At a time when the world was drowning in fighting the pandemic, China had raised its stakes with military maneuvers and territorial attacks on countries in the South China Sea and cartographic aggression in the Indo-Pacific region combined with an aggressive display of naval and air power. The invasion of Indian territory was additional. The recipient nations rushed to set up a united front against this unexpected tantrum. The US responded by sending two Carrier Battle Groups with their aircraft, cruisers, missiles, destroyers and submarines to operate in the South China Sea, and also to maintain surveillance of the Malacca Strait choking point where about 94,000 ships pass every year carrying a quarter from world trade. There is an accelerated focus on QUAD and a desire for a joint front in international forums.
Even when these events took place, China engineered a significant maneuver with broad consequences. It signed a $ 400 billion agreement with Iran covering various important sectors of Iran’s economy such as banking, ports, railways and telecommunications. India has also been notified of the development of the Chabahar Port, the Chabahar-Zahedan railroad and the development and exploitation of the Farzad-B oil field. In addition, it was reported that the surrender of another Jash port, only 300 km from Chabahar, would deny India’s access to Afghanistan and the Central Asian Republic. With India hampered by US sanctions against Iran, this is something waiting to happen. This situation can be taken because this agreement has its opponents in the Gulf region, even when it is hampering US trade agreements with Central Asian republics. At the same time, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan inaugurated the Daimar Basha dam that China has built in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and signed up for two others – Azad Pattan and Kohalu, all parts of the CPEC which India objected vigorously. . In the end it boils down to agility and speed in decision making while putting money on the table. A quote from Shakespeare will push the point closer to home: “There is a wave in human affairs that, taken in floods, leads to luck: eliminated, all their life’s journey is bound in the shallows.”
Closer to home, towards the end of April, China’s Western Theater Command, after completing their training on the edge of the Gobi Desert, boarded the Xinjiang highway with a motorized division and a mechanical division. In a well-trained movement, they branched out to a series of feeder paths along the LAC in Ladakh. Once the troops were in position, they began several attacks throughout the LAC. A mirror spread by the Indian Army resulted in clashes in the Galwan Valley about which much was written. After the Doklam incident, this is the next provocation. The Doklam Plateau has extreme strategic value, ready to dominate the Chumbi Valley dagger which in turn is the Damokles Sword which hangs above the “Chicken Neck” of the Siliguri corridor. China has now claimed the Sakteng wildlife reserve in eastern Bhutan. The first is for a country that claims an area that is not adjacent to its property and passes through a third country.
In Ladakh, both parties agreed to a gradual withdrawal and the creation of a buffer zone with patrol boundaries to avoid further clashes. As events unfolded, it was clear that China was dragging its feet into setbacks outside of symbolic movements. Now that we are in the long run, do we have a long-term plan that is well thought out? In my opinion, this is only a pause in an extended checkmate. We are dealing with a quarrelsome neighbor who is obsessed with reaffirming the land rights that their predecessors might have obtained through conquest or deception. The history of more than a century of surrender to the Mongols, then to Japan, followed by the colonial power that ruled them was removed, as a small consequence.
China has a land border with 14 neighboring countries covering about 22100 kilometers. When its economic status develops, so does its military muscle. Based on the medieval mindset of the Middle Kingdom, the Center of the Universe and the head of the Confucius family, China has initiated claims based on the perception of an imbalance of treaties imposed on them when the country was weak. Some of them have been resolved after bloody clashes such as with Russia and Vietnam, while others have been settled through a combination of profitable money, trade and deception. In most cases, the outcome is such that victory can be claimed by both parties. Russia received half of China’s claims, Kazakhstan was given a lucrative economic agreement, which in turn promised aid with the Uighurs, and Kyrgyzstan retained 70% of the land, surrendering 30% to China. Tajikistan ceded 1000 square km, less than 5% of claims, while Myanmar’s problem was resolved by an oil agreement. In general, countries want to avoid war and prefer settlement. India with a strong central leadership which has a large majority in Parliament, and with hard army fighting there is no push. We have shown a strong determination with our build post Galwan. What is next? Now there is a pause, it is time to plan our strategy for our northern border.
The Sino-Indian border stretches for more than 4056 km (2520 miles) and crosses a United Union (Ladakh) and the states of Uttarakhand, Himachal, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. Mobilization of most troops, air forces, navy has high economic costs. A factor in this is the stocking of additional troops and equipment that will be positioned there during the winter months, when temperatures drop below zero degrees. Also add value is the system and platform weapons that are purchased quickly from all over the world. Economic costs have been charged to us without even one shot being fired. As a soldier who has witnessed death, destruction and destruction during the 1971 war and the Kargil war, I will choose the proverbial Sun Tzu – “The highest art of war is to conquer the enemy without fighting.”
Out-of-the-box solutions, based on years of experience, sensitive details that cannot be shared in articles or debated on television channels can and must be checked. There is a need to create a Border Alert Force along the entire North border to reduce tensions in the Army and ITBP. According to reports, ITBP is looking for an expansion of personnel deployed along the border to assist in the turnover and assistance. We have another valuable armed asset that has roughly the same power – Sashatra Seema Bal (SSB) – set up in 1963 for work along our northern border. Currently guarding the Indo-Nepal border. Because this is not a very active border, the current situation can easily be handled by individual state police forces with their armed wings. It would be useful to spread ITBP and SSB to the LAC, one to the east and the other to the western sector of the LAC. Strengthened by the Scout Battalion from the Army, they can maintain guard throughout the LAC. Given intelligence resources, satellite imagery, drones, and intelligence and surveillance surveillance systems, they can easily maintain vigilance along the border during the winter months.
The Army can then be pulled back closer to the base area from where they can be rehired in any sector where needs may arise. Here they can integrate and familiarize themselves with the new equipment that is being purchased and prepare for next summer. It is clear that the Chinese cannot use tanks and mechanical columns in the mountainous terrain that is on our side of the LAC during the winter months. Also, we need a much smaller force in a defensive role that allows us to use surpluses made open to options for attacks by larger forces. If the opponent’s head is a barrier, we can attack the middle or tail to force back. A strong threat to help prevent war. Raising the cause of oppressed and antagonistic groups in Tibet and throughout the CPEC in world forums will be a powerful force multiplier.
(The writer is a Former Special Forces Commander and Senior Instructor, Army War College. The views expressed are personal.)