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Sino-Indian logjam: A review

Differences in comprehensive national power between India and China might be vast. But battlefields do not respect such power factors. Battles are won or lost on the basis of blood, guts and glory.

LT GEN PR SHANKAR (Retd)

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The Sino-Indian standoff is log-jammed. All talks and parlays are leading nowhere. Progress is incremental. The long haul will be a test of Indian stamina. Meanwhile experts—national and international as also military and civilian—say that India is greatly disadvantaged. They cite the comprehensive national power of China. It is relatively huge and leaves India with very few options. The situation is not easy. It is going to take a lot of effort to restore balance. However, one has to view it in a wider perspective with attendant implications to understand where we actually stand. It is only then that we can really chart out the course ahead.

China

The Chinese have some territorial gain in Pangong Tso and maybe some in Depsang. On the other hand, they have suffered a combat shock at Galwan. That is how Indian Army and PLA are squared off. Both are fully mobilised and deployed. Chinese do not seem to be confident or prepared to get into a firefight except through ‘Global Times’. ‘Belligerent war avoidance’ continues to be their motto. However, they are stymied. They cannot go back. They cannot overcome Indian Army. For all the energy expended, they have very little gain to show. The Chinese will lose face internally and internationally with passage of time.

In the South China Sea, the USA has ratcheted up the military temperature. Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam and Indonesia are now giving unmistakeable signals that they will take on China militarily besides USA. China is enmeshed in a two-front scenario. China expects armed conflict any time. The Chinese have conducted a few live fire drills at sea to demonstrate aggression. It has not fazed anyone. It is also very clear that they‘ve gone into the defensive mode. Chinese focus is now primarily on the South China Sea where they apprehend a clear danger.

China is facing unprecedented floods this year. Their major rivers—Yangtze and Hwang Ho are in heavy flood. In the past two months there have been a series of five heavy floods. There is fear that the massive Three Gorges Dam could collapse. Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang are spending time in flood affected areas. The Yangtze, a vital inland waterway of global importance is disrupted. The Yangtze River Economic Basin hosts multinationals like Apple, Walmart, Dupont, Nike, H&M, and Uniqlo. Approximately 175 cities are on this waterway which generates nearly half of China’s GDP. The massive flooding will affect supply chains. It has created inventory problems. It is common sense that manufacturing cannot continue if third floors of buildings are being evacuated in certain cities. The economy is clearly not chugging away. Consumption is weak. Reports of recovery are doubtful. Joblessness and lack of employment is still high and expected to worsen in winter. Hong Kong as a business centre is falling apart.

 Flooding has either threatened or destroyed large swathes of rice, wheat, and other crops. Insect infestations have affected corn storage. A video on China corn has gone viral to stoke fears of food shortage. Food prices have risen to historic highs. Pork prices have increased by 85% in July alone. China’s food import of pigs, pork products, soyabeans and vegetable oils has increased fivefold in the first half of 2020 compared to 2019. There is food shortage in China. Laws to regulate grain production and purchases as well as consumption are being contemplated. Xi Jinping has ‘publicly scolded’ people on wastage of food. The situation is grim. From a long term perspective China is forecast to have food shortage gaps beyond 2025 due to industrialisation, urbanisation, loss of arable land, ageing population, and pollution. In future its outside dependence on energy and food will create vulnerabilities.

China is not only combating the Wuhan Virus but also Bubonic Plague in Inner Mongolia. African swine flu has killed millions of pigs (their staple food). Fall army-worms and locusts have devoured millions of acres of crops. Chinese have their hands full of pestilence.

 There are some notable international developments. Cracks are visible in the Sino-Russian partnership over the status of Vladivostok, arms sales to India and suspension of S 400 sale to China. Russians are being singed by Sino-centrism. Sensing the opportunity, India has asked Russia to join the Indo-Pacific construct. If that happens the game will change. Southeast Asian countries are now using ‘Lawfare’, invoking international law and the 2016 arbitral case against China in the South China Sea dispute. India, Japan, Australia have initiated the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative to secure supply chains and reduce dependence on China. This initiative could eventually be expanded to include ASEAN countries. Japan has taken steps to reduce dependence on China for rare earths. It is firmly bankrolling its firms to relocate from China. Chinese experts have also expressed fears that its overseas assets might be seized as part of US sanctions. These actions just compound other actions which are being taken individually by countries. The drive against Huawei, ZTE and TikTok are too well known. Despite slick influence and information operations by the Chinese some real determination is coming through internationally to counter China.

Politically, Xi Jinping is facing some internal opposition. Though not vocal or high pitched there are indications that all is not hunky dory. He has gone back to revisionism by stating that “the foundation of China’s political economy can only be a Marxist political economy, and not be based on other economic theories”. So, a purge is on the cards.

 India

The Indian Armed Forces have matched the Chinese deployment on the LAC. Our winter preparations must be on. We have clearly conveyed that we will stay the course and will retaliate more than adequately when the opportunity arises. A slew of de-Sinicising measures have been taken. As a result, trade deficit with China has halved to $1.2 billion in June, from $2.4 billion in May. India’s exports to China rose 70% in June. Imports have reduced. Chinese are being kept out from Indian highway, railways, power and communications projects. Huawei and ZTE are out of 5G scene. ‘Unregistered’ firms from countries sharing land border with India are now barred from government projects. Chinese FDI has been banned to prevent “opportunistic takeovers”. China will not be allowed to invest in India’s MSME sector. Imports from China are discouraged and delayed at ports. Stringent customs scrutiny has commenced. MEA’s security clearance is now needed for visas of Chinese businessmen, academics, industry experts and advocacy groups as is being done with Pakistan. Indian universities’ tie-ups with Chinese institutions is under drastic scaling down. 54 MOUs are under review. Confucius Institutes are under the scanner. Nearly 100 Chinese apps including TikTok are banned. Importers have to reveal and identify the country of origin of goods for sale. Colour TVs are under the “restricted” category. Traders have to now seek licences to import them. Import of certain type of tyres has been banned. Items such as toys, steel tubes, steel bars, consumer electronics, telecom items, heavy machinery, paper, rubber articles and glass will be brought under mandatory Indian Standards (IS) regime by next year. Chinese crooks and racketeers are also being rounded up. Very clearly, the Government is displaying and conveying resolve.

 Assessment

The Chinese situation overall is not as strong as it is made out. They are under severe pressure internally and externally. They are in no position to undertake a major offensive anywhere. They have now started giving indications that they are prepared to talk peace. However, they will attempt it on their terms with some obnoxious conditions. They are also sending out emissaries to revive their economic ties by decoupling it from their aggression. 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. Against India, they will try to extract the maximum. Of course, if we give them a chance and show laxity, they will gladly exploit us. At the same time, do not underestimate the enemy. China despite all its troubles will continue to be aggressive. That is their history

China has done what it wants. It is our turn now. At the outset and at the cost of repeating. Do not trust the Chinese. That is what 90% of the nation says. Heed to them. Between the Chinese and the virus—choose the virus.

 We should deal with the situation with patience, resolve, firmness maintaining focus and with a plan. In my opinion we have conveyed our resolve already. Time is of no consequence. Even if it means waiting for a year so be it. We should not hurry into an unfavourable settlement. No settlement is better than an unfavourable one.

Our economy is not healthy and the Virus situation is widespread. It will not be prudent for us to get into extended hostilities. There are many options available with us to achieve ‘Chini Kum’. However, this is the time to put pressure on the Chinese in concert with the USA, the QUAD, ASEAN and other like-minded nations. Militarily we need to expand the current two front paradigm in concert with USA. Keep the Chinese fixed. Be aggressive on the LAC. Activate his rear. Maybe by infiltration. Spook him. When an opportunity presents itself, go in for a quid pro quo option. There is a case to carry out a well-publicised naval exercise/seminar as to how to close the Malacca and other straits for use by Chinese Merchant Vessels. It will send a message that we mean business.

Sequentially flush China out of our system—economy, trade, education, infrastructure, culture…everything. On a fortnightly basis one layer of political/ diplomatic/ military pain needs to be inflicted followed by another. Reduce space for China, its three strategies and its cronies in India. Internal disinfection of vermin is needed. Strategic communication to China that it is untrustworthy is warranted. BTW. Stop that foxy ambassador of China sermonising from a public forum. There is an urgent need to start talking of Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong and Taiwan in public space. Take the battle across. Our media gets under the Chinese skin. Let it free.

The more serious we are about “aatmanirbharta”, the better off we will be. We need to go about that also methodically with a plan. The fact that Chinese are occupying some part of our territory should spur us to do better. In fact, it is a godsent opportunity to get our act together.

We need to take steps to regain our neighbourhood. We need to have better diplomatic, military, economic and cultural outreach with Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Male, and Sri Lanka. Reduce space for the indirect and insidious approach.

 The differential in comprehensive national power between India and China might be vast. However, battlefields do not respect such power factors. Battles are won or lost on the basis of blood, guts and glory. That is what Col Babu and his boys taught us at Galwan. Create that opportunity and give the Chinese a shock once again. Many things will fall in place. May be that is what the CDS is hinting at.

 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

‘ARMY CAN MEET ANY CHALLENGE TO SAFEGUARD COUNTRY’

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The Army is fully prepared to meet any challenge like the use of drones and social media by adversaries to safeguard the country, said Commandant of Chennai-based Officers Training Academy (OTA) Lieutenant General M K Das. Lt Gen Das, who is also the colonel of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI) regiment, said the situation in J&K is getting better with the Army and other security agencies working together to stamp out terrorism. Speaking to media on the sidelines of the maiden attestation parade of 460 new recruits of the 126th batch after a successful 40-week training period at Dansal here, he said the Indian Army is aware of the challenges and prepared to give a befitting response to the enemies of the nation.

Talking about the need to introduce special training courses for soldiers in the aftermath of the developments in Afghanistan, he said, “Our training is very contemporary as it caters for all the contingencies and unforeseen situations. My young soldiers, who have taken the oath to defend the constitution and the country, will live up to all the challenges. One of the unique things of this regiment (JAKLI) is all our troops hail from J&K and Ladakh. They have ingrained quality to be security conscious much more than others.” Lt Gen Das said, “All the situations unfolding in the country or in our neighbourhood, the JAKLI regiment will continue to excel and be the lead agency in the fight against terrorism.” Asked about the challenges posed by the use of drones to hit targets and deliver weapons and narcotics from across the LoC and International Border, he said a capsule course on anti-drone measures has been introduced. “On Army Day on 15 January, our chief took the threat seriously and our soldiers are being prepared to deal with the challenge in a better way.” During recruitment training, Lt Gen Das said that besides the arms handing and exercises, thrust is also given on science and technology, cybersecurity and other new challenges. He said the misuse of social media by “anti-national” elements is a reality and the new recruits are being trained in cybersecurity during their basic and orientation courses.

On attempts by Pakistan to mislead the youth of J&K, Lt Gen Das said, “The youth of J&K is showing keenness to be a part of the regiment which is a message to those who think they can mislead our youth. Joining the regiment is the best way to serve the nation, the youth live like a family and there is complete communal harmony.” He said the regiment is increasing the number of local youth from Ladakh and would also go for recruitment in J&K to provide an opportunity to the local youth to become part of this regiment. Asked about his message to the misguided youth, he said, “J&K is the crown of India but if I focus as a soldier, I feel they (misguided youth) have not understood their country… the situation has not gone out of hand and the Army has kept its window open to allow them to surrender and join the national mainstream.”

He added, “We have a unit of 162 Infantry Territorial Army who are former militants but have become upright soldiers.” Lt Gen Das said the Army and other security agencies are working in close coordination and the situation in J&K is getting better and the “day is not far when this region will make our country proud.”

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SOUTHERN NAVAL COMMAND OBSERVES INTERNATIONAL COASTAL CLEAN-UP DAY IN KOCHI

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The Southern Naval Command observed International Coastal Clean-up Day on Saturday with a focus on mangrove plantation and clearance of plastic/non-biodegradable waste along with waterfront areas in and around Kochi, said a press release from the Ministry of Defence.

Pursuant to the global campaign of keeping coastlines clean, more than 600 Naval personnel and the families of Southern Naval Command undertook clearance of plastic and non-biodegradable waste at different locations spread across the city, coastal areas such as Fort Kochi beach, Thevara waterfront, Willingdon Island, Cherai beach, Bolgatty and around 2 km stretch of the Venduruthy channel while restoring around 1 lakh sqm of mangroves to the pristine condition. In addition, 80 mangrove saplings were also planted along the Venduruthy channel. Similar coastal cleanup drives and lectures/webinars/competitions emphasising protection of the coastal and marine environment were undertaken with the enthusiastic participation of the Naval community at other outstation Naval units located at Lonavala, Jamnagar, Chilka, Coimbatore, Goa, Ezhimala and Mumbai.

Being the Training Command of the Indian Navy, the Southern Naval Command has always been at the vanguard in promoting environmental conservation activities both at the Command Headquarters, Kochi as well as at Naval stations spread across the country.

Mandated to oversee naval training, the Southern Naval Command has conceptualised and implemented a variety of green initiatives. Keeping environmental preservation as one of the Key Result Areas, the Command has constantly endeavoured to motivate young officer and sailor trainees of the Indian Navy to imbibe the habit of protecting mother nature as part of their grooming efforts in preparing them to become responsible future Naval leaders and dependable citizens of India.

Particular attention has also been given to create more awareness among the families and more importantly the children.

During the last three years, the Command has adopted a multi-dimensional approach towards conservation of the environment and implementation of energy conservation methods.

To highlight a few, the personnel of the Command were actively involved in the rejuvenation of 4.5-km-long Venduruthy Channel near Kochi Naval base, creating awareness in and around Naval establishments.

Efforts were undertaken to enhance green cover by conducting mass plantation drives which included planting more than 75,000 trees, using the fast-growing Miyawaki forestation method. In addition, regular coastal clean-up drives, mangrove plantation drives, in-house handling and recycling of bio and non-biodegradable waste, adopting efficient energy and water-saving methods etc were also undertaken. The Command has also earnestly endeavoured to continue all the efforts for protecting and conserving the environment and natural resources. Towards achieving the same, the Command has implemented a Green Initiative and Environment Conservation Roadmap with a prime focus on Carbon footprint reduction.

With the personal involvement of Vice Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command is committed to creating a clean, green and healthy environment in line with the visionary environment conservation policies of the Govt of India. On the occasion, Adv M Anilkumar, Mayor, Kochi Municipal Corporation and staff also participated in Kochi.

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IAF TO HOLD AIR SHOW OVER DAL LAKE IN SRINAGAR ON 26 SEPT

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An air show will be held here on 26 September where IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga and Suryakiran Aerobatic and Display Team and paramotor flying will manoeuvre the skies over the famous Dal Lake, officials informed on Saturday.

The air show will be organised by the Air Force Station Srinagar and the Jammu and Kashmir administration as part of the ongoing celebrations commemorating ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’, they said. The main aim of the exercise—under the theme ‘Give Wings to Your Dream’—is to motivate the youth of the valley to join the Indian Air Force (IAF) and to promote tourism in the region, the officials said.

The event will be flagged off Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) overlooking Dal Lake.

More than 3,000 college and school students are expected to participate in the programme to witness the impressive manoeuvres of the IAF, which will motivate them to dream about a career in the force and in the aviation sector, the officials said. “The show will also develop passion among the students to give wings to their dreams. Along with the students, 700 teachers will also be present at the venue,” they added.

During the demonstration, students will also be familiarised with the new technological advancements achieved and incorporated by the IAF while flying aircraft in the sky over the world-famous Dal Lake, the officials said. Stalls will be established at SKICC where students will be familiarised with the achievements of the Air Force, employment opportunities in the IAF, recruitment rules and eligibility criteria, they added.

Srinagar-based PRO Defence Col Emron Musavi said the display will include flypast by various aircraft of the IAF. The spectators would also get to witness paramotor flying and IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga in action. ‘Ambassadors of IAF’, Suryakiran Aerobatic Display Team, will be performing in the valley after a gap of 14 years, he said. Col Musavi said the symphony orchestra of the IAF would also be performing at the event. The event would also consist of a photo exhibition depicting the history of the

IAF, he said. 

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ARMY ORGANISES EXHIBITION IN JAIPUR TO COMMEMORATE INDIA’S VICTORY IN 1971 WAR

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JAIPUR : South Western Command of the Indian Army on Saturday organised an exhibition showcasing defence equipment at Chitrakoot Stadium in Jaipur to mark the 50th anniversary of India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war.

Speaking to ANI, an Indian army official said, “We have displayed the defence equipment in this exhibition to make people aware of the Indian army achievements. We want to motivate the youth by showcasing these types of equipment.” “Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, these events had been started to make people aware of Indian Arm Forces. So, we are also continuing the move by organising these kinds of events,” he added.

Further, he said that India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war is memorable for all the Indians, so, every citizen should be aware of this war.  

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BRO makes history, appoints woman Army officer in-charge of road construction unit

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The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has appointed a woman Army officer for the first as the Officer Commanding of its 75 road construction company (RCC) in Uttarakhand, the Defence Ministry said on Sunday.

The three platoon commanders under Major Aaina, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K became the first women RCC. The appointments were made on August 30.

BRO on Sunday recalled the list of women officers who were assigned higher leadership roles in the organisation in the current year.

According to a statement issued by the Defence Ministry, BRO has inducted a large number of women into its workforce over the years, right from officers to the level of commercial pilot license holders. “In this regard, a General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) officer EE (Civ) Vaishali S Hiwase took over the reins of 83 Road Construction Company on April 28, employed on an important Indo-China road connecting Munisairi-Bughdiar-Milam, in an area full of adversity and challenges. The lady officer has taken control and is leading the charge with meticulous execution of her tasks,” the statement said.

“The BRO created history again on 30 August when Major Aaina of Project Shivalik took charged as Officer Commanding, 75 Road Construction Companies (RCC) at Pipalkoti in Chamoli district in Uttarakhand. She is the first Indian Army Engineer Officer to command a road construction company. Not only this, all three platoon commanders under her, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K are lady officers and they have together created a first-ever women RCC. The Border Roads plans to make four such all women-led RCCs, two each in North Eastern and Western Sectors.”

As India celebrates 75 Years of Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, it also celebrates the ongoing efforts of our Nation towards women empowerment. Women today have started assuming their rightful, equal place as the frontrunners in nation-building and representatives of our strong national character, the statement read.

Over the last six decades, in a graduated and steady manner, the BRO has increased the number of women employed in various roles and duties of road construction. A consolidated effort is being made to empower them by giving them authority and responsibilities to undertake work independently. These women have become symbols of Nari Shakti in their respective areas.

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IN FIRST FOREIGN VISIT AFTER TAKING OVER AS CDS, GEN BIPIN RAWAT TO VISIT RUSSIA, US

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In his first visit abroad after taking over as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Bipin Rawat will be visiting Russia and the US.

Rawat took over his new office as CDS on 31 December 2019, and since then has been declining foreign invitations for focusing on the new assignment of integrating the defence forces as a combined fighting force. “There is a conference of the CDS-rank officers of the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement member countries. China and Pakistan are also part of this grouping,” senior defence officials said.

The CDS conference would be focusing on addressing the regional security issues and Afghanistan is also likely to come up for discussion, they said.

The CDS would also witness the activities of the respective armed forces taking part in the SCO peace mission drills being held in Russia. Indian Army and Air Force are also taking part in the exercise there.

The visit will take place in the coming week and soon after return from Russia, Rawat would be leaving for the US for meeting his counterpart and other American military leadership at the Pentagon.

The two countries have been coming closer militarily in the last few years and have been holding multiple military exercises and hardware cooperation.

The Indian military saw a major change in senior-level structures under the Narendra Modi government as the focus is now on the theatrisation of the fighting forces and bringing in more capabilities and jointness among the three services. 

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