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China’s future moves: Insidious and indirect

China has realised that force does not work against India. It has already changed tack and is making insidiously indirect moves. To become a superpower, China must show India down decisively in the next confrontation.

LT GEN PR SHANKAR (Retd)

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These maps show China’s insidious and indirect moves in different countries, from Pakistan and Sri Lanka to Myanmar and Maldives

Earlier, I had written that the Chinese will start talking peace once the odds are against them. The standoffs had only two outcomes. They end at a table and China withdraws to resume as an unmanned LAC, or we end up with a manned LAC. We are heading generally in that direction.

China tried to force its way in Doklam. It was surprised by our reaction. A face-saving exit was given. The larger message was that it can be blocked. China did not forget the sleight. This time it came with an elaborate plan which backfired. Geopolitically China stands isolated. Strategically, Sino-Indian relations have chilled. Another generation will be in the “Hindi Chini Bye Bye” mode. China’s untrustworthiness has spurred and motivated India to take a shot at global leadership. It landed itself in an avoidable two-front situation and has driven the India-US relationship closer. Tactically, Chinese were caught out in Galwan and suffered casualties which they cannot declare. Their Navy could not get a sniff at the IOR. There are going to be economic ramifications. ‘Loss of Face’ will emerge. All this will reflect in their aggressive behaviour hence forth. Having been stymied twice, they will have learned a lesson — never head butt India.

 Search for alternatives

China’s blind aim is to be a superpower. It must prove its superiority over India first to have a sniff at that. PLA cannot overwhelm India across the Himalayas. PLAN does not have the capability to poke out beyond the South China Sea. Political, economic, and diplomatic reverses will not matter much. Cyberspace, information/ influence operations have their limitations. China will get back at us militarily. If the direct route is no more an option, then it must be the insidious route.

China has realised that force does not work against India. It has already changed tack and is making insidiously indirect moves.  To become a superpower, China must show India down decisively in the next confrontation. It must also ensure that India stays fixated on the Tibetan Border. This ensures that the Indian Navy does not expand to hinder it in the IOR. Economic and BRI revival are critical to superpower ambitions. These are presaged by the fact that China must have freedom of maneuver and a degree of domination in the Indo Pacific region. 

 So, what are the indirect routes? A multi-directional and multifaceted threat manifesting through Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka. Each country gives an option to pose a different challenge for India. The main issue is that each country allows China to militarily threaten us at our doorstep without a fight to embarrass the Indian armed forces at least cost. 

Insidious, indirect routes Bhutan:

 Existing territorial disputes between Bhutan and China were in the Western and middle sectors at Doklam, Jakarlung and Pasamlung. In its latest gambit, China has laid claim on the Sakteng sanctuary. It is 100 km deep into Bhutan.  It is contiguous to the Tawang Tract. Chinese will claim it as part of South Tibet based on manufactured facts. One way of looking at it is that Sakteng comes into play only when the Tawang Tract is ceded to China. The other way to look at it is that Sakteng turns Tawang defences. If China overwhelms Bhutan and forces its way to Sakteng through Trashigang, then it is knocking at Nyukamdung, Dirang and Sapper. This is a mirror of what happened in 1962. A combination of Doklam and Sakteng poses severe military threats to India. 

 Nepal: While India-Nepal ties have gone downhill, Sino Nepal ties have gone uphill. Successive communist governments in Nepal have gravitated to China. Presently, China has almost complete sway on Nepalese politics. It is abundantly clear that the Lipulekh Pass issue was synced by China through Nepal. With China increasing its footprint in Nepal, enhanced military cooperation and joint action should not be ruled out. A minimalistic Sino — Nepalese threat is to the Lipulekh Pass. China could assist Nepal to grab their claimed areas along the Limpiyudhara.  In a maximalist threat the Chinese could be given passage by Nepal to appear along the Terai region. The Insidious part is that Nepal can create trouble in the Terai region to destabilise India.

Myanmar: China is seeking to push through the ChinaMyanmar Economic Corridor. The project envisages road and rail connectivity between Kunming and Kyaukpyu via Mandalay. It involves the multi-billiondollar deep seaport in Kyaukpyu which gives China a strategic opening on to the Bay of Bengal and eastern part of Indian Ocean Region. Myanmar has so far not fallen into the debt trap. To pressurise and destabilise Myanmar, China has recently started arming rebel groups. Myanmar’s Senior General Min Aung Hlaing has sought international help to ward off the threat. If this call is not heeded, China will expand its operations. This is harking back to the 1960s/1970s when Naga insurgency was fomented by China. It can also pose a direct military threat from the East circumventing the Himalayas. Such an option enables direct air and logistics support to any offensive from the mainland. 

Pakistan: A new dimension of Sino Pak relations is surfacing. The Pakistan Army and a Chinese company have entered a 30-70 funding agreement for the Diamer Bhasha Dam project in Gilgit Baltistan. It is unique. The Pakistan Army is funding the project and not the Government. The supra national role of the Pakistan Army is now official. It would be fair to assume that such an equation will come forth in converting Gwadar into a Chinese Naval Base. This has implications. Pakistan is immersed in debt to China which it cannot repay. Pakistani sovereignty is hereafter compromised permanently.  It is already a vassal state of China with large pockets owned by the latter. As a result, Pakistan Army will do China’s bidding against India. Hence the future Chinese threat from the west will not be a Pakistani one but a Chinese one. 

 Sri Lanka & Maldives: China has already debt trapped Sri Lanka and has a 99-year lease on the Hambantota Port. As Sri Lanka gets into a greater debt trap, its sovereignty will erode further. Hence its ability to resist China in conversion of Hambantota into a naval base will weaken with time or with a change in Sri Lankan politics. In the same breath a similar scenario could unfold in Maldives. China could end up with two naval bases in the guts of the Indian Ocean. 

Overall scenario

 A look at the map indicates that in the future China is creating multiple options of manifesting a land-based threat from POK, Limpiyudhara, Doklam, Sakteng or Mandalay. Recent Chinese moves are insidious and clear pointers to the future. A naval threat could also emanate from Gwadar, Hambantota, Maldives and Kyaukpyu. These threats could be projected through the PLA, Pakistan Army and/or in conjunction with forces of countries (willing or unwillingly). This is in addition to a threat which PLA can directly pose along the LAC. While some of these threats lack credibility presently, China is very clearly moving towards making it so. The options available to China will multiply in future. The naval threat was always visualized in some form. However the potency of the land-based threats is rising fast and clearly visible. It will be foolish to ignore it. After all, even in the current crisis, China did play the Pakistan and Nepal card unambiguously. It is not necessary to play all cards. A couple of direct and a couple of indirect options will imbalance us.

Response options

 It would be an understatement to say that our diplomatic, political, economic, and military responses need to be multifaceted. Each neighbour needs a separate approach. It is to our overall discredit that we have let things come to this state. While Pakistan might be a lost cause we have to take steps to retrieve the situation in other countries. There is a strong case to rework defense arrangements with Bhutan and Myanmar. In the case of Sri Lanka and Maldives, the effort must be to control damage and ensure that democratic forces survive. Nepal needs an urgent political solution to rectify matters. We should also not lose sight of Bangladesh, which is seeing increased Chinese investment and dependence. In all cases we need to see how our armed forces can enhance defense and other cooperation with these countries less Pakistan. I remember Mark Tully once remarking that India being the biggest country in this region, needs to be more magnanimous with its neighbours.

 Capability development needs to focus not only in thwarting the direct threat from the Chinese but as to how to contend a military threat developing through third party countries as also strengthening them. It is not always necessary to think of conventional methods. Asymmetric options need to be developed.

Importantly, in my opinion, it is time for us to take this contest across the LAC. For far too long, we have appeased China and let it do what it wants to do. India must seriously start exploring possibilities to put China on the back foot in Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan. It is also time to take political steps towards POK, Gilgit, Baltistan, Baluchistan and the Durand line. India cannot be supine in the wait, watch and react mode, while China and Pakistan make merry. As a first step, can India claim the Mansarovar area with the same religious logic that Tawang is claimed as South Tibet? Let us take the battle into China’s court. There are plenty of options outlined in an earlier article; it just needs clear headed political determination to execute them.

 Lt Gen P.R. Shankar was India’s DG Artillery. He is highly decorated and qualified with vast operational experience. He contributed significantly to the modernisation and indigenisation of Artillery. He is now a Professor in the Aerospace Dept of IIT Madras and is involved in applied research for defence technology. His other articles can be read on www. gunnersshot.com

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Defence

Emergence of Indian Armed Forces since 1947

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The Indian armed forces, with strength of over 1.3 million, are the fourth largest army in the world today. Since independence, the forces have undergone a gradual transformation in their strength, operational ability, and role. As an associated force to the British armed forces in different military operations as well as to maintain internal security, the most dedicated, decisive, and strong combat power of the modern world with the aim of safeguarding the interests of the country against any internal or external threat.

The transformation of the armed forces started with the beginning of the Second World War. The strength of the military had significantly increased from 6 lakh to 2.5 million during the war. However, the impending independence of India led to British apathy towards armed forces, resulting in a drastic reduction of manpower, depleted logistics, and weaponry. The 1947 Indian Independence Act was passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom on July 5, 1947 to partition British India into two new independent dominions, India and Pakistan. The act received Royal Assent on July 18, 1947. As a prelude to the Indian Independence Act, British Prime Minister Clement Attlee announced on February 20, 1947, a grant of self-government to India not before June 30, 1948. The Mountbatten plan was announced on June 3, 1947, having specified an outline of the proposed transfer of power and partition of India.

The partition of armed forces and distribution of military assets were formulated as per the provisions of Sections 11, 12, and 13 of the India Independence Act. A Partition Committee was formed on June 7, 1947, with two representatives from each side and the viceroy in the chair, to decide about the division thereof. As soon as the process of partition was to start, it was to be replaced by a Partition Council with a similar structure. As per the provisions of the act and the consent of the Partition Committee, the division of the British Army took place on June 30, 1947. Out of 11800 officers and 5 lakh other serving personnel, they were divided into a ratio of 64% for India and 36% for Pakistan. Similarly, assets, including ordnance factories and training establishments, were also re-distributed. However, the process of distribution was very complex as various military units had mixed religious structures. Hence, the inter-unit transfer of troops also took place. In the same way, all sixteen ordnance factories were located in India. Hence, it was retained by India and a lump sum payment was made to Pakistan to develop its infrastructure. The defence training institute remained in Quetta, and India had established another training institute at Wellington.

The Northern Command of the British Indian Army was allotted to Pakistan, whereas the Southern and Eastern Commands became part of the Indian Army. The Central Command was raised during the war and was disbanded in September 1946. Later on, Delhi and East Punjab Command were raised on September 15, 1947. During the process of transformation and division, 144 army units were disbanded. 61 units of the Indian Princely forces were returned to the states. The Brigade of Gorkhas, recruited in Nepal, was split between India and Britain. Of the Indian divisions which took part in World War II, the 6th, 8th, 10th, 14th, 17th, 19th, 20th, 23rd, 25th, 26th, and 39th were disbanded, those remaining being the 4th, 5th, and 7th Infantry Divisions, the 1st Armoured Division, and the 2nd Airborne Division. Hence, the Indian Army was left with 88 infantry battalions, 12 armoured regiments, and 19 artillery regiments at the time of independence.

At the time of partition, the nations inherited a split air force that was weak in quantitative and qualitative terms. The assets of the Royal Indian Air Force were divided on a one-third basis, under which India and Pakistan got six and two fighter squadrons, respectively. The Indian Air Force, at that time, was composed of around 900 officers, 10,000 non-commissioned officers, and over 820 civilian technicians and administrative staff.

Reallocation of naval resources reduced the operational capability of the Indian Navy to maintain vigilance and patrol the eastern and western coasts of India as well as the islands of Andaman and Nicobar.

After Second World War in 1945, the Indian Armed Forces had only one Indian General officer, Major General Hiraji Cursetji of the Indian Medical Service officer. In addition to him, one brigadier from medical, three Indian brigadiers from combatant arms, and 220 other Indian officers in the temporary or acting ranks of colonel and lieutenant-colonel were part of the Indian armed forces. Till May 1947, the Indian Armed Forces had only 14 Indian officers at the rank of brigadier serving in combatant arms, with no Indian flag, general, or air officer in the combat arms of the armed services.

Sir Claude Auchinleck was the last Commander in Chief of British India. He was reappointed on August 15, 1947, as Supreme Commander of India and Pakistan till November 11, 1948, when this post was abolished. He played a crucial role in monitoring and executing the division of armed forces between India and Pakistan. It is an irony that the first Indo-Pak War and the intrusion of the Pakistan army took place in Kashmir while he was the supreme commander of both countries. As well, both commanders in chief of the Indian and Pakistan armies were officers of the Royal British Army and were reporting directly to him.

General Sir Rob McGregor MacDonald Lockhart, a senior British Army officer, was the first Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army from 15 August 1947 to 31 December 1947. He was succeeded by General Sir Francis Robert Roy Bucher on January 1, 1948, and he handed over the command to the first Indian officer, General KM Cariappa, on January 15, 1949.

Similarly, Air Marshal Sir Thomas Walker Elmhirst was the first Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Air Force since 15 August 1947 to 22 February 1950. Air Marshal Subroto Mukerjee became the first Indian Air officer to took over Chief of Air Staff on April 1, 1954. He continued till November 8, 1960.

Rear Admiral J.T.S. Hall happened to be the first Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Navy from August 15, 1947, to August 14, 1948. Vice Admiral Ram Dass Katari was the first Indian to become Chief of the Indian Navy on 22 April 1958 till 4 Jun 1962. Hence, the transformation of the Indian Armed Forces was completed in 1958.

The Indian armed forces faced the biggest challenge at the time of partition. This process of transfer of power, assets, and demographic migration on a religious basis has witnessed the transfer of more than 14 million populations across the border, clubbed with massive violence and clashes. During this entire process of independence, responsibility for maintaining law and order was handed over to India’s own Armed Forces. Despite the heavy loss of manpower, logistics, and firepower, the armed forces acted in a very professional manner. Over and above, during this crisis of migration, the sudden attack of the Pakistan army and militia on Jammu and Kashmir was the real litmus test for our defence forces. Undoubtedly, joint operations by the Indian Air Force and Army halted the intrusion and saved Kashmir. Armed forces successfully completed the accession of Junagarh and Hyderabad and later on the annexation of Goa into India in 1961 into India.

Independence and the division of armed forces resulted in a heavy loss to the armed forces and took decades to recover. Since then, the Indian military establishment has gone into phases of transformation, namely post Indo-Sino war in 1962, the recommendation of Gen K.V. Krishna Rao in 1975, followed by the post Kargil war since 2000 onwards. The Indian armed forces have now entered into the era of the biggest reforms since independence, comprising of the creation of integrated theatre command, battle groups, cyber, space, nuclear, and strategic forces, and the implementation of CDS and the Department of Military Affairs. The modern Indian armed forces are in the process of convergence as a global superpower with complete dominance on land, sea, air, and space. Indeed, it is a great transformation of the armed forces since independence.

The author is, SM, VSM Former Additional DG (AFMS) & Expert in Defence, International Strategies & Current affairs.

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A SALUTE TO THE INDOMITABLE SPIRIT OF KARGIL BRAVEHEARTS

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o commemorate the 23 years of victory over Pakistan in the Kargil War of 1999, the Indian Army on Monday organised a motorcycle expedition from New Delhi to the Kargil War Memorial at Dras (Ladakh).

The 30-member rally was flagged off by Lt Gen B S Raju, the Vice Chief of Army Staff from the National War Memorial, New Delhi on Monday.

Over the next six days, the team of 30 serving personnel who have embarked on this expedition will endeavour to replicate the indomitable spirit of the Kargil brave-hearts by rekindling the spirit of fortitude, courage and adventure synonymous with the Indian Army, said the Ministry of Defence.

The bike rally would pass through Haryana, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh before culminating the expedition at the Kargil War Memorial, Dras on 26 July 2022.

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2 ARMY OFFICERS KILLED IN ACCIDENTAL GRENADE BLAST

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Two Army officers were killed in an accidental grenade blast along the Line of Control in the Mendhar sector of Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch, the Defence Public Relations Office said on Monday. During the treatment, one army officer and one Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) succumbed to their injuries.

JCO Sub Bhagwan Singh

Captain Anand

“Last night, an accidental grenade blast occurred in Mendhar Sector, Dist Poonch, when troops were performing their duties along the Line of Control. The blast resulted in injuries to soldiers.

During the treatment, one officer and one JCO succumbed to their injuries, “said PRO Defence Jammu.

According to the Defence PRO, the blast occurred along the Line of Control (LOC) on Sunday night, when the army troops were performing their duties, thus injuring them. All the injured soldiers were immediately evacuated to Udhampur via helicopter.

As per the reports, one officer and one Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) succumbed to the injuries.

The Indian Army expressed grief over the death of two officers.

The Indian Army tweeted, “General officer commanding (GOC) @Whiteknight_IA and all Ranks salute brave hearts Capt Anand and Nb Sub Bhagwan Singh who made the supreme sacrifice while performing their duties on the LoC in Mendhar Sector. We offer deepest condolences to their family members.”

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MAKE IN INDIA PUSH: IAF TO INDUCT COMBAT AIRCRAFT

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Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari on Sunday said that the Indian Air Force (IAF) is planning to induct Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) and Light Combat Aircraft MK-1A and MK-2 along with the 114 multirole fighters. This will be done to bolster India’s combat capabilities through indigenisation under “Make-in-India” in the future.

The IAF chief said that the move will not only “strengthen the Air Force” but also bring a “huge boost” to the Indian aviation industry as part of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat initiative of the Narendra Modi government. “On the aircraft front, we are looking ahead for the AMCA and the LCA MK-1A and also the LCA MK-2 a few years from now. The case for 114 MRFA is also progressing well. With this, it will not only strengthen the Air Force but also bring a huge boost to the Indian aviation industry,” ANI quoted the Air Chief Marshal as saying.

“We have already committed for seven squadrons of AMCA. The numbers for the LCA MK-2, we will take a call as and when the first production model comes out and we start inducting the aircraft into the air force and we can always increase the quantity based on its performance and rate of induction,” he added while speaking about the number of units of the aircraft that the IAF is planning to induct.

When asked about the timeline of the induction of the S-400 air defence system from Russia into the forces, he said that it will be done as per the schedule adding that all deliveries should be completed by the end of next year. “The induction program of S-400 is going as per the schedule. The first firing unit has been inducted and deployed. The second unit is also in the process of getting inducted. Delivery schedules are on time, hopeful that by the end of next year all deliveries will be completed,” Chaudhari said.

“The threat of multiple fronts always exists. The capabilities of the air force in handling two fronts at a time will necessarily have to keep getting bolstered by the induction of various platforms. On the ground, we will need more radars, and additional SAGW systems and all of these are going to come from indigenous sources, for which the action is already at hand,” he added.

The IAF chief further said that the forces are fully in sync with the Centre’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat push which has resulted in the “quick induction” of platforms such as the light-combat helicopter and aircraft and radar systems.

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Defence

SEARCHES FOR SURVIVORS ON, ARMY INDUCTS RADAR

Ajay Jandyal

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The Indian Army on Sunday inducted radars to trace survivors under the debris which was laid after a cloudburst struck the area near the holy shrine of Amarnath on Friday.“Xaver 4000 radar has been inducted and has been operational at Amarnath since late noon for finding any survivors under the debris,” said Indian Army officials. Earlier, Lieutenant Governor (LG) of Jammu and Kashmir Manoj Sinha on Sunday visited a base camp in Pahalgam and met pilgrims.“The security personnel and administration have carried out an efficient rescue operation. We pay condolences to those who lost their lives. Efforts are underway to resume the Yatra along with repairing the path. Pilgrims should come, we will provide them with all facilities,” Sinha assured.

Rescue operations underway at cloudburst-affected areas of Amarnath, on Sunday. ANI

The Amarnath yatra was temporarily suspended on Friday, till further notice. 

However, the pilgrims have been waiting at the Baltal Base camp for it to recommence.As many as 35 pilgrims were discharged following treatment, Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) Officials informed on Saturday.“35 pilgrims have been discharged following treatment. 17 people are getting the treatment and are likely to get discharged tonight. All safe and healthy,” said SASB Officials.The critically injured patients were airlifted to Srinagar.“Critically injured people were airlifted to Srinagar. 2 people who were buried but were alive were rescued. We’re taking all precautionary steps. 41 missing as per Jammu and Kashmir police out of which some were rescued. Yatra may resume within a day or two,” said Kuldiep Singh, DG, CRPF.As per the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) data on Saturday, at least 16 people have died in the cloud burst incident near the holy shrine of Amarnath.Meanwhile, four Mi-17V5 and four Cheetal helicopters of the Indian Air Force were deployed for rescue and relief efforts at the Amarnath shrine on Saturday.The Cheetal helicopters flew 45 sorties, carrying five NDRF and Army personnel and 3.5 tonnes of relief material while evacuating 45 survivors from the holy cave.Earlier the officials on Saturday informed that the LG chaired a high-level meeting to review the ongoing rescue and relief operations at Amarnath cave.Meanwhile, the Indian Army informed that they have pulled up “critical rescue equipment” to speed up the rescue operations in the affected areas.“Indian Army pulls up critical rescue equipment to speed up the process of rescue operations and route maintenance in view of recent cloudburst of Amarnath in which 16 people lost their lives while several are assumed missing,” said the Indian Army.

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Defence

LET TERRORIST TALIB HUSSAIN NOT A MEMBER OF BJP: J&K BJP CHIEF

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Jammu and Kashmir BJP chief Ravinder Raina on Monday said the most wanted Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorist Talib Hussain who was apprehended from Reasi district is neither an “active member of the BJP nor a primary member”.

 Speaking to ANI, Raina said, “Hussain is neither an active member of the BJP nor a primary member. There was a letter circular, on the basis of which it is believed that Sheikh Bashir, who is the President of BJP Minority Front of Jammu and Kashmir had appointed Hussain on 9 May.” He termed the reports fake which claimed that one of the two most-wanted LeT terrorists, who were overpowered by locals and handed over to the police, was in charge of the party’s IT cell.

 The BJP leader further said after that Hussain had circulated a letter himself and resigned from the membership of the party on 18 May. “A couple of years ago, Hussain along with with his three colleagues used to come to the BJP office as a media person. He had also interviewed me many times, he used to call himself a reporter for a YouTube channel named ‘New Sehar India’,” Raina said.

 “As a journalist, Hussain clicked photos with us many times in the BJP office. Pakistan terror outfit wanted to target the head office of the BJP of Jammu and Kashmir. It has been done through the targeted medium and carried out such incidents,” he said. “It is too soon to say more on this matter as the investigation is going on. Not only the BJP, but all the offices of other political parties need to be more alert now,” Raina added.

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