Facing Off the Dragon: India’s Failure to Talk Straight!

"What is there in these five points, other than verbosity and padding? They are left to vague interpretations by both sides. They would further confuse the soldiers. They are just eyewash. In real terms, they mean nothing."


Facing Off the Dragon: India’s Failure to Talk Straight!

In the backdrop of the ongoing SCO conference in Moscow, Sino-Indian Foreign Ministers met for two hours on 10 September 2020 to de-escalate the tense situation in Eastern Ladakh. Things had heated up, in the aftermath of Indian occupation of the dominating heights on the 29/30 August night, on the Kailash Range on the Southern Bank of Pangong Tso lake. On 7 September 2020, the PLA tried to recapture Mukhpari heights but were thwarted.

It was in this context that two foreign ministers had met. Earlier, two Defence Ministers had also met at the same venue. At the end of the meeting of the foreign ministers, it was announced that a consensus had been reached on five points. But if one goes through the five points, one finds nothing appealing.

What is there in these five points, other than verbosity and padding? They are left to vague interpretations by both sides. They would further confuse the soldiers. They are just eyewash. In real terms, they mean nothing.

Here they are: —

  1. The two ministers agreed that both sides should take guidance from the series of consensus of the leaders on developing India-China relations, including not allowing differences to become disputes.
  2. The two foreign ministers agreed that the current situation in the border areas is not in the interest of either side. They agreed therefore that the border troops of both sides should continue their dialogue, quickly disengage, maintain proper distance, and ease tensions.
  3. The two ministers agreed that both sides shall abide by all the existing agreements and protocol on India-China boundary affairs, maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas and avoid any action that could escalate matters.
  4. The two sides also agreed to continue to have dialogue and communication through the Special Representative mechanism on the India-China boundary question. They also agreed in this context that the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China border affairs (WMCC), should also continue its meetings.
  5. The ministers agreed that as the situation eases, the two sides should expedite work to conclude new Confidence Building Measures to maintain and enhance peace and tranquility in the border areas.

It seems that China was just trying to bide time till US elections in November 2020. China is desperately wanting Joe Biden to win. It wants Donald Trump off it’s back, whose re-election can complicate matters for China. So China does not want to escalate conflict against India to give Trump a chance to react and enhance his chances of a win, it is advised that India should  just throw these five points in the North Block dust bin.

Talks should have been focused on following five points to tell China that: —

  1. Present position of our troops on the LAC everywhere was our bottom line/Red Line. Crossing by PLA, anytime and anywhere, would entail escalation of conflict. It is war.
  2. Let us Disengage to 10 April 2020 positions by 20 September 2020 Then, De-induct troops to peace locations. India will not vacate Kailash range till China fully pulls out of Moldo location in Spanggur valley. Process to begin by 30 September.
  3. Thereafter, Demarcate LAC on mutually agreed coordinates of maps by 15 October 2020. Exchange the signed maps.
  4. Finally, identify map points on the ground and mark them by 30 October 2020.
  5. Future talks on IB settlement, with some modifications of the LAC, so identified, should continue
  6. We should have told China that our troops deployment is our RED LINE — if PLA troops cross it, India will respond with all its might. We should have told China, in no unequivocal terms, that the time for airy fairy talks was long over.

India missed a grand opportunity to convey the ‘five points of de-escalation’, as given out by me above.

Our problem is that India has always been shy of talking straight and direct. We remained too steeped in ethics, norms, and moralities. This creates a web of confusion.

Right from the days of Prithvi Raj Chohan to Jawahar Lal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, we surrender our advantages through our magnanimity and big - hearted approach. Prithvi Raj Chohan let Mohammed Ghori go 17 times but he paid for this magnanimity in the next attack. Jawahar Lal had refused the UNSC seat and gave it to China along with Tibet. Indra Gandhi threw away the advantage of 1971 war at Shimla in July 1972.

Even Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2003 signed an agreement with China which put our soldiers at a disadvantage. Then at Agra Summit, he almost gave in to Pervez Musharraf’s wily intrigues, when LK Advani intervened to shoot down Musharraf’s proposal.

“Indian leaders and diplomats ought to learn the art of direct talks. Diplomacy does not mean that one should lose sight of national interests. Talk, but talk business. I hope our military leaders should tell this to their PLA counterparts.”
Indian soldier lands a roundhouse kick flush on the chin of a PLA trooper during the ‘Hand in Hand’ joint military exercise; File Photo

Indian leaders/diplomats ought to learn the art of direct talks. Diplomacy does not mean that one should lose sight of national interests. Talk, but talk business. I hope our military leaders should tell this to their PLA counterparts.

  • Inspire resolve; enthuse people to move and to make the desired outcomes real and relevant.
  • Build the team; get the right people in the right place with emotional commitment and balance competence, authority and responsibility. Avoid yes men with sycophancy as their mantra.
  • Create a persuasive vision; get the team to establish a simple vision and strategy; focus on aspects necessary to drive quality and efficiency.
  • Communicate; Involve as many people as possible, talk with people rather than talking to them. De-clutter and exploit technology for you rather than against.
  • Facilitate the process; enable constructive feedback and provide support, make the process feel as organization owned, and organization driven rather than a directive from the hierarchy.
  • One Step at a Time; Set aims that are easy to achieve in bite-size chunks. The numbers of initiatives should be manageable. The current stages should be finished before starting new ones.
  • Persevere; Foster and encourage determination and persistence to achieve ongoing change.
  • Make change stick; Reinforce the value of successful change. The desired change should be intertwined into the organization’s culture.
  • At the strategic levels it needs to be Satellite Surveillance which looks deep into areas of interest, serving as early warning to allow for sufficient time to own forces for deploying/activation.
  • Aerial Surveillance to ensure that there exist no gaps in the Area of Interest and Area of Influence, which needs to be within strike capability of various weapon systems or forces.
  • Ground holding in sufficient strength at vulnerable locations to prevent ingress. Integrated with these forces, Anti-Tank Obstacles, remotely delivered mines, UAVs capable of Tactical Surveillance, Target Acquisition, Target Designation.
  • Suitably positioned forces, fully acclimatised and ready to respond either for a riposte or eviction. These may be Combat Groups where terrain permits such forces to operate, Infantry Units equipped with additional Surveillance as well as Anti-Tank Missiles, supported by PGMs with multiple use ammunition.
  • Multi Terrain Vehicles may also be added to the inventory for speedy movement of troops, ammunition, casualty evacuation as well as other roles.
“India missed a grand opportunity to convey the ‘five points of de-escalation’. Our problem is that India has always been shy of talking straight and direct. We remained too steeped in ethics, norms, and moralities. This creates a web of confusion.”

(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: rajee749@yahoo.com)

(Views expressed are the authors own, and do not reflect the editorial policy of 'Mission Victory India')

For more defence related content, follow us on Twitter: @MVictoryIndia and Facebook: @MissionVictoryIndia and visit www.missionvictoryindia.com


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