I don’t actually know what to make out from the kind of skirmishes we are having at our borders. Are we playing into the devils hands, by giving him an opportunity or a reason to be assertive and take the escalation control by aggressive actions beyond the skirmish level? And yet the analogy that we can’t take his bullying and gross neglect of the existing accord lying down is also justified.
A typical example of being caught between the devil and the deep sea. So what now? What is our next course of action? Who controls the escalation? Where will the next encounter pan out? How will it manifest? Where and what will be the desired end state?
Basic questions every military leader needs to ask himself. Strategies aren’t short sighted or a reaction to a situation. Strategies are planned much in advance, capabilities are built, vulnerabilities and sensitivities are sealed, a threat in being is created to showcase strong intent and the most essential is creating or having in place plans at tactical and operational levels to take the battle to the enemy by creating multiple criticalities, widespread in space, to deter him from his aggressive intent. Spread him, separate him, segregate him, stupefy him and surprise him.
But right now we also need to introspect. Is the mechanism we already have in place for border management actually working? Why are there new areas of disputes cropping up suddenly, when these areas were well demarcated and accepted as boundaries? Why are we reacting to the Chinese in a manner in which he is already adept. Why can’t we look at putting in place actions that would not only deter him but also create an environment where his adventurism is controlled. What therefore are those actions.
One question that troubles me is that on whose orders are the Chinese going in for skirmish level actions. Are the border defence forces with embedded military running their own independent agenda and have been given a free hand by the PLA. What is their next course of action? After being embarrassed in a skirmish? Is it retribution through application of larger force levels, or is it waiting for the right opportunity to spring surprises in a different vulnerable region? Do we have enough intelligence to negate their design and beat them with speed, decision making and focused action?
Depsang, Galwan, Sikkim, have extended deployments and large Chinese development and billeting. Why? There is no economic gains here. Depth to the northern highway, in peace time when there is no threat to it? Manifesting an PLA intent of being a superior power and keeping them relevant. Searching and bullying what they conceive as a weaker conventional enemy, because they feel Taiwan is above their strategic intent as of now, due to the US - Japan power play and taking cues from the Russian - Ukrainian conflict? That India presents itself as a competitor in economical build up and an emerging Asian giant, that she needs to be curbed and her efforts nullified. With all this will a conventional approach even help?
Let’s get back to us Indians. By beating back some Chinese through sticks and stones are we any further to a deterrent. Why can’t we as a nation have confidence building measures in place. High level prime minister to president talks. Showing resolve for permanent solutions. Gaining time to build capabilities and make our nation technologically viable.
We have of course come a far way, from garbaging the thought that any development of border infrastructure would help the Chinese, to own fast paced development enabling own quick reactions and people friendly projects ensuring more civility to an over infused military environment.
The military is an instrument of national will. They come into the picture first for border control and last for manifestation of an intent, that is forced into a contact battle. Between that is the space for diplomacy, confidence building and cooperation.
Military strategy however needs to pulsate between having a plan in place for skirmish level interactions and at the same time for military manifestation of national will. Let’s not fool ourselves by saying that a stalemate will be a loss of face for the Chinese. Even he knows that. Therefore with the kind of power build up he is showing lately and the kind of forces he can get into battle, at the time and place of his choosing. The possibilities of stalemate are narrowing and slowly becoming only a power point stupidity. Or a foolish analogy being propagated by the short term
The recent skirmishes have led to a dangerous level of confrontation. No one can actually predict what next. Meanwhile are we taking our training and capability building to the next level. Psychological hardening of troops for large scale military application of arsenal. Un armed combat. Logistics build-up, tactically viable caches. Embedded locals in Tibet? Learning mandarin? Establishing the threshold to distinctly identify lines and limits of engagement.
We are a little apprehensive here, we need to accept that. There are measures in place and slowly and simply we are inching forward. Until then, peace and tranquility with the Chinese should be our aim.
The author is a military analyst & commentator on national security issues
(Views expressed are the author's own and do not reflect the editorial stance of Mission Victory India)
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