INS Airavat, deployed by the Indian Navy for operation ‘Samudra Setu, entered Tuticorin harbour on Monday, with 198 Indian nationals embarked from Male, Maldives. Thus far Indian Navy has brought back 2,386 Indian citizens from the Maldives to India. The embarkation of Indian nationals was facilitated by the Indian Mission in Maldives. Personnel were embarked onboard after carrying out requisite medical screening. Covidrelated safety protocols were also strictly adhered to during the sea-passage.
The evacuees were received by local authorities at Tuticorin and arrangements were in place for speedy disembarkation, health screening, immigration and transportation of the evacuees. With this evacuation, the Indian Navy has repatriated 3,305 Indian nationals from Maldives, Sri Lanka and Iran during the ongoing pandemic.
Mythical Dragon, real China
After the coronavirus pandemic hit the world, China has constantly tried to project itself as a
superpower but is it really powerful? Or, is it wearing a mythical Dragon‘s mask to intimidate others?
Myths and Reality
Xi’s Call: China is real. The dragon is mythical. However we will stick to the real China in this analysis. In May, Xi Jinping called on the PLA to be prepared for wars. He signalled what he was up to and conveyed it. We did not heed to his intent. How wrong were we? Similarly When Xi Jinping, spoke to scientists it was one such moment when a vista was revealed. Two significant aspects of that talk stuck a chord in me. He spoke of the ‘deep and complex’ changes that China faced in the domestic and international environment. He also spoke of the big problems that were ‘choking’ and ‘strangling’ China. These included lack of advanced agricultural technology and reliance on imported seed, critical component shortcoming in core manufacturing technology, dependence on overseas oil supplies, pollution, poor distribution of water resources and an ageing population which needed improvements in pharmaceuticals and medical equipment. These issues are underlying and permanent to China. They are largely pre virus. The chemistry of ‘deep’ complex’ with ‘chokers and stranglers’ needs better appreciation to get to realism.
The World According to Xi: China is modernising. Its economy, power and influence have grown. It is set to overtake USA shortly. However the Wuhan virus has changed things. Issues and events are panning out in a manner that forces a rethink. In the last six months China has alienated major powers of the Indo Pacific – India, Japan and Australia. All other countries of the region feel threatened. t has also managed to alienate USA, Canada and Europe. It has got into a military conflict with India and USA; when it was really not needed. It is shaking up the entire global order. It is trying to impose its vision on the whole world. When we see and read commentaries on China , they are one dimensional and often magnify China to proportions of a mythical dragon all set to conquer the world. It appears that China is unstoppable. The world according to Xi looks forbidding. However the reality is far different. There are logical opinions which suggest that China has peaked and will actually decline from hereon. The Wuhan Virus only hastens the process. There are many discordant issues in China which will inhibit and eventually cap China’s rise. That is what Xi Jinping had on his mind when he spoke what he did. In India, we need to get a handle on the entirety of China to deal with it squarely. This analysis presents the large canvas of China.
Jekyll and Hyde Cycle: Step back into history. Ever since the CCP came into the scene a century back, China has had periodic convulsions. Mao unleashed ‘The Great Leap Forward and The Cultural Revolution’. In four decades China was taking ‘The Great Leap Backwards’. China talks of a ‘Century of Humiliation’. However the CCP wreaked half of that humiliation through the greatest man made famine in which 35-45 million people died and were reduced to cannibalism. In the 70s, China adopted the ‘One Child Policy’. It appeared to be the greatest of social reforms of that era. Half a century later it is one of the greatest disasters in Chinese and human history. Mao spoke of ‘Conquest of Nature’ and Deng Xiao Ping felt that ‘To Become Rich is Glorious’ when he kickstarted the four modernizations. Their successors ‘Conquered Nature’ mercilessly and ‘Made China Rich’ through dizzy economic growth. Four decades later China seeks glory but is entering a decline, seeded at the start itself. The Jekyll and Hyde cycle of the CCP is discernible –revolutionary idea, electrifying start, great promise and seemingly impressive progress to disastrous ends due to unsustainability, unpredictability and unintended outcomes.
Freedom Vs Prosperity: CCP and Xi Jinping view national economic growth and power as commodities fungible with people. The transaction being – ‘you give up your freedoms and we will give you prosperity’. From an economic point of view, China is already a superpower. However growth has to be for the people. Their perspective tells a different story. Discrepancies have surfaced ever since the Wuhan Virus has struck the world. Some instability is discernible in the Chinese monolith. India needs to be cognisant of this. Whether China is a superpower or not, India has to live with it as a neighbour. Realism will enable us to deal with it better. Historically an unstable China has been troublesome – to India and the world at large.
Pre Virus Economic Growth: China has clocked stupendous economic growth. It was poised to overtake USA. Its future trajectory up to 2050 indicates that it will continue to rise. (see table). All set to achieve the ‘China Dream’ through prosperity, collective effort, socialism, and national glory. The great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is imminent. The Chinese aim is to be a ‘moderately well-off society’ by 2021 and a ‘fully developed nation’ by 2050. Inherent in this is to be the sole superpower on earth. Herein lies the rub. The ‘chokers and stranglers’ of Xi Jinping are lying in ambush.
Aging Choker: An aging population is the main ‘Choker’. The one child policy reduced birth rates drastically. As against the standard replacement rate of 2.1, the birth rates fell to 1.18. Despite lifting the one child policy in 2015, the birth rates will not cross 1.7. People are not marrying or having a second child. Reasons include rising prosperity, opportunities for single women, young couples opting for single child and gender imbalance. As a result the population is expected to peak at 1.4 billion around 2030 and decline thereafter (see graph). The population will reduce to about 1 billion by 2100.
Child population (0-15) and dependency is expected to be around 20%. Simultaneously the share of the aged (65+) is set to steeply grow due to increasing lifespans (see graph). China is the fastest aging country in history. Overall, Child and Old-aged dependency will keep increasing. This has manifold implications. Some are highlighted. One. The working population will keep decreasing. A smaller number of workers will have to take care of an increasing number of old and young people. The overall standards of life will correspondingly decrease. Two. As population ages, additional resources are needed to meet the needs of the elderly – medical, energy, housing, food. China has a very weak social welfare system for the aged. An estimated 23 % of the old-aged cannot take care of themselves. The aged also represent a shrinking tax base. Overall, the government revenues will be strained. Three. The percentage of unmarried men in their late 30’s will quintuple by 2030. This will have adverse societal impacts. Four. When the work force declines, wages increase, productivity goes down and profits go down. Lesser workers means lesser consumption spending. China has no choice but to export. However most consuming countries are also aging. Their consumption will go down. The overall economy will dip. The key to Chinese prosperity lies in countries capable of consuming in the future like India, Indonesia and Nigeria. The prediction is that in the period 2020-30 the economy will start shrinking. Five. An aging society and increased urbanisation reduces availability of farmers. It brings up the issue of food security. Six. The one child condition, limited youth and urbanisation will have an adverse impact on the availability of the right material for armed forces (see graph). There are other unforeseeable issues which will vector themselves in as China goes along.
Food Problems: Currently China is facing a food crisis. It is likely to have domestic and geopolitical fallouts. This brings focus on to an issue which has been choking China historically. Chinese history is full of famines. However, ever since Mao’s policies induced the Great Famine, China has not really faced a food crisis. In fact China has carried out vast agriculture reforms. Today China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of agricultural products. Recent developments have however raised concerns about its food security. China has 19% of the global population but only 7% of arable land and freshwater resources. Both are diminishing. There are questions of sustainable development due to environmental degradation, pollution, climate change, disease, urbanisation, industrial growth and demography. More than 40% of China’s arable land is degraded seriously. Food production is reducing. Demand for agricultural products has grown due to a burgeoning population, growing industrial economy, and expanding consumerism. Believe it or not, China has the maximum obese people in the world. China became a net food importer in 2004. Its import dependence is irreversible. It will face a domestic grain supply gap of about 130 million tonnes by the end of 2025. It continues to import seeds due to lack of technology. Wheat, corn and rice are the main ingredients of the Chinese food basket. These crops have been threatened by floods, typhoons and draughts – all in one season. Climate change might also be playing its part. Pork is the main meat. However availability of pork has been affected badly due to the African Swine Flu for the past three years. Corruption/inefficiency in logistics and storage as also insect infestation threaten its inventory. About one-sixth of the total grain produced in China is wasted annually in the production, processing and transportation cycle. China might not run out of food but prices are rising and there are creases of economic worry.
Unprecedented Chokers: China has faced unprecedented rainfall, floods, typhoons and droughts this year. Diseases specific to this year include the Wuhan Virus and Brucellosis (an infectious disease caused by bacteria from livestock which can also infect humans and leave men infertile). African Swine Flu, Plague, Yellow Fever, Polio, Avian Influenza, SARs are recurring diseases in the recent past. It raises a lot of issues. Is it due to pollution, environmental degradation, climate change or all? In any case the effect of this continued disease and pestilence is only going to get more serious as China ages. This budding superpower is unhealthy.
Stranglers – Pollution and Environmental Degradation
Overview: Environmental degradation and pollution are serial stranglers. Environmental degradation began with Mao’s ‘conquest of nature’ idea. The Chinese economy and severe environmental degradation took off together five decades back. China embraced industrialisation and economic progress unhesitatingly. Quick time centralised decision making without due checks and balances was the norm. Polluting industry was, in fact, enabled. Environmental regulation was blindsided. As China’s economy and geopolitical power grew, the negative consequences were on food, water and health securities. China has faced three-fold environmental degradation. One. Developing an overpopulated and underdeveloped society, at frenetic pace has induced ecological stresses of land and water shortage, deforestation, and desertification. Two. Its gigantic industrialisation and rapidly increasing urbanisation in a globalised economy has resulted in huge pollution including generation of marine and toxic wastes. Three. Climate change has started to make its presence felt . At some stage the economy will be impacted, slow down and start shrinking.
Dammed Degradation: Since the 1950s, the Chinese have built around 22000 dams which are more than 15 meters tall. It is roughly half the world’s total. More than 16 million Chinese have been relocated to make way for these hydro projects. They have over 125 mega dams with heights more than 100m. These mega-dams, block the flow of rivers, create floods, affect agriculture and fisheries, increase the chances of earthquakes, and destroy environments. To quote a view ‘rather than benefiting populations with non-polluting power, China’s dam builders are making a Faustian bargain with nature, selling their country’s soul in their drive for economic growth’. Extreme view? It was recently borne out by the massive flooding of the Yangtze basin in the course of which it was feared that the Three Gorges Dam, the biggest dam in the world, would collapse. It is so massive that it has the capacity to slow the earth’s rotation, It is now internationally recognised that the entire exercise has been a huge environmental disaster. The sheer number of dams has created so many water bodies that it has induced local climate change whose effect is being felt within China. The larger issue of global climate change will wreak greater disasters. To illustrate the argument, the analysed complexity of issues surrounding the Three Gorges Dam is reproduced ‘Factors are color-coded whereby green factors signify ecological issues and blue ones signify sociological issues. Beginning with the left, the Three Gorges Dam project has causing forced migration of many people both directly due to Chinese government policy as well as indirectly through landslides and erosion. Furthermore, forced migrants put pressure on urban centres insofar as they need housing and jobs that may not necessarily be available. This in turn affected the standard of living by contributing to poverty, among other things. All of this acted to erode social stability, which is itself a form of latent conflict and which is requisite for violent of overt conflict. On the right hand side we see that the dam disturbs fault lines and causes watershed erosion, both of which negatively affect ecological stability. Furthermore, the dam is believed to be connected to earthquakes in the area due to its massive size. All of these disruptions signal the potential for grave ecological problems such as ecological collapse, biodiversity loss, erosion, etc.’
Kingdom of Rare Earths: China is the ‘Kingdom of Rare Earths’ with a market share of 80-90% in the past two decades. Rare earths are used in semiconductors and energy saving devices (see graphic). China’s rare earth map is shown below. Rare earth mining has a parallel and thriving huge black market. It is extremely polluting and contaminating to the extent that ‘cancer villages’ have sprung/springing up near mines. Rare earth mining is a contamination time bomb for the Yellow River in the North. In the South, China’s mega-cities like Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong may have already been affected by the radioactive toxicity related to uranium. It is no more a matter of ‘if’, but ‘when’. Water for agriculture and drinking in all rare earth mining areas and in downstream areas is heavily contaminated by excessive amounts of ammonia, nitrogen, cadmium, lead and its compounds. Remuneration from rare earths is inadequate to offset costs in health and environmental cleaning. Take another case of Titanium. China is the dominant player in the international market. Titanium mines destroy nature and habitat. The extracted ore is refined with Chlorine which is a huge environmental hazard. It is another saga of pollution and contamination. Sichuan, Hubei, Yunnan, Hainan, Guangxi and Guangdong have Titanium deposits. Sichuan has the largest deposits. Incidentally, India has huge reserves of Titanium. However its extraction will defoliate the Deccan. Not an option and that is why we have not gone for it. A similar pollution / degradation story repeats with every form of resource extraction in China. The ‘Cancer Village’ map , which is result of all such pollution, can be seen below. Presently, more than 50% of China’s surface water is not fit for human consumption. 60% of the groundwater under Chinese cities is considered to be ‘severely polluted’. The World Bank (2007) estimated that the health cost of cancers and diarrhoea associated with water pollution reached approximately US$8 billion in 2003 in rural areas of China. Today it must be many times more. Resource extraction will extract more from China than imaginable. The damage has already been done and that too in its prosperous coastal belt.
Other Stranglers: There are other environmental degradation, pollution and contamination examples. Approximately 70% of the electronic waste generated worldwide used to be processed in China. It poses substantial risk to health and the environment (Ni and Zeng 2009). Small-scale rural factories known as ‘township and village enterprises’ contribute significantly to China’s growing rural pollution problems. China is world’s largest manufacturer, trader and fossil fuel consumer. It is responsible for 47% of the world’s coal burning, which is more than all other countries in the world combined. The list is endless.
Energy: China’s energy demand is likely to peak between 2035 and 2040 (see graphs). Its oil demand is expected to peak in 2030. However its petrochemical and gas demand will increase till 2050. China’s import dependence on oil and gas will continue to be around 50%. Coal is set to lose ground to renewables. However it is still expected to account for 40% of power generation in 2035. The share of coal in China’s primary energy mix is expected to fall as shown in the graph. Renewables, oil and gas combined will overtake coal’s share of primary energy consumption by 2050. Having said all that coal will still remain the single largest supply source through to 2050. If one analyses this data , a few things stand out:-
China will continue to be energy dependant and vulnerable. It will never attain energy security. Coal based energy will not vanish. Its effect on pollution will endure. Overall CO2 emissions are expected to fall only after 2035. China has committed to Carbon neutrality by 2060. By then it might be too late. Per capita requirement and consumption of energy will continue to increase as China modernises. China will continue to extract rare earths. Rare earths are extensively used in magnets for wind generation. Hence reduction in pollution due to renewables will be offset by pollution due to rare earths. Pollution will not decrease. China, in all likelihood, will enter into a state of energy entropy.
‘Deep And Complex’ Problems
Deep Isolation: China is facing ‘deep’ isolation in the international environment. It started with the cover up of the Wuhan Virus and its aggressive and assertive expansionism. The expansionism found military expression in the China Seas and Eastern Ladakh. Political expansionism spread to Hong Kong when the National Security Law was imposed in contravention to international agreements. The idea of gobbling up Taiwan is an eternal Chinese and CCP obsession. Future expansionist plans include parts of Bhutan, Nepal, CARs and Russia. After the initial gains, there has been a military push back notably by USA and India. Both of them have stopped the Chinese juggernaut in its tracks. The physical isolation imposed by the virus has been followed by geopolitical, diplomatic, technological, and isolation. It is now heading into trade and economic trimming. The real test of character is how an individual or a system behaves under stress. When put under stress by the Wuhan Virus, the true ‘Chinese Character’ revealed itself. A ‘what is mine is mine and what is yours is also mine’ kind of a greedy China emerged. China’s callousness in allowing the Virus to spread and then taking advantage of it at the cost of people at large has not been accepted. What the world saw was China displaying a sense of being ordained to rule the world; whose time had come with the Virus. They also witnessed total Chinese disregard for the international rules based order, attempt to gain control over governments through debt traps, influence operations, social media surveillance, intelligence collection and plain coercion. Chinese characteristics which came through were IPR theft, wolf warrior diplomacy and weaponization of the virus through health and mask diplomacy. Key motives which have emerged are unbridled profits and geopolitical control. It emerged that China also weaponizes public opinion by manipulation, misinformation, sowing dissent, and discord in democratic societies. The legal loopholes of democracies are exploited. It shapes domestic and international public opinion blatantly through media, military experts, and political parties portraying itself as a victim. It provides legal justification, through mythical history. Target countries are left with no choice with but to accept the Chinese fait accompli. Chinese narratives were being built through pliant politicians, media, officials, international institutions, think tanks, academic institutions, workers unions, industry, and even foreign governments to influence thought and decision. The intrusive and pervasive extent of Chinese seepage into the international environment and respective domestic environments has been exposed. It needs to be stopped. That is what all countries are doing.
Military Incapability: The effectiveness of a global power lies in its ability to win wars. The USA, USSR, and the United Kingdom proved that a superpower must shed blood – own and that of your enemy’s. Unless China is prepared to fight and win or seen to be winning it is simply not a superpower. One can talk endlessly of unrestricted warfare or multi domain warfare or all other kinds of warfare but wars have to be ultimately won on ground. After all we are humans. We are not birds, fish, space creatures or electronic chips. Currently China is outmanoeuvred by India in Ladakh and boxed in by USA in the China Seas. The PLA has turned up short on this score. China’s strategy of ‘Belligerent War Avoidance’ has not worked. If PLA can not militarily enforce and achieve the CCPs political aims, China will not succeed. Very importantly, the military state of affairs indicates that China is not yet capable of protecting its overseas economic interests. In fact it is vulnerable on this count. The Chinese stress has been on development of Comprehensive National Power which might get you a seat on the UN Security Council but not a military victory. The drawbacks of PLA are evident in China’s White Paper on Defence. It is an overtly political paper. The focus is on organisation, mechanization, informationization and of all things micro-corruption! If a nation has to talk of rooting out micro-corruption from its armed forces in an international document, then it is admittance of incompetence. When there is no mention of improving combat effectiveness at cutting edge levels in such a paper, then it is some sort of an expectation that your enemy will roll over due to sheer bluster. The PLA might bully small nations with weak forces. When arraigned against professional and strong-armed forces it is being found out. PLA is an inexperienced force under transition. Neither fit for continental nor overseas engagements. When the transition is complete and if it gains experience , it might be different. That is an IF. In the current situation ‘if’ it cannot prevail over India it will be a total loss of face. The military future of China is not very rosy – politicized leadership, unproven manpower, unproven weaponry, unproven capabilities.
Minority Fracture: China is a diverse nation composed of 56 ethnic groups. Han Chinese account for 91.59% and the other 55 make up the remaining 8.41% . Among the non-Han ethnic groups , 44 ethnicities occupy their own autonomous regions, or counties. The largest ethnic minority groups in China are the Zhuang (16 million), Manchu (10 million), Hui (9 million), Miao ( 8 million), Uyghurs ( 7 million), Yi (7 million), Tujia (5.75 million), Mongols (5 million), Tibetan (5 million), Buyei (3 million), and Koreans (2 million). The degree of integration of ethnic minorities varies. Uyghurs and Tibetans are not integrated with the Han or CCP or China. Off late, this is spreading to Mongols also. The Government does dot trust theses minorities. They are under strict state regulation. Religious autonomy is restricted. At various points of time these minorities have had major problems. Any signs of resistance from these ethnic minorities, is interpreted as separatism and draws severe repression. These minorities occupy around 50% of the total area. They are not well off as compared to the Han. Han migration is encouraged into these areas through development and construction projects. Chinese government sees economic development as the main solution for ethnic dissent. However these areas are being kept less developed inexplicably. The CCP wants to integrate them forcefully into the mainstream through side-lining ethnic languages, religion and customs. Tibetan and Uygur minority language schools are closed since 2017 and replaced by Mandarin Chinese instruction. The same is being done now in Mongol areas. They are discriminated in the job market. Their populations are not being allowed to expand through forced sterilisation. 1.3 million Uyghurs on average per year have been put through ‘vocational training’ internment camps from 2014 to 2019. They have now put 500,000 Tibetans into forced-labour camps for militarized vocational training aimed to reform ‘backward thinking’ and improve ‘work discipline’. Forced integration of Tibetans into the system is a recent phenomenon. There is clear fracture with Tibetans, Uyghurs and Mongols which is enlarging. The Hong Kong democracy undercurrent will not vanish. Chinese preoccupation with Taiwan will not evaporate. If things deteriorate other minorities might also raise a flag. The implication is that the ‘Westwards Development’ agenda and the ‘Dual Circulation’ strategy which are to rescue the Chinese economy are at further risk. China will have to constantly invest considerable political, economic and military effort to keep these rimland areas under control and survive as a single entity. It will have to keep looking inwards. The international environment will also not respond favourably to China till such time it discriminates with its own people. This will inhibit their superpower drive.
Post Virus Economy: The high flying Chinese economy has been brought down to earth by the virus. There is no doubt that it is recovering. Notwithstanding propaganda, the economic recovery has been found to be patchy and overhyped. In the short term things will look normal. In fact Xi Jinping has reiterated that the Marxist political economic model will be the bedrock for China’s growth. Further he was only partially right when he said that the situation was ‘deep and complex’. It is actually beyond that. With Germany joining the Indo Pacific Club, most of the big economies and rich nations are now ranged against China . That is going to be a big blow to China. What does it mean? The Made in China 2025 plan is facing stiff problems due to lack of ‘Core Technology’ as mentioned by Xi Jinping himself. Its Military Civil Fusion methodologies have been found out and exposed. They are being culled. China is being placed in a technology denial system. China does not have the technological ability to overcome all those barriers which Xi Jinping spoke of. As much as China has progressed in some fields, it has stagnated in others. Hence its economy will have a limiting factor at some stage. The BRI and its flag ship CPEC have run into economic, political, and strategic rough weather. The BRI model is no longer sustainable. China has not managed macroeconomic risk well. It has not given adequate attention to building political capital. Its choice of weak nations and debt trap diplomacy has led to a BRI backlash. BRI is being now subjected to a higher level of audit. Renegotiation is on the cards in many cases. There is also a reluctance on the part of countries to commence new projects. China will have to settle for far less geopolitical/economic dividends than it had set out to reap. Most importantly, the decoupling initiative of all the big economies will hit China hard. Economic shrinkage is a matter of time and that will be permanent. On that there is no doubt. The Dual Circulation model has not got much traction. It is contingent on the success of three things. One. Internal consumption has to go up. In the short term, Chinese are simply refusing to consume. In the long term an aging China cannot consume. Two. The Go West Policy can only succeed if Tibet, Xinjiang, Mongolia and Western regions prosper. That looks unlikely due to political and ethnic factors. Three. Exports must increase but are going to reduce. The current enhanced expenditure on the Military situation will take its economic toll. The overall outlook for the Chinese economy does not bode well. Some one sensible has to do the maths.
All the issues highlighted and analysed are issues common to any country. What is special here? The difference is that China has an overbalanced and rigid polity which is driving the country to an unrealistic destiny. China is fixated with overtaking USA. Its thinking is that others including India are hand maidens in that journey. The White Paper on Defence 2019 actually spells that without saying so. On the other hand the Chinese nation is imbalanced at this point of time – economically, militarily, diplomatically, environmentally and ethnically. The Nation and the Government are at odds with each other. At the same time, Indian resistance is something new and totally unexpected. Currently, China is flummoxed as to how to contend that. Hence it will gather itself and come back at us with vengeance.
So how do we deal with China? We deal with facts and how they are presented to us. There are too many amongst us who predict that China will come breathing fury and fire of a mythical dragon. It won’t happen because it can’t happen. Very clearly the facts show that China is not the behemoth it is being made to be. In any case till such time the CCP is in power, India has to deal with an inimical China. It will do us well to remember that after USA, India is enemy Number 2 hereafter. Their strategists, analysts and ‘Global Times’ will attribute their failures to us. Also, China has become habituated to the fact of blaming others for its own faults and deficiencies. Its leaders will externalise failure and the needle will swing to India. Hence, the lesser of China in our society the better it will be. The importance of Atma Nirbhar Bharat lies in the fact that we should consume to make our economy thrive and not consume to make the China Dream happen!
When soldiers march in step on a bridge it tends to collapse. Why? Resonance! If even some issues facing China resonate then there will be a major change. To recap, the issues are – diseases, aging, ethnic disparity, pollution, agriculture, degradation, climate change, diplomatic isolation, military limitation and economic trimming. China is a society without a check. It will continue on its improbable path at breakneck speed. Many of these factors are resonating and if the cadence is strong enough, we will see political change without fail. The Chernobyl factor is at work. Make no mistake about that. We should be prepared for a fallout of that change. From a long term perspective, it will be prudent to catalyse the change.
The next standard question is will it lead to a China collapse? The simple answer is it will not. Will China become a superpower? The chances are no. What will happen? The economy was all set to shrink in the forthcoming decade anyway. It will get accelerated. Currently the world will consume what China produces and it will appear that the Chinese economy is still booming. However in a couple of years when Chinese mega projects bottom out, organised decoupling takes effect, pollution takes effect, and aging progresses, the shrink will be visible. We will then see the Chinese economy right sizing. Accordingly the polity will change.
This analysis is a ‘man without a dog’ effort. There could be short comings and it is probably full of holes. I concede. However it is based on facts. It is not an exercise in wish listing. The facts reveal a vulnerable China. We need to do a holistic fusion analysis based on multiple inputs from institutional experts. It will enable us to then handle China in a realistic manner. From the analysis, writings and commentaries in public, it is evident that we are obsessed with Pakistan which is such a waste of time. For long, India has let the Ministry of External Affairs and some traders handle China exclusively. They have built an unrealistic image of China and allowed it to seep into our society. It is time that we study China and handle it with better understanding rather than the illiterate manner we have so far adopted. That is why we see a dragon instead of a eeny weenie Chinaman who is sitting on a nuclear reactor about to go critical.
Lt Gen PR Shankar was India’s DG Artillery. He is highly decorated and qualified with vast operational experience. He contributed significantly to the Modernization 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 his blog www.gunnersshot.com
A massive push for indigenous production of defence equipment
Under the Aatmanirbhar Bharat campaign, the Defence Ministry has prepared a list of 101 items for which there would be an embargo on the import beyond the timeline indicated against them. This would offer a great opportunity to the Indian defence industry to manufacture these items using their own design and development capabilities to meet the requirements of the armed forces in the coming years.
The Cabinet Committee on Security, in its meeting held on 29 July 2020, approved to convert Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), a subordinate office of Ministry of Defence, into one or more than one 100% Government-owned corporate entities, registered under the Companies Act 2013. The corporatisation of OFB will improve its autonomy, accountability and efficiency in ordnance supplies.
A new category of capital procurement ‘Buy [Indian-IDDM (Indigenously Designed, Developed and Manufactured)]’ has been introduced in Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP)- 2016 to promote indigenous design and development of defence equipment. It has been accorded top most priority for procurement of capital equipment. The ‘Make’ Procedure of capital procurement has been simplified. There is a provision for funding of 90% of development cost by the Government of India’s industry under Make-I category.
In addition, there are specific reservations for MSMEs under the ‘Make’ procedure. Seperate procedure for ‘Make-II’ category (Industry funded) has been notified under DPP to encourage indigenous development and manufacture of defence equipment. Number of industry friendly provisions such as relaxation of eligibility criterion, minimal documentation, provision for considering proposals suggested by industry/ individual etc. have been introduced in this procedure. So far, 49 projects relating to Army, Navy & Air Force, have been accorded ‘Approval in Principle’, out of which 9 projects have already been issued Project Sanction Order for prototype development.
Under ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ campaign of Govt of India, Ministry of Defence (MoD) has prepared a list of 101 items for which there would be an embargo on the import beyond the timeline indicated against them. This would offer a great opportunity to the Indian defence industry to manufacture these items using their own design and development capabilities to meet the requirements of the Armed Forces in the coming years. This list includes some high technology weapon systems like artillery guns, assault rifles, corvettes, sonar systems, transport aircrafts, light combat helicopters (LCHs), radars and many other items to fulfil the needs of our Defence Services.
An innovation ecosystem for Defence titled Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) has been launched in April, 2018. iDEX is aimed at creation of an ecosystem to foster innovation and technology development in Defence and Aerospace by engaging Industries including MSMEs, Start-ups, Individual Innovators, R&D institutes and Academia and provide them grants/ funding and other support to carry out R&D which has potential for future adoption for Indian defence and aerospace needs. Under the iDEX scheme, a maximum of Rs 1.5 crore funding is available to a participant for development of a prototype.
More than 700 start-ups participated in 18 problem statements pertaining to National Defence requirements, launched under 3 rounds of Defence India Start-up Challenges (DISC). 58 winners were announced after rigorous evaluation of applications by the High-Powered Selection Committees. Contracts have already been signed with several winners followed by release of tranches for several cases for prototype/ technology development.
Government has notified the ‘Strategic Partnership (SP)’ Model in May, 2017, which envisages establishment of long-term strategic partnerships with Indian entities through a transparent and competitive process, wherein they would tie up with global Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to seek technology transfers to set up domestic manufacturing infrastructure and supply chains. Government has notified a ‘Policy for indigenisation of components and spares used in Defence Platforms’ in March, 2019 with the objective to create an industry ecosystem which is able to indigenize the imported components (including alloys & special materials) and sub-assemblies for defence equipment and platform manufactured in India. An Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) on “Mutual Cooperation in Joint Manufacturing of Spares, Components, Aggregates and other material related to Russian/Soviet Origin Arms and Defence Equipment” was signed during the 20th India-Russia Bilateral Summit in September, 2019.
The objective of the IGA is to enhance the After Sales Support and operational availability of Russian origin equipment currently in service in Indian Armed Forces by organizing production of spares and components in the territory of India by Indian Industry by way of creation of Joint Ventures/Partnership with Russian Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) under the framework of the “Make in India” initiative.
In February, 2018, Government decided to establish two defence industrial corridors to serve as an engine of economic development and growth of defence industrial base in the country. They span across Chennai, Hosur, Coimbatore, Salem and Tiruchirappalli in Tamil Nadu and across Aligarh, Agra, Jhansi, Kanpur, Chitrakoot and Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh (UP). Offset guidelines have been made flexible by allowing change of Indian Offset Partners (IOPs) and offset components, even in signed contracts. Foreign Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) are now allowed to provide the details of IOPs and products after signing of contracts. In order to bring more transparency and efficiency into the Offset discharge process, “Offset portal” has been created in May, 2019. Defence Investor Cell has been created in February, 2018 in the Ministry to provide all necessary information including addressing queries related to investment opportunities, procedures and regulatory requirements for investment in the sector. Defence Products list requiring Industrial Licences has been rationalised and manufacture of most of parts or components does not require Industrial License. The initial validity of the Industrial License granted under the IDR Act has been increased from 03 years to 15 years with a provision to further extend it by 03 years on a case-tocase basis.
Under the latest Public Procurement Order 2017, Department of Defence Production has notified list of 24 items for which there is local capacity and competition and procurement of these items shall be done from local suppliers only irrespective of the purchase value. An indigenization portal namely SRIJAN has been launched on 14.08.2020 for DPSUs/ OFB/Services with an industry interface to provide development support to MSMEs/Startups/Industry for import substitution.
In May, 2001, the Defence Industry sector, which was hitherto reserved for the public sector, was opened up to 100% for Indian private sector participation, with Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) up to 26% both subject to licensing. Further, Department for Policy of Industry and Internal Trade, Ministry of Commerce & Industry vide Press Note No. 5 (2016 Series), has allowed FDI under automatic route upto 49% and above 49% through government route wherever it is likely to result in access to modern technology or for other reasons to be recorded. Further, 44 FDI proposals/Joint Ventures have been approved for manufacture of various defence equipment, both in public and private sector. Government has brought in significant reforms to promote FDI in Defence sector in the country, to complement and supplement the domestic investment. Through FDI, domestic companies are benefited by way of enhanced access to supplementary capital and state-of-art-technologies, and also exposure to global managerial practices resulting in employment generation and accelerated growth of the sector.
Review of FDI policy is an ongoing process and changes are made in the FDI policy regime, from time to time, to ensure that India remains an attractive investment destination. FDI in Defence Sector has been enhanced up to 74% through the Automatic Route for companies seeking new defence industrial license and up to 100% by Government Route wherever it is likely to result in access to modern technology or for other reasons to be recorded.
The obligatory government approval for existing FDI approval holders / current defence licensees for change in equity / shareholding pattern up to 49% FDI has been proposed to be replaced with mandatory declaration for the same within 30 days of change of equity / shareholding pattern. The proposals for raising FDI beyond 49% from such companies could also be considered with Government approval.
Enabling MSMEs in expanding their base
The ‘Make’ Procedure has been simplified with provisions for funding of 90% of development cost by the Government to India’s industry and reserving Government funded Make-I projects not exceeding development cost of Rs. 10 crore and procurement cost Rs. 50 crore per year for MSMEs. The industry funded Make-II Projects not exceeding development cost of Rs. 3 crore and procurement cost Rs. 50 crore per year have also been reserved for MSMEs. iDEX is also aimed at supporting MSMEs, Start-ups, Individual Innovators etc provide them grants/ funding and other support to carry out R&D. Besides, approximately 11,000 MSMEs as vendors are engaged in supplying various items to OFB and Defence PSUs. To bring MSMEs into the defence supply chain and thereby boost the self-reliance of the country in defence and also contribute towards defence exports market, DDP has made a scheme of promotion of MSMEs in defence.
Under this scheme funds are provided to industry associations to organize seminars in different parts of the country. MSMEs are partnering in DRDO projects and also DRDO developed technologies are also being transferred to them.
They are important partners in industry ecosystem for the production of DRDO developed products.Various initiatives have been taken to address issues of timely payments like implementation of TReDS in DPSUs. Regular interactions are taking place to settle the grievance of vendors at OFB. Defence Investor Cell has been opened in DDP to address the issues being faced by vendors especially MSME vendors.
Non-Core items of OFB have been uploaded on GeM which would enable them to supply the items hitherto reserved for Ordnance Factories to the Armed forces. Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises implements various schemes and programmes for promotion and development of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) including defence sector MSMEs across the country. These include Prime Minister›s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP), Scheme of Fund for Regeneration of Traditional Industries(SFURTI), A scheme for Promoting Innovation, Rural Industry and Entrepreneurship (ASPIRE), Credit Guarantee Scheme, Credit Linked Capital Subsidy and Technology Upgradation Scheme (CLCS-TUS), Technology Centre Systems Programme (TCSP), Micro and Small Enterprises-Cluster Development Programme (MSECDP), Procurement and Marketing Support Scheme etc. and also reviews and monitors the progress of the implementation of the Public Procurement Policy for MSEs Order, 2012.
The Defence Offset guidelines have further paved the way for proactive participation of Micro, Small & Medium enterprises (MSME) of India by incorporating a scheme of multipliers of 1.5 for engaging MSME as Indian Offset Partners (IOP). There is no prescribed allocation/proportion between DPSUs and private sector. Efforts are, however, being made to create a level playing field between DPSUs and the private sector.
Investment through FDI route
In May, 2001, the Defence Industry sector, which was hitherto reserved for the public sector, was opened up to 100% for Indian private sector participation, with Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) up to 26% both subject to licensing. Further, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, Ministry of Commerce & Industry vide Press Note No.5 (2016 Series)’, has allowed FDI under automatic route upto 49% and above 49% through government route wherever it is likely to result in access to modern technology or for other reasons to be recorded. Further, FDI in defence industry sector is subject to industrial license under Industries (Development & Regulation) Act, 1951 and manufacturing of small arms and ammunition under the Arms Act, 1959. As per the data furnished by 37 companies in Defence and Aerospace sector, so far (i.e. till June, 2020). FDI inflows of over Rs 2883 crores have been reported in Defence and Aerospace sectors through automatic route. Further, FDI inflows of over Rs.1849 crores have been reported in Defence and Aerospace sectors after 2014 through automatic route.
Corporatisation of OFB
The Cabinet Committee on Security in its meeting held on 29.07.2020, has approved to convert Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), a subordinate office of Ministry of Defence, into one or more than one 100% Government owned corporate entities, registered under the Companies Act 2013.The Corporatisation of OFB will improve its autonomy, accountability and efficiency in Ordnance Supplies.On the issue of corporatization of OFB, the Federations of Defence Employees working in Ordnance Factories observed a Strike from 20/08/2019 to 25/08/2019. Strike marginally affected the normal production activities in all 41 factories for five working days. Normal production resumed across all factories from 26th August, 2019 onwards.The Department of Defence Production has been continually engaging with the Federations and Associations of Ordnance Factories with regard to their views on the said transformation. An Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) has been constituted under the chairmanship of Minister of Defence to oversee and guide the entire process of corporatisation of OFB, including transition support and redeployment plan of employees while safeguarding their wages and retirement benefits.
Startups in Defence Sector
Government is making efforts to promote start-ups in the defence sector under ‘Aatmanirbhar Mission’ to localize the production of defence sector products. Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) framework, was launched by Department of Defence Production, with the aim to achieve self-reliance and to foster innovation and technology development in Defence and Aerospace Sectors by engaging Industries including MSMEs, start-ups, individual innovators, R&D institutes and academia. Under iDEX, the projects or problem statements are identified based on the requirements projected by the Armed Forces, OFB & DPSUs. 58 iDEX winners have so far been identified for 18 problem statements/challenges under three rounds of Defence India Startup Challenge (DISC).
Separate procedure for ‘Make-II’ category (Industry funded) has been notified under Defence Procurement Procedure to encourage indigenous development and manufacture of defence equipment. Number of industry friendly provisions such as relaxation of eligibility criterion, minimal documentation, provision for considering proposals suggested by industry including start-ups/individual etc. have been introduced in this procedure.DRDO has created eight Advanced technology centres across India to carryout research activities in the identified futuristic/new technology areas.
These technology centres provide support to Academia to carry out directed research in the identified thrust areas related to defence applications.Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), NITI Aayog has set up a total of 68 Incubation centres across the country. Some AIM incubators focus on areas closely associated with deep-tech, aerospace etc. CODISSIA Defence Innovation and Atal Incubation Centre is a specific incubator which focuses on Defence Innovations and start-ups. iDEX envisages to engage with existing Defence Innovation Hubs (defence related MSME clusters) and create new hubs where innovators can get information about needs and feedback from the services directly and create solutions for India’s major defence platforms. Nine Institutions have been identified and are working as partner incubators to support activities under iDEX.
Boeing delivers SOCOM’s first next-gen Chinook helicopter
Boeing is delivering new technologies and performance improvements to US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) with the Block II Chinook helicopter. Boeing’s Philadelphia team recently delivered the first MH-47G Block II Chinook to SOCOM on time.
“This delivery marks a major step for the Chinook programme,” said Andy Builta, vice president and H-47 program manager. “The new Chinook will give US Special Operations Forces significantly more capability for extremely challenging missions and will enable them to conduct those missions on the future battlefield.” He added. The company is on contract for 23 more MH-47G Block II Chinooks, having signed a contract with SOCOM in July.
Boeing has more than 4,600 employees in Pennsylvania supporting Chinook, the V-22 Osprey, MH-139A Grey Wolf and a number of services and engineering efforts. Including suppliers and vendors, Boeing’s activities support an estimated 16,000 jobs in Pennsylvania.
Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich is readied to fly to Vandenberg for launch
Airbus space engineers are preparing the European ocean satellite “Coper- helicopter nicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich” for its journey to the Vandenberg launch site in California. Next week, the satellite will be loaded into a cargo plane at Munich Airport and flown to the US. The Airbus-built satellite is scheduled for launch on 10 November 2020.
The Copernicus Sentinel-6 will carry out high-precision measurements of ocean surface topography. The satellite will measure its distance to the ocean surface with an accuracy of a few centimetres and use this data to map it, repeating the cycle every 10 days, with the mission lasting up to seven years. It will document changes in sea-surface height, record and analyse variations in sea levels and observe ocean currents. Exact observations of changes in sea-surface height provide insights into global sea levels, ocean sea state, ocean wind speed, the speed and direction of ocean geostrophic currents, and ocean heat storage. These measurements are vital for modelling the oceans and monitoring/predicting rises in sea levels. In addition, Sentinel-6 will provide measurements over large rivers and lakes in support of water management applications.
The findings will enable governments and institutions to establish effective protection for coastal regions. The data will be invaluable not only for disaster relief organisations, but also for authorities involved in urban planning, securing buildings or commissioning dykes. Global sea levels are currently rising by an average of 3.3 millimetres a year as a result of global warming; this could potentially have dramatic consequences for countries with densely populated coastal areas.
The Sentinel-6 mission is part of the European Union Copernicus Programme for the environment. This mission comprises two satellites and is being developed under Airbus’s industrial leadership. While it is a European mission, Sentinel-6 is a true example of international cooperation: it has been jointly developed by E SA, NASA, EUMETSAT and NOAA, with support from CNES. Each satellite carries a radar altimeter, which works by measuring the time it takes for radar pulses to travel to the surface and back again to the satellite. Combined with precise satellite location data, altimetry measurements yield the height of the sea surface.
The satellites’ instrument package also includes an advanced microwave radiometer that accounts for the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere, which affects the speed of the altimeter’s radar pulses. The satellite weighs approximately 1.5 tons. Starting with Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, in November 2020, the Sentinel-6 satellites will collect satellite based measurements of the oceans’ surfaces, continuing a task that first began in 1992. The second Sentinel-6 spacecraft is then expected to follow in 2025.
In January 2020, the satellite was renamed after Michael H. Freilich, who led NASA´s work in Earth science for many years. Sadly Michael Freilich passed away in August 2020.
Russia’s big CCP Problem
Russia can spoil Chinese Communist Party’s overland ambitions. But as long as the West keeps Russia isolated, Moscow will be forced to deepen economic ties with Beijing.
Kadri Liik calls them “the offended generation”: The generation of Russians who, post the Soviet breakup, had reposed faith in the West and had great expectations of fairness from the free world. But starting with the expansion of NATO and then the EU, this generation found that the realpolitik of the West was almost always at a cost to fledgling Russia. They are the reason that Crimea happened, and Crimea is central to the story that Russia today has a CCP (Chinese Communist Party) problem.
On 19 February 1954, the peninsular Province of Crimea was transferred from the Russian Republic to the Ukrainian Republic, for administrative convenience. In 1991 (along with Ukraine’s Independence Referendum), and then again in another referendum of 1994, Crimeans voted to rejoin Russia, but were not allowed to secede from Ukraine. Less than 3 months after the Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych rejected an ongoing negotiation for Ukraine to enter the EU, and just one day after Western Powers had actually endorsed an accord recognising his legitimacy as President, he was ousted on 22 February 2014 by Ukranian Europhiles. Many events followed in response to that development. The 3rd Crimean Referendum was one such. And, as a result, Crimea reverted to Russia. Although the West had eagerly backed many other referendums by States opting to leave the Russian fold, they did not recognise this reversemovement referendum. No surprises there, but now comes the twist in the tale.
Overtly, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) remained neutral on Crimea in the UN, but in one-onone meetings, CCP covertly expressed solidarity with Ukraine against Russia. CCP used the divide to bolster its own presence in Ukrainian Business, but didn’t stop there. Even in the Sea of Azov, which has traditionally been considered to be a Russian lake, CCP waded into the Ukrainian ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk, offering dredging assistance. Russia has not taken kindly to this at all, which might explain Moscow’s alignment in the developing India-CCP border conflict.
More important for Moscow, indications are now also emerging that CCP had actually stoked the West, behind the scenes, even as late as 2016, in painting Russia as the Centre-StageVillain of the World, using Crimea. By getting Russia and the West embroiled in quasi-conflict these last few years, CCP tied down the attention of both. More importantly, CCP got the West to isolate Russia. CCP couldn’t have asked for more. As Matthew Dal Santo puts it, ‘the West’s isolation of Russia has caused Moscow to acquiesce to an expanded Chinese presence it would once have resented’. And that is exactly why CCP played the Crimea card behind Russia’s back in every Western capital. There is increasing evidence that at about the same time that the UK became the loudest European mouthpiece against Russia in Europe, many of their political elite were actually being remotecontrolled from Beijing. The same suspicions surround many prominent politicians in the US, who were loud in their criticism of Russia.
Crimea is not the first time that CCP has exploited fault-lines to draw benefit at Russia’s expense. Here is a short list of the top few. In the rise of CCP, ‘Deception’ has always been in unbroken flow. Embarking on undeclared but festering border skirmishes on the Amur River with USSR, Beijing played its masterstroke of a Soviet Bogey which made US geopolitical emotion towards CCP take a U-turn in 1968- 69, from outright hostility to golden amity: Nixon’s 1972 opening to Mao’s CCP thereafter put Beijing on the track to ascendency. Much later, at the nadir of Russian fortunes postbreak-up, when experts in every field were jobless overnight, CCP literally sucked away all the brains of Russia, and used them to build up what is now a formidable military-industrial base.
In the era immediately after the Soviet break-up, CCP worked assiduously to replace Moscow’s influence in every part of the globe. Even though their success rate at that stage is moot, there are no doubts today that they have been successful in eating into what had traditionally been the Russian sphere of influence, which is naturally unnerving Moscow.
Even in areas where balance of trade appears to favour Russia, matters are not hunky dory. Russia had remained CCP’s largest arms supplier from the 1990s till 2018, but the range of products have steadily reduced, till only niche items are still being imported. Every item that CCP bought, they also soon became self-sufficient in, jettisoning Russian sources and partners soon thereafter. CCP has unashamedly copied Russian military hardware, and today, CCP has surpassed Russia to become the world’s second largest arms producer. In nearly every dimension, CCP already towers over Russia. Russia can spoil CCP’s overland ambitions, but as long as the West keeps Russia isolated, Russia will be forced to deepen economic ties with CCP.
Till the Wuhan pandemic struck, there was some people-to-people goodwill among Russians for the Chinese, but that too seems to be a thing of the past. In February, over one third of all Russians had become anti-CCP in their outlook. After Russia closed its land borders with China, CCP has not only had to protest Russian ‘discriminatory measures against ethnic Chinese’ but they have also faced huge losses for their companies inside Russia. Now, the Russians are astute diplomats. And good diplomats predict the future with uncanny accuracy. If a military altercation takes place — and the ‘if’ seems ever more likely to be a ‘when’, given that CCP is messing with too many nations — when a military altercation takes place with another country like Taiwan or Japan, the Russians know that if CCP comes up victorious, the next territorial target for CCP is Russia. This is almost axiomatic and Russia knows this: so whatever be the next altercation that CCP gets into, they must not come out on the top.
While the Russians are astute diplomats, the CCP seems to have lost the ability to engage diplomatically; but the world must remain true to the traditional framework to give them an ability to reverse direction. And if they choose not to, then we must be prepared to work collectively to respond. As Australian MP, Dave Sharma says, ‘it is time to rehabilitate Russia, and time for bold statecraft led by the US but supported by all Western allies’. Indeed, Trump has already invited Russia, India, Australia and South Korea into the G7, despite opposition from countries such as Canada.
The future is often difficult to predict, but in this case, it is certain that an ascendant CCP will lead to a bleak future for the rest of the world, especially for almost every one of CCP’s neighbours – Russia included. But will the West accept that Crimea happened for reasons of Russian insecurity and not ambition? On that could well depend the future of the World. Russia’s CCP problem is actually a part of the world’s CCP problem.
Dragon is in for surprise from India
China needs to be reminded of ground realities of Ladakh, which is characterised by High Altitude Area to Super High Altitude Area terrain demanding extraordinary standard of physical endurance, a quality which reportedly is lacking in PLA soldiers who are mostly hailing from urban areas.
The old proverb, “Empty vessels make the most noise” fits aptly on Hu Xijin, editor- in-chief of Global Times (GT), China. Following the Foreign Minister-level talks, Xijin tweeted that “PLA is prepared to strike against Indian troops.” He went on to add that PLA was ready to strike a heavy blow to Indian troops. The statement was followed by a series of articles indirectly threatening India to acquiesce to Chinese stand or else face the consequences which would be detrimental to Indian interests. Some excerpts from a GT article are, “India has no chance of winning the LAC war.” Likewise, another ex- tract from the same article reads, “We must remind the Indian side that China‘s national strength, including its military strength, is much stronger than India’s… If a border war starts, India will have no chance of winning.”
China needs to be reminded of ground realities of Ladakh region, which is characterised by High Altitude Area (HAA) to Super High Altitude Area (SHAA) terrain demanding extraordinary standard of physical endurance, a quality which reportedly is lacking in PLA soldiers who are mostly hailing from urban areas. While the Chinese media continues to target India through information war by highlighting their victory over India in 1962, it fails to recollect the humiliating defeat of 1967. PLA suffered 340 killed and 450 injured at the hands of Indian Army. In comparison, 88 Indian Soldiers were killed in action and 163 injured. Also, it has glibly blanked out the severe blow inflicted by Indian Army on PLA soldiers in Galwan clashes. As per US intelligence reports, 35 soldiers including several officers of PLA were killed/injured in the incident. Some sources peg this number at 45.
The Fallacy of Type 15 Light Tanks: It has been flaunting its light Tank Type 15 as the game changer in Ladakh but seems to have overlooked that tanks are of very limited value in the rugged HAA and SHAA mountains. Light footed all pervasive Infantry with its missiles and rockets will play merry hell with the thinly armoured so called light tanks of China. Every fold of the ground in the Indus and Spanggur valley will become an obstacle for the Type 15 tanks. We must also not forget that it is a challenge to operate and maintain these tanks at SHAA of Ladakh due to the extreme cold climate. It is no brainer that India has an edge over China in this domain as well. Moreover, Type 15 tanks weigh 33 tons and when fully loaded would touch 35 tons. By no stretch of imagination, they can be termed as light tanks. The slow moving tanks will be dead ducks for our infantry men. Further, India also has been able to induct its T72 and T90 tanks in the region. Moreover, we must not forget that Type 15 tanks of the Chinese do not have any battle experience unlike the Indian T 72 and T 90s. Combination of Infantry and T 72 will cause havoc in the Chinese camp for sure.
Battle Hardy and Seasoned Indian Troops: Someone also needs to re- mind the Chinese of the fate PLA met in Vietnam in 1979. When faced with battle hardened soldiers like that of India and Vietnam, Han soldiers predominantly hailing from urban areas will wilt under pressure. The Battle of Pork Chop Hill with Vietnam seems to have faded from the memory of PLA Commanders. Chinese do not seem to consider that Himalayas have a way of teaching a lesson to armies that disregard its might especially when confronted with highly spirited, motivated and battle-scarred soldiers from India. Battle worthiness of Indian soldiers is unmatched in comparison to China. Indian Army has been fighting an ongoing proxy war with Pakistan for the last three decades in J&K. It is successfully operating on the highest battlefield of the world Siachen since the mid-80s and fought three successful wars post 1962. Its valour on the super high altitude Kargil Mountains where even walking is a challenge leave aside fighting with full battle loads remains unmatched by any army in the world. What makes the Indian army stand apart from the others is its strong regimental spirit, absolute loyalty towards the nation and never say die spirit. On the contrary, chocolate soldiers of China have never seen a conflict since 1979. That India will win easily is a foregone conclusion which is not based on nationalistic rhetoric but on irrefutable and logical military arguments enumerated in succeeding paragraphs.
Estimated Current Force Levels: As per some open source reports, China has amassed over two Divisions in the Sector. Further based on the reported movement of vehicles in the last few weeks opposite the Ladakh Sector, we may safely assume that China would enhance the numbers to 3 to 4 Divisions. It has also inducted additional tanks, artillery, and aircrafts opposite us. However, are they prepared logistically? We also need to consider that China does not mobilize such large troops in this sector as a matter of regular practice. They were forced to do so as a reaction to an unexpected level of resistance displayed by the Indian Army digging its heels duly supported by national leadership which did not buckle down to Chinese pressure. Hence, there would be a need to undertake logistics preparation before the troops can be launched into operations. Is the available time – frame and the exist- ing infrastructure adequate to undertake a pre-winter operation extending into the harsh winters of Ladakh? A dispassionate analysis of Chinese logistics capability will provide the correct answer to this question.
Availability of Roads and Logistic Staging Areas: China has built six logistic bases that support the Ladakh Region along the sole road artery [G219] that feeds the region. These are starting from the north Zaidullah [Can support two Divisions], Dahong Luitan [Can support two Divi- sions], Rudok [Can support one Division], Shiquanhe [Can support one Division], Kangsiwar [Can support one Division] and Noh [Can support one Division].
These logistic bases are connected by radial roads emanating from G219 to nine forward staging areas. The forward staging areas are starting from the North, TWT, Piu, Khurnak Fort, Dorje Kunjam, Maldo, Gar Gungsa (GordZong), Tashigang and Nupuk. These staging areas are 80- 150 km from the main road artery G219 and capable of supporting two Brigades to a Division. From the forward staging areas, multiple roads are available to support the forward troops. On the face of it, the logistic infrastructure appears flawless and well planned. However, a careful analysis will reveal several constraints in the Chinese logistics supply chain.
Firstly, the entire logistics is based on a single road artillery G 219. Further, large distances lead to greater turnaround time upto these mother depots. Hence, they need greater time to stock. Secondly, G 219 though claimed by China to remain open throughout the year, as per some defence experts is prone to major closures sometimes extending to 10 to 14 days due to harsh weather conditions during the winters. Thirdly, while the connectivity between the forward staging areas to forward troops is good, the forward staging areas themselves are connected by mostly single roads from G 219. This restricts the Chinese logistics supply chain between mother bases on the G 219 and the Forward Staging areas. Fourthly, the nine forward staging areas are a choke point and ideal targets for IAF to disrupt their supply chain. Fifthly, it also necessitates sequential application of forces along these radials. On the other hand, India has multiple connectivity to the Ladakh sector now. Although these roads close during winter, with construction of the Atal tunnel and another all- weather road from Darcha to Leh, this problem has been permanently taken care of. Further roads forward of Leh have now been upgraded and are open throughout the year. These roads only see closure for a very – very short duration due to heavy snowfall. In addition, the Indian air heads in the Ladakh region remain operative almost throughout the year.
Forward Road Connectivity: China has developed five laterals in its most vulnerable and highly sensitive Aksai Chin area. First being to Depsang Plains (areas of PP 10, 11, 11A, 12 & 13). Second to Galwan Valley (PP 14). Third to Hot Springs/Gogra (PP 15 & 17A). Fourth to Pangong Tso North Bank (till Finger 4) and fifth to Pangong Tso South Bank (almost till opposite of Finger 4, where an additional road from Rudok to Spanggur also exists). India with its revised policy is hastening rapid border
infrastructure development. Activation of the DBO airfield and completion of the DSDBO Road, and connectivity in other sectors is unsettling the Chinese. The Chinese see the development of our border road infrastructure as a threat to Aksai Chin. In short, it is advantage India when we superimpose our better fighting capability both by ground forces and the AF.
Air Bases: Seven active air bases are located in Xinjiang and Tibet that will come into play for operations against India. These are Hotan, Gar Gunsa, Kashgar, Hoping, DkonkaDzong, Linzhi and Pangat. Reports suggest that all these airbases have been active in the recent past suggesting that China is still short of being fully ready to take on India in a conventional face off for the time being. Further, given the altitude of these airfields fighters as well as the transport aircrafts will suffer a major load penalty. On the other hand, Indian Aircrafts will take off from air fields located in the plains and would be able to deliver greater TNT on the Chinese. Adding to the problem of high altitude are the large distances of Chinese air bases from the forward staging areas, which will pose a serious challenge in maintaining the forward troops. India on the other hand will operate over shorter distances with forward air heads being much closer to the forward troops. So what India lacks in numbers is compensated in better operating conditions and capabilities? China is conscious of this differential and hence eager to seek a diplomatic solution to the current face off, a fact substantiated by its eagerness to seek RM and EAM level talks with India during the SCO summit to resolve the current face off.
Weapons Equipment and Armaments: The common perception created by numerical data may give an impression that China has an edge on this issue. However, India has been quietly working towards building its stocks and making up its deficiencies to sustain a conflict in harsh and active winters from the time current face off commenced with the Chinese. It has been taking steps to make sure that our troops are fully geared and equipped to face the challenges posed by an adversary blinded by simplistic numerical comparisons.
Game not over till last ball
India is a peace-loving nation and firmly believes in peaceful growth of the entire world in the spirit of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. But if forced to go to war it will not hesitate to fight as it is geared to meet all contingencies. While India and China may not be at par in overall comprehensive national power calculated by social scientists and inter- national relations scholars, intangibles such as human factors, dedication, commitment, and local conditions have the potential to alter the outcome of a military conflict. Locational advantages, external support, terrain and weather conditions if exploited well by a country will produce unexpected results. India enjoys that advantage in Ladakh and its leadership at the national level and military at the operational level is will- ing and fully geared to do so. In comparison, Xi appears driven by personal ambition of being the next great leader of China after Mao even if it means putting his country in danger of losing its hard earned position in the comity of nations.
Lt Gen Dushyant Singh (retd) has served in varied terrains and theatre of operations, in India and in the UN as Military Observer. He has commanded an Infantry Battalion, Brigade and a Division in Jammu and Kashmir. He is currently Professor Emeritus Defence Studies at Gujarat Raksha Shakti University.
Sports2 months ago
When a bodybuilder breaks Shoaib’s record
News5 months ago
PM Modi must take governance back from babus
News3 months ago
Chinese general ordered attack on Indian troops: US intel report
Sports2 months ago
West Indies avoid follow-on, England increase lead to 219
News2 months ago
Things don’t add up in Sushant’s suicide: Swamy
Defence3 months ago
GALWAN: CHINA’S INFORMATION WAR
Defence1 week ago
Sino-Indian logjam: Facts, risks, options and the sum of all fears
News2 months ago
Sachin revolted after fearing sexual misconduct framing