind of numbers we see is also not what we saw earlier, and the aggression has been more than normal.”
“Normal face-offs happen every year, they don’t lead to these kind of incidents,” added Lt Gen (retd) D.S. Hooda, former Northern Army Commander. “This is much more serious. They have come completely well prepared and prepared to do things by force. We have never seen this level of violence.”
The Western Theater Command will be the point of responsibility for managing the situation, and Lt Gen Xu and Gen Zhao are likely to be involved in the decision-making.
Only in January, India’s then Northern Army Commander Lt Gen Ranbir Singh headed a delegation to China, and met with Gen Zhao at the command’s headquarters in Chengdu in a visit aimed at improving communication between the militaries. Singh was replaced by Lt Gen Yogesh Joshi . lt Gen Harinder Singh was the previous Director-General Military Intelligence (DGMI) before he took charge of the Udhapur-based 14th Corps.