There is a degree of positivity in the air. Flows from the recent withdrawal of the Chinese from the forward posts, that too post the heavy winters. The jubilation is both in the political and military domain. The use of a steady mix of both political and military means towards a desired end state seems to have worked here. There is little doubt that, when you decipher the opponent's mind, play the permutations and combinations, focus on the deliverables, the result is an end to the face off.
But did we really win the war, let’s discuss the permanency of the lines drawn. Did we actually diffuse Gordon's knot.
- Can we now ensure that escalation of situations due to ambitious leadership or political upheavals or ignorance of facts and figures, will not happen on both sides?
- Has a line on ground been demarcated including the watershed, to consolidate positions that cannot or will not be altered in peace or war?
- Have occupied territories been signified and highlighted as disputed and not a status quo, that a clear message has been sent that the ownership lies with us and we will retain the options of taking it back?
- Is there a process in place that will ensure that aggressive troop buildup in the garb of military exercises will be prevented and any such action will call for pre emptive application of own capabilities? Also, military infrastructure builds up close to its own borders and the friendly neighbouring countries will be avoided.
- Has the issue of Tibet been discussed as an alternative to Chinese claims on Ladakh and Arunachal? That in case of Chinese insistence we might just rake up the occupation of foreign land as part of the Chinese grand strategy.
- Have no fly zones been earmarked for military aircrafts and other means (UAVs, RPVs etc) that will Intrude into Indian space for whatever be the reasoning. No electronic or cyber warfare both active and passive of any kind on Indian installations or military means.
- Have we strongly amplified that attributability to instances of weaponisation of terrorist groups in border regions, especially in the North East, the analogy that it will be taken up with all international security agencies strongly?
- Have we indicated clearly that the net security provider in the Indian Ocean region is the Indian government and the Indian Navy? That for increased and secured use of the SLOCs, the Chinese trade and military ships, to include submarines should be reported through a diplomatic channel.
- Have we put a spoke in the wheel of advanced technology being transferred to Pakistan? Of Pakistan being used as a surrogate to counter Indian strategic growth.
- Have we brought up the security and anti-terrorism blueprint for South Asia?
- Have we consolidated and clearly highlighted our thresholds and tolerance levels and put a process in place to solve all issues bilaterally in a non-military domain?
The questions can be unending. The Chinese are plagued with multiple problems, both internal and external. An uprising of its youth, ageing population, exposed to western styled democracies against the present ruling dispensation. Corruption in both political and military leadership. Loss of faith in the Chinese halo of economic growth. The Xinjiang problem of radicalism and home bred terrorism.
Internationally the issue of Taiwan, South China Sea, the African envelopment, the northern borders with Russia, US seeing China as a military nuisance, the Karakoram Highway not economically viable anymore due to internal strife in Pakistan, threat of terrorism and harsh winters, strengthened Indian political and military intent. The Chinese fading dream due to Covid 19.
The Chinese as per my perception as a superpower in the making will not get into skirmishes and small fights. If they ever have to wage a war, it has to ensure complete victory and not a notion of victory. For them to cast a dye on the world platform they need to prove the significance of both the means and the will.
With the US being the provocative propagator of a monstrous China, the Chinese leadership will not waste away its time and resources if the gains are not exponential. Any reduction of its economy and resources for small time military victories and territorial gains will have to wait, till its larger objective of being an alternative to the US in the eyes of the world is established.
With India while it might want to get into a military conflict of proving to the South Eastern Asian countries that it is the whole and soul of security, economy and the only regional power. Use of military might will not give him the results that he would want. Neither the assurance of a clean swipe.
Towards that end and with the growing US-India alliance and also the energy security threat with the Russians. China would like to undermine India and is likely to restrain it from becoming a regional giant. Also relegate India only to a regional identity. Keeping it militarily at bay, economically underslung and trying to establish a dependency (make it dependent) and most of all keep it engaged by all other means short of war.
So have we won the battle yet? No, we are back to the status quo pre Galwan. We will still be wargaming Chinese intentions, likelihood, permutations. and combinations, with national anxiety.
So then are we prepared for the next war, we would like to believe that we are. But the very fact that the Chinese have relented, accepted that a ploy failed will make them think harder, plan better and implement swiffer. A strategic withdrawal, to re-stratagise is sometimes critical to winning the bigger war. The next time they come, they will come, bigger, stronger, prepared, with increased capacities and with a definite intent.
Are we prepared?
(The author is a military analyst and commentator on national security issues. Views expressed are the author's own and do not reflect the editorial policy of Mission Victory India)