China replaces PLA commander who started Ladakh standoff

Chinese President Xi Jinping has removed General Zhao Zongqi and replaced him with General Zhang Xudong as the new Commander of Western Theatre Command; Indian Army says keeping 'fingers crossed' on the new appointment.

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India has, from the beginning, been on the defensive and unable to push back the Chinese troops when they sidled several km from their border posts towards India-patrolled positions up to the northern banks of the Pangong Tso lake overlooking the ‘eight finger’ areas.

China has replaced the Commander of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Western Theatre Command (WTC), General Zhao Zongqi, the man responsible for the ongoing military standoff with India in eastern Ladakh.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has appointed General Zhang Xudong as the new Commander of WTC which oversees the China-India border.

On the new appointment, the Indian Army said it is keeping its fingers crossed. “The tone and demeanour of the PLA commander during the next military commanders’ meeting would throw some light on the complex undercurrents in the PLA… We are keeping our fingers crossed,” an Indian military commander, requesting anonymity, was quoted as saying by Hindustan Times on Monday (December 21).

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Related News: India, China resume talks, aim for complete disengagement at Ladakh

The newspaper’s report also mentioned that the replacing of Gen. Zhao has sparked hope in New Delhi.

President Xi, who heads the Central Military Commission (CMC), the overall high-command of the two million-strong PLA, appointed 58-year-old Gen. Zhang, according to Xinhua news agency. Also, Xi promoted four senior Chinese military and armed police officers. Among them was Gen. Zhang.

The new appointment at the top of the PLA Western Command comes in the midst of the standoff between the Chinese and Indian military in eastern Ladakh since May.

Not much is known about Gen. Zhang, especially his association with Western Theatre Command, as he reportedly served mostly in other theatre commands of the PLA.

He succeeds 65-year-old Gen. Zhao who headed the Western Theatre Command during the 2017 Doklam standoff where the Indian Army stood up against the PLA’s plan of laying a road close to the Indian border in an area claimed by Bhutan.

The Ladakh standoff also happened under the watch of Gen Zhao. It began in May after China dispatched thousands of troops which were mobilised for military exercises to eastern Ladakh borders, sparking a new round of tensions with India.

(With inputs from PTI)

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