CHINA’S STRATEGIC MISCALCULATION: WAR AVOIDANCE TO WAR EMBRACEMENT - The Daily Guardian
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CHINA’S STRATEGIC MISCALCULATION: WAR AVOIDANCE TO WAR EMBRACEMENT

From Deng Xiaoping’s strategy of war avoidance, China has switched to Xi Jinping’s model of expansionist unrestricted warfare. Will China exhaust itself in Xi’s multi-domain wars?

LT GEN PR SHANKAR (Retd)

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In 2001, I was working on my dissertation during my Higher Command course. I came upon this farsighted thought of Deng Xiaoping. He had said in 1984, “We hope that for at least twenty years there will not be a war, and hope even more for no war in the next seventy years. Then we can have the time calmly to carry out our socialist four modernistions… If we truly have twenty years, thirty years without war, no war in fifty years, then this war has the possibility of being avoided.”

This statement contains China’s aspirations and strategy: War avoidance as a route to superpower status. I personally felt that it was a great vision for China. Deng had probably foreseen that the Western powers would exhaust themselves in wars. By the time the West would be exhausted, China would have risen. In 2001, what Deng had said was already coming true. Thirty years since 1984 puts you in 2014. The period of break-up of USSR, Gulf Wars, Afghanistan, War on Terror. Let us also not forget Grenada, Panama, Libya, Bosnia, Kosovo, Somalia, Haiti, and more such campaigns. As the West was exhausting itself, China was gaining strength under the carpet. It had started undermining the WTO, UN and other international institutions. It had quietly infiltrated porous democracies for its advantage. By 2014, glimpses of superpower status were appearing just over the horizon. Perfect.

Come 2012 and Xi Jinping arrives. He talks of the China Dream and rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. He launches the BRI. He announces that he will build the greatest military on earth. Barack Obama’s US looks away when he grabs the islands in the South China Sea. He advances all time lines. Theories of Mao’s Palm and Five Fingers and the Six Inevitable Wars China Must Fight start appearing in the media. He signals military intent. Donald Trump senses things slipping away from the US and launches the Trade War in his inimitable style. However things are still under control. China seemed to be purring into superpower status. Unstoppable.

The Wuhan virus struck. China panicked. The strategic opportunity was squandered.

Think back. When the Wuhan virus broke, there was a lot of international understanding for China. All China had to do was agree to cooperate with the world and be transparent even if it did not intend to do so. The virus would have spread anyway and created the chaos it did. The chaos would have led the US to take its eye off the ball as it actually panned out. At that time, no one thought militarily. Taiwan was lying virtually undefended when all three aircraft carriers of the US were non-ops with the pandemic. Up for grabs. The ‘One China’ and ‘Unification of the Chinese People’ dream would have probably been realised if China had stuck to its primary aim as enunciated in its white paper. What does China do? Diplomatically it unleashes its wolf warriors, becomes aggressive, hides the origins of the virus and starts diverting blame to others. Politically it usurps Hong Kong. Militarily, it sinks a Vietnamese fishing boat and starts a military campaign against India to settle the LAC as per its perception. However, as a national obsession, it cannot let Taiwan go. Hence it threatens an invasion of Taiwan also. By then the US is back in action. China also weaponises the virus through mask and vaccine diplomacy. It touts that its authoritarian system is better than democracies in controlling the virus. It berates the EU in Europe. It goes into an economic punishment mode with Australia. In essence, Xi Jinping has gone into unrestricted war with the world through multiple domains. The world reacts and China is now fully in the strategic dock. Xi Jinping has done the opposite of Deng’s formula. Complete strategic miscalculation? Let us examine it.

Apart from the virus-related issues, China has gone back or violated most of its international commitments. It was to maintain the special status of Hong Kong as per its treaty with the UK. It was not to militarise the South China Sea as per its own promises. Any change in the LAC status with India was to be bilateral. The significant emergent feature is that China is untrustworthy in international relations. Its expansionist tendency and world domination through communist ideology has bubbled up. If its debt trap diplomacy is added to the mix, its reputation worsens. The degree of Chinese untrustworthiness is unprecedented. Is that a major strategic loss? I think so.

China will face blame for the origin of the Virus whether it likes it or not. It is a matter of public conviction and opinion. Xi’s and CCP action has only compounded it. This blemish will endure. In influential nations and major economies, Chinese reputation has taken a severe beating. In addition, leaks reveal that the CCP has infiltrated multiple systems and institutions in democracies. This will have a rebound on Chinese people. Every Chinese individual risks being viewed as a CCP spy. Whether China likes it or not, it is entering into a period of international anti-Chinese McCarthyism and being shunned. It might not be overt but will happen. It also implies that western education and technology will be guarded against Chinese poaching by coercion or undermining. Anti-Chinese theft laws will come into being where none existed.  It is inevitable. China’s isolation will be far more deeper than normally imagined. The strategic effect on China which places a lot of importance on ‘face’ will be greater.

Having resorted to military methods to settle issues, all that China has gained is sinking a fishing boat and gaining a few square km of barren territory. In Eastern Ladakh it is in a military stalemate with India. Loss of the Kailash Range to India opens vulnerabilities which were non-existent till date. Which means that PLA has to be defensively oriented and cannot vacate the area in a hurry. It is a new commitment of geo-strategic capital and resources. China’s actions have led to Taiwan reinforcing its defences with US assistance. Hence Taiwan will be an Island too far. It can only be usurped through debilitating military action. That too is doubtful. Japan is also militarising itself with additional budgets. A non-existent Quad has seen fresh life breathed into it. Most importantly the PLA ‘halo’ has been broken and its limitations severely exposed. PLA cannot prevail against India on land and cannot overcome the US at sea. PLAN does not have the capability to stray far from Chinese shores. PLA has emerged to be a fat man with short reach. Long way to go before it is feared. There is another major military flaw which has emerged. China has a stated aim to achieve complete mechanisation of PLA. In which battle field will a completely mechanised PLA fight? If one examines issues in detail, it emerges that there is a complete mismatch between the way PLA is modernising and China’s own threat perceptions. Even more importantly, the PLA’s lack of experience is a huge issue which experienced forces will exploit. There is one finality which has emerged. One can talk of ‘multi-domain’ warfare and ‘winning without fighting’ very slickly on paper in an academic analysis by armchair strategists. However, in reality, battles have to be won on ground after shedding blood and guts. China is short on this. 

Internal fissures and instabilities have emerged or sharpened. There is an increased international focus on Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong and Inner Mongolia. The Tibet related issues which were almost buried have got a fresh wind with the US taking lead by enacting a law. Sooner or later, India will change its stance and that will be big trouble for China. Human Rights issues which were often overlooked till date are being linked increasingly with China in all matters. These issues can be stonewalled to an extent and no more. Equally, China will have to internalise. Any internalisation will be at the cost of external focus. There are also internal political factors which keep cropping up. They will add to the internalisation of China. 

Much is being made of Chinese economic recovery. While China is the one major economy which has best recovered, there are flaws which have emerged. Chinese state media keeps flaunting increased exports. Internal consumption is still stagnant as per other reports. It proves that China remains an export driven economy. Overall, its dual circulation strategy, which presupposes enhanced internal consumption, is unlikely to succeed. There is no doubt that consumer nations are still importing from China. However, as they recover from the virus effect, their imports from China will either go down or stagnate. Even if 20% supply chain relocation takes place away from China, it is troublesome. Further, ‘aging of China’ as a dampener and future drain on the Chinese economy is looming bigger by the day. It cannot be wished away. This issue figures in CCP discussions these days. Every second article has ‘aging population’ as an important limiting factor in the Chinese scenario. This will cap the Chinese economy in its time. It is unavoidable. It is mathematical. I foresee Western economies going into a ‘Deny China’ mode in future. 

Another major chink in the Chinese strategy has surfaced. China is a resource deficient nation which has opened too many fronts in too many domains. At some point of time issues will resonate and China could be in trouble. Also, the chances of countries exchanging notes to handle China jointly are not out of context. For instance, there are reports that some cities are short of energy and are facing blackouts in winter. This is due to China’s ban on Australian coal imports. Further China has gone through unprecedented floods in its economic heartland. There are credible reports of food shortages. What if coal and food supply to China is deliberately interrupted through multiple methods post the next heavy floods? Internal instability? Too many vulnerabilities have popped out of the Chinese cupboard which can be exploited.

To think that China is on a great ascendancy is being off the mark. Also, its idea of globalisation as per Chinese rules is not acceptable to anyone. The sum total of the argument is that China is fighting a multi-domain war against too many opponents simultaneously without allies of note. If your only allies are Pakistan and North Korea, you are not in a great position. From Deng’s strategy of war avoidance, China has switched to Xi’s model of expansionist unrestricted warfare. In my opinion, prematurely and likely to be a drag. The question is: Will China exhaust itself in the multi-domain wars of Xi Jinping? Is it the great leap backwards all over again?

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.

Come 2012 and Xi Jinping arrives. He talks of the China Dream and rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. He launches the BRI. He announces that he will build the greatest military on earth. Barack Obama’s US looks away when he grabs the islands in the South China Sea. He advances all timelines. Theories of Mao’s Palm and Five Fingers and the Six Inevitable Wars China Must Fight start appearing in the media.

Having resorted to military methods to settle issues, all that China has gained is sinking a fishing boat and gaining a few square km of barren territory. In eastern Ladakh it is in a military stalemate with India. Loss of the Kailash Range to India opens vulnerabilities which were non-existent till date. Which means that PLA has to be defensively-oriented and cannot vacate the area in a hurry. It is a new commitment of geostrategic capital and resources. China’s actions have led to Taiwan reinforcing its defences with US assistance. Hence Taiwan will be an island too far. It can only be usurped through debilitating military action.

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Defence

Major push to Make in India in defence sector

Ajay Jandyal

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To give a major push to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Atamanirbhar Bharat mission, the Indian Army has joined hands with various technology firms to cater to the demands of the present security scenario.

The Army says if it has to remain operational all around, it cannot rely on obsolete technology hence latest advancement in the sector have to be adopted.

“The Northern Command is always combat ready in the times to come, the challenges will continue to increase so we have to rely on advance technology and keep on innovating,” Lieutenant General Upendra Dwivedi told The Daily Guardian on the sidelines of the Northern Technology Symposium held in Udhampur on Sunday.

North Tech Symposium was organized under the aegis of HQ Northern Command at Udhampur. Technology symposium, exhibition was organised wherein 162 companies from Indian defence industry including MSMEs, DRDO, DPSU, participated and exhibited their products.

In addition, 42 innovative solutions by Army establishments towards enhancement of combat potential of the Army were also on display. Lt Gen BS Raju, Vice Chief of Army Staff inaugurated the first of its kind technology symposium in Jammu and Kashmir.

Addressing the event, vice-chief of Army staff Lt Gen V S Raju said that he would have appreciated if the investors, capital ventures would have also shown interest in the event to boost the new start-up.

“To cope up with the ever-evolving and ever-changing security scenario, we also need to adopt changes and keep on innovating. I am happy that so many companies have shown interest to showcase their products at the North Tech Symposium. I am hopeful that in near future, many of the products would be put in use by the armed forces,” General Raju said.

In the wake of recent incidence of drone dropping in Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab from across the Indo-Pak border, various companies have displayed their products including anti- drone system, drone jammer which can strengthen the forces and border guarding forces to thwart Pakistan’s plan of disturbing peace.

Other than drone dropping threats, detection of tunnels on Jammu and Kashmir border is also a major threat for the security forces these days as 11 tunnels have been detected on Indian-Pakistan border in the past few years. There was number of companies which showcased their products to detect underground tunnels by using artificial intelligence and special radar.

The symposium saw active participation from of senior officers from different forces including IDS, Army HQ, HQ ARTRAC, other Commands, HQ Northern Command, and its subordinate formations. This interactive platform for knowledge diffusion through Joint Army-Industry participation was an important step in the direction of the government’s initiative of “Make in India”.

On the first day of the seminar, the participants from Army and industry discussed the policy and procedures for expeditious procurement, Raksha Atmanirbharta initiatives by Indian Army, DRDO and Defence Public Sector Undertakings, how can private sector contribute towards surveillance system, weapon sights, drones and counter drone system and miscellaneous technologies like 3D printing.

The symposium served to showcase cutting edge technologies and innovative products providing solutions to some of the complex challenges faced by the security forces in Northern Command and also acted as an ideal platform for mutual exchange of ideas between the domestic defence industry and the Army. The technologies and products on display covered a wide canvas, the prominent ones being surveillance and situational awareness, tactical mobility, firepower, force protection, communications, combat medical facility, robotics and simulators.

The symposium was a huge success and Lt Gen Upendra Dwivedi, AVSM lauded the initiative and innovations of all the vendors. The General Officer expressed his conviction that the plethora of technologies available indigenously can further boost the “Atmanirbhar Bharat” project of the nation. The spirit of Atmanirbharta demands that research and development, the domestic defence industry and Army have work in a synchronized manner to realise the nation’s vision.

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Defence

ARMY MAJOR SUCCUMBS TO INJURIES DURING OPERATION IN KASHMIR

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An Indian Army Major lost his life after slipping into a ravine during a counter-infiltration operation in the Uri sector of Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday.

Major Raghunath Ahlawat.

Late Major Raghunath Ahlawat, 34 was leading his team on a counter-infiltration operation based on reliable intelligence input. “To identify a safe approach for the team he led from the front while carrying out reconnaissance on a route through a steep cliff. “Unfortunately, he slipped due to bad weather and slippery conditions and fell 60 meters into a ravine. Critically injured, he succumbed to his injuries enroute while being evacuated to the nearest Army Hospital,” Indian Army officials said in a statement.

The Army paid tribute to the officer in a ceremony held in the Badami Bagh Cantonment in Srinagar led by Chinar Corps Commander Lieutenant General DP Pandey.

Major Ahlawat was commissioned into the Army in 2012 and hails from Dwarka, New Delhi and is survived by his wife and his parents.

The mortal remains of Late Maj Raghunath Ahlawat were taken for last rites to his native place, where he would be laid to rest with full military honours.

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Defence

FOR 114 FIGHTER JETS, IAF FAVOURS ‘BUY GLOBAL MAKE IN INDIA’ ROUTE

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For over USD 20 billion tender for manufacturing 114 multi-role fighter aircraft (MRFA) the Indian Air Force (IAF) would prefer to take the ‘Buy Global Make in India’ route over the strategic partnership policy model to produce the planes within the country.

‘Buy Global Make in India’ is a category of procurement process provided in the Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020 under Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to smoothen the acquisition of foreign weapon systems and their production within the country under the ‘Make in India’ in the defence programme. Along with the indigenous LCA Tejas and the 5th Generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft project, the 114 MRFA project would also be required by the IAF to maintain an edge over both the Northern and Western adversaries. We would prefer to go in for the Buy Global Make in India route which is preferred by the vendors also who are expected to take part in the programme, government sources said. Three American aircraft including the F-18, F-15 and F-21 (modified version of the F-16), Russian Mig-35 and Su-35 along with the French Rafale, Swedish Saab Gripen and the Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft are expected to participate in the programme. The Indian Air Force had also sought the views of these companies on the acquisition procedure that they would like to opt for in the programme and most of them have shown a preference for the Buy Global Make in India route only, they said.

The sources said that the force has also sought directions from the government on the project.

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Defence

INDIA GETS DEFENCE SUPPLIES FROM RUSSIA, BUT PAYMENT MAY BECOME AN ISSUE

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Amid the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, defence supplies from Moscow are continuing as the Indian defence forces have received a shipment of overhauled aircraft engines and spares. However, there is concern about whether this would continue in the near future as a solution for making payment to Russia has not yet been found.

“The defence forces have received shipments from the Russians very recently and it is still on. So far, there has not been any glitch in supplies for our forces,” a government source told ANI.

“However, there are concerns on whether these supplies can continue in the same manner as the Indian side cannot make payments to these Russian firms in view of the sanctions related to their banks,” he added.

The sources said the Indian and Russian sides are working to find a way this issue can be overcome and many options are being explored.

The latest supplies from Russia included overhauled fighter aircraft engines and spares for an aircraft fleet and they arrived through the sea route, the sources said.

India also received the final parts of the S-400 Triumf air defence system from Russia whose first squadron is operational with its elements deployed to take care of threats from both Pakistan and China.

India is one of the largest users of Russian weaponry including major platforms like fighter jets, transport aircraft, helicopters, warships, tanks, infantry combat vehicles and submarines.

Over the last couple of decades, it has broadened its source base by including equipment from countries like the US, France and Israel in a big way but the dependence on Russia still remains very high.

The Air Force is dependent majorly on the Russian supplies as its mainstay Su30 aircraft fleet is Russian along with its Mi-17 helicopter fleet.

The Army is also dependent on the Russian-origin T-90 and T-72 tank fleet for the armoured regiments.

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IAF, ARMY BRASS WILL ASSESS LAC SITUATION

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The top brass of the Indian Army and Air Force would be assessing the preparedness of their forces and infrastructure requirements along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as the militaries of both India and China continue to remain in a standoff position in eastern Ladakh.

The Indian Air Force brass would be meeting this week from 6 April to discuss the security situation including air operations along the northern borders. The Indian Army commanders led by Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane would be assessing the present deployments along eastern Ladakh and the northeastern sectors from 18 April onwards in the bi-annual commanders’ conference.

The top brass of the Indian Army had jointly discussed the infrastructure requirements and developments required by the Indian side from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh during a conference in Lucknow recently.

India has made several changes in its deployments post aggression shown by Chinese troops in April-May 2020.

India and China have been talking to each other at both military and diplomatic levels to address the issues but so far they have not been able to do so mainly because of Chinese reluctance. In recent talks to address the Patrolling Point 15 friction, they proposed a solution that was not acceptable to the Indian side.

Indian security establishment led by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval has been of the view that the issue would be resolved only if the Chinese completely disengaged and went back to pre April 2020 positions.The Indian side has strengthened its deployments manifold all along the LAC. The Indian Air Force has also started building advanced bases in the forward areas including infrastructure to operate fighter jets and attack helicopters from the forward fields such as Nyoma.

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Sharp fall in infiltration of foreign terrorists, stone pelting: CRPF DG

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There has been a sharp decline in the infiltration of foreign terrorists as well as in stone-pelting incidents in Jammu and Kashmir since the abrogation of Article 370 from the erstwhile state, Director General of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Kuldiep Singh said on Thursday.

However, noting the targeted killings in Jammu and Kashmir, the officer said, “Some time there is a spurt in terrorist incidents” and the recent killing in “periodic series” are among those, and “it occurs”. Replying to queries during a press briefing here at the CRPF Headquarters, Singh said, “CRPF immediately try to control terrorist incidents in Jammu and Kashmir soon after it gets inputs. These incidents are not totally controlled by internal terrorist people who are there. On many occasions, it is controlled by those sitting across the border and it is directed whom to be targeted or not.”

The CRPF DG reiterated that “some directions comes from foreign lands too”, and thus, “terrorist incidents some times increase and sometimes decrease” “It does not mean that things are out of hand…You can see that the incidents of stone-pelting are almost nil. There has been a sharp decline in the number of infiltration of foreign terrorists into Jammu and Kashmir. Sometimes, there is a spurt in terrorist incidents but it happens,” he said.

The officer informed that the CRPF has neutralized 175 terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir and apprehended 183 from March 1, 2021, to March 16, 2022.

Meanwhile, the CRPF has recovered 253 arms from Jammu and Kashmir and seized 7,541 ammunition as well as 96.38 kg explosives, 23 Improvised Explosive Device (IED), 232 grenades, and 36 detonators from the Union Territory, Singh said. Further, he informed that as many as 91 encounters have taken place from March 1, 2021, to March 16 this year. CRPF is the premier Central Armed Police Force (CRPF) entrusted with the responsibility of safeguarding the internal security of the country. It is deployed across the length and breadth of the country, assisting various state police in the discharge of their duties. CRPF is providing security cover to 117 protectees of various categories, he said adding that 32 women personnel have been inducted into the VIP Security Wing.

A total of 41 VIPs were provided security cover by the CRPF during recently concluded Assembly elections in five states, the DG said adding that the security of 27 protectees has been withdrawn post-elections. The CRPF chief also said that under financial assistance from the risk fund, ex-gratia for personnel martyred in action has been increased to Rs 30 lakhs from Rs 20 lakhs, and for all other cases, the ex-gratia has been increased to Rs 20 lakhs from Rs 15 lakhs.

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