India’s indigenous main battle tank (MBT) Arjun, which was developed after years of delays and cost-overruns, came in for praise from a top Chinese military research academy here that concentrates on the engineering requirements of the armed forces.
Senior Colonel Liu Degang, deputy commander of the Beijing-based academy, said that the MBT is “very good” for Indian conditions.
Liu, who was receiving a group of Indian journalists at the academy that also doubles as a research institute for its tanks and heavy armour, said that India had done well to develop its own MBT. The Arjun tank took nearly two decades, from the time the first prototype was revealed, to be inducted into the Indian Army and an upgraded version, Arjun MK-II, is reportedly being developed.
A visit to such a military research centre in China is rare and even the locally based Indian journalists have never been invited there. Liu, as senior commander, is ranked equivalent to a brigadier in the Indian Army.
Asked if such a visit would point to a “new found confidence”, Liu said that China was “opening up, more and more, both politically and militarily”. He spoke through a translator.
The journalists were also shown the series of tanks and armoured personnel carrier which had been modernised by the research centre and inducted by the Chinese army. Liu, however, was somewhat defensive when asked what percentage of the army comprised armoured divisions. “It is for the white paper of the government to deal with such matters,” he said.
Talking of the modification of the Chinese main battle tank (MBT), Liu said that it had incorporated the latest changes in electronics and firepower technologies. For the kind of topography in which China had to fight, it was an advanced battle machine, he said.
He was asked to compare the Chinese MBT, with a US modern tank to which he said that both had different areas of operations and the Chinese one was superior in the role it would be called upon to play in the area where it would have to fight.
He said the academy and research centre had exchanges and training programmes with several countries and that Indian military officials had also visited them in Beijing. He said they had received some 300 delegations from about 70 countries and had helped train 2,700 army personnel from about 40 countries.
With India, he said “good neighbours should have a good understanding among themselves”, and that exchanges between the two countries should be increased.
Liu said that almost all the heavy weaponry used by China is developed in-house, though they are willing to learn from others. He said that a country of China’s size could not always depend on other countries, but they are open-minded about collaborating with other countries.
The centre, affiliated to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is spread over 1,100 acres and has 720,000 square metres of buildings which also house residences for the senior staff. It fosters officers of the PLA and takes in 6,000 cadets annually.