The China Dilemma: Need To Rethink

"China has read us correctly. He thinks that we don’t have the might or the will. He will seek to engage us in the grey zone. Non contact forms. Contact battle is the last resort."

The China Dilemma: Need To Rethink

Does India even have a dictated strategic culture? Does our culture change with politics? Leadership? Or military thinking?  Is China even misreading us or reading us correctly? We don’t have the will or the capability to go beyond skirmishes. We constantly rely beyond the military domain getting into diplomacy or seeking allies right from the word go.

Our capability building is left to hurried off the shelf procurement and a minor indigenisation. By pushing tanks and artillery into the tactical battle area and dominating one of the hundred situations we constantly become callous thinking that this is the appropriate way.

China has read us correctly. He thinks that we don’t have the might or the will. He will seek to engage us in the grey zone. Non contact forms. Contact battle is the last resort. Why do you think he has this huge capability of long range vectors through rocket artillery and an increasing air and naval fleet. I am sorry to say, he knows physical deployment will force us to deploy, cause for us preemption is not an option. He will waste us by constantly promulgating a threat.

Fight China? We better get our act right. Get the boundary issue resolved, give and take. Militarily build capabilities. The nation will blame us as all bull and no value if another 1962 takes place. We need to build capability to deny the Chinese the thought of going into a military conflict.

We need to build capability to take the battle to him. In all dimensions land, air and sea. We need to build a narrative of having the capability of hitting his economic dimensions all over the world. We need to build infrastructure and multi mode insertion capabilities, including ways and means of fighting fast and sure in mountains.

Yes at the tactical level we are strong. Beyond that when the onslaught appears in barrages of fire on roads, tracks, logistics, engineers, ammunition. Then what? Without getting into a contact battle isolating the battlefield. Imagine the psychological upheaval. Are our troops capable of fighting through periods of unknown. Is our mental makeup even there?

Is our leadership aware of the fact that the way the Chinese will fight is to assure 100% success and win without fighting. Aimed at embarrassment to India. Most of the time our troops will function in information voids, seeing battle manifesting itself but yet no application. The worst fear therefore being created - the fear of the unknown.

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Hypothetically say they don’t get into a border battle at all. Dominate the IOR with their submarines. Cyber war to include dimensions of space. Neutralise satellite systems and make it unattributable. Galvanise the 4GWs in the north east. Mass of troops on the border. Increased air violations without activating the arsenal. Destruction of bridges through IEDs etc. isolate the tactical battlefield, with  all resources, yet no contact. Push the western neighbour to up the ante.

Will we then still fight the way we want to? Can we go in? Rush to the passes, capture vantage points across the LAC, have air intrusions, Fly our UAVs and deploy ISR resources freely? Can we? We can’t do it now in peacetime, can we do it then with the kind of air defence he has manifested?

Every sector commander wants peace and tranquility. Imagine if there is no border contact war happening. Can we yet take the war to the enemy. Do we have the requisite arty for a limited offensive or a QPQ. Do we have the ISR to look deep?

We want it short, does he want a short war, or does a long war suit his design? War endurance? War sustainability? Endurance will have a preponderance of fire assault means. So what’s our take on, survivability, force preservation for the actual battle? Yes, the first few days a bloody fight, what then? Can we ensure a short duration war? Parity of effects and notion of victory? Does the nuclear gambit even hold good anymore? Does China want war with India before it becomes a super military power it aims to be by 2049?    

Mountains have clear routes of induction and restricted spaces for deployment. With increased ISR capabilities will he not ensure that he has adequate resources to prevent the strike forces from joining the battle in time and space. Even if they join with degraded capability, they restrict them to tactical applications.

Or force them into restoration operations. So how do we prevent this? How do we shape our battlefield? Application of SF? Long range vectors? SHBO? AB ops? Are we looking towards recce pull? Too many questions. I hope we are thinking and working towards force manifestation holistically and realistically.

There are no compromises to training and adapting to new forms of warfare, to include technology and multi domain operations. We need to get back down again to the drawing board. Ensure a viable peace time environment for capability building. Resolve all issues bilaterally. Make the military option for China intangible. Define a new art form to desist China from adventurism on the Indian borderline. We need to take a bite from the story of David and Goliath, hit the enemy where he is most vulnerable and when he is most vulnerable. But do David’s actually exist anymore?

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Instead of China constantly intimidating us with its military might and deployment, to include openly showing off his technology, can we get down to thinking differently? Do we have to fritter away defensive troops by holding every piece of ground on the border. It is time to sort out prevailing boundary issues or come to a common conclusion, thereby freeing our troops for critical operations that ensure parity if effects. Make consolidation by staying compact with an offensive defensive capability being more appropriate in barren mountains a way of war fighting.

Have capability to deter the enemy by creating complexities at all his vulnerabilities as a form of dissuasion. The more you extend your deployment, the weaker you are.  The more you deploy the more the quantum of forces the enemy will have to fight you, but the issue is of fighting in isolation in mountains. The possibilities of reinforcements reaching in time is a constant pin prick.

Often extended deployments work both ways, forcing the enemy to clear every piece of ground required for an all out victory, or just concentrate on weak defensive systems, ensuring 100% success. Both ways the attacker has the leverage. A dissipated defender is likely to fall easily.

We need to at all costs prevent getting into an eviction battle by high capacity ISR and quick deployment. Military operations with an adversary that is asymmetrically strong, needs a rethink. We can’t fight in a stand alone mode. Everyone agrees it’s an all of nation approach. Therefore the answer is simple. Don’t go to war which does not have a chance of definite victory.

Don’t fall into the trap of making do with what you have, to get the best out of a situation, like we say fight with what is - where is. This is war with China and not a skirmish. It is either victory or loss. No in- betweens. Therefore resolve all issues diplomatically and politically. Build capacities and capabilities. Be in a military state to take the war to the enemy if need be and not rely on enemy actions to retaliate. You can only dictate terms if you are in a position of strength. Therefore build strength.

About the Author

The author is a military analyst and commentator on national security and strategic issues issues.

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