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NO ‘GO’ FOR CHINA IN THE LOGJAM

China is in no position to undertake a major offensive anywhere and its economy will struggle. The fact that the meeting between Defence Ministers took place at Chinese instance gave the game away.

LT GEN PR SHANKAR (Retd)

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In my article Sino Indian Logjam: A Review, I had assessed that the Chinese situation is not as strong as it is being made out. They are in no position to undertake a major offensive anywhere. Their economy like others will struggle. They are not far ahead of the curve as being assessed by everyone. Virus, flooding and militarism will take its toll. China has done what it wants. It is our turn now. We should deal with the situation with patience, resolve, firmness, maintaining focus and with a plan. Even if it means waiting for a year. This is a follow-up of that article.

To put the cart before the horse — China is in a no ‘go’ position in the game which is still log-jammed. We did not have to wait for a year. Things have changed. The fact that the meeting between Defence Ministers took place at Chinese instance gave the game away. However, there should be no complacency. Still need to do more to restore equilibrium.

Military No ‘GO’

No ‘GO’ on Land: India has halted Chinese efforts to alter the LAC unilaterally in its tracks in the Chushul sector. India seems to have gained control of Karakoram Ridge line heights, South of Pangong Tso, down to Rezang La (see map). Despite extensive analysis let me reiterate. Chinese observation into our areas from Chushul to Dungti seems closed. Our observation into the Spangur Bowl has increased manifold. It closes Chinese offensive options and opens ours if the balloon were to go higher. The Fingers Area and  Sirijap come under observation. Place Artillery OP officers on this ridge line and they will play havoc into the Chinese. The Spanggur Gap can now be exploited by us. In the larger picture, if China mounts any offensive further North in Depsang, it will get a bloody nose there, a riposte through Chushul and assured destruction in the Fingers Area. Necessary action has also been taken to deny the Chinese other footholds. Everyone now knows that Tibetan troops have been used. It is a huge political message. 

 No GO at Sea: China has carried out demonstrative missile firing in Bohai, Yellow, East China, and South China Seas (see map). Connect the dots. PLAN is hugging its shores under mainland protection. The US has continuously deployed aircraft carriers in the South China Sea, sailed a destroyer through the Taiwan Straits, flown reconnaissance aircraft and B-1B bombers over the region and sided with Southeast Asian nations. As per reports, the Indian Navy has deployed along the Malacca Straits, near the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and even in the South China Sea. The Navy is also taking care of the Chinese vessels present around Djibouti and has deployed its assets in the vicinity for protecting our national interests. It is in control of IOR. Who is on the backfoot? Additionally, Japan and US defence chiefs are to shortly meet in Guam about China and Chinese missile demonstrations and their combined response. No-Go for China.

 Indo US Partnership: The CDS signalled that China is a security threat to India and asserted readiness to use military force. He did it in a webinar to discuss US-India ties! China has achieved what it did not want — Indo-US operational synergy. So much for their strategic thinking. Now the US has once again said that it is ready to help resolve the dispute. By this offer the US has hyphenated India and China. That is a real downgrade.

 Chinese View Point: India Today’s analysis by Antara Ghosal Singh illuminates Chinese thought. They are fuming at our audacity and think that our action is our last face-saving exit fight. Waving a Tibetan flag on the Karakoram has infuriated them. Chinese also worry about our naval presence in the South China Sea and our relationship with the US. Many want to counterattack India to prove China’s great power credentials. Some feel India is not China’s primary strategic direction, and they could be walking into an India-US trap. They want a grand strategy focusing on three key objectives (i) Ensuring that India does not regard China as its principle strategic opponent, in place of Pakistan; (ii) Ensuring India exhausts its energy and resources, causing negative impact on its economic development by worsening the security situation in Kashmir, and in overall South Asia; thereby forcing India to be back at the negotiating table (iii) Ensuring India does not openly stand in line with the United States while competing with China. Finally they want to assure the domestic Chinese populace “not to be perturbed and have complete faith in the government and PLA. Global Times is screaming blue murder and issuing all kinds of threats but worried that Chinese troops will have to spend winter there. Probably unprepared! That editor and their military guru Song Zhongping can take a walk in the Karakoram hand in hand!

Assessment: China is in a difficult two front position under pressure and  worried. Winter is setting in. It cannot mount a major offensive in Ladakh. Any reinforcement in Aksai Chin will weaken its front door and open an opportunity in the South China Sea. If it does nothing, it will continue to lose face. Every military professional knows what has happened here. In my opinion, we should create a few more instabilities. If Chinese feel victory is theirs since they are a great power they can hop it. Attempts will be made to bring Pakistan into the fray. Chinese will look for an opportunity to attack us. We must be cognisant of that.  We must strategically communicate that China is our principal opponent hereafter. They should also be clear that Indo-US relations are growing stronger with their actions.

 Rimland Problems

Tibet: On 29 August, while speaking at the Seventh Central Symposium on Tibet Work, Xi Jinping’s words were “solidify border defences and ensure frontier security”, “form an impregnable fortress in maintaining stability”, “Tibetan Buddhism had to adapt to socialism and Chinese conditions” “protect national unity and educate the masses in the struggle against splittism”. The implications are very clear and ominous. We will see the LAC being strengthened. The Tibetans will be subjugated and ‘Reeducated’. Buddhism will be communised. Any call for Tibet autonomy will be dealt with an iron hand. Hitler’s actions will seem juvenile in comparison.

Mongolia: China wants to replace the language of instruction in Inner Mongolian schools from Mongolian to Mandarin Chinese. The plan follows a pattern. Earlier Tibetan and Uighur languages were restricted in Tibet in 2018 and Xinjiang in 2017. Thousands of ethnic Mongolians have protested against this move. They fear that Mongolian would be relegated to a foreign language as part of government plans to assimilate ethnic minorities into Chinese Han culture.Chinese have responded by using heavy force including armoured vehicles.

 Xinjiang: It is now well known that China has detained more than a million Uyghur Muslims in re-education camps. Despite international pressure, China continues with the crackdown on Uyghurs’ human rights through its vocational training centres which includes forced sterilisation. A massive protest was held outside Dhaka Press Club in Bangladesh. That is interesting.

Taiwan & EU:Taiwan has changed its passport design for “easier recognition & less confusion” with China. A clear step in being distinct from China. The more interesting part was that The Czech Senate President Milos Vystrcil and a delegation recently visited Taiwan. Wang Yi, China’s FM while visiting Germany said that the Czech visit was an intervention in China’s internal affairs, had crossed a red line and they will pay a heavy price. The Czechs responded by calling CCP “rude clowns”. However the response from the German Foreign Minister was telling: ‘Threats don’t fit in here’. Wang Yi had gone to Germany to mend fences with the EU and achieved the opposite! Bloomberg headline- ‘Europe Just Declared Independence From China’. The sentiment in the EU is not clearly for China.

Hong Kong: A report by South China Morning Post says ‘The national security law hasn’t brought back the old Hong Kong. Rather, it has created a new, unfamiliar place. The new law has instilled fear. Hong Kong can never be at peace with itself until the underlying causes of last summer’s uprising are addressed’. The cause of the uprising is democracy which is getting crushed on a daily basis. The US has sanctioned Hong Kong’s economy. Hong Kong as an economic conduit is passe. That is a big loss for China.

Assessment: The rimland is unstable and in trouble. For the first time in a long while,all non-Han regions are experiencing some issues. Needs to be exploited to put pressure.

 Internal Economy: New Inputs

Floods: Japan Times came out with a report titled ‘The big China disaster that you’re missing’. As per that ‘the Yangtze River Economic Belt is home to more than 40% GDP.On its own, the region could be the third-largest economy in the world’. This has been disrupted due to floods. In future the flooding risk will only grow due to climate change and ‘the hundreds of thousands of levees, dikes, reservoirs and dams on its seven major river systems’. Hence future prospects are not bright.

 Sub Prime Crisis: Recently, Shenzhen authorities released guidelines for consumer bankruptcy. A week earlier, China’s Supreme Court lowered the interest rate ceiling on all non-bank credit, from 24% to 15.4%.The rate cut is substantial. Bankers are still in shock. The fact is that there is a hugeshadow banking industryin China whose interest rates are usurious. Tens of millions of subprime borrowers have been exploited and will never get out of debt traps. Hopes of a consumer led economic revival in China are bleak. Chinese internal economy is not in great shape.

External Economy

SCRI: The Supply Chain Resilience Initiative of Japan, India and Australia is taking shape. Things are being fast tracked. All three ‘China trade dependent’ countries want to reduce ‘dependence’. They feel — “the Indo-Pacific region is where the shape of the international order of tomorrow will be decided. We want to help shape that order — so that it is based on rules and international cooperation, not on the law of the strong”.

KRA Canal:  Thailand has scrapped the KRA canal project. This has a major strategic implication. However, there is a huge economic implication also. In addition, Thailand has put a submarine deal on hold. This is due to peoples pressure despite the ruling party being keen on the deal. Significant. I

India’s Second Digital Strike: India has banned118 more Chinese apps. With this the total is224 banned Chinese apps. It includes the popular PUBG. The valuation of the parent Chinese company Tencent has gone down by 34 billion dollars. Surprising that the effect is so huge.The game is obviously deeper. For all those who feel that these digital strikes are cosmetic. Rethink please.

Assessment

All glowing reports of Chinese economic indicators are suspect. Combine these issues with established facts like ageing population, export slump, food shortage and joblessness. Add the pushbacks in various international projects and the ‘Stand Still’ mode of BRI. Their diplomacy is not making headway. Everyone wants to break from ‘China Dependency’. Add the digital strikes initiated by India and now being followed up by other countries. The emerging picture is bleak. Xi Jinping has come out with the ‘Dual Circulation Plan’to revive the economy. Experts call it vague. Frankly the model is unworkable. (see graphic). It depends on internal consumption. It depends on developing the troubled Rimlands through the Go West Policy. It depends upon making asses of those nations who want to firmly decouple from China. Everyone is wise to Chinese games. Remember China has a history of exporting food grains when there was famine during their disastrous great leap forward. This forthcoming period might be their second great leap backwards. There is a requirement of experts to go into issues and make professional assessments. To my mind our China studies are being done by those bedazzled by Chinese glitter rather than hard facts on ground. Needs a hard headed reality check based on facts rather than past achievements.

Overall Assessment

 The Chinese are talking big. From the beginning their strategy has been ‘Belligerent War Avoidance’. Comprehensive National Power means nothing in cold high altitude. Battles are about blood, guts and glory.

From any angle, China is not as strong as it is made out. Their influence, operations make them seem taller than the four feet they are. When we call them “Dragon” we are building them up into mythical powerful beings that they are not. They are normal people who can be defeated. However, it will do us well to remember that China will be even more troublesome hereafter. There are also indications that Xi Jinping ispurgingthe system again. Maybe some instability ahead. Time to be steady, balanced and give them a few more battle shocks. Extend the battle into the rear in their unstable rimlands.

The overall situation is tense and will remain so. However, I doubt if the situation will escalate uncontrollably. In my opinion a few firefights will actually settle the issue.To me it is confirmed that Chinese are simply not battle hardened. Will they escalate it to a higher level? Very unlikely in this current two front scenario. As I had predicted, as time passes, the Chinese will have more to lose.

 A lot has been spoken and written about Multi Domain Warfare. I too have written extensively about it. However, battles are finally decided on ground. Never forget that. A lot has been made of primacy of economic power. All that is fine. When the chips are down, it is only military power that will stand tall and can defend a nation not diplomacy nor economies. We have a fine military machine which is standing tall. India should not run it down further. Already enough damage has been done by naïve politicians and rule bound bureaucrats. India must decide what is the security or insecurity it wants. China will come back harder at us in future.

 A word about the twofront situation we are likely to face. Pakistan is not up to it.ThePakistani generals are busy converting CPEC into Pizza outlets in the US. I do not think their Generals are in a mood to get into a scrap with India and jeopardise their ill-gotten wealth. The Pakistani Army has survived since it has not got into a conventional war with India. Do you think it will take that jump just because some Chinese tell them to do so? They will lose all their Pizzas!

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 his blog www. gunnersshot.com.

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Defence

EASTERN FLEET AWARDS FUNCTION TO RECOGNISE OPERATIONAL ACHIEVEMENTS

Ashish Singh

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Fleet Awards Function 2021 was held to celebrate the operational achievements of the Eastern Fleet during the last year. Fleet Awards Function marks the culmination of the Operational Cycle of the Eastern Fleet and recognises accomplishments of the ‘Sword Arm’ of the Eastern Naval Command (ENC). Vice Admiral Ajendra Bahadur Singh, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief ENC was the Chief Guest at the event hosted by Rear Admiral Tarun Sobti, Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet.

As compared to previous years, the Fleet Awards Function was held as a modest event with full observance of COVID protocols. The function culminated with the distribution of sixteen coveted trophies covering the overall spectrum of maritime operations. INS Sahyadri was adjudged as the Best Ship of the Eastern Fleet amongst Capital ships, INS Kamorta as the Most Spirited Ship for displaying indomitable spirit and grit whilst undertaking a plethora of challenging missions and Best Corvette trophy as won by IN Ships Kiltan and Khukri amongst Corvettes and similar classes of ships.

The year gone by was a challenging one for the Sunrise Fleet. Even as the COVID pandemic gripped the world, Eastern Fleet went about its operational responsibilities and maintained a forward active posture. Sustaining high operational tempo, the Fleet ships participated in numerous operations, exercises, and humanitarian assistance missions. The Eastern Fleet ships participated in several major bilateral and multilateral exercises such as Malabar-20, La Perouse, PASSEX with various navies and undertook Op Sahayam and Mission Sagar for delivery of HADR stores and Op Samudra Setu for evacuation of stranded Indian citizen from overseas. In the second wave of COVID-19 as Op Samudra Setu II, Eastern Fleet ships acted as the mainstay for enhancing oxygen delivery to the Eastern seaboard emphasising its role as a professional and credible force.

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Defence

AIR FORCE CHIEF ADDRESSES COMBINED GRADUATION PARADE AT IAF ACADEMY

Ashish Singh

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The Combined Graduation Parade (CGP) was held at Air Force Academy (AFA) Dundigal Hyderabad, marking the successful culmination of training for 161 Flight Cadets of Flying and Ground Duty Branches in the Indian Air Force. Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria was the Chief Guest and Reviewing Officer of the CGP, where he conferred the President’s Commission upon the graduating flight cadets. On this occasion, 6 officers from the Indian Navy and 5 officers from the Indian Coast Guard were also awarded ‘Wings’ on successful completion of their flying training.

The Reviewing Officer was received by Air Marshal R.D. Mathur, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Training Command and Air Marshal IP Vipin Commandant Air Force Academy. Chief of the Air Staff was presented with a general salute by the Parade on his arrival followed by an impressive march past. Highlight of the parade was the ‘Pipping Ceremony’ in which the graduating flight cadets donned their ‘Stripes’ and were awarded ‘Wings’ &‘Brevets’ by the Chief Guest. The newly commissioned officers were then administered the ‘Oath’ by the Commandant of AFA in the presence of the Reviewing Officer and other dignitaries.

After the ‘Pipping Ceremony’, the Reviewing Officer presented awards to the Trainees who had excelled in various disciplines of their training. Flying Officer Prajwal Anil Kulkarni from Flying branch was awarded the President’s Plaque as well as the Chief of the Air Staff Sword of Honour for standing first in overall order of merit in the Pilots’ Course; while Flying Officer Kritika Kulhari was awarded the President’s Plaque for being first in overall order of merit in Ground Duty branches.

The grand ceremony culminated with the newly commissioned officers stepping out in slow march to the traditional notes of ‘Auld Lang Syne’; as they received their first salute from the junior course. They then went past the Saluting Dias and passed through the portals of the Academy, symbolising the beginning of their journey in the IAF. Flypast by Pilatus PC-7 Mk-II, Hawks, Kirans and Chetaks as well as display by Sarang, Suryakirans & Akash Ganga Sky Diving team added colour and cheer to an impressive graduation parade.

IAF CHIEF’S ADDRESS TO THE COMBINED GRADUATION PARADE

Addressing the Parade, CAS commended the AFA and other Training Establishments for timely completion of the training despite severe Covid constraints placed upon the training infrastructure. He noted the significant milestone achieved by the Air Force Academy in achieving over 20,500 flying hours in the last one year – the highest ever in the Academy’s history. He said, “My congratulations also to the award winners for their outstanding performance during the training, and to the six officers from Indian Navy as well as the five officers from Indian Coast Guard for earning their coveted wings. Good Show and Keep it up. My special compliments on achieving this milestone and implementing significant enhancements in our training curriculum.”

Recognising the academy and parents, the CAS mentioned, “Indeed, this day is a great testament to the grit and determination shown by each one of you as well as to the yeoman contribution by the instructors. I take this opportunity to commend the efforts put in by all our Training Establishments and the faculty for guiding, mentoring and teaching; not only the fundamentals of being a Military Leader, but also instilling in you IAF’s core values of ‘Mission, Integrity and Excellence’. Living by these core values and preserving our glorious traditions through selflessness and sacrifice will be your sacred duty from this day on. Emphasising on the parents role, the CAS appreciated the role of parents during the Covid time. He said, “I would like to express my deep gratitude to all the proud parents who stood by their daughters and sons during an extremely rigorous training schedule. I am mindful of the fact that your wards did not come home during the term break and have been toiling non-stop in pursuit of their dreams. You – as their parents and their family – should be proud of the fact that your guidance, support and encouragement are here for all to see; as your children stand on the parade ground- resplendent in their blue uniforms and transformed into spirited and confident officers of the Indian Air Force. To all these graduating officers, I have this to say. In a short while from now, you will take your first steps into the IAF as Commissioned Officers. As you do so, it is essential for you to know where you are headed and the huge responsibilities that will come to rest on your young shoulders.”

CAS referred to unprecedented and rapidly evolving security challenges and reminded the young officers that they were entering the IAF at a juncture when a rapid infusion of technologies and combat capabilities was driving a monumental transformation in the Air Force. He also highlighted the change in operational methodologies and functioning with development and operationalisation of major automation and networking projects. He exhorted them to hit the ground running and prove their mettle once they reach the field; in order to exploit the state of art aircraft, weapons, sensors and technologies to their fullest. He highlighted, “IAF is undergoing a monumental transformation. Rapid infusion of niche technology and combat power in every facet of our operations has never been as intense as it is now! This is primarily because of the unprecedented and rapidly evolving security challenges that we face, coupled with a rising geo-political uncertainty in our neighbourhood and beyond. The last few decades have clearly established the critical role of Air Power in achieving victory in any conflict. It is in this backdrop that IAF’s on-going capability enhancement assumes tremendous significance.

Highlighting the IAF’s modernisation, The CAS said, “All of you are very fortunate to be joining the Air Force at this juncture. The Pilots will get to fly fighters carrying an array of potent standoff precision weapons and connected in networks. The transport and helicopter fleets are equipped with C-17, C-130, ALH, Chinook and Apache aircraft which are state of the art and capable of contributing equally effectively in war or HADR situations. Engineers will need to master e-MMS, which is one of the largest networked aircraft maintenance management systems in the world that we have established across diverse type of aircraft. Controllers will have to adapt to vectoring fighters in large formations using digitised and networked IACCS systems in the MAFI environment. Logisticians will use automation to drive procurement and resupply through totally automated and computerised networks on inventory management. All of you will be tied together with a completely paperless e-governance suite to enhance the efficiency of basic administration across the entire Air Force.”

Talking about the technology and futuristic warfare, the CAS informed the graduating cadets, “I have always believed that the generation you belong to is technologically adept and well versed with exploiting the digital space. Now is the time for you to prove it. I can assure you that the environment you will step into, when you cross these portals will not only challenge, but stretch your capabilities. You will need to hit the ground running and work hard to deliver what the Air Force expects of you. It was with this focus that B Tech degree was introduced compulsorily for the Air Force cadets in NDA and I am happy to note that 81 of the87 graduating officers from the Flying branch are B.Tech. I am sure this will facilitate rapid comprehension and exploitation of modern platforms, weapons, sensors and technologies. Notwithstanding all these advances in technology, as young leaders, you must know that IAF’s core strength is in “OUR PEOPLE” and you must always nurture this strength.

On the current pandemic situation, the CAS described the IAF’s role in it and said, “While maintaining operational readiness, IAF has also been proactively assisting in the national fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Proactive vaccination and strict COVID discipline within IAF enabled us to undertake all COVID tasks on a war-footing. IAF’s heavy lift capability was put into action for airlift of crucial COVID related equipment; wherein our transport fleet flew more than 3800 hours within two months in a huge effort across the globe and domestically to transport critical oxygen Tankers, and all related medical equipment and supplies. You all are joining the field that operates at this level, across the spectrum.” “It is also essential for all of you to bear in mind that as future leaders, you will stand shoulder to shoulder with your comrades in Olive Greens and Whites and prosecute integrated operations. You will be an integral part of this important transition in the years ahead”, the CAS concluded.

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Defence

SINO-INDIAN LOGJAM: THE STRATEGIC GAINS AND IMPLICATIONS OF GALWAN

LT GEN PR SHANKAR (Retd)

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Galwan is a turning point in our history. It was India’s ‘Casablanca’ moment when our boys stood on the burning deck to turn tables. It was that moment in time when India and the world realized that the Chinese can be overcome. It was the Nth coming of the Indian Armed Forces from behind. It ensured that India regained its strategic confidence. Many articles have appeared to commemorate the incident. However, a strange dichotomy has emerged. Most analysts say that India is in a state of asymmetry with PLA which has hung a Damocles sword over Ladakh to tie us down to our Northern Borders at the expense of our maritime interests in the IOR. One detects ‘Strategic Hesitancy’ due to a gross overestimation of Chinese capabilities despite Galwan and its aftermath. We need to understand the strategic gains of Galwan and their implications. 

Indian Army officer Capt Soiba Maningba Rangnamei of 16 Bihar Regiment during the clash with Chinese soldiers in the Galwan Valley. (ANI Photo)

Fact 1: In Mar 2020, the Belfer Centre analysis stated “China is regularly operating with a permanent Indian conventional force advantage along its border areas…it would have to rely upon mobilization primarily from Xinjiang and secondarily from the Western Theatre Command… By contrast, Indian forces are already largely in position”. This forecast has been borne out on ground. My own view is that China does not have an ‘Akshay Patra’ from where it can draw forces without consequences – long and short term. The PLA does not have numerical superiority over Indian Army along the LAC if numbers are crunched. Further, the recruitment standards of PLA have been lowered as per South China Morning Post and many other inputs. The quality of PLA is suspect.  

Fact 2: PLA Air Force (PLAAF) suffers from a numerical disparity in comparison to the IAF along the LAC. India has a stronger air position, with a large number of airfields. Even if some airfields are down, operations can continue from other locations. The same is not true for PLAAF. IAF has a clear edge for the present. The PLAAF is trying to neutralise this edge by building up air infrastructure at a frenetic pace. 

Fact 3: Any terrain allows deployment up to a level only. Beyond that, pumping in more forces results in diminishing returns. It is a matter of space, logistics, effectiveness, survivability, mobility and recuperability. In high altitudes, these factors get compounded. From a defensive perspective, India has adequate forces to thwart China. In my considered opinion, China does not have enough forces to wage a decisive  war in its favour against India.

Fact 4: China is transforming PLA from a conventional land based force to a multidimensional force with a global foot print. Increasing force levels along the LAC is at expense of the larger role. The assessment to be done is whether a hand brake has been already put on this process post Galwan.     

Fact 5:  Comprehensive national power is a fictional metric coined by the Chinese to create a halo. It has no value on the battle field. Otherwise Taliban should not have kept USA on the run for so long. India needs to fight asymmetrically to defeat PLA. While India has the tools to do so in Tibet, PLA does not have it. There are no morals in not using the asymmetric option against an untrustworthy enemy.     

Fact 6:  Conventional ‘big’ battles between nuclear nations is fertile imagination. Most of the conventional weapons are now consigned to deterrence only. However we need to be prepared to defend our territorial integrity conventionally if push comes to the shove. The trend will be localised battles of high pressure and intensity.  

Pre-Galwan Opinion: As per the Belfer Center Report, ‘India has key under-appreciated conventional advantages that reduce its vulnerability to Chinese threats and attacks. India appears to have cause for greater confidence in its military position against China than is typically acknowledged in Indian debates, providing the country an opportunity for leadership in international efforts toward nuclear transparency and restraint. Indian strategists have not focused on this opportunity, in part because they draw pessimistic conclusions regarding China’. How true!

Corroboration. Overall all these facts and opinion have been borne out in the past one year on ground in Eastern Ladakh. However things are changing. 

PLA ACTION

The PLA executed a premeditated and calibrated operation to ensure that the focus of Indian action remains on the LAC instead of expanding to POK and Aksai Chin. This was in response to abrogation of Article 370 and its political postulations. To that extent, China has achieved its aim as I have enunciated in my article ‘Aim Revisited’@ https://www.gunnersshot.com/2021/06/please-read-in-conjunction-with-these.html . However when viewed in the larger context, PLA did not achieve objectives to cripple India like  cutting off the DSDBO road or inflicting a military defeat on the Indian Army or coercing India into alignment with China or preventing India from doing what it wants. In fact the opposite has happened. PLA had to retreat humiliatingly after destroying their own defences and obliterating the Chinese flag. To that extent China stands defeated. However there are larger issues which have exposed the severe limitations of the PLA and China. We need to exploit them. Unfortunately at a military level, these have not come out clearly. At the political level it has not been  realised as to how to drive home the advantage which Galwan gave us. I will leave the bureaucratic level out, whose (in)action has contributed more to the detriment of national interests, objectives and strategy. 

PLANNED OFFENSIVE VS SPEED OF REACTION

The PLA incursions were meticulously planned with two divisions at a time and place of China’s choice. News of rehearsals on walk-through GIS models had also been publicised. It was probably appreciated that India will not be able to react in time and space to even pose a challenge to PLA. Hence two divisions would be able to militarily coerce India to achieve multiple political aims and objects. The execution failed due to gross under-assessment of Indian capabilities. All these were probably based on PLA norms. These norms indicate PLAs lack of military grasp. Its incapability to exploit the advantage and initiative when the window of opportunity opened is well established now.  However the more important issue is the Indian reaction. We could build up an equivalent amount of forces to mirror PLA deployment in a matter of 2-3 weeks and stymie the offensive in super high altitudes. In the battlefield equations of time and space, capability to build up forces in such quick time frames indicates India’s latent offensive capability. Any one noticed that?  India’s military capability to launch an offensive into Tibet at a time and place of its choosing by beating the PLA in time is now established. The edge which IAF brings to the table enhances Indian offensive potential. India will win the ‘Race to the Swift’ unless PLA commits additional forces in Tibet on a permanent basis. It seems to be doing that now! Anyone with fundamental common sense will discern as to who is tying down whom. Further, it tells us that we need to get into a preventive counterattacking mode rather than being permanently defensive. 

OUTMANOEUVRE IN HIGH ALTITUDE

Occupation of Kailash Range and heights above Finger 4 in the face of PLA led to China being outmanoeuvred. More importantly, there was no counter manoeuvre by the PLA due to its limited capability in high altitude. The limitations of a political Army when set against a professional  Army have been exposed.  Significantly, the capability of PLA will not get better since it has already degraded its intake standards of height, eyesight and even hearing. Overall it leaves PLA as a vulnerable force in the mountains at super high altitudes. This will be exploited by all forces opposing China anywhere. It has taught everyone that PLA can be arm twisted into retreat.     

TURNOVER IMPLICATIONS

There are reports in the media that PLA is turning over both the divisions from Eastern Ladakh.  It begs a question. Why are they doing so? It takes more than a year for troops to get used to the environment and be fit for fighting. Just when those two divisions were getting fit to fight they are being turned over. PLA will now have two new divisions which are not fully fit for high altitude warfare. There are two explanations. First. The two divisions are beat-up and fatigued in near combat. Poor show then. Second.  PLA troops do not identify with Tibet as their home land worth defending by sacrificing their  life. After all, China as it exists today is an unnatural country which has never existed earlier in history. It has a spatial divide, an ethnic/racial divide and an economic divide between its Han dominated core in the East and the non-Han West. Despite all the talk of change of demography, Hans have not settled in Tibet in droves. Both these issues need monitoring to assess PLA’s ability and commitment to fight a last man last round battle in high altitudes.

REBALANCING DIVIDEND

Rebalancing a strike corps deployed against Pakistan to face the PLA has a tremendous strategic dividend for India. The rebalancing exercise does not detract our capability against Pakistan or in the IOR. On the other hand dual tasking  significantly enhances our defensive and offensive options and capabilities along the LAC. PLA has now been forced to react to this. It will have to deploy additional forces in Tibet which is its secondary theatre and it will be at the cost of its larger geopolitical priorities.  It has come to light that PLA is busy building infrastructure to house troops permanently along the LAC. PLA has been forced to commit itself much more to the LAC than hitherto fore and it no more takes Indian Army for granted.

THE GEO-STRATEGIC FALLOUT

Galwan inspired many countries to face up and counter China which were hesitant to do so till then. Malaysia, Phillipines, Singapore, Japan and Vietnam took up issues more forcefully with China after Galwan. These countries will be thankful that India has tied down China in remote Tibet. It takes Chinese focus away from them. Unfortunately, this fact has not been played up by either our diplomacy or strategic community to build or form a coalition of nations which are militarily affected by China and have a dialogue with them for joint action. Galwan also forced convergence of all democratic nations to form an unitary view about China. QUAD would not have come about without this action. NATO would not have declared China as a systemic global security challenge. The geo-strategic fallout has been huge.   

SUMMARY

We have turned ‘Defeat into Victory’ but are we capitalising on it? We have exposed the limitations of PLA. The Chinese seem to have learned from their shortcomings. They are increasing the depth of the battlefield and building a firm base.  I do not see a plan to overcome our short comings.   We remain in awe of Chinese!  We are not able to tell the world as to how to deal with China! There is a need for political and strategic introspection. Galwan has also brought out that while we are fully prepared and capable of taking on the PLA in close battles, we are unprepared for the deep battle. We need to be able to deter the Chinese from any further adventurism by re-tooling for war in super high altitudes. We  should enforce ‘Standoff’. Standoff can be imposed by improving battlefield transparency, reach, and survivability of existing forces. Let me put it across simply, the table which I outlined in my earlier article can be implemented incrementally, with indigenous technology as an evolutionary process. It needs unified thinking and clarity of mind. More than great financial investment, it needs commitment and dedication. That is sorely lacking. Strengthening the LAC is not at the cost of our maritime aspirations as being perceived by many.  The challenge before the CDS is to increase joint ‘force’ and ‘operational’ capability. Theatre commands are  contentious and emotive issues. Let them evolve. Increasing indigenisation rather than importing Russian tanks and Israeli guns should be the greater priority. We have a task cut out ahead.    

Lt Gen P.R. Shankar was India’s DG Artillery. He is highly decorated and qualified with vastoperational experience. He contributed significantly to the Modernization and Indigenisationof Artillery. He is now a Professor in the Aerospace Dept of IIT Madras and is involved inapplied research for defence technology. His other articles can be read onwww.gunnersshot.com

India’s military capability to launch an offensive into Tibet at a time and place of its choosing by beating the PLA in time is now established. The edge which IAF brings to the table enhances Indian offensive potential. India will win the ‘Race to the Swift’ unless PLA commits additional forces in Tibet on a permanent basis. It seems to be doing that now! Anyone with fundamental common sense will discern as to who is tying down whom. Further, it tells us that we need to get into a preventive counter-attacking mode rather than being permanently defensive.

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Defence

INDIAN COAST GUARD ON ALERT OVER OIL SPILL FROM MV DEVON

Ashish Singh

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The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) received information from MRCC Colombo in late hours of Thursday regarding a mid-sea oil spill about 450 Km South East of Chennai. On further investigation, it was revealed that a Portugese Flag Container ship MV Devon on passage from Colombo to Haldia (West Bengal), developed an underwater crack in the left side fuel tank containing about 120 KL of Very Low Sulphur Fuel Oil (VLSFO).

The crack resulted in spillage of about 10 KL of oil into sea before preventive action was taken and remaining oil in tank was transferred to another tank by ship’s crew. The vessel is carrying 10795 Tonnes of general cargo in 382 containers and manned by 17 crew of mixed nationality. The container ship is continuing her voyage to Haldia & likely to reach today. ICG is in continuous contact with MV Devon and master has reported that the vessel is stable. ICG pollution response team at Chennai has been alerted and kept standby. In addition, ICG ships & aircraft deployed at sea are also put on alert in pollution response configuration.

It may be recalled that, ICG ships & aircraft in a coordinated operation with Sri Lanka deployed vessels had successfully undertaken a major firefighting operation last month onboard MV X-Press Pearl off Colombo, thereby averting a major environmental disaster. The vessel now partially sunk off Colombo is under the supervision of Sri Lankan authorities and efforts are in hand for its salvage.

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Defence

NORTHERN COMMAND PAYS HOMAGE TO GALLANT SOLDIERS ON ITS 50TH RAISING DAY

Ashish Singh

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‘Golden Jubilee Raising Day of Northern Command’ was celebrated at Udhampur amidst strict COVID protocol. On this occasion, Lt Gen S Harimohan Iyer, COS, HQ Northern Command, on behalf of Lt Gen YK Joshi, Army Commander, Northern Command and all ranks, laid wreath at the Dhruva War Memorial and paid homage to the gallant soldiers of Northern Command who have made the supreme sacrifice for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country.

Northern Command was raised on 17 June 1972 and completed 50th Raising Day. In his message to the troops, the Army Commander stated that these glorious years are testimony to historic operational achievements of Northern Command in ‘Op Meghdoot’, ‘Op Parakarm’, ‘Op Vijay’ ‘Op Rakshak’ and ‘OP Snow Leopard’. The resolute response of the Indian Army against aggression on the LC & LAC has won numerous accolades. In addition, our firm yet people friendly sub-conventional operations have not only thwarted attempts by our Western adversary to destabilise the nation but also, won the hearts and minds of the local populace.

Northern Command has been at the forefront to assist the administration and people of UTs of J&K and Ladakh during every natural calamity like snow blizzards, earthquakes (2005), Cloudburst of Leh (2010), floods in Jammu & Kashmir (2014) and frequent avalanches. The current COVID-19 pandemic is yet another example when the Indian Army has gone out of its way to support the people, in their times of need.

The Army Commander in special order of the day complimented all ranks for their extraordinary leadership, courage and sacrifice to keep the flag of the Command, the Indian Army & Nation flying high and exhorted all ranks to rededicate towards safeguarding our Nation’s integrity and resolve to confront new challenges with exemplary professionalism and courage.

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Defence

INDIAN COAST GUARD SAVES 16 LIVES FROM SINKING BARGE MV MANGALAM NEAR REVDANDA PORT

Ashish Singh

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In a swift sea-air coordinated operation amid inclement monsoon weather, Indian Coast Guard ship and helicopters undertook successful rescue of all 16 crew on Thursday from sinking MV Mangalam near Revdanda port of Maharashtra. MRCC Mumbai received information from Second officer of Indian flagged MV Mangalam (IMO-9084619) intimating that the vessel was partially sinking with 16 crew onboard approximately 3 Km from Revdanda Port (Raigarh District), and the master was planning to abandon the vessel. The crew of the distressed vessel were in panic due to swelling water ingress and waves breaking over the ship. MRCC team initiated rescue action and convinced the master and crew to remain onboard with life jackets as Coast Guard ships were dispatched for assistance.

Indian Coast Guard Ship Subhadra Kumari Chauhan pressed into action and proceeded towards distressed vessel with best speed for rendering assistance. Meanwhile, two Indian Coast Guard Chetak Helicopters were also launched at 9:45 am from Indian Coast Guard Air Station Daman for evacuation of the crew from MV Mangalam. Braving rough seas, Indian Coast Guard ship Subhadra Kumari Chauhan quickly arrived at scene of distress and post assessment of situation lowered the rescue team in inflatable boat amidst challenging sea conditions. Meanwhile, Indian Coast Guard Helicopters also arrived at the location and despite gusting monsoon winds commenced airlifting of crew. Through daredevil operations, the ICG Ship & helicopters successfully rescued all 16 crew. The rescued crew were taken to Revdanda and administered first aid following COVID protocol. All crew were safe and healthy.

The timely co-ordination and rescue by ICG once again saved precious lives. On an average, Coast Guard saves one precious life every second day at sea. The incident once again showcased Indian Coast Guard’s resolve and commitment towards safety of life at sea, upholding its motto ‘We Protect’ and ready to undertake operations at sea 24×7 through the year.

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