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Sino-Indian logjam: The Chinese three-card trick

We still need to secure further advantage in eastern Ladakh to break the logjam. The winter is our opportunity. This is the time for some engagement—direct or indirect—to destabilise PLA. The time for disengagement is far away.

LT GEN PR SHANKAR (Retd)

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As Ladakh has got colder, Chinese have indulged in a three-card trick. Give up Finger 4. Gain Kailash Range. Retain Depsang. Natural and expected from the ever untrustworthy Chinese. However, we need to see why they are doing it and what our reaction should be. There has been no action on the battlefield except it has got colder. Let us review the situation on ground and then step back to analyse certain factors.

By now eastern Ladakh must be awfully cold. Leh reports minus 13 at night and feels like minus 2 at 1030 in the morning. Eastern Ladakh must be another 10-20 degrees less than that, depending on where you are. Heights would have snow and Pangong Tso would be more than half frozen. The wind-swept plains would be chilling the bones. There were reports that our soldiers are running short of warm clothing and equipment. There were also reports that the US had to bail us out with about 11,000 sets. Well, the reality is that our troops are well kitted and stocked with sufficient ammunition. Not only in Ladakh, but also along the LoC and in the east. That should be a total of about 2.5 lakh sets of warm clothing. So the 11,000 odd sets from the US are only small-time fillers. To put in perspective, we have been up in Siachen since the 1980s. We know what it takes there and are set for it. No sweat.

On the other hand, the perspective I get is that the Chinese are feeling the heat of the cold! Suddenly reports surfaced of enhanced Chinese causality evacuations. Catching cold? Then, one finds that Global ’Idiotic’ Times comes out with reports of buildings with oxygen and warming facilities. That is a giveaway. In high altitude, I would inhale oxygen only if I am in a HAPO (high altitude pulmonaryodema) situation. If every building they build has enhanced oxygen facility, then their troops are constantly less than acclimatized. That is survival with less than optimal battle fitness. In four tenures and innumerable high altitude visits, I have used Oxygen only thrice as a precaution – when getting in/ out of a chopper on the Glacier. It was also funny to see the Global ’Idiotic’ Times coming out with videos showcasing food delivery by drones. I suppose fresh Pangolin meat straight out of the wet market from Wuhan with the virus as a side dish was being air delivered to hardy young Han lads. After some time, I saw videos of Chinese troops hanging on to tails of mules while doing their logistics routine. What a come down to reality! In mountains, mules remain the best fail safe drones. Chinese are learning fast. In the land of Lama don’t behave like a Gama!! All Corps in in Northern Command, have a battle school. Every unit is mandatorily put through pre-induction training – hardened and weeded. The Chinese do not have any such system. Inputs indicate that the Chinese have brought in Russian speaking experts to train their troops. All the best to them. Why am I telling you all this? Our troops are very well stabilized and in a far better position than Chinese to exploit the situation. So why should reports of a three Phase dis-engagement leave me amused?

The 8th round of Sino-Indian Corps Commander-level talks were held on 05 Nov and an anodyne statement was released. In a couple of days a three stage disengagement plan surfaces in the media. Our acclaimed and regular media ‘experts’ claimed that the standoff would be over even before Deepawali! First Step. Tanks and armoured personnel carriers were to move back from their frontline deployment to a significant distance from the Line of Actual Control (LAC) by both sides within one day. Second Step. Near Pangong Tso, both sides were supposed to withdraw around 30% troops every day for three days. The Indian side forming in at Finger 3 and the Chinese to go back to the East of Finger 8. Third Step. Withdraw from their respective positions from the frontline along the Southern Bank of Pangong Tso which includes the heights and territories around Chushul and Rezang La area. No mention of Depsang!

Analyse the three card trick. Dangle withdrawal from Finger 4 as a carrot. Whether the Chinese remain at Finger 4 or 8 is immaterial. It has no further tactical or strategic difference. Even virus laden bats do not live there! Get Indians off the Kailash Range in a pro quid quo. The Chusul gateway opens. Grab Kailash Range heights at the first opportunity after the Indians vacate. Maintain stance and consolidate Depsang. Go to the world and announce about the great Chinese victory—winning without fighting. Game set and match—China!

Examine the deception further. When our media is agog with the disengagement plans with our emotional analysts crying hoarse about the great sell off on Kailash Range, the Chinese media refutes that there is any plan. However after a couple of days, they come out with this great analysis that maybe the Indians are weakening and want to reach a conclusion to the conflict. That is why Indian media is discussing this. Indians are now prepared to discuss peace at Chinese terms! Typical Chinese deceptive strategy. Mind games at work. Deepawali has come and gone. Nothing further heard.

Let us for a moment think that this plan was credible and real. Who was to monitor the execution of the plan? Are we contemplating joint monitoring with untrustworthy Chinese? If we get beyond that, how do we manage the buffer zones which are to be created? By trusting the Chinese? On what basis is this plan drawn which leaves Depsang out? Who initiated it? Our media falls hook line and sinker for it.

Consider this also. Every step and turn, over the past seven decades, that we have taken with the Chinese is still being scrutinised minutely with a lens. Every conversation we have had with Pakistan is granulated. We ourselves say that what India has gained tactically on the battlefield, it has lost strategically on the summit tables. In such a situation how do we fall for such three card tricks? History will never forgive modern-day Jaichands, who take ill-informed decisions to fall for the trap.

An accommodation with China on the border and disengagement has many dimensions. Soldiers and veterans will see it emotionally through the prism of sacrifice for the territory/ advantage gained/ lost. The government will evaluate the overall situation—militarily, economically and diplomatically regarding the overall effort including maintaining a relationship with China in future—Good , Bad or ugly. The average citizen will see if India has succeeded. An international observer will see if China succeeds or not and its impact on world affairs. To arrive at a balanced decision which has far reaching proportions, with such diverse perspectives, needs informed political debate and plan at national level. An agreement other than to enforce a peaceful status quo to avoid flareups or to respond to an emergent situation is beyond the scope of military talks. There has to be political talks and understanding based on transparency. It needs trust. People need to be convinced that we have not been sold out or dealt a dummy. There must be political consensus. If a unilateral decision is taken, history will not forgive the current Prime Minister, like it has not forgotten our Prime Minister of 1962 for his folly of trusting the Chinese. So far the Government or the Army has not clarified the actual status at Depsang. Have we been pushed back or are we being blocked access? In such a situation even to contemplate to make a deal with China, without transparency or trust is being foolish. History will not forgive fools.

On the other hand our PM talks of ‘Prachand Jawab’ and ‘days of expansionism are over’ at Longewala. It was an obvious message to China. All ministries have repeatedly flagged their concerns regarding Chinese influence in day to day life and how to reduce it. We have banned Tik Tok and its siblings. We have taken a clear position against BRI and RCEP. We are leaning towards the Quad. We are preparing for an Aatmanirbhar Bharat. In any case Chinese will insist on a comprehensive dialogue to include trade and economics. Do we want to go back to China-nirbhar Bharat? Are we prepared for that? Under the conditions, does one still think that a disengagement plan is on?

There is yet another factor. As long as China is kept on the hook and is forced to commit troops and resources in a situation it can never master, the more it looks foolish. Already one sees that the Chinese balloon is a bit deflated. I have been maintaining that as long as the Virus lasts and as long as this current situation on the LAC lasts, China will continue to be in a face losing situation. So why the hurry? Moreover, if the issue is settled, China will be free to start some adventure elsewhere. Keep it there in the frozen wastes of eastern Ladakh and China will come to its senses.

China will try its mind games and try to seed disinformation as it is a habit to do so. All the hot air about teaching India a lesson has frozen in Ladakh. There was lot of talk that China will attack and capture Taiwan when the US presidential elections are on. That was supposed to be the ideal window of opportunity to capture Taiwan. The election has come and gone. There is still uncertainty in the US. Militarily, the US eyes are off the ball. The window remains open. China has not taken a single step to mount an amphibious attack on Taiwan. Hot air again.

As far as I see it, we are in a groove and prepared for the winter in High Altitude. We still need to secure further advantage in eastern Ladakh to break the logjam. The winter is our opportunity. This is the time for some engagement (direct or indirect) to destabilise PLA. The time for disengagement is far away. I hope we have a plan.

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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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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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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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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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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