India-China Border Disengagement: India Lacks the ‘Art of Warfare’

Peace is always a better option as to war, it’s all said and understood by the masses, the importance of peace is well realised but it should also be realised that confrontation also has it’s own merits if utilised properly. In a way confrontation can be used to establish long term peace and stability provided that how much efforts did the statesman put in order to gain maximum benefits out of that confrontation.

As Sun Tzu quoted “out of chaos comes the opportunity.” He also famously wrote in the Art of War that the “opportunities multiply as they are seized.” The recent India-China border stand-off was also a great oppertunity to establish long-term peace at the border which has gone in vain without any efforts been made by the leadership to grab maximum out of this confrontation.

Given our country’s political landscape the art of conducting warfare has been little understood by our governance system, one after another leader since Nehru has never been able to understand the opportunity behind the crises like this.

It’s always said by the security experts that India lacks strategic culture in the country, it is more apparent as we move towards higher heirarchy of the leadership or as famously called Lutyens zone of the capital Delhi. Mind you we not just lack strategic culture in the country but also credible diplomatic acumen.

It was reported on 10th February, 2021 night that India and China has started disengagement at Pangong Lake. Notably, the news didn’t came straight away from Indian media houses but the Chinese state owned media ‘the global times’. It was not India which announced first about disengagement but the Chinese Ministry of Defence.

Dispute in Detail

As the news got in mainstream, it was subtly acknowledged by the Indian government that fingure 4 to 8 would perpetually become a no man’s land with both the forces evacuating the space in between including the dominant strategic points which the Indian Army was able to capture all throughout.

Although it’s another side of the story that till date the government has never given a clear picture of the stand off, never acknowledged any location whereabouts whatsoever. Making majority of the public to live in dark since this confrontation has happened.

According to IANS, on 30 August, 2020, India had occupied critical mountain heights on the southern bank of the Pangong Lake like Rechin La, Rezang La, Mukpari, and Tabletop that were unmanned till now. India also made some deployments near Blacktop. The dominance at these 13 peaks, the Kailash Range allows India to dominate Spangur Gap under Chinese control and also the Moldo garrison on the Chinese side.

All the media reports and genuine analysis of the situation pointed out that we had a very dominant position over the situation.

Which foolish nation whose Army is succeeding on ground will offer a status quo by announcing it’s own land as a “no man’s area”? Losing what have been gained on the ground is an art which our leaders have mastered.

This is akin to Pt. Nehru going to the UNSC in order to make his global image as peace loving leader while Indian Army was winning back most of the parts of Kashmir in 1948 or the Simla Agreement made by the Indira government, loosing everything what we had gained during the 1971 war or the return of Haji Pir post 1965 war. These strategic follies have led to innumerable bloodshed of thousands and lakhs of people both civilian and military till date.

If China can change its map after every year or two what had stopped India to acclaim 15Km more beyond the figure 8 area inside the Autonomous region? Only such bold steps can make the Chinese sit and discuss the resolution of the unsettled borders as we know that our neighbours are not inclined to rational thinking they only understand the hard power.

Otherwise as most of us know that an unsettled border is merely a tool for China to assert its hegemony, embarrass/humiliate India and undermine its regional, international, and military reputation.

The present standoff at border gave us a great opportunity to pressurise the Chinese to not only settle the dispute near Pangong area but whole of the 3,488Km Line of Actual Control provided that our diplomats had the required acumen to grab something out of it in order to gain peace, that too when the global reputation of China was already tarnished due to Covid-19. Peace for not a month or two as we know that such incidents shall also happen in future but peace which is sustainable and long-lasting.

This confrontation had given India a great opportunity which has probably gone in vain!

For instance, the Sumdorong Chu standoff lasted over a year and the stalemate led to the 1993 border agreement (which led to a long-lasting peace along the border). We had a similar opportunity. Not to forget that after 1967 Nathu La and Cho La clashes in which India gave befitting reply to the Chinese there was no use of firearm till date on the whole of the LAC.

Warfare is an outcome of joint efforts, it is not just the military fighting on ground but the whole system of the state. It is not just the art of fighting war but also the will to fight the war followed by the diplomatic acumen to gain best out of that situation. The Indian Army did fought well on ground by not allowing an inch of land to be grabbed by the Chinese but the political leadership lack the ‘will to fight’ and the diplomatic arena failed to get the best out of the situation.

Given the narrow mindedness we have in addressing strategic concerns. Our leaders were made to grapple by our bureaucratic/ diplomatic fleet on mere ‘fingures’ but never have allowed to realise the possibilities existed along more than 3000Km. of Indo- China border.


  • Shantanu K. Bansal

    Founder of IADN. He has more than 10 years of experience in research and analysis. An award winning researcher, he writes for the leading defence and security journals, think-tanks and in-service publications. He is a senior consultant at the Indian Army Training Command (ARTRAC), Shimla. Contact him at:

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