Voices Pushpesh Pant Damyanti Biswas Anuja Chandramouli Ravi Shankar Sathya Saran Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev MAGAZINE Buffet People Wellness Books Food Art & Culture Entertainment october 4 2020 SUNDAY PAGES 12 An Indian Army man Dragon’s Dilemma Why China can’t Win a War with India By Ravi Shankar W ar is a theatre of tragic irony and unforeseen contradictions. In 1962, Subedar Dashrath Singh was captured by the Chinese after receiving an entire AK-47 magazine in his stomach. He was saved by of all people, a , Chinese military nurse who had studied nursing in Allahabad—Jawaharlal Nehru’s birthplace. Nehru’s China policy is once again being exhumed from the compost pit of history as India and China stand on the brink of war. The 1962 war was fought by soldiers and lost by politicians and Generals. In spite of the extreme bravery of Indian soldiers such as Dashrath Singh or Shaitan Singh at Rezang La fighting against impossible odds in Nam Ka Chu, Bum-la, Tawang, Se-la, Thembang, Bomdila, Ladakh and Chushul, India was defeated. It scarred the army’s psyche deeply in the manner Pakistan is scarred by the 1971 war it lost to India. To avoid a similar situation, India is now upgrading existing systems in all its three branches—the Army Navy and Air Force—and has put in place the most modern , technological devices and boosted cyber warfare capabilities. HITTING BACK China has been nibbling on India’s territory slowly but surely stopping Indian patrols, , building outposts, roads, bridges and infrastructure. It appropriated 640 sq km of territory in Eastern Ladakh during UPA II though the government did not admit it and kept silent. The Indian government’s current precision-guided military policy has surprised China after the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) incursions. India now enjoys military advantage against China in many border areas. The great Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu says in The Art of War, “ warfare is All based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away , we must make him believe we are near.” Under the smokescreen of the 22 Special Representative-level negotiations, the Chinese PLA crossed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) to occupy the Finger 4 ridgeline by surprise (the eight spurs of the Chang Chenmo mountain range are called Fingers). India’s tough response clearly stating that a military option is on the table astounded the Chinese who were used to New Delhi’s traditional conciliatory policy On August . 29, the Indian Army launched its own deception with ‘Opera- tion Snow Leopard’ and took control of the dominating heights in the Chushul region, making the important Chinese Moldo Garrison vulnerable. It has consolidated positions in the vulnerable Spanggur Gap to block further Chinese movement. Mountain fighting is about height as the Kargil War exemplified; occupants of the tallest positions have the enemy at a disadvantage. Recent studies by the US-based Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Center for a New American Security (CANS) point at India’s superiority over China in high-altitude mountainous warfare. Indian soldiers have long Himalayan experience such as Siachen Glacier—PLA soldiers will need at least 10 to 14 days of acclimatisation before they are deemed combat-ready rendering them , useless in a battle if it should break out now. In a nighttime stealth operation, thousands of Indian troops ascended mountain peaks to take strategic vantage points along the south bank of Pangong Tso, clearly overlooking Chinese troop movements. The angry PLA placed an anti-aircraft gun on Black Top, another dominant position overlooking positions in Rezang La. Then, in a nocturnal raid, India’s Special Frontier Force (SFF) took Black Top Hill, say media reports. According to the reports, Indian forces have secured all tactical heights on the Kailash Range that include Helmet, Gurung Hill, Magar Hill, Mukhpari, Rezang La and Rechin La. Kailash Range was vacated in 1962 once Rezang La and Gurung Hill fell to PLA, cutting off the road to Chushul. The Chushul airfield was destroyed. The Chinese road to the south bank of Pangong Tso that passes 1.5 km to the east of Black Top and 1.5 km to the North of Helmet has been knocked out, preventing PLA from reaching the south bank of Pangong Tso. The PLA will need to construct a new road—a challenge considering the snow may render the region inoperable soon—which will be vulnerable to attack from the Indian Army The army now . controls 3 km of the south bank, which had been previously held by the Chinese. China is resorting to outlandish tactics, showing desperation and anger. In the context of the Galwan Valley clash, which killed Colonel Santosh Babu, an interesting fact is that the Chinese Army has recruited martial artists in five new militia divisions comprising former members of a Mount Everest Olympic torch relay team and fighters from a mixed martial arts club, reported China National Defence News. Lt Gen Deependra Singh Hooda points to the deep distrust between two sides on the border. He rules out war, because neither country wants it— an unintended mistake could escalate into a local situation. Says Iqbal Chand Malhotra, author of Red Fear: The China Threat and producer-director of documentary Chinese Checkers, , Tibetan Ambivalence and Indian Delusions, “India and China have had nearly 24 rounds of border talks and signed five treaties with zero results or benefit for India. Surely that is enough diplomatic jaw-jaw?” ARMY Power Punch It was in 1962 that for the first time since Independence that the Army HQ in New Delhi issued the order “to fight to the last man and the last round”. Indian troops had occupied Daulat Beg Oldi in Ladakh around 16 km from the Karakoram Pass, a terrain so harsh that it is littered with the skeletons of humans and animals. There were only 10-20 soldiers to man each of the 60 new posts along the unmarked border while the Chinese PLA had many times that number. Such discrepancies don’t exist anymore. The Indian Army is a formidable war machine with decades of fighting experience and winning wars, while China’s is used mainly to put down political unrest. The myth that the PLA, the world’s largest army is numerically superior to , India is a misconception. China’s troop strength is 22.6 lakh soldiers while India has 13.6 lakh. However, China has only 14.52 lakh reserve soldiers while India has 28.44 lakh. The Global Firepower website monitors the armed forces of over 100 countries of which India and China are ranked 4th and 3rd respectively According . to the website, India has a total of 42.07 lakh soldiers, while China has 37.12 lakh soldiers. There are 200,000 to 230,000 PLA troops in the region bordering India but many of these units are posted to suppress dissent in Xinjiang or Tibet, and protect its border with Russia. The PLA does not rotate its JCOs who will stay in that theatre command throughout his career. The PLA has its own problems. Retired veterans have not been paid their dues causing discontent in the ranks. Many of the soldiers rushed to Ladakh are greenhorns. An October 2019 CNAS study reports, “To weather a potential PLA attack, India has placed greater emphasis on infrastructure hardening; base resiliency; redundant command, control, and communications systems; and improved air defence.” However, Lt Gen Hooda warns of underestimating the PLA. “Chinese military equipment is world class. Its indigenous capability to make defence equipment is also very good.” China has also invested heavily in professionalism. In contrast, no government has been able to reform India’s bureaucracycontrolled DRDO that consumes tens and thousands of crores to produce vastly inferior military material. ARMOUR Shield of Fury As British military historian Maj Gen JFC Fuller put it, “Artillery conquers and infantry occupies.” India’s artillery regiments have a formidable reputation: the Battle of Basantar in 1971 is considered the biggest tank fight in the subcontinent as outnumbered Indian tanks destroyed an entire Pakistan tank force. Indian units, reinforced by a regiment of T-90 battle tanks, are deployed in the Chushul sub-sector to defend the vulnerable Spanggur pass. On paper, China is ahead of India in tank strength. Though it has 6,457 battle tanks as against the Indian Army’s 4,426 tanks, Indian tanks are bigger and more powerful. India has 6,704 armoured combat vehicles, while China has 4,788. India has 7,414 artillery pieces while China has 6,246. India has 6,704 armoured combat vehicles, while China has 4,788. The Indian government has cleared the production of 114 ‘Dhanush’ guns, the K9 Vajra and the Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System to give its Bofors guns company The Artillery is also . inducting 145 heli portable guns turn to page 2 Conflicts Over the Years India and China share a long history of clashes along their 3,488 km border 1962 Aksai Chin A four-week war leaves thousands dead on the Indian side. Beijing retains Aksai Chin, a strategic corridor linking Tibet to western China. India still claims the entire Aksai Chin region as its own, as well as the nearby China-controlled Shaksgam valley in northern Kashmir. 1975 1967 Nathu La Nearly 80 Indian and 400 Chinese casualties are reported during a series of clashes at India’s highest mountain pass in Sikkim. Tulung La Four Indian soldiers are ambushed and killed along the border in Arunachal Pradesh. New Delhi blames Beijing for intruding into the Indian territory. 2017 Doklam 2020 India and China had a months-long high-altitude standoff in Bhutan’s Doklam region after the Indian Army sent troops to stop China’s road construction work. Ladakh Twenty Indian soldiers are killed on June 16 after a violent clash with Chinese forces in the strategically important Galwan Valley. The clash follows weeks of low-level tensions after several Indian and Chinese soldiers were injured in a high-altitude fistfight on the border in early May. The tensions still simmer at the border.
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