“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” – Shakespeare in ‘As You Like It’ –
When, on 29/30 August 2020, the Indian Army occupied important heights on the Kailash range, on the southern bank of Pangong Tso lake, it gave China the taste of its own medicine. It’s threats and loud noise speak of it's not only dented pride but its helplessness. What hurts China most was the fact that it had never anticipated such a bold operation by India.
Chinese leadership had thought that it had delivered a fait accompli on India in Eastern Ladakh, which it would accept, after initial resistance, like in the past 58 years. It had never expected a strategically important counter move by India, which would put China at a disadvantage. This quid pro quo move by India has shaken Chinese leadership and it is warning India of dangerous consequences.
In fact, the Indian move was a clear signal of the misfire of Chinese strategy of ‘Winning without firing a Bullet’. The Indian message is: India wants peace; but if China wants war, India is ready for it. It is this message which is disturbing the Chinese apple cart.
It has not only affected its International image but it has also warned it to re-assess its military capabilities — not in terms of the superiority of its weapons and equipment but the competence of its soldiers. Bullying rants of China is actually it's admission of this weakness of its conscripted soldiers.
All the huffing and puffing of China owes itself to this weakness and it is giving strange reasons for India’s action of so- called , “Dangerous consequences.” An article in Global Times of 16 September 2020, quotes a Chinese defence analyst, Hu Zhiyong, from Shanghai University, to say that most Indian army soldiers come from lower castes of the society.
According to him, this was why the Government of India does not care about their lives. Hopefully, this was not the knowledge imparted to China by Rahul Gandhi when he, as General Secretary of the Congress Party, had signed a mutual agreement with Chinese Communist party (CCP) on 7 August 2008.
Hu Xhiyong should have at least double checked with China’s all weather and trusted friend, Pakistan. It would have clarified to this “Paper Pusher” that do not underestimate Sikhs, Jats, Rajputs, Dogras, Garhwalis, Kumaonese, Grenadiers, Madrasis, Rajasthanis, Assamese, Gurkhas, Punjabis, Marathas and of course Bihar troops. The last named regiment of Indian army soldiers gave PLA bloody hell at Galwan valley Clash on 15 June 2020.
Well! The Shakespeare quote above exposes the self - righteousness of China. Recently Chinese loudspeakers from Finger-4 heights of Pangong Tso lakes have started blabbering Punjabi songs. It wrongly thinks that it can demoralise Indian soldiers by creating a facade of isolation and a feeling of being besieged. Chinese defence thinkers are seriously wide off the mark if they think such tantrums can achieve anything. Such mind games do not affect Indian soldiers.
The Indian message is: India wants peace; but if China wants war, India is ready for it. It is this message which is disturbing the Chinese apple cart.
In fact, this half-read Scholar, Hu Zhiyong, advances a theory that soldiers of India being from lower castes, the ruling government treats them as sacrificial Goats. It further claims that hundreds of Indian army soldiers had become Non-Combat casualties in the last few years due to cold weather against Pakistan. This is called ‘Situating the Appreciation’. It is not only an atrociously stupid but an unverified logic to suit its own argument. Maybe it is to boost up the morale of its own soldiers.
Pursuing this argument to its extreme absurdity, this so-called scholar, thus, concludes that India would use the same tactics against China to extend border deployment of troops in the coming winters in Eastern Ladakh. This logic is an alibi for China’s own fears. It is a clear indication of China’s worry about its soldiers inability to bear harsh weather of Ladakh winters.
Global Times of China and its defence analyst live in their own make - believe world. Such a reasoning is not only laughable but also an indication as to how ill-informed China was about the composition of Indian army and its soldiers. China is ignoring the teaching of its own ancient military thinker and philosopher, Sun Tzu. He had argued that before going to war it was utmost essential to know one’s enemy. China suffers from self - righteousness and imagined superiority.
It is strange that the PLA has not learnt a lesson from the Galwan Action of 15 June 2020. It is now evident that PLA had suffered some 45-60 fatal casualties. Though China had not disclosed this but a Chinese defector to the USA has now made it known. In fact some analysts estimate that the Chinese Casualties could be 100 or more.
Truly speaking threats and bullying rants of China have not deterred India from resolutely standing up to China. It’s response has rattled China. To be frank, Indian response has punched a big hole in China’s ‘Asymmetry of Power’ theory. It’s a big morale booster for nations of South China Sea (SCS) and Association of SouthEast Nations (ASEAN), who had been bullied into silence.
China has been vociferously boasting about its economic and Military power. It points out that Indian economy was five times smaller than Chinese economy. It boasts of its better logistics, weapons and equipment and its higher capability to quickly mobilise its troops from one sector to another. It thinks that Covid-19 has further affected India’s military and economic capabilities.
China’s problem is that it knows the drawbacks of PLA soldiers, there are many grey areas. Firstly Chinese soldiers are conscripted and not volunteer like Indian soldiers...They are mentally not tuned to suffer winter hardships.
However Indian defence analysts rip apart this boast. A professor of Jawahar Lal Nehru University, Srikanth Kondapalli observed that India holding on at the border for four months in the face of China’s much vaunted military and economic might has shown that the ‘asymmetry of power’ argument does not stand to logic.
India’s measured but effective response has been a shocker to much hyped Fa Fen. You Wei (FFYW) doctrine of Chinese strongman, Xi Jinping. Such a strong Indian response has landed Xi Jinping in a thick soup. But India has resolutely blunted this aggression.
Indian response has rejected China’s attempt to act as a ‘Big Brother’. It has also punctured and dented Xi Jinping's FFYW Doctrine, which aims to prove one’s worth aggressively through firm resolve. In other words, it seeks to subdue one’s adversaries through offensive and aggressive actions. This is what China has been doing in the South China Sea (SCS) and with 14 other countries with whom it has territorial disputes.
China’s problem is that it knows the drawbacks of PLA soldiers and therefore it wants to extract itself honourably. There are many grey areas. Firstly Chinese soldiers are conscripted and not volunteer like Indian soldiers. They come for a tour of duty for four to five years. Secondly, unlike Indian Soldiers, Chinese soldiers are from urbanised backgrounds who have had an affluent childhood. They are mentally not tuned to suffer winter hardships and uncongenial environments of Ladakh high altitude.
It is in fact China who wants to pull out before the onset of winters. Tag of harsh winter weather for Indian soldiers is a lame excuse. China should know that almost all Infantry battalions of Indian army have served in the worst conditions of Siachen Glacier under minus 50 degree Celsius temperature.
What worries China, it seems, is the harshest winters of Eastern Ladakh at 16000-17000 feet and the inability of its soldiers to bear this. Soldiers coming from ‘One-Child-Families’ are pampered and urbanised, who have enjoyed luxury amenities, which makes them soft. Therefore, China is making an all out effort to seek an honourable exit from Eastern Ladakh.
Intimidation of Indian troops is one such tactic. Twice, on 7 and 9 September 2020, over the last fortnight, Chinese soldiers had closed in to Indian posts and fired but made a hasty retreat, when Challenged. China wants India to blink, who is determined not to do so. Therefore if China does not move back, Chinese soldiers have to stay out this winter in the Eastern Ladakh.
(Col. Rajinder Kushwaha is an ex-NDA, commissioned into 3 Bihar. He is a battle-hardened veteran of the ’71 War & has served extensively in various counter insurgency environments across the country.
He is a renowned author, and a highly respected defence & national security expert and a regular contributor at the 'Fauji India' magazine, ‘Defence and Security Alert’ (DSA), the ‘Indian Defence Review’ (IDR) among others. You can reach him on Twitter: @RajeeKushwaha, Email ID: [email protected])
(Views expressed are the authors own, and do not reflect the editorial policy of 'Mission Victory India')