Indo-China Conflict: The Reality Lies Somewhere In-Between

Indo-China Conflict: The Reality Lies Somewhere In-Between
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” -Sun Tzu

Below are the views presented by Col Shivaji Ranjan Ghosh (Retd) in response to the opinions presented in Pravin Sawhney's book and the counter views to it by Group Captain TP Srivastava (Retd). Link of the article for reference:

Indo-China Conflict Overviews
China has been preparing for this since the 2017 Doklam crisis after which it permanently augmented its troops across the Line of Actual Control – leading to a stand-off that has continued for two years without any tangible signs of resolution.

The author also  presents his views on a video by Maroof Raza - "If China Were To Attack India: Why 2022 Won't Be Like 1962"

If China Were To Attack India: Why 2020 Won’t Be Like 1962
India & China are currently engaged in a tense military stand-off along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Ladakh region, and the possibility of a conflict cannot be ruled out.India – China bilateral relationships are at an all-time low since the clash between the Indian Army and the People’s L…

Our problem today appears to be that we do not seem to know the enemy nor ourselves. We are either having an overly pessimistic view (like Pravin Sawhney), or an excessively optimistic view (Group Captain TP Srivastava and Maroof Raza). While it makes for good optics to project ourselves as a battled hardened (which we are) force, ready to take on anything that any adversary can throw at us (which we aren’t), the truth is that we need to be more pragmatic in our assessments. The hyper-nationalistic, know-all experts on prime-time television, both military and civil, spewing verbal venom at our adversaries will not win wars for us. We need to assess our strengths and optimize them, and more important, we need to face up to our shortcomings and do what it takes to overcome them. Brushing the latter under the carpet for a mistaken sense of maintaining morale” is not just short-sightedness, but plain foolish.

Forming an opinion based on a brief review of Pravin Sawhney’s book would not be fair. It would need a deeper study of the entire book and the justifications of his assertions before one can crucify him like Group Captain Srivastava has done. Two points, however, seem to be quite clear, based on what one has observed in the ongoing Ukrainian conflict. The question that arises is, would an offensive be like the 1991 Gulf War, as stated by Pravin Sawhney, or like the current conflict in Eastern Europe? Mr Sawhney says “If India and China were to fight a war in the near future, India faces the prospect of losing the war within ten days. China could take Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh with a minimum loss of life, and there is very little that India could do about it.” Now just substitute India with Ukraine, China with Russia and Arunachal Pradesh & Ladakh with Ukraine, and what do we see? The “ten days” have stretched to almost five months and is showing no signs of reaching a conclusion.

The second flaw in Mr Sawhney’s reasoning lies in the statement “In such a war, traditional conventional forces will be at a huge disadvantage, nuclear weapons will have no role to play, and the valour of individual soldiers will be of no consequence.” It is the valour of individual Ukrainian soldiers and traditional conventional forces who have kept the Russians at bay. Valour and courage have always been, and will remain, battle winning factors.

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On the other side, Group Captain Srivastava and Maroof Raza have both underplayed the reality of the Chinese threat. Maroof’s views are always very balanced, well researched and logical. In this case some of his assertions need consideration, and it is quite possible that he himself may have revised his views to some extent going by the current global situation (please note that the video in question is a year-and-a-half old and was made much before the Ukraine war). Maroof has emphasised our position of strength based on direct intervention by USA and other allies. What the NATO and USA has done in Eastern Europe should serve as an eye-opener. More likely than not, we will be left looking over our shoulders for support that would not be forthcoming.

A very valid point mentioned by Maroof should have got the alarm bells ringing in the corridors of power in the current situation in India. He has stated “The Chinese Army is made up of conscripts who don’t want to fight. Today India’s Army is very well trained, a hardened professional force that has been battling on the Line of Control with the Pakistanis for decades”. This has always been a battle-winning factor for the Indian Army. But now, it appears that this advantage will be frittered away with the introduction of Agniveers who are, in effect, nothing more than “voluntary conscripts”. Food for thought indeed!

Coming to Group Captain Srivastava’s critique of Mr Sawhney’s book. I am not, in any way, supporting the views of the author of the book, but the first question that arises is, has the Group Captain read the book or only the review? What are his rather abrasive comments based on? At one point he has stated “Indeed the author only argues and rarely discusses. Argument is exchange of ignorance-discussion/deliberation is exchange of intelligence.” How can he make such a definitive statement without having read the book? The author’s arguments and discussions would obviously not be detailed in a short review.

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I am no strategic expert, but as a layman I disagree with Group Captain Srivastava’s assertion “Govt of India’s stand that political/diplomatic talks will commence only after Military talks have succeeded is an outstanding example of tough stand taken by current government.” In my humble opinion, this is not a “tough stand” but the abdication of its duties by the government and its external affairs machinery. Is this our idea of international diplomacy, where the military is pushed forward to resolve what is essentially a political/bureaucratic issue?

Finally, I am appalled with Group Captain Srivastava’s usage of the phrase “But Indian Military is also not sitting with ‘MEHNDI’ on both hands and black band around the eyes”. Such statements sound good in election rallies, but not coming from a military veteran and commentator on international and strategic affairs.

In conclusion, I will again go back to the wise words of Sun Tzu. Let us not underestimate the enemy. The Indian Army is certainly not the Army of 1962. Neither is the Chinese. Take a lesson from sports managers of today. They spend as much time in studying the skills and tactics of the opponent as they do in coaching their own teams. That is what a podium finish requires.

Col. Ghosh is an ex-NDA, Infantry veteran & ex-NSG presently working in the field of aviation emergency response in India & the Middle East as Director, IndiGo Airlines

(Views expressed are the author's own and do not reflect the editorial stance of Mission Victory India)

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