Connecting Regions of Asia.

Ladakh Standoff: Chinese Dilemma After Snow Melts?

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China has got a new commander for the Western Theatre Command. Gen Zhang Xudong is new to the theatre and obviously is getting in to picture. He has to prove himself to the Chairman of Central Military Commission, who was not happy with the previous incumbent for not being able to rein in India in time, and for allowing the standoff to spill over to winter and beyond. The stalemate is a setback to Xi. Gen Zhang has to restore his prestige.

Politically, China wants to subdue India at the earliest and force it to accept the Chinese version of the 1959 LAC. Militarily, China wants to intimidate India by Military Means by use of force or the threat of use of force to yield to the Chinese demand on LAC.

The Chinese Military Objectives on India-China Frontier would be to mobilise his offensive forces in Tibet, opposite Arunachal and Ladakh Sectors. In both these sectors, they have disputed areas and capture of areas in these sectors would have a certain degree of legitimacy to hold on to them. This is in tune with his present doctrine of ‘Legal Warfare’.

In case China limits its confrontation to only Ladakh Front then his limited Military Objectives could be as under: –

Firstly: Hold on to Depsang Plain in strength and make it a fait accompli to the Indians. China also perceives Depsang as its strategic vulnerability. It is the shortest and the easiest approach to interdict his strategic Tibet- Xinjiang Highway (GH-219). Such action will thwart Indian plans to restore the status quo ante at Depsang.

Secondly: To keep the Indians at Finger 3 and ensure the territories Finger 4 and North of it remains under Chinese occupation. Both India and China could swoop on the higher heights of the Fingers which emanate from Chang Chen Mo Ridge. Whoever does it early would dominate the North Bank of Pangong Tso. The logistics nightmare in sustaining the troops at those heights should be planned.

Thirdly: Ensure Indians withdraw from the Heights on Kailash Range, South of Pangong Tso. Once India withdraws, PLA would occupy the same just before the onset of winters in Oct/Nov 2021 and thereby altering the LAC permanently to its advantage. Under no circumstances should India withdraw from the Kailash Range.

Gen Zhang would be hard-pressed to achieve the three limited military objectives on the Ladakh Front. At this time the Indian Foreign Ministry officials came to his rescue by agreeing at the meeting on 18 Dec 2020 that the disengagement on the Ladakh Front would be limited only to friction points. Whose idea it was to stick to friction points for disengagement? I had only thought that it was a terminology in Physics? The entire front is armed to the teeth and these gullible guys have gone and agreed to the concept of ‘Friction Points’ which does not make any sense. Have the officials of MEA surrendered our national interests? The next meeting of the Corps Commanders as and when it takes place; don’t you feel that the Indian General would be severely restricted by the limitation imposed by the MEA for disengaging only from the friction points?

India should also not be imprisoned in the concept of ‘Bilateralism’ vis-à-vis China. We are trying to apply the same template on China as we do to Pakistan. India and Pakistan are bound by the Shimla Agreement of 1972 for sorting our border disputes bilaterally. It makes sense to deal with Pakistan bilaterally. We are pushing the same policy forward for convenience and delight of China.

China forced Tibet to sign the ’17 Point Agreement’ with Chinese troops poised for coercion in Ladakh. Again, while annexing the South China Sea; China occupied islands and EEZ of the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. It wants to have bilateral meetings with each of the countries individually so that it can browbeat and impose its will on them individually.

Just last week, the Chinese Ambassador to India, Sun Weidong, was asking the US not meddle in the Sino-Indian dispute. Sadly, our foreign ministry continues to harp on the bilateral frame in negotiations with China. Naked aggression is being covered up by our Foreign Ministry, where we did not even support Mike Pompeo in the Quad Meeting of the Foreign Ministers when he was expressing concern at China’s expansionism in the Himalayas.

We should have no choice but to take on China Militarily. However, we should not feel shy to name and shame China diplomatically. We, for some reason do not want to name China and get mired in innuendoes and oblique imputation. Chinese aggression cannot be considered bilateral. It disrupts the world peace as both are nuclear powers. We should not hesitate to discuss with the USA, UK, Quad, Middle East, South-East Asia and EU and expose China.

Xi having crowned himself as emperor for life has to prove to the Politburo his credentials. Any signs of affliction would directly impact his image as the ‘Core Leader’. He would therefore instruct Gen Zhang to subdue India earliest by use of minimum necessary force. At the same time, it is unlikely that he would go on a major offensive? A limited offensive; possibly?

Notwithstanding; we should not plan on a premise that China will not go on the offensive once the snow melts. The mutual de-induction of 10,000 troops from depth, areas should not make us complacent. It could be just a ploy? We should be able to monitor all his troop movements and war waging resources. The recent realignment of Strike Corps to the Sino-Indian Borders is brilliant. Gen Zhang has a difficult task at hand. To prove himself; we should expect some indiscretions from him. We should be ready to exploit them and not allow him to extricate from the LAC without losing face.

Lastly; for heaven’s sake; anyone listening to me: China has one Western Theatre Command looking after the entire Sino-Indian Frontier. We have three Army Commands and a number of Air Commands looking at the same front. If that was not enough, we have the ‘Indo Tibetan Border Police’ that operates directly under the MHA. So, we also have two ministries, Defence and Home responsible. We have lost out on our patrolling access into Depsang which was patrolled by ITBP. Now, we want to fight a war with China with two ministries handling the front; can you believe it? Our ministerial battles are more intense; we can think of China; later, as we are not willing to put ITBP under the command of the Army. Almighty; please save us from ourselves!

Courtesy – FinancialExpress

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