Beijing: Chinese President Xi Jinping has appointed a new General as the Commander of the People's Liberation Army's Western Theatre Command which oversees the China-India border, amidst the military standoff in eastern Ladakh.

General Zhao Zongqi, the People’s Liberation Army’s powerful Western Theatre Commander was replaced with General Zhang Xudong, who has never served along the Indian border.

Gen Zhao, who had also engineered the 2017 Doklam conflict with India, has been seen as a hardliner against India and Bhutan, hence the change of guard in the leadership has sparked hope in New Delhi.

This is the first time that an officer appointed to lead the Western Theatre Command does not have experience of serving on the Indian border. General Zhang is 58, much younger to Zhao, who reached the retirement age of 65 in the summer this year

Xi has promoted four senior Chinese military and armed police officers. Among them was Gen. Zhang, Commander of the Western Theatre Command of the PLA, state-run Xinhua news agency reported on Friday.

The other officers who were promoted include Guo Puxiao, Political Commissar of the Logistic Support Department of the CMC; Li Wei, Political Commissar of the PLA Strategic Support Force and Wang Chunning, Commander.

A Hindustan Times report quoted “The tone and demeanour of the PLA commander during the next military commanders’ meeting would throw some light on the complex undercurrents in the PLA,” an Indian military commander said, requesting anonymity.

“We are keeping our fingers crossed,” said the officer cited above, adding that the Indian side expected some clarity when army commanders from the two countries hold the next round of talks over the standoff in the eastern Ladakh sector.

The Ladakh standoff also happened under the watch of Gen Zhao. It began in May after China dispatched thousands of troops which were mobilised for military exercises to eastern Ladakh borders, sparking a new round of tensions with India.

India and China have held several rounds of talks at the diplomatic and military-level to resolve the prolonged standoff.

At the latest round of foreign ministry-level talks on December 18, the two sides said that they have agreed to continue work towards ensuring complete disengagement of troops in all friction points along the LAC. The meeting also decided to hold the next round of military dialogue at an early date.