Ladakh standoff: Dragon and Elephant appear to be heading towards a limited conflict

By Dr. Mohan Bhandari  Published on  17 Sep 2020 5:09 AM GMT
Ladakh standoff: Dragon and Elephant appear to be heading towards a limited conflict

The single big problem in the normalization of Sino-Indian Relations is the deep-rooted mistrust between both the countries- which has only expanded over the years. It is the Chinese mindset & their nefarious actions that are responsible for this state of affairs. Today, the relations between both giants of South Asia are at their nadir.

The 'Sino-centric Attitude ’ & the ‘Ethnocentric Behavioral Pattern’ of the Dragon has been instrumental in developing such a peculiar, uncalled for & dismal posture of our expansionist neighbor - where there is no place for Logic, Rational Thinking & Reasoning ,Customs & Traditions ,Treaties, Agreements & Accepted Norms of a civilized world. China, in the comity of nations, at present, has emerged worldwide as the most disliked Nation. Further, it has no regard for International Law.

The Corps Commanders of India & China are meeting soon, hopefully, to discuss & agree to disengage troops to the positions of status quo ante of April 2020 & requiring PLA to withdraw a huge amount of troops amassed near LAC in Eastern Ladakh. The Five Points Diplomatic Understanding has now got reduced to military-level talks yet again.

But how fruitful these talks would be only time will tell. So far, innumerable military interactions & marathon discussion sessions between Corps Commanders, Divisional & Brigade Commanders have not yielded tangible results. Under these circumstances, Indian Army was left with no option but to carry out preemptive actions as China continued to buy time & be fool them time & again. One thing is for sure now that the Indian Army will have to ensure a very high state of operational alert at all times especially when severe winter is about to knock at the doorsteps. Indian soldiers are battle-hardened & are trained to fight in temperatures ranging from -45 Degrees Celsius to the scorching heat of deserts.

Unfortunately, there is a total mismatch between Beijing’s statements & corresponding actions of PLA on the ground. In the recent Jai Shanker- Wang talks, the former made it amply clear that peace & tranquility on the Border was a prerequisite for the development of a meaningful bilateral relationship. Wang was also told that a comprehensive disengagement of troops from all sensitive areas must begin immediately to ensure that no untoward incident takes place. India had expressed its deep concern over amassing of a huge Military Force by China all along the LAC. This was a blatant violation of the 1993 & 1996 pacts by China.

The next Round of Corps Commanders Talks should forego the earlier concept of ‘equitable disengagement’, and take into account now the changed tactical milieu and dynamics created by Indian preemptive military actions. This would add up to India‘s bargaining power. Basically, this would involve framing of a new set of rules of engagement & ensuring that China conforms to their words of ‘peace’ into action. How can you trust Sun Weidong - the Chinese Ambassador when he says “INDIA & CHINA NOW NEED TO FOCUS ON COOPERATION & NOT CONFRONTATION, & MUTUAL TRUST & NOT SUSPICION?

Proof of the Pudding is in eating - so they say. The Ball is now in Dragon’s Court. As the world watches, it has to take the first step towards enduring peace.

The five point’s joint statement issued after the Jai Shankar-Wang meet conveys nothing substantial. It lays down the necessity of continuance of talks between both Parties to reduce tension & follow the guidelines of Senior Leaders of both countries not to convert ‘ Issues ’ into ‘Disputes’ - thereby putting brakes to deteriorating developments on the ground. It also talks of continuance of Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) Meetings that may lead to a final disposition of troop’s deployment to their permanent posts resulting in a phasing out process between military commanders of both sides.

But, nowhere in the Joint Statement, is any mention of Chinese troops withdrawal to positions as in April 2020 mentioned, nor any time frame indicated to settle the five-month-old dispute. It is, however, clear that the primary reason for Wang to ask for the subject meeting was the fear created by preemptive yet extremely bold tactical maneuvers launched by the Indian Army changing the entire paradigm. This has resulted in almost eyeball to eyeball deployment of troops of both sides - converting it into a knife-edge situation. It definitely befitted a New India’s Image - a much-awaited welcome change. The recalcitrant Dragon was stunned by this doctrinal shift.

Xi Jinping would be announcing year-long festivities for the centennial year of the founding of the CCP & craves to become as popular as Mao in the pantheon of party luminaries. Xi obviously would want to project himself as the Strongest at this juncture. With India having reversed China’s game plan, Xi shall have a difficult path to take. Well, the present Face-Off is dangerous, to say the least. Neither side wants an all-out war, but both Dragon & Elephant appear to be heading towards a limited conflict.

Warnings of Chinese aggressiveness notwithstanding, India’s decision to take PLA head-on were based on a principled stand, something that other countries need to acknowledge. In view of the aforesaid, I being the architect of aggressive moves in Ladakh may restore his sagging image by more escalations resulting in offensive military actions. No one knows mind?

PLA only serves its political master-the CCP - neither the Nation nor its Constitution. All those PLA soldiers who died at Galwan on 15 June (43 -60 in Number) have remained unheard of, unswept & unsung. What the families of these dead PLA soldiers would be undergoing- is any body’s guess. An ungrateful nation indeed!

India-a Nation of Dharma had recoiled & as a ‘quid pro quo’ sprang a surprise upon Dragon by beating it in its own game. Accepting wrongs & injustice is equivalent to committing a sin. Today, the entire world is praising the ethical actions of a resurgent India. After all, it is TRUTH, HONESTY & RIGHTEOUSNESS that has made India a great country in the comity of civilized nations of the world Vis a Vis an untrustworthy China - an iniquitous fox sans moral values.

In the background of a precarious situation that exists at the LAC, let me attempt to bring out Options for India. Well, the FIRST Option is to evict PLA by expelling intrusions/transgressions post-April only. (It may be recalled that China has illegally swallowed 37,244 Sq KMs of Indian Territory in Aksai Chin (J & K) besides 5,400 Sq KMs of Shaksgham Valley (J & K) illegally ceded to it by Pakistan in 1963). As PLA continues to strengthen its new positions, it would make coordinated offensive operations by the Indian Army difficult. Also, PLA stands to advantage as the defender benefits from mountainous terrain especially when large portions of its own territory stand nibbled. Concentrating large forces & firepower would invite definite escalation. This may also escalate tensions in the Central & Eastern Sectors & give rise to fierce air battles on LAC & in the hinterland. With an irrational & browbeaten Dragon, unpredictable responses could always be expected.

The SECOND option is to take advantage of the Central Sector (Himachal Pradesh/Uttarakhand) or in Arunachal Pradesh to trade for PLA withdrawal from Eastern Ladakh. India could also create problems for the Chinese maritime movements in IOR/East of Malacca Straits/South China Sea. India has a defence pact with the US, France, Australia, South Korea, Singapore & Japan. Similar pacts may soon be signed with UK & Russia. These defence pacts shall deny China access to IOR & Indo-Pacific Region.

The nonmilitary options of India are rather limited presently. India has an enormous trade deficit with China. Although India was seeking to curtail direct investments from China, this step appears fairly modest in scale. India has already banned 214 mobile applications in addition to denying Chinese companies’ access to Indian users & data. Well, much more similar activities in the long term & time frame may be undertaken by India but how much of impact it shall have on China will have to be analyzed; India depends on China for much of its vertical supply chain.

Xi Ping knows the stark truth that his enlisted ‘chocolate soldiers’ (With kind permission of GB Shaw from his Play ‘Arms and the Man’) are no match to Indian Soldiers who are hardy, highly motivated, well trained in high altitude warfare & born patriots - upholding the integrity of Indian Constitution & TIRANGA at all costs. The Indian Soldier belongs to no political party, unlike PLA soldiers who only serve the CCP. Indian soldiers stunned Xi by totally changing the military equation in Eastern Ladakh by shaking his chair! Indian soldier, therefore, is well placed to respond to PLA’s conscripted soldiers - should they have the temerity to grab the Indian Territory.

Politically & diplomatically, India must strive hard to bring upon Dragon enormous US & International Pressure at its ‘Achilles’ heel‘ - Hong Kong, Taiwan, South China Sea, etc,& continue to isolate it on its insidious role in starting the current pandemic.

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