Millennium Post

Red Dragon rising and rising

India and China have had an adversarial position to one another at least in Asia yet fifty years after the 1962 conflict India is still being lured by a false sense of complacency regarding China.  The Chinese defence minister Liang Guanglie had assured India that China did not have troops in POK while the Indian Army Chief recently stated that Chinese troops are stationed to provide security to its on going railway and road projects. The Chinese psychologically believe in deceit and confusion and this is a smoke screen to hide their assertive intentions. The visit of the Chinese Defence Minister, General Liang Guanglie, somehow reminds one of the events pre 1962. History repeats itself; each generation is aware of the same yet learns very little from past events. Has India learnt any lessons from the past? The historical evidence states that whenever China has been powerful it has been aggressive. Of late Indian stock is globally down and the Chinese stock is globally high. China has caused more than 500 border violations. Some analysts state that the mountain strike corps is shelved. If this be the case surely China is ready for the next level of adventurism. The point at issue is China due to its domestic turmoil like low per capita and regional disparity, is willing to risk military adventurism; most of us await that answer.

The border issue cannot be wished away nor discussed diplomatically till the cows come home. Pakistan and China have always colluded with one another thus gifting territory in Aksai Chin to construct a road in exchange for security by Pakistan is asking for protection. Any future conflict therefore, will be collusion between the two. On the face of it, the government may have shelved the mountain strike corps and asked for a holistic triservice response in lieu, but the forces lack a unified command structure and the manner and timing when this story did the rounds speaks of appeasement. This gives very misleading signals as the earlier general officer commanding eastern command is now the chief and by instincts cancelling a pet project is not militarily the correct thing to do. Commanders at all levels require troops therefore; the jigsaw puzzle does not fit, militarily by instinct, if that be the case, the chief would not have contradicted the Chinese defence minister regarding presence of troops in POK.

China has built up its military presence in Tibet with a sizeable force of around 300,000 People’s Liberation Army [PLA]. What is critical are six Rapid Reaction Forces [RPFs] at Chengdu with the ability to reach the India-China border in 48 hours. In short, China is capable of building large forces because of the railway line and a massive air support network of air fields and the Indian agencies do not know a thing about it, being surprised as badly as Kargil. The Indian response, if we are to believe, has been killed by the government to be on the Chinese good books.While China is belligerent about Arunachal Pradesh, India is docile about Chinese footprint in POK which does that not ring alarm bells. A nation builds its strength and perception from other nations by sound economic policies, social development to include human development index, sound foreign policies with due foresight and adequate conventional and nuclear deterrence. China seems to have most in place while India is falling after starting off well. In the mountains, conventional deterrence counts the most but by shelving the mountain strike corps which stands torpedoed as per reports emanating, the Indian state stands to loose, which belies logic. The shelving of the mountain corps and non-availability of fire power because after the Bofors scam only one big ticket gun has been purchased. Mountains eat up troops and if that happens accurate fire power and ability to react in time require roads, all that is sadly still lacking fifty years down the line. Precision guided weapons are required in mountains and the hitting power of the Bofors gun was one of the biggest strengths of the Army in Kargil. The assumption that creation of a corps will increase the tension between India and China is shocking. This assumption, announced at a time and reported in the press during the visit of the Chinese defence minister, smacks of appeasement. Since when has national defence become a subject of perception and appeasement instead of hard reality? There needs to be clarity on the subject because a serious assertion is being made that the mountain corps stands shelved which does not sound logical.

According to BJP spokesman Tarun Vijay ‘so much has been the pressure of Chinese Armed Forces on Indian border villages that for the first time in history the Tri-color was not allowed to be unfurled at Demchhok, near line of actual control’, and he alleged that Chinese Army personnel have also forcibly stopped development work in the border village Koyul in Leh. ‘The surprising silence of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Defence in this regard is mysterious’, he added? What happens when there are constant violations, the morale of the Army goes down. The soldiers see the violation as an every day affair and loose moral ascendency. How does one explain to armchair strategists what moral ascendency is all about. When in contact with the enemy, it is action and deeds that influence the soldier’s morale. If the enemy violates than we too must violate, if he fires than we too must fire, an eye for an eye a bullet for a bullet, but we as an army are reduced to lodging ceasefire violation complaints while they respond with fire. Is this not demoralising?

The issue of a strike corps for the mountains demands another look in addition to a firm tri-service response. Moral ascendency by constant border violations demands a single service response; the strategic climate can be created by a tri-service response. The ability to pose a threat even when you are weak compared to a super power is what national interests is all about. Any nation without a strategic national asset in the mountains is putting all the eggs in one diplomatic basket. The nation must have all options open and may pursue the preferred diplomatic option, but if threatened, must retain a force that is capable of putting its diplomats in a better situation once the fog of war clears up. The soldier must be put in a climate of strategic parity as currently he is rather defensive. The best form of defence is attack.

C S Thapa is a retired brigadier.
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