The Takshashila PLA Insight Newsletter: Issue 3

The Big Story: South Asia and PLA

A China Daily editorial on May 13th called for joint action by South Asian countries to deal with rising terrorism threats in the region. The article comes at the back of a terrorist attack on a five star hotel, Zaver Pearl Continental near the port city of Gwadar, Pakistan. The responsibility of the attack was claimed by the Balochistan Liberation Army. Pearl Continental is the only five-star hotel in Gwadar, which is one of the centre pieces of the multi-billion dollar China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The Balochi militants oppose Chinese investments and the presence of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops in Pakistan to protect these investments.

The China Daily editorial cautioned that, the Islamic State (IS) is trying to re-group in South Asia and has established a province in India. The editorial claimed that South Asia is a fertile soil for the IS to grow, as there is a lack of mutual trust between countries owing to territorial disputes, security loop holes, underdevelopment and poverty. The editorial called for greater political will and joint efforts for addressing these problems.

The recently released Pentagon report on China’s military modernisation had warned about the possibility of increased presence of PLA troops and possible bases in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) for protection of investments under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Earlier, the US Department of Defense’s 2018 China Military report had cautioned about the expansion of China’s Marine Corps from 20,000 to 100,000 personnel. Chinese Marine Corps are already deployed at the base in Djibouti and there is speculation about increased deployments in Gwadar, as observed Dr David Brewster, a professor on international relations at Australian Nation University.

Sputnik news has reported that China has deployed a contingent of PLA in the Thar region of Sindh province, Pakistan. However, there is no official clarification of this from the Chinese foreign or defence ministry.

China in its regular foreign ministry press conference strongly condemned the attack and later thanked Pakistan for taking swift measures to eliminate the terrorists.

Restrictions on Chinese Researchers

The bipartisan group of lawmakers in the US House of Representatives and Senate have introduced a bill to ban Chinese military scientists and engineers from the US labs. The bill requires the US government to develop a list of scientific and engineering institutions affiliated with the PLA. The bill seeks to prohibit US visas to the researchers, students, scientists and engineers affiliated with the listed institution.

Reasons for introduction of this bill:

In 2018, Alex Joske wrote a research paper for the Australian Strategy Policy Institute, titled ‘Picking Flowers, Making Honey.’ The central argument of the paper was that, China is collaborating with the foreign universities across the world to acquire advance scientific technology and applying it for development of its armed forces. Joske says that various Chinese institutions have collaboration with advanced scientific institutions and universities in the Five Eyes countries (US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand), Singapore and Germany. The paper underscores that this collaboration is leveraged by researchers to bring technology back to China and utilise it for betterment of the PLA. Joske’s report claims that over 2,500 scientists, engineers and students have traveled to these countries enrolling in advanced technological institutions since 2007.

He suggests that this inadvertently leads to transfer of technology and strategic science to the PLA. The way out, according to Joske, is a greater synergies between the universities and governments. Tools for limiting technology transfer, better scrutiny of visa applications and further legislation targeting military end users would go a long way in restricting this.

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