Coming soon to a war near you?
In June 2017, the Chinese periodical Guancha reported that the Xinqingtan (literally “New Light Tank”), a mountain-going tank formerly known by the equally generic appellation ZTQ-105, had entered trials in Tibetan Plateau. The newspaper characterized these as “a show of force designed to deter the Indian military,” while a military spokesman stated on June 29 they were “aimed to test the tank’s performance and are not targeted at any country.”
As defense writer Robert Beckhusen recently observed, new spending in New Delhi to develop an Indian light tank is surely aimed at countering the Xinqingtan. India and China, of course, have been escalating the militarization of their Himalayan border for well over a decade. India is still bitter over China’s close relationship with Pakistan and its defeat by attacking Chinese forces in a border war in 1962, while Beijing still fumes over Indian asylum granted to the Dalai Lama. Troops from the regional powers recently engaged in a tense two-month standoff over Chinese construction through a mountain pass claimed by the country of Bhutan.
India’s Himalayan Tank-scapade
Light tanks began to fall out of favor way back in World War II. Romantic notions about light cavalry using their speed to race ahead and outmaneuver foes were dashed when vehicle like the Panzer II or M3 Stuart lost out time and time again when confronted with heavier tanks and fortified strong points due to a lack of firepower.
But light tanks aren’t really meant to win tank battles or fortified sieges. You win by bringing a light tank to a gunfight—somewhere the enemy isn’t prepared to fight tanks at all. In fact, this was a concept the Indian Army had already demonstrated in the Himalayas in 1948 during the first Indo-Pakistani war.