“If the United States makes further military provocations in the South China Sea or—takes action over the Taiwan question, the risk of regional skirmishes is escalating”—Global Times of 20 July 2020 quoting Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University,
There is a flurry of articles in Indian print media on the Chinese intentions in initiating a military conflict along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh. Electronic media is going berserk with defence experts making all kinds of wrong noises. While Indian intelligentsia goes forth and back on Chinese intentions, China is fuming hot and cold with the USA.
Recently, as revealed by Global times of 20 July 2020, China’s ambassador to the USA, Cui Tiankai, had pleaded with the USA, in his interview with CNN TV, to respect each other’s interests at an equal footing. In other words it does not want the USA to intrude into Chinese areas of influence.
Indian defence experts have, thus, failed to see through this desperation of China about US actions. All their assumptions on China’s Eastern Ladakh actions are through a tunnelled vision. All sorts of permutations and combinations are being suggested. Reading these events in a narrow Sino-Indian prism, some defence analysts go on to grant the Devil’s capabilities to China, and some others even think of China delivering a 1962 type disgrace in a surprise move.
A prominent commentator warns that Eastern Ladakh action by China could be a ‘feint’ and it would be Bhutan-Doka La region in the East, where China would show its real hand. Such a supposition assumes that Indian armed forces were only focused on Ladakh. It is nothing but a poor assessment of Indian armed forces all round preparations.
When wars are imminent or even on the drawing board stage, as in the recent case, no nation can afford to make piecemeal preparations to meet the threat. Most of these experts underestimate India’s defensive military capabilities. Indian armed forces, in defensive capabilities, are no less than China, if not better. It is also capable of taking on the combined effort of China and Pakistan. However there are other areas which India needs to pay attention which needs serious thought.
It is very important to understand China’s political and military objectives in its ongoing Global supremacy and trade war with the USA. In doing so, in the current Geo-Politics of the world, two regions of Asia are very very important to China, namely, Taiwan and Gilgit-Baltistan. Taiwan is almost an independent country, though claimed by China as part of ‘One China Policy’. Gilgit-Baltistan is part of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), which is disputed territory and claimed by India.
Most of China’s trade with the rest of the world passes through sea lanes of Indian Ocean, which runs to a distance of 12,000 Km. This route has a number of Choke points, such as Malaika Strait. In a military conflict, it can be effectively blocked. Therefore, China is looking for shorter land routes to access Indian Ocean.
This is where the 3,000 Km long Karakoram Highway to Gwadar in Balochistan province of Pakistan, becomes important, and this land route passes through Gilgit-Baltistan, on which India lays claims and seriously objects to any Chinese activity. China is also assisting Pakistan in constructing the Daimler-Basha Dam in Gilgit. The purpose of this dam is to use the water of the dam for MicroChip foundry being planned by China in the adjoining Xinjiang province.
It is not only as part of ‘One China Policy’ that China wants to amalgamate Taiwan with itself but there is another very significant reason. This reason further compels China to take over Taiwan as early as possible. It is because of Technological superiority of Taiwan in production of 5-Nanometer Micro Chips, which are essential for the Semiconductor equipment used in 5G. Taiwan would soon be producing even much smaller micro chips, say 3 Nanometers. They are very important for Artificial Intelligence (AI) and all kinds of electronic gadgets.
China gets its 90% supply of the microchips from Taiwan. However, Taiwan has only the foundries, the design and other details are property rights of the USA, who has outsourced its production to Taiwan. Due to the ongoing trade war with China, the USA has forbidden Taiwan to supply this equipment to China. This will affect China’s economy and trade. Therefore Chinese leadership thought it was the right time to annex Taiwan, while the world was still busy fighting COVID-19.
From the foregoing discussion, it becomes obvious that Taiwan and Gilgit Baltistan are two important political and military objectives of China. However within this, Taiwan is the first Priority and Gilgit-Baltistan the second priority. The reason is that Gilgit Baltistan is still under its control.
It is believed that in 2011, some 10,000 PLA troops had been employed in Gilgi. Taiwan-priority is also dictated by the immediate need to seek continuous supply of microchips for its 5G economy. It feels it would lose the trade war, if it does not quickly occupy Taiwan.
In the framework of these two priorities, China worked out a deception plan and played a gamble to attract world attention to the Sino-India conflict. Primarily, it was to divert US attention from Taiwan, whose defence it has sworn to ensure. While confrontation was going on in Eastern Ladakh, Chinese Navy started exercises in Eastern China Sea (ECS). The USA saw through the game and moved its two aircraft carriers into the waters of South China Sea (SCS). This ripped apart Chinese plans.
Where does India fit into it? Most of these so-called experts were overlooking the fact that China, in its broad framework of Global supremacy plans, has short term and long term objectives in its conflict with India. Short term objective was to initiate a conflict with the intention to distract world attention in general and US attention in particular. The long term objective was to engage India in a progressive ‘Designer War’ to make it accept Chinese supremacy.
And what is a ‘Designer War’? Its components are Military, Political, Psychological, Economical, Cyber, Information and Irregular Warfare. All of them could be launched simultaneously or progressively pursued from one stage to another. Military conflict is just one part, on which all our experts were laying unwanted emphasis. While the military might not be found wanting but other areas might collapse faster, if not attended to properly.
Political, Economical and Psychological subversion of India has been going on for many years. Some political parties have taken upon themselves to question everything the government does to tackle Chinese threats. False and misleading information is spread about Chinese territorial gains. Some veterans are playing a vital role in this. Politicians are short sighted.
Economical imbalances of various regions are being exploited to start an insurgency. Some others are exploited on religious grounds. Academic institutes, like Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), are infested with students who propagate anti-India narrative. Thus, the ‘enemy within’ is more dangerous than a threat on the borders.
Some experts also talk about the ‘Two Front War’ with China and Pakistan. But this is a miscalculation of Chinese intentions and objectives. China has a limited role for Pakistan. It wants Pakistan to participate as one of the players to capture NUBRA valley and DBO. It does not serve Pakistan’s cherished desire of annexing Kashmir.
Strangely, it must be noted that China does not want Kashmir to go entirely to Pakistan. If so, It would reduce China’s leverage with Pakistan. One never knows, if hard liners catch power in Pakistan tomorrow, they would create problems for China. They would be worse than Uighur Muslims. Therefore China would only like Pakistan to assist it in linking Aksai Chin with Gilgit-Baltistan, by capturing Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) and Nubra valley.
The more important aspects of this ‘Designer War’ are masked in the unnecessary hype on border tension. China has been silently conducting four most important aspects of this war to subjugate India. They are:-
a) Psychological and Information War: to politically subvert and weaken India. It has been able to generate an army of ‘internal enemies' within India in the Military, political and media domains. Psychological and information war is to undermine the authority of the central Government through its ‘Cultivated Political’ and ‘Media Soldiers.’ Xi Jinping had faked friendship with Narendra Modi to mislead him. Modi has probably understood the game but his detractors have yet not grasped China’s Designer war.
b) Cyber and Communication War: The Indian media is exploited to feed misleading stories through its paid agents. Chinese hackers and crackers often attack Indian Government and defence systems. They collect data through various popular apps such as Tik tok. Cyber data will be used to subvert Indian communications and weapon systems. China is far ahead in this. India has to catch up in electronic warfare. Some suspect the Chinese hand in the failure of landing of the Chandrayaan -2 on the Moon in August 2019.
c) China is also conducting Economic war by infiltrating into Indian economy: China’s entry into Indian economy through power projects has existed since 2016. It may surprise everyone to know as to how much China had infiltrated the Indian economy. It has bagged many road projects. It was penetrating into Indian banking system. Banning of 59 Apps might not be adequate.
China had also infiltrated our businesses. Gautam Adnani has concluded a business deal with China in June 2020. Rumours are that China had proxy-invested in Indian stock exchanges. Most Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMES) are financed by China.
d) China was exploiting internal vulnerabilities of India by outsourcing Proxy War to Pakistan: Thus, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam, Nagaland and Manipur etc are kept troubled states. China is suspected to have developed ‘viruses’ for ‘Invisible Wars.’ Most suspected Covid-19 virus is a leaked disaster—an experiment which went out of control.
Biological weapons are part of China’s ‘unrestricted warfare’. China’s ‘irregular soldiers,’ such as Maoists and others, are waging another war within India. They are attriting India from Inside. Along with ‘Political and media soldiers’, they weaken India from inside and make it hollow. Come what May, China will never allow settlement on Kashmir. It is its ace weapon of the Designer war and Pakistan Military is hooked on it.
These four aspects gel with Sun Tzu maxim of defeating your enemy without firing a bullet. Therefore China’s main aim is to implode India from inside before it seeks a military collapse. In a 2009 Global Times article, it was advocated that India should be broken up in 20-30 states to ensure it was no more a threat to China to impede its march towards Global supremacy.
The ‘Internal Enemy’, in the form of saleable politicians, media men and ‘irregular Soldiers’ are China’s greatest assets for such an implosion. Pakistan is another tool of China to magnify the internal War. It is therefore very urgent to make India internally strong and soften up and neutralise the Internal enemy. Therefore cry not for threat on the borders but watch out for the enemy within. The mighty army of Soviet Union could not do anything to prevent its break up. Its nuclear arsenal and missiles proved ineffective.
The Military Punch is the last stage of this Designer War. Military power will be used initially to intimidate and bully so as to activate and vitalise the ‘Hors de combat’. China has been doing this smartly. The military power would be only used when the adversary was sufficiently internally weakened. Therefore India must fight the ‘Designer War’ in entirety and not just focus on ‘territorial conflict’ on the borders.
(Col Rajinder Kushwaha is an ex-NDA, commissioned into the 3 Bihar Regiment in June 1971 and was the Commanding Officer of same unit in insurgency environs in Assam in 1990-93. Has vast experience in CI Ops from North East to Punjab and J&K. A prolific writer-cum-critic on defence and security matters, he has authored the book, ‘Kashmir: A Different Perspective’. His second book on Assam was released in April 2018. Held prestigious appointments in the army including as an instructor at a premier army institute, Col GS, Col Adm of an Infantry Division and Col "Q" works at a Command HQ. He can be contacted on e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Views expressed are the authors own and do not reflect the editorial policy of Mission Victory India)