A Chinese soldier demonstrates “Hard Qigong.”
Chinese and Indian soldiers stand in formation.
Jackie Chan is in, Jack Bauer is out — at least as far as joint counterterrorism training between India and China is concerned.
The world’s two largest armies, China and India, exchanged training in kung fu and yoga last week in their first joint counterterrorism exercise, codenamed "Hand in Hand 2007."
The exercise, a major step in military cooperation between the two neighbors after 45 years of tension along the Himalayan frontier, was conducted in China’s southwestern Yunnan province, where both armies displayed their cutting-edge training.
Chinese soldiers from the People's Liberation Army presented a "Hard Qigong," a form of deep-breathing training.
It’s far more complicated than a Lamaze class. For the Chinese soldiers, it involves standing with bricks on their heads while other soldiers take a sledgehammer and smash the bricks.
Qigong also includes withstanding aggressive attacks by bricks and wooden sticks, being lifted aloft with sharpened spears and splintering wooden blocks with bare hands. The Chinese soldiers' astounding feats of strength and skill ended in a crescendo of incredible kung fu sequences.
Perhaps the exercise should have been more aptly codenamed "Hand to Hand," since the Chinese soldiers brought more than their Qigong scene stealers; they also brought some Bruce Lee-esque know-how. Martial arts are taught to the Indian army, but the Chinese place more emphasis on it.
The Indian army instructors trained the Chinese soldiers in the pranayama and asanas forms of yoga, believed to dramatically improve physical and psychological performance. The exercises are designed to relieve mental stress, build stamina and enhance immunity.
No doubt this immunity training also is effective against biological and chemical terrorism; if not, they could always challenge the terrorists to a stretch-off.
Reports indicate that the yoga was difficult at first for the Chinese soldiers, because they were not flexible. To make matters worse, some overzealous Chinese soldiers were stretching too quickly and were "gently" warned by the yoga instructors to do it gradually or risk pulling a muscle.
For the Chinese, "explosive hot potato" was much easier than stretching. As part of the expertise-sharing, the Chinese soldiers demonstrated their prowess by igniting explosives and passing them from soldier to soldier, with the last one ditching the device before it detonated.
It wasn’t all stretching and sledgehammers, though. The psychological and tactical training traditionally associated with counterterrorism also was part of the exercise. The soldiers tackled physical challenges in the extreme high altitude and cold weather of the mountains. Shooting skills, room-clearing and hostage rescue training also were conducted.
Each country dedicated a company of approximately 100 men, including officers. The Indians contributed personal weapons, light machine guns and mortars, while the Chinese provided tanks, UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and helicopter gunships.
Indian troops were selected for their valuable experience in fighting insurgencies in northeastern India and Indian-administered Kashmir and, therefore, had relevant counter-insurgency expertise to share beyond the yoga.
On Sunday the Indian soldiers demonstrated a "room intervention" exercise that involved rescuing hostages from a building after neutralizing "terrorists." Buildings were stormed, grenades were lobbed and rooms were cleared under "terrorist" fire. Movements and positioning for operations were emphasized for the benefit of the PLA soldiers.
Contests of volleyball, basketball and tug-of-war rounded out the training each day.
The exercise concluded with a three-hour scenario in which 56 international terrorists had established a training base on the border between the two countries and taken hostages.
Chinese T-26 tanks fired on the "terrorist camp," with M17 helicopters providing air cover and further support from self-propelled artillery. Under the command of an Indian major and his Chinese counterpart, the "terrorists" were eliminated in a joint operation of soldiers.
The training is being carried out to implement the provisions of the May 29, 2006, Memorandum of Understanding for Exchanges and Cooperation in the Field of Defense between the defense ministries of China and India. The improving diplomatic relations between the two countries was critical to the exercise going live.
China is not the only country on India’s military dance card. The U.S. has been building military ties with India by running a number of joint exercises, culminating most recently in the large-scale Bay of Bengal exercise in 2007.
"Hand in Hand 2007" is the latest stage of China’s campaign to build regional military relationships. Only a few months ago, China actively cemented military ties with Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in the joint counterterrorism military exercise involving 4,000 troops, the largest of its kind in the regional Shanghai Cooperation Organization framework. Other countries not exactly on BFF status with the U.S., such as Iran, were invited to that last show. The U.S. was not.
According to the Chinese Ministry of National Defense, the exercise was designed to deter what China refers to as the "three evil forces," separatists, extremists and terrorists. Provided the People's Liberation Army and the U.S. agree on who falls within the "three evil forces" category, building counterterrorism capability is good news.
And reducing tensions on the Indo-Chinese border, the site of many bloody skirmishes, also certainly is good news. But the question remains: Does the U.S. need to recruit Madonna for counterterrorism Ashtanga training to compete for partners in the region?
Allison Barrie, a security and terrorism consultant with the Commission for National Security in the 21st Century, has an M.A. from the King’s College War Studies department and has just completed her Ph. D dissertation with King’s. A graduate of Cambridge University, she has also attended law school in England and practiced law for four years at leading global law firms. Allison has contributed to various projects with Britain’s Ministry of Defense, including Iraq Operation Telic 5 and other operations dealing with imprisoned soldiers, combat experience and management of combat. She has traveled to over 45 countries and performed as a ballet dancer in productions of the Royal Opera House and English National Opera.