“If India would like a military showdown, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is bound to make the Indian army suffer much more severe losses than it did in 1962” The Dawn of Pakistan, dated 2 September 2020, quotes this editorial of Global Times on the recent Indian action of occupying certain heights on the Southern bank of Pangong Tso lake.
As quoted above, subsequent to the Indian Army’s pre-emptive action on the Southern Bank of Pangong Tso lake, on the intervening night of 29/30 August 2020, China has been huffing and puffing. India had occupied Black Top, Helmet and Requin Heights, which overlook Chinese posts at Moldo and deny China the opportunity to keep India’s Chushul-Demochek Road under observation.
This definitely had rattled China. The Global Times, a publication which serves as a Chinese Government mouthpiece has been since issuing threats. One such example is given above. However, they are phoney calls of a street bully, who exploits the silence of law-abiding citizens. The moment the law-abiding citizen decides to face him squarely, the street Bully gets deflated.
This action of India has brought an end to the Chinese strategy of 10 steps-forward and two-steps backwards, after the facade of a negotiated settlement. India has been unduly submissive over the last six decades. It is no more willing to allow China this luxury of browbeating India at will.
PLA noise is not matching with its actions post the Indian Army’s move. It is learnt from unverified reports that a senior PLA officer had refused to counter attack Indian troops at Black Top to recapture it. Loud noise by Global Times editorials is only for its domestic consumption. It is very well known that those who want to take action, they do not talk much...if they have to shoot, they just do it.
The PLA has some basic problems with soldiers. Chinese know that Indian soldiers are far more superior in the art of war and bravery. What they lack by way of advanced weaponry, they very well make it up by their raw courage. This is the dilemma of PLA Leadership.
Chinese soldiers lack this raw courage. This was the sole aim of 1993 and 1996 agreements, which entailed non- use of weapons by soldiers. Indian establishment was cleverly fooled. This was evident at the Galwan Valley incident of 15/16 June 2020. It is now known that China had suffered 106 deaths against India’s 20. This ought to be analysed: affluence, riches, urbanisation and exposure to luxurious life make one a poor soldier.
One should remember Israeli General and a military legend, Moshe Dayan, who had remarked after visiting Vietnam in 1967, that the US army had soldiers dream of weapons and resources but their “will to fight” was missing. He had predicted that the US would lose the war and it had happened in 1977.
The reason given by Mishe Dayan was that Vietcong (Vietnam Guerillas) were living in jungles and moving cross country, while US soldiers movement was road-bound and vehicle-based. Too many amenities make them poor soldiers. Notwithstanding the loud noise by Chinese premiers Xi Jinping’s ‘Wolf Warriors’, China would also fall into the same category.
Despite his Fan Fei, You Wei (FFYW) philosophy, which means: Resolve to achieve one’s objective aggressively. It is all in the realm of loud mouth talks. Don’t they say that barking dogs seldom bite? The reality of Chinese soldiers is known to PLA leaders and even CCP headed by Xi Jinping.
Following indicators stand out:
- One child policy --- make them pampered and soft human beings. An ageing population has a scarcity of young people, available for volunteer recruitment.
- The comparative richness of urbanised children, present the problem of easy life and resultant softness --the very antithesis of soldiering.
- Soldiers are not volunteers like Indian soldiers. They are conscripted. They come on a tour of duty, maybe four to five years and go back to a luxurious life. Why should they die on the remote borders? They have no national zeal to die like Indians
- Motivation level, due to hardships faced in the high altitude region, is very low.
In view of the above, what are Chinese options? They are only two options:
—The first option is to negotiate with India and honourably pull back to the April 22 position. Must avoid, in future, from acting like a street urchin bully. It is against the norms of good neighbourly behaviour.
—Secondly, escalate the conflict by using long-range weapons/firepower to dislodge Indians from the posts occupied on the Southern Bank of Pangong Tso lake. To do so, it might entice/ask Pakistan to open a second front. Is Pakistan ready to indulge in someone else’s war? Did China ever do it when Pakistan was in problem in 1965 or 1971? However, even if Pakistan does it, India can handle it. All the same, it can not capture Kashmir valley, whatever it might try.
But this also gives India an option to launch an offensive in areas North of the Pangong Tso, to throw out Chinks from F-4 to F-8. The threat of Chinese armoured & mechanised formations in the spanggur gap would be well matched by India. Precisely speaking, India has an advantage and experience of armoured operations, which would come handy.
Also, this would be an opportunity for India to declare Tibet and East Turkmenistan (Xinjiang province of China) as Independent countries and establish diplomatic relations with Taiwan—long overdue. It would be a great setback to ‘One China Policy.’ This may harm Xi Jinping’s interests domestically and shake up his authority.
It would also be worthwhile to assess Chinese capability to sustain an intense conflict. China does have a strong economy and a huge defence Industrial base. However, it’s the ability to sustain an intense war is subject to a continuous supply of Petroleum products from the Gulf region. It is said that China has 55-60 days reserve of petroleum and energy products.
This is the lifeline for its aircraft, tanks, ships and other modes of transportation for guns and troops to switch them from sector to another. Therefore it is estimated that China can sustain an intense war for 8-10 weeks.
To prolong its war efforts, it has to depend upon a continuous supply of oil/petroleum from the Gulf through Choke Points of Indian Ocean. This Malacca Strait (sea lane between Indonesia and Laos) attains significance. Denial of this chokepoint can upset China’s war effort beyond 10 weeks. Much hyped Gwadar port in Balochistan of Pakistan is not as yet fully operational.
The question now arises on India’s ability to hold back China for 8-10 weeks. This is only possible by Choking the sea lanes. There is a significant view that instead of Sea Domination India must focus on Sea Denial. To do so, India needs more submarines, particularly nuclear powered in place of Aircraft carriers, which would be sitting ducks for Chinese warships.
India should be clear about its aim in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Let India not match Air Craft Carriers with Chinese Aircraft carriers. Indian submarines should deny entry to the Chinese navy in the Indian ocean and keep Djibouti, Hambantota, SITTWE and Gwadar under its surveillance.
This is the strategic advantage of India’s location in the Indian Ocean. With the formation of Quad with Australia, USA and Japan, It can help India to checkmate China. But it should be an interim measure. India must make rapid progress to beef up its Submarine force for effectively denying IOR to China. It must not waste money on getting third or fourth aircraft carriers.
As far as Land and Air war is concerned, India is well placed to hold back China. The Air Force should be able to effectively exploit its launch pads from lower heights and carry more fuel or weaponry, depending upon the task. Thus India is well placed to take on China.
China’s only honourable but face-saving option now is to negotiate the withdrawal, after some loud noise and pull back to 22 April 2020 positions. India is not going to be deterred by Global Times rants and threats. ‘Wolf Warrior’ rants would not put India off from its mission to protect its sovereignty.
(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: [email protected])