PLA troops are an anxious group, recall Indian officers

Serving and retired Indian Army officers, who have spent a considerable time at the India-Chinese borders have all experienced the same thing – that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers lack motivation, have low pay, and are extremely corrupt.
These Indian Army officers were or are posted at India’s eastern border, which it shares with China, including at Nathu La. And, all of these officers had, at multiple times during their posting, engaged in one-to-one confrontations with their Chinese counterparts.
According to these officers, the PLA’s men, especially those who are asked to serve at the India-China borders, are not very motivated because of the physical hardship they have to endure and the low pay, which, does not justify the hardship that they have to face.
In their interaction with PLA soldiers and officers, Indian Army officers have also learnt that the PLA is a highly corrupt force. This is also evident from the punishment meted out to more than 100 PLA officers at or above the corps-level. These men included two former Central Military Commission vice chairmen who were investigated and punished in the last few years by their President Xi Jinping.
Basically, the PLA needs to rely on “fear” to push its men, especially its lower ranks, to keep them motivated in inhospitable terrains like Nathu La, where action takes place at a height of more than 14,000 feet.
The PLA, as the Indian officers shared, lack cohesiveness among its cadre, who have massive disrespect for their superiors. The lack of fraternal feelings among the PLA men is easily visible.
“Theirs is not a motivated Army. PLA relies on fear to extract performance, which does not work in a place like Nathu La. They are extremely low paid. My counterpart once told me that he gets one third of what I get. In PLA, there is no recognition of the fallen, as was evident from the recent 15 June standoff, unlike in our country where the fallen are treated like God and their names are engraved in memory for eternity,” a retired colonel, who was posted at Leh until recently said.
In his interaction, the colonel learnt that the PLA officers compensate their low pay through authorized perks like free rations, liquor, cigarettes, domestic help, children’s school and college fees, vehicles etc.
“Basically, the officer cadre depends on these perks for survival, which is withdrawn very quickly on slightest suspicion. The majority of PLA officers are highly insecure about their career. The Communist Party of China controls the lifestyle of their individuals very closely,” the officer said.
He added: “In another incident, both my counterpart and I were alone (in a ceremony loosely called “private tea” by the Chinese). Both of us decided that once we join the tea party we will identify, from each other’s contingent, people who are not from the regular Army. I took about 5 minutes to do that with 100% accuracy; he took about 10 minutes—basically political commissars (political officers of the CCP) from their side and intelligence guys from our side. I could see the hate my counterpart had for the political commissars. I did not find the PLA a cohesive force like our infantry units.”
Colonel (Retd) Bhupinder Shahi was once told by his Chinese counterpart that most of them were on a four-year conscription that allowed them free education if they served in the PLA.
“I once saw were a lot of celebrations on their side. I called their company commander and asked him why his men were celebrating. He told me that they were celebrating their ‘freedom’ as they were being ‘released’ that day to pursue their studies. At that point, I wondered how many of them would die for their country voluntarily,” he recalled.
According to him, the PLA men were also known for showing aggression mostly when there was a camera around.
“They were more interested in capturing their aggression on camera, most probably to show it to their superiors. They would also take snaps of their GPS coordinates, to prove that they were exactly where they were ordered to be,” he said.
“In fact, I would offer them water, tea and pakoras once the aggression photo session was over. They even asked for water and tea after showing initial aggression on camera. Their psychological profiling will conclusively prove that should push come to shove, we will certainly get better of them in a localized environment,” said Shahi, who spent eight years in the Ladakh region in his 27-year-career.
Explaining the terrain around the border, Shahi said that it was one of the most inhospitable terrains because of heights that start from 14,000 feet and go beyond 18,000 feet.
“To explain in layman’s terms, when we used to play cricket and when there was a possibility of taking two runs, we would take one as every step required massive efforts. Having a fistfight there is the most difficult task. Only those who have massive stamina and acclimatization built by staying in these areas for years can throw forceful punches beyond two punches,” Shahi said.
Colonel (Retd) L.P. Singh, who has years of experience at the Line of Actual Control (LAC), said that it would be wrong to think that the Chinese were invincible.
“We are better trained, better led and better battle-hardened than them at the tactical level. There are many examples that many of our officers can offer you to substantiate what I am saying,” Singh said.