By Lt Col Manoj K Channan (Retd)
16th June 2020, will remain etched in the history of India as a major clash took place during a de-escalation process which has led to casualties on either side. Reportedly, both the armies are on their side of Line-of-Actual Control (LAC).
The political statements which were made on re-claiming the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir aimed at the Indian vote bank did not take into consideration the likely ramifications.
The Chinese are sensitive to their Xinjiang-Tibet highway, also known as G219 highway. Towards this end, the Chinese occupied all the major mountain passes and crest lines ensuring that LAC passes through the highest crestline. India does not control the dominating heights. India, however, could use the river valley to emerge on the Aksai Chin plateau and threaten Chinese positions there.
The Chinese wanted to control the mountain passes which are pivotal to ensure flexible movement across the mountain ranges to prevent any major West to East movement by the Indian Army.
The LAC in this area runs close to the Shyok river and its alignment turns sharply towards West, following the highest regional crestline. Hence this is vital for the Indian Army from communication and logistical perspective.
It was not long ago it was said that the Indian Armed Forces will have a lesser role to play which resulted in a reduction in manpower and of procurement of military equipment. The Indian Leadership has been blindsided akin to the events pre 1962, wherein Nehru was caught off guard by Chou Enlai; this time Modi by Xi, the Political Hubris has been shot to bits.
Information that has been gleaned from various sources print, electronic and the “Old Boys Network”; quote “As a part of de-escalation efforts, both sides were to return to their earlier posts. A party of 16 Bihar regiment were sent to the location to supervise. The PLA was still there wrapping up their tents.
The Chinese, upon spotting our patrol, sparked a scuffle. The ridge is very narrow; hardly for two men to walk abreast”. How a large number of casualties took place is still a matter of speculation.
Quoting Mohan Guruswamy, a strategic-analyst and an expert on the Indo-China relationship, “The Modi regime should now seek to evolve an ‘in-country’ consensus on how much we can 'give and take' to accept a common LAC? A commonly accepted LAC should be our immediate objective, leaving territorial claims for later. This can only be arrived at mutually by the two militaries.
If war is too serious a business to be left to the generals, it is also too serious a business to be left to ignorant politicians. Another "hot war" between India and China will lead to a larger regional conflagration with untold and possibly unforeseen consequences. It will definitely become a two-front war for a start. In 1962 Pakistan resisted from attacking India, just as China desisted from attacking India in 1971 (despite US encouragement)”.
Indians should stand united during this face-off between the two nuclear powers. The Chinese propaganda machine has been all over the social media, electronic and print media throwing in their own twist to achieve their evil goals. At the tactical level UAVs could have been used to verify the actual ground positions of the Chinese military to avoid the confrontation leading to the casualties.
The Border Management talks can surely use much better methodologies. Going back to Stone Age to use brawns and brawls is not the best way. The Chinese methodology of unscrupulously altering the boundaries whether on land or sea is well-known.
India should do a reality check on its status-quo, factor in the variables of weather, logistics, and post-COVID socio-economic conditions while responding to the current stand-off with a long term perspective. One of the foremost steps is to strengthen our military capabilities and stabilizing the economy which propels it forward.
Since 1947, our policies have been more Pak-centric despite being aware of China’s meteoric rise and expansionist ideals-we have constantly ignored the dragon as it grew in the backyard naively assuming that it will remain under check; while we remain consumed by domestic politics.
*Author is an Indian Army veteran. Views expressed here are personal.