September 27, 2022

Capitulating to China – Part 3 (concluding)

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

In a video interview to introduce his book ‘Contested Lands – India, China and the Boundary Dispute’, Maroof Raza said that India should give away to China whatever is in occupation of PLA. Interestingly, towards the end Maroof said that Nehru had little choice other than depending on the advice of Bhola Nath Mullik, Director IB. 

But Nehru can hardly be absolved of the 1962 debacle even if Mullik was really ‘bhola’, which may not have been the case. Besides, what about the Army having given a presentation on how the Chinese will advance? What about Defence Minister VK Krishna Menon threatening to shut down the National Defence College when told that the China invasion was imminent? No one is even interested in renaming the Krishna Menon Road in Delhi named after this idiot?

Of course in 2020, Chinese never invaded Eastern Ladakh because the definition of LAC is as it stands on a particular day; so not even one inch of territory was lost. One red eye from China made our strategists sitting in air conditioned wet their pants and the Army was told to immediately vacate the Kailash Range lest a missile break up their reverie in Delhi. The mantra is to keep the LAC as flexible as our ‘Chini Bhai’ wants!

Subramanian Swamy is a maverick but he does have access to facts. Few years back he tweeted that some bureaucrats of our Ministry of Defence have been honey-trapped by Pakistan’s ISI, which is not surprising. Why else is the downgrading of the military being done? At the same time to think that China has not infiltrated our government system would be naïve. Why else did we not stand up to China and call its bluff, which should have been our topmost priority. But instead, we have resorted to surrender. 

According to posts on social media, India Foundation headed by Dova’ls son organises Modi’s interaction with India Diaspora during his foreign visits including questions to be posed. This softens the criticism that Modi has never held a press conference in India. But even otherwise Doval would be wielding considerable influence on Modi in terms of how to deal with China. That is why trading territory with China for elusive peace at any cost and placing ITBP in the first tier would have been Doval’s idea along with that of the External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.      

The direction in which we are heading presently, including putting ITBP in the first tier under the MHA, is similar to 1962, but may end up worse. Our pusillanimous response to China would encourage them to occupy more and more strategic locations like the Kailash Range while dislodging the PLA from such locations would entail excessive costs in terms lives and material, if at all the government musters the courage to do so. Doval is known to propose soft approach towards China. His recent ravings after an unstable man banged his vehicle against the gate of his bungalow shows another trait of his insecurity.

On what basis has Doval been saying there will be no war and that India would only be fighting no-contact wars, given the terrain and battlefield environment along the LAC? Is that the reason he has not chalked out a national security strategy and Amit Shah just chaired a national security seminar? How have threats to India suddenly reduced to internal security with a tradeoff with China?  

China’s future intentions should be clear at least in Eastern Ladakh with Beijing having announced construction of a second highway (G695 national expressway) through Aksai Chin along the border with India by 2035. According to one source, this new expressway (second through Aksai Chin) is likely to run near the Depsang Plains, Galwan Valley and Hot Springs on the Line of Actual Control.

Of course in 2020, Chinese never invaded Eastern Ladakh because the definition of LAC is as it stands on a particular day; so not even one inch of territory was lost. One red eye from China made our strategists sitting in air conditioned wet their pants and the Army was told to immediately vacate the Kailash Range lest a missile break up their reverie in Delhi. The mantra is to keep the LAC as flexible as our ‘Chini Bhai’ wants!

One can therefore safely assume that China plans to capture at least territory up to DBO as well as taking full control of Pangong Tso and beyond in order to provide depth for this highway. To think that China will wait till the new highway is completed will be outright stupid. Kailash Range is anyway offered on a plate for immediate occupation.

Have Doval and the Defence Secretary (on extended tenure) given any thought what will happen if hostilities break out with ITBP in the first tier under the MHA? How will the air power of the IAF be used for close air support for our ground troops if ITBP replaces the Army? What about tanks and artillery support? How will the AI-powered ATVs move ahead for forward reconnaissance? Will the Army (in secondary role) and the IAF be required to provide support to ITBP functioning under MHA? Is the Army to make a fresh set of defences in the second tier, handing over the first tier to ITBP?

There has been speculation in the media about the post of Secretary, Department of Military Affairs (DMA) being separated from the CDS and possibly occupied by a senior IAS man. So will an IPS officer become CDS after the international borders are brought under the MHA? 

We need to constantly keep reviewing the security environment in the region, also acknowledging that the US and EU do not want a strong India and that an India-China war is in their interest. Pakistan and Myanmar are in the Chinese camp already. Also, debt-ridden Sri Lanka with huge Chinese investments would capitulate to China. The Maoists in Nepal favour China and Nepal has just renewed the BRI.

In Bhutan, China has occupied most of the Doklam Plateau and established new villages inside Bhutanese territory which are fully inhabited and are connected with roads. It is a matter of time for China to occupy the Jhampari Ridge in Bhutan and perhaps Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary also. Forex reserves in Bhutan are dwindling and the country is planning to ban import of all vehicles except utility vehicles, heavy earthmoving machines and agriculture machinery.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is set to visit India commencing September 5. The unrest in Bangladesh, ethnic killings of Hindus included, is an overall plot to bring the opposition to power. Both China and Pakistan (and the West on the plank of human rights) would like to see change of government. Should the BNP, which is pro China and Pakistan, come to power in Bangladesh, the encirclement of India will be complete. 

We were lackadaisical in 1962 and should closely examine how the PLA outflanked defence and interdicted communications in depth. It was all ground movement then but many alternatives are available now. Porous borders like in Nepal and laxity along the LAC whether because of duplicity in command and control or otherwise, lends itself to interdiction in the rear. Should Bangladesh get a government that favours Beijing, China could plan to interdict the Siliguri Corridor in a bid to cut off our northeast?

Finally, the utterances being made these days are similar to as in 1961-62. We are slashing the Army with a butcher knife on the pretext of cutting costs but giving $70 billion to China as balance of trade to modernise the PLA and attack us. One can only cultivate a vain hope that China will be satisfied with the package that our armchair strategists have offered. But the question remains whether it will be otherwise and will policeman Doval l eventually end up as Modi’s nemesis just like BN Mallik was to Nehru.

The author is an Indian Army veteran. Views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of https://strategicaffairsindia.in

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