The answer is, the Indian military is always ready, cause we are embedded with the philosophy to fight with, what is, where is, when required. The problem has never been the military in the first place. The problem is the decision making cycle and the perception of decision makers on the need and the abstinence.
We share a huge northern and eastern border. Here war isn’t simple. We have areas of dispute, areas of agreement and areas of mutual understanding. I hope we understand that the LAC is 3488 km in length as per us. With Nepal and Bhutan also covering some part of the border. We have campaigning seasons dictated by weather and we are bound by high altitude terrain requiring third stage acclimatisation and trained soldiers to fight at those heights. Also the adage that mountains eat up troops, artillery and air are not as effective, logistics and reinforcement are critical. Where a single LMG covering a spur can stop a battalion attack. Enfilade fire from a defilade position. Here in these scraggy mountains there are restricted approaches, valley based deployments, tiered defences, established logistics and in place reinforcements.
We are, in case of a contact battle not only well prepared but will beat the living daylight’s of the enemy. For every attack the configuration of applied force levels in those heights have to be at least 6:1 or 9:1. Making build up and temporary concentration a huge aerial target. Here tactical victories are strategical in nature. The centre of gravity in most places would be leadership, logistics and reinforcement. You might capture an area, but sustaining there for a period of time is the art of military action. Movement of troops and defence bricks a mighty task and lateral movement, time consuming with huge penalties and if not well planned, a disaster in the making.
Is war with China a military war? The relevant question is this. It’s an all out national effort, it’s a nation at war. Economics, energy, water, international dynamics, nuclear neighbours, imports and exports, local markets, Indian businesses and finally collusive.
Military adversaries understand and are aware of military power and capabilities. They plan strategies and concepts to go to war. But war is not a military domain by itself. It’s political will manifesting in a series of actions, in which the military is the first responder as the deterrent for enemy adventurism and the last political means to defend or protect an ideology or manifest a nations will.
The modernisation drive of the Indian military is slow and requirement based. Infrastructure development is even slower, but when compared to past precedence’s the effort is sincere, focused and well analysed. But to say this is it, will never be enough. The roads and bridges we are building in the north east have to face adverse weather, need high maintenance and constant repair. From place A to place B (operational front) we need to cut down distance and time taken for move. Inclement weather and lack of spaces deny you airfields and helipads making stocking and mobilisation difficult and necessary.
What we should be looking at is, fully established billeting areas with experienced and voluntary labour, trained at skills to work through weather and war like conditions. These billeting facilities to offer a better life to the labourers by provisioning of government funding, schools, hospitals and subsidised services. India is a huge Human Resource mass. If we can provision facilities that will improve border conditions, ease out border living and assist the military campaign, we have a logistics winner.
The political leadership and the military have realised that power beats power. That military strength is the only deterrent to enemy adventurism. But this manifestation of a will has to be capability based. We as the military will give the Chinese a beating they remember for times to come. Cause we aren’t going to get cowed down by their military might or political bullying. But does our national leadership have the capacity to firstly fight a war in which neither is preemption possible, or where temporary losses are inevitable initially. We do not even know which portion of the LAC would be addressed. Do we want an all out war, in Ladakh, the central sector, Sikkim, Arunachal and the North East all at once. So when? Where? Why? How? Is the question we need to ask.
In the escalation matrix, due to mis judgement can we take the war to the enemy? Can we open another front? Can we by launching QPQ actions in another front deter the Chinese war fighting capability? Or we lose the first stage of battle by just trying to understand Chinese intentions. The predicament is deep and would require great military and diplomatic skills. We have seen in the Russia - Ukraine conflict, that for military assistance by foreign powers, no one is going to fight your war for you. They might apply sanctions and give you the equipment needed, but there are no free lunches, everything costs money. For the Indians it would be a huge debacle economically, the nations reserves would be pulled in. For the Chinese who have the economical might, it will deter him from his larger dream of the worlds finest military power by 2049.
We need to build capability and there is no argument there. The Chinese military has built weapon systems that are modern, resilient, capable of allowing him a non contact battle by hitting us deep, wherever he wants and whenever, despite our Air and Air defence systems. While we normally are restricted only to his operational depth looking for retaliatory and what we presume as equal value targets. Sometimes looking at these objectives even without assertion by the air component.
We have the will, we have the trained men and the war like material. We will get there, but in time.
What we need to concentrate is on the grey zone. The Chinese fault lines, internal issues of relevance of the PLA, the threat to its organisation by westernised youth. The ageing population and the growing divide between the rural and the urban. The turmoil in Xinjiang, situation in South China Sea and Taiwan, the Tibetan imbroglio and rebuild the trust and friendship with Russia, Vietnam, Mongolia and the CAR nations. We need to also internationalise the Chinese land grab in Bhutan. COVID and the Chinese roleplay.
Always remember a war fought from a drawing board with a computer and intelligent men and women is far more dangerous and non attributable than a contact military battle. Concentrate therefore on vulnerabilities instead of banging your head against his strength - ‘THAT IS RIGHT NOW HIS MILITARY MIGHT’.
(Views expressed are the author's own and do not reflect the editorial stance of Mission Victory India)