Russia has reportedly amassed around one lakh troops along its border with Ukraine. The USA and the UK suspect that Russia might attack Ukraine. This suspicion is not unfounded, as Russia had invaded it in the past, too. Russia wants the West to promise that Ukraine will not join its NATO defensive alliance, as it would upset the military balance in Russia's neighbourhood.
Mr. Borris Johnson has warned Russia of serious consequences in case it attacks Ukraine. Would it deter Russia? The probability of war is there. What if it breaks out? What are its implications for India? Would it stay neutral or join either of the warring factions?
There is a tweet by an Indian-scholar-cum-defence-expert, Brahma Chellaney, suggesting that the fallout of a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine would suck in USA and the West. Should it happen, asserts Brahma Chellaney, then China would attack Arunachal Pradesh as it did in 1962 when USA was involved with Russia over Bay of Piggs Crisis of Cuba. My assertion is: should Russia and the West get involved in Ukraine, China will exploit the opportunity to capture Taiwan. I reject this theory that China would attack Arunachal Pradesh, when USA/the West are busy with Russia over Ukraine.
Let me reiterate that Taiwan was China's number one priority, followed by Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) as priority number two. China's Arunachal Pradesh claim is only a false front to negotiate for Aksai Chin with India. Most of us are unaware of the part of history when Zhou Enlai, the Chinese Premier, in his 1960 visit had made this proposal to Nehru to accept Chinese sovereignty over Aksai Chin for China to forgo its claim over Arunachal Pradesh.
But Nehru had rejected the offer. Strangely, it is the same Nehru who had accepted Chinese sovereignty over Tibet in 1950, in contravention of Sardar Patel's advice to not recognise Chinese hold over Tibet. Nehru had not only rejected Patel’s advice, but also provided logistical support to Chinese troops in Tibet.
It is a matter of historical study as to what made Nehru change his mind by 1960, which led to 1962 war. It would be interesting to note that China had captured Indian Territory right up to the foothills of Assam in 1962. Then, what made it withdraw, as it claims today?
Frankly speaking, this speculation over Chinese interests in Arunachal Pradesh is a phoney call by so-called Indian defence experts. China’s interest is now not only in Aksai Chin, but also G-B
If China has to engage India in a major war, it has to thin out troops from Eastern Theatre Command against Taiwan or even opposite Russia to achieve desirable superiority of numbers for offensive in High altitude and mountainous terrain. This makes East China Sea (ECS) and South China Sea (SCS) vulnerable to US manoeuvres. Hong Kong dissidents might get an upper hand. China might lose overlordship of SCS. USA has three aircraft carriers in and around SCS & ECS. Therefore “One China Theme” of uniting Taiwan with mainland China would be totally jeopardised.
Xi Jinping’s dilemma, if Ukraine crisis presents an opportunity, would be: to go for Taiwan or India? There would be no major gain in a clash with India, instead, it might get a bloody rap on its face. Galwan incident of 15 June 2020 has shown that India is no military pushover now. Should it turn into a military stalemate with India, it would only benefit the USA. It is no gain saying the fact that USA and EU are looking forward to this bull fight of the two Asian giants. India might not match offensive capabilities, but in defensive capabilities it is more than a match.
Hypothetically speaking, If Xi Jinping picks up India over Taiwan, he would have to decide between Ladakh/G- B and Arunachal Pradesh (South Tibet). China has more stakes in Ladakh/GB than Arunachal Pradesh. The claim over Arunachal Pradesh is only a counter move to oppose Indian claim over Aksai Chin . But Ladakh/G- B is very significant because of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the microchip industry - an essential chip for 5G- being set up in Xinjiang.
Water of the dam is needed for microchip industry in Xinjiang. That is why China has chosen to finance Diamer-Bhasha Dam over River Indus. China, earlier, used to import microchips from Taiwan, which has been stopped due to the ongoing Sino-US tensions. China has decided to self-produce it. Thus, G-B gets priority over Arunachal. And for the same reason Taiwan gets priority over India.
In the final analysis, China would like to first sort out Taiwan issue than capture Arunachal Pradesh. As far as India is concerned, China has outsourced its India war to Pakistan. Also, China knows that India is fully ready to give it back to China. The occupation of Kailash range by India in August 2021 had made its resolve very clear to China.
Notwithstanding China’s “wolf-warrior diplomats” mouthing threats and challenges, Indian Army is steadfast in its determination to wash away the bleeding face of 1962. It is now a dilemma for China as to how to douse the fire after having lighted it. It had not seen earlier the aggressive counter move of Indian soldiers as well as the Government of India. China would, therefore, not go for a misadventure against India., alhough border skirmishes can not be ruled out.
About The Author
Col. Rajinder Kushwaha is an ex-NDA, commissioned into 3 Bihar. He is a battle-hardened veteran who served in ’71 War & has operated extensively in various insurgency environs across the country. He is a renowned author, and a highly respected defence & national security expert writing for several reputed publications such as ‘Defence and Security Alert’ (DSA), the ‘Indian Defence Review’ (IDR) among others. You can reach him on Twitter: @RajeeKushwaha, Email ID: [email protected]
(Views expressed are the authors own, and do not reflect the editorial policy of 'Mission Victory India')