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People’s Liberation Army ‘Operation Fried Rice’

Updated: July 20, 2013 10:59 am

The latest dictat issued in Beijing makes one believes that the Chinese army henceforth will be giving more stress to marching in accordance with the Mao’s ideology than on their full stomachs. The military men may not be able to satisfy their taste buds in their mess dining halls by ‘chopsticking’ food to their hearts’ content. This is because the Chinese President Xi Jinping who is the supreme commander of the world’s largest armed forces in his capacity as the chairman of central military commission is believed to have ordered his military commanders to implement complete austerity in PLA troops’ eating habits.

In this context, it is worthwhile to recall Napoleon Bonaparte’s varied experiences of several military campaigns in Europe including the disastrous one in Russia after which he had rightly proclaimed that an army marches on its stomach. By expounding the theory that a military unit cannot function efficiently without bodily sustenance, Napoleon also gave equal emphasis to the importance of the logistics—an uninterrupted supply line for getting food, fuel, clothes, and spare parts to the combat zones.

In the modern-day scenario too, soldiers, sailors and airmen do not fight their wars with their high tech weapons alone. They must eat well to maintain battle efficiency and high degree of morale that incidentally happens to be one of the principles of war. No denying that armies all over the world keep their soldiers not only adequately fed but also well spirited with liberal quota of liquor.

However there is an amusing contradiction to this time tested theory. Reports from behind the bamboo curtain have injected some new ideas amending well known Napoleonic thought. Under President Xi’s direction, China’s two and half million strong People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been directed to launch a new curious campaign named “Operation Fried Rice.” The latest PLA instructions have commanded soldiers, sailors and airmen to finish up all the food from their plates. Not only this, the orders sternly warn those who fail to do this, will have to eat the left overs the subsequent day.

The military commandment further directs that unfinished rice and other dishes should be re-cooked into fried rice with eggs and fried steamed bread, and leftover parts of vegetables be made into various pickles and appetisers. This order is equally applicable to the so far pampered officers’ cadre who are also required to adopt frugal diet habits to cut down on waste in their mess halls. It transpires that a huge share of the People’s Republic’s nearly official $150 billion military budget compared to India’s less than $40 billion defence spending, is being spent on feeding the PLA’s 2.5 million troops.

Most of the countries realize that military personnel must eat well to maintain high morale and battle efficiency. A soldier fighting in a war today has many of the same basic needs that a soldier had thousands of years ago. Meals, medicines, and munitions are just a few of the fundamental supplies that are needed to keep a military unit operating at full capacity. In this respect personnel and officers of the Indian armed forces have been provided with liberal scales of dry as well as fresh rations. In addition soldiers deployed in the remote high altitude areas in the Himalayan frontier facing the PLA get enhanced scales of airlifted rations that include dry fruits, chocolates, instant coffee, condensed milk etc. Even there is free issue of a few pegs of liquor to keep them warm during the harsh winter days when temperatures hover around minus ten degrees Celsius. Likewise there is special additional ration scale for the armed forces aircrew. They certainly need extra energy to carry out strenuously hazardous flying sorties often over inhospitable mountain terrains. No doubt India’s armed forces are amongst the best in the world.

That there is a heavy deployment of PLA forces in the occupied Tibet where Chinese have vastly improved connectivity by building an all weather road network up to the Indian
border is a well known fact. This helps Chinese soldiers in carrying out frequent aggressive forays into our
territory. Last April’s brash 19 km deep intrusion into the Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) sector in Ladakh where Chinese troops had pitched tents is the most recent example. So the assurances given by Chinese Prime Minister
Li Keqiang to New Delhi during his recent visit to India, on maintaining tranquility on more than 4000 km long Himalayan border are rather meaningless.

It means incursions into the Indian territory should continue along the so called Himalayan Line of the Actual Control where research carried out by Chinese themselves concludes that lack of oxygen at high altitude can “decrease rational thinking and lead to short temper or depression”. Will not implementation of “Operation Fried Rice” discourage the austerely fed PLA forward troops to continue with their aggressive intrusions? However, at this time it happens to be a plain conjecture.

Such queer orders issued by the regime that already projects itself as a global power, suggest that all is not well behind the bamboo curtain. After feasting on an ever-expanding defence budget for two decades, forced austerity appears to be becoming the buzzword in China’s military circles. Does it mean that Chinese after their heydays of economic boom are now finding it difficult to keep their armed forces personnel adequately fed in view of current declining growth rate combined with rampant corruption?

By NK Pant

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