At this stage there is bound to be a debate as to what are the options available to both India and China. Further courses of military action will be dependent on the Aim, Risk (of failure or success) and Escalation factors in each of the available options in the current winter weather and terrain conditions.
Indian Aims and Options
In my opinion Indian aims and options are simple. Firstly. It will aim to blunt any Chinese offensive and mount a limited counter offensive to evict lodgements or get into better bargaining positions thereof. Secondly. If opportunity arises it must attempt to achieve territorial parity by a Quid Pro Quo action. Even a small piece of territory is ok.
Thirdly. It can manoeuvre in mountains to get into an advantageous position to foreclose any Chinese offensive without heavy costs. Fourthly. It can commence insurgency in Tibet in an adverse situation. The risk factor is pretty low and escalation can be controlled. All these are well within Indian capability. Small team actions with the backing of big firepower will be the order of the day.
Chinese Aims and Options
Chinese aims and options are complex. It will aim to achieve or declare victory. That demands a major rake up in violence levels. In the least it will aim for a face saving exit. However the time for small team Chinese actions is over. Barring Depsang plains, its chances of penetrating the Indian defence line is low. Even a penetration at Depsang might not lead to victory, since a riposte can come anywhere in the South. Moldo garrison, and Spangur are huge vulnerabilities. The Finger area is vulnerable to attrition.
Considering they have a clear weakness in well trained Infantry , the risk of failure for the Chinese is very high if they attempt a major offensive. Since China has to up the ante in any action, the escalation factors are high. Hence China runs the risk of not being able to control the narrative. I have grave doubts if the Chinese leadership is up to it in the overall context. I also grant that people will have grave doubts and will express incredulity at my opinions.
India’s Best Bet
India’s best bet is to play below par. Hold tight and do not give the Chinese a chance. Do not underestimate them. Do not let your guard down. Given a chance, grab some piece of territory or occupy a key terrain feature. It is time to shift gear into ambiguity on the ‘One China’ policy and Tibet. India must use asymmetric options which are aplenty. We must continue to force multiply military actions with economic, diplomatic and geopolitical actions. How about banning Alibaba? There are enough reports about it siphoning data away. The message to China should be clear. The Indian door is shut.
Negotiations or not?
After China dangled the carrot of the 1959 line, many have started advocating to negotiate, on that line or another, citing pragmatism. All these positions are well inside the cartographic boundaries we have maintained for the past 70 years. The offer from China was rejected in 1959 and continued to be rejected for 60 years despite facing a humiliation in 1962.
The same untrustworthy China which has not honoured any of its international commitments or treaties ever since we can remember. If an expansionist China can betray us in 1962, they will do so in future also.
China is still negotiating from a position of territorial advantage. It is a good bargaining chip. That has to be neutralised. To still think that China has greater stamina due to its its National Power is a gross misjudgement. Look at the Taliban vs USA example. Nothing vs Everything and still USA is hurting. We need to get China down a few notches more. In my opinion there are a plenty of hybrid and asymmetric options available to us. We need to think differently. That is all. Just hark back.
My ‘father of the nation’ got us Independence from a great empire with far less resources at his disposal using the most asymmetric and unorthodox options. China is a far less adversary and India has far more arrows in its quiver yet. The Chinese and Pakistanis seem to have realised it. Some of us have not.
We must negotiate on better terms. Let us not run out of patience. Give the undernourished Armed Forces a chance. They will deliver despite everything. They have put China in the international dock. If they cannot, we can always fall back to our over endowed bureaucratic, diplomatic and political class. The Chinese have come in uninvited. It is India’s choice to let them go back.
Lastly as long as the Virus lasts China will continue to weaken. As long as the current situation on the LAC lasts, China will be seen to be ineffective. So what is the hurry?
Excerpt from the article “Sino-Indian Logjam: The Winter Haul” by Lt. Gen. PR Shankar (Retd.) Published in Daily Guardian
Edited by Shantanu K. Bansal