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CDS Gen Rawat’s work must go on

Theaterisation being a key to jointness, General Rawat had put forth proposals to reorganise the current service specific commands with diverse geographic areas of responsibilities into homogeneous operational entities.

The untimely demise of General Bipin Rawat, the first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) in a tragic MI17V5 helicopter crash on 8 December 2021 near Coonoor, Nilgiris Hills, in Tamil Nadu came as a rude shock to the whole country. The calamity could not have struck at a worst time, given the nation faces unprecedented security challenges and the process of transformational military reforms was just beginning to take shape under the helmsmanship of the CDS. While the nation lost an illustrious military leader,

New Delhi, Dec 10 (ANI): Funeral procession of late Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen Bipin Rawat and his wife Madhulika Rawat from their residence to Brar Square in Delhi cantonment, where they will be cremated with full military honours, in New Delhi on Friday. General Bipin Rawat along with his wiife and 11 armed forces personnel killed in Helicopter crash in Coonoor on Wednesday. (ANI Photo/Amit Sharma)

New Delhi, Dec 10 (ANI): Funeral procession of late Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen Bipin Rawat and his wife Madhulika Rawat from their residence to Brar Square in Delhi cantonment, where they will be cremated with full military honours, in New Delhi on Friday. General Bipin Rawat along with his wiife and 11 armed forces personnel killed in Helicopter crash in Coonoor on Wednesday. (ANI Photo/Amit Sharma)

it is incumbent that the momentum of military reforms aimed towards achieving tri-service integration and jointness is not only maintained but given further traction in view of the larger national security gamut.
Defence preparedness and modernisation of the armed forces are an ongoing phenomenon, in keeping with the threat perception and national objectives. The process is driven either by the doctrinal and technological considerations or by crisis per se; in case of India it has been more of the latter, largely in the form of incremental modernisation. Major reforms were shunned primarily due to the lack of political will and absence of a clearly defined national defence policy.
One of the glaring shortcomings in the Indian security edifice has been the absence of institutionalised structures and mechanism for the tri service jointness; seriously impinging on the “higher direction of war” and synergised application of combat power in a holistic fashion. Non-employment of combat air power during the 1962 war is a case in point. Again during the initial stages of the Kargil conflict, the aspect of inter-service jointness got amply highlighted. Consequently, the concept of CDS was recommended by the “Group of Ministers” in the year 2000. It took another two decades when Genera Rawat was finally appointed as the first CDS on 1 January 2020 for a three-years term by the Narendra Modi government. This marked the beginning of the initiation of path breaking defence reforms.
The prime role of the CDS is to promote inter service integration and jointness; major areas include doctrines, operations, planning, training, allocation of resources, procurements and restructuring towards the creation of theatre commands. Given the vast nature of the charter, the CDS dons three hats: a four star General-first among equals vis-à-vis the three service chiefs, Secretary Department of Military Affairs (DMA) and permanent Chairman of Chief of Staff Committee (COSC). Besides being adviser to the Defence Minister, the CDS acts as one point contact for the civilian leadership. Although CDS heads the COSC, the three chiefs continue to exercise operational control over their respective service. However, once the restructuring is in place, willy nilly, the CDS will exercise operational control over the theatre commands. Then the service chiefs will be primarily responsible for training and equipment of their respective services.
Given the service-specific silo system that was in place for the last seven decades, to get all the stakeholders involved in the transformational process is obviously an uphill task. Theaterisation is a strategic imperative to prosecute future multifaceted hybrid wars. Today, distinction between peace and war stands merged. The traditional concept of deterrence is supplemented by new doctrines of “pre-emption” and “prevention”. The battlefields are non-linear and fluid, characterised by network-centricity, demanding decision making in a telescopic time frame. This implies integration of all war waging resources in a theatre under a single commander to ensure optimal synergy and real time responses.
Our current military organisational structure based on 17 service-specific commands is not conducive for the conduct of “fifth generation” warfare. Further, to scale up its defence preparedness, China with over 22,000 km land borders and 14,500 km coastline has organised its 2 million strong military into five theatre commands, under the direct operational control of the Central Military Commission (CMC), headed by President Xi Jinping. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Western Theatre Command is responsible for the complete Sino-Indian border and has obvious operational advantage in application of its combat potential at a short notice.
Theaterisation being a key to jointness, General Rawat had put forth proposals to reorganise the current service specific commands with diverse geographic areas of responsibilities into homogeneous operational entities. Just to illustrate, at present the Headquarters of Western Commands of the three services are at different locations—Army at Chandimandir, Air Force at Delhi and Navy at Mumbai. The restructuring aims at the creation of integrated theatre commands; two land-based commands, Western and Eastern, responsible for Pakistan and the China borders, respectively; one Maritime Command and one Air Defence Command. The envisaged integrated logistics command is to cater to the combined requirements of the three services. For the time being, status quo is to be maintained with the Army’s Northern Command because of operational constraints. Currently, there are two tri service commands already in place, namely, Far Eastern Naval Command and Strategic Forces Command (SFC).
The CDS had set April 2022 as timeline to have the integrated theatre command structures in place. This required a colossal amount of groundwork and building consensus, given the serious concerns of the individual services, particularly the Air Force. Numerous studies were in progress to iron out the wrinkles as also the testing of the new organisations on the ground. It is ironic that General Rawat was not to see through the culmination of the first stage of this transformation.
The new CDS will soon be appointed by the Government to continue the process of defence reforms. General Rawat has already laid a strong foundation which will enable the next incumbent to hit the ground running. The on-going process of transformation is expected to take a couple of years before it stabilises and becomes operationally effective. The ambit of jointness and theaterisation encompasses a number of other agencies, beyond the three services. These include the integration of the paramilitary forces and assets particularly in the border areas, calling for robust military-civil fusion.
China is already engaged in pursuing a “Grey Zone” warfare along the LAC by resorting to “non-contact” tactics. It entails gradual nibbling and feverishly building a string of villages in the bordering areas with a military component inbuilt, so as to make Tibet an impregnable shield, in consonance with the Communist leadership’s grand design. Alongside, Pakistan is continuing with its proxy war, employing the toolkit of “cross border terrorism”. Thus the two-front war is already a reality. Hence it is time for India to undertake an exhaustive strategic review and formulate a pragmatic defence policy in a long term perspective. General Rawat has rendered yeoman service towards this end by setting into gear the much awaited defence transformation process, while he passes into history.

 

Maj Gen (Dr) G.G. Dwivedi (Retd) is a War Veteran, former Assistant Chief Integrated Defence Staff; currently Professor Strategic and International Relations.

New Delhi, Oct 25 (ANI): Bangladesh Navy, Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral M Shaheen Iqbal calls on Indian Army Chief General MM Naravane, in New Delhi on Monday. (ANI Photo)

1971: Time stood still when a nation was born

Every kilometre we covered brought a seismic change to the destiny of thousands of people—liberation from brutal oppression unleashed by the Pakistani Army.

It was the night of 3 December 1971 when our Battalion-14 JAT, part of 301 Infantry Brigade, 23 Infantry Division moved out from the firm base near Agartala on the East Pakistan border, to join the war. Enroute to the objective, our leading patrol had an encounter with the enemy during which 8 Pakistani soldiers were killed.

New Delhi, Oct 25 (ANI): Bangladesh Navy, Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral M Shaheen Iqbal calls on Indian Army Chief General MM Naravane, in New Delhi on Monday. (ANI Photo)

New Delhi, Oct 25 (ANI): Bangladesh Navy, Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral M Shaheen Iqbal calls on Indian Army Chief General MM Naravane, in New Delhi on Monday. (ANI Photo)

This marked the beginning of the fortnight-long odyssey, which culminated in a historic victory and reconfigured the map of the Indian subcontinent. Personally, for me, joining the battalion towards the late evening of 1 December, as Second Lieutenant straight after getting commission from the Indian Military Academy, I was destined to be baptised in the war zone.
The real action commenced on the morning of 4 December, with the “D” Company along with Armoured Squadron 7 CAV leading the attack to capture the Lalgarh-Mian Bazar. Bold offensive action by the Armoured proved decisive in the battalion capturing its objectives. However, the success came at a price: the Armoured Squadron lost three tanks, had 10 casualties with one fatal and the Battalion had 9 killed and wounded.
Two days later, on the night of 7-8 December, our Battalion went on to capture Comilla town, a strategically important communication centre, single-handedly. It was a bloody battle, as evident from the casualties; the enemy suffered 42 killed, with 17 of our own killed and wounded. Company Havildar Major Kishen Singh of my Company displayed extraordinary valour when he went on to destroy two enemy machineguns by himself, getting mortally wounded in the process; and deservingly awarded the Vir Chakra. Having been battle inoculated two days earlier, missing a direct artillery shell hit by a whisker, I was in for a defining experience—a close quarter firefight while engaging the vehicle of Major Shah Nawaz, 2 IC 23 Punjab of the Pakistan Army. He was later taken prisoner in a wounded condition.
In the morning when Comilla fell, the Army Commander, Lt Gen J.S. Aurora personally complimented our CO, Lt Col L.N. Sabharwal for the battalion’s outstanding performance. The overwhelming welcome accorded to us by the local citizens was indeed emotional and deeply touching. Here on, we advanced across the vast golden-brown paddy fields and endless water bodies as we inched towards Dhaka.
Every kilometre we covered brought a seismic change to the destiny of thousands of people—liberation from brutal oppression unleashed by the Pakistani Army. Scantily clad, with misery written large on the faces, hapless brave hearts hysterically narrated the horrid stories of terror and torture. Devastated and battered, their hutments barren and bare, what kept them going was sheer conviction; hope never dies. The only words that were discernible in their chocked voices were “Bandhu”, “Mukti Bahini” and “Joi Bangla”.
By 14 December, we had traversed nearly150 km on foot and crossed the mighty Meghna River to capture Narayanganj Garrison, a major town on the outskirts of Dhaka. It entailed clearing well prepared advance positions at Bandar and Madanganj. The attack on Bandar Railway Station on the night of 15-16 December turned out to be another fierce battle, with the enemy putting up a last ditch fight. Both sides suffered heavy casualties; the enemy’s 42 killed, against our 29 wounded. While attack on Madanganj was in progress the news of the Pakistani surrender was in the air.
As we approached Narayanganj, the town wore a desolate look. All of a sudden, people began to show up on the streets, many were holding a piece of green cloth with an orange circular patch, symbolising Bangladesh national flag, chanting “Joi Bangla”. There was an outburst of emotions, a mix of agony and ecstasy; the frenzy of revenge was looming large. Now it was the colluders and collaborators who were on the run.
By the evening we deployed astride the banks Buriganga River. It was for the first time since the start of war that we had a proper wash and a hearty meal, with puri-halwa prepared from the captured rations being a rare delight. Despite the moonlit night, the serenely flowing river wore a ghastly look, with a number of bodies floating there—a tell-tale sign of the last minute carnage. The uneasy calm was occasionally shattered by victory shots or barking dogs, busy digging up the shallow graves on the wayside.
Strolling past the resting men of my platoon, I found a few were peacefully snoring, while the others were tossing and turning on their sheets on the ground, yet to reconcile to the fact that the war was over. In a sombre mood, they were scanning the sky, perhaps searching in vain for their fallen comrades.
For the Bangladeshis it was a nine-month long ordeal, having endured horrific atrocities and indignation, the ugliest side of humanity. The dawn was yet a few hours away but the time appeared to stand still, awaiting the new-born nation to announce its arrival.

Maj Gen (Dr) G.G. Dwivedi (Retd) is a Bangladesh War veteran, a former Assistant Chief; and currently professor of strategic and international relations.

History of the CPC and its leaders — and President Xi’s ambitious new long march for China

Ahead of the centenary of the founding of the Communist Party on July 1, 1921, a look at the extraordinary journey of China’s ‘Red Dynasty’ and its new ‘Yellow Emperors’ from Mao to Xi

Updated: June 30, 2021 9:54:37 am in Indian Express

A screen shows Chinese President Xi Jinping during a show commemorating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China at the National Stadium in Beijing, China June 28, 2021. (Reuters)

As per traditional Chinese belief, it is the ‘mandate of heaven’ (tianming) that gives an individual the right to rule. While a capable ruler would be allowed to govern with a renewed mandate, it could be revoked in the case of a despot. Interestingly, a dynastic bloodline was never the criterion to determine the line of succession.

Since the time the seeds of Chinese civilisation sprouted on the flood plains of the Yellow River (Huang He) almost five millenniums ago, hundreds of rulers have taken the legendary title of the ‘Yellow Emperor’ (Huang Di). The first ruler to claim the ‘mandate of heaven’ was King Wen of Zhou State (1050 BCE), and it was Shi Huangdi of the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BCE) who unified China for the first time.

The new ‘Yellow Emperors’ of China

In the history of contemporary China, few have wielded more power than Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping and Xi Jinping; the modern ‘Yellow Emperors’ of the ‘Red Dynasty’, the Communist Party of China (CPC). Of the 13 dynasties that ruled China, only eight lasted in power for longer than 100 years. The CPC is, therefore, justified in celebrating its centenary with a grand ceremony.

The CPC was founded on July 1, 1921 in Shanghai by the intellectuals, Chen Duxiu, who was popularly referred to as “China’s Lenin”, and Li Dachao. The Party traces its origins to the May Fourth Movement; an anti-feudal political movement that grew out of student protests.

The Red Army came into being on August 1, 1927, in the wake of the Nanchang Autumn Harvest Uprising, when workers and peasants led by Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai revolted against the nationalist forces (Kuomintang- KMT). Mao was appointed commander-in-chief of the Red Army.

In December 1929, during the Ninth Meeting of the 4th Red Army at Gutian, Mao clarified that the role of the military was “to chiefly serve the political ends”. Thus, absolute control of the Party over the Army became entrenched.

Mao became Chairman of the CPC in 1945. After defeating the KMT in the Civil War (1945-49), he proclaimed the establishment of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949. Mao emerged as China’s paramount leader, and his ideology, ‘Mao Zedong Thought’, was encapsulated in the famous Red Book and enshrined in the Party’s constitution. Mao believed in class struggle, and was convinced that China had to be transformed by mobilising the masses.

Mao collectivised agricultural production by creating communes. The ideological assumption that China could emerge as an industrial nation based on the sheer grit of its people made him undertake the Great Leap Forward (1958-61), which had a disastrous outcome, with over 30 million people perishing in a horrific famine.

In 1962, Mao launched the Social Education Movement to infuse a new revolutionary spirit into the Party and government machinery. The Cultural Revolution followed in 1966 to stamp out corruption, elitism, and bureaucratisation. It was marked by extensive repression and intense violence, and the ‘revolution’ ended with Mao’s death on September 9, 1976.

Mao was the most influential and controversial figure who left behind a mixed legacy. Lauded for restoring national sovereignty after the successful Communist Revolution, he initiated major industrial reforms, and improved the status of women. Yet, Mao’s era was characterised by staunch ideological dogma that brought intense misery to the Chinese people.

Post Mao’s death, Deng assumed the reins as the ‘Second Generation’ leader in 1978 after a brief power struggle. He initiated the process of “reforms and opening up” (gaige gaifang), a clear departure from Mao’s ideology. The crux of Deng’s reforms was the ‘Four Modernizations’ programme, encompassing agriculture, industry, science and technology and defence. Deng adopted an ‘open door policy’ coupled with capitalist reforms, which attracted huge foreign investments in the manufacturing sector, transforming China into the factory of the world, and leading to years of very high rates of economic growth.

While Deng emerged as the architect of modern China, he came under intense criticism for the military crackdown on the Tiananmen protests in 1989. He played a key role in the return of Hong Kong and Macau to Chinese control. The ‘Deng Xiaoping Theory’ of “socialist market economy” was enshrined in the CPC’s constitution. Deng fixed the tenure of the Presidency to two terms to ensure a smooth transition from one generation to the other. He died on February 19, 1997, marking the end of the ‘Second Generation’ leadership.

After Deng’s demise, Jiang Zemin assumed the mantle of ‘Third Generation’ leadership, continuing largely with the policies enunciated by Deng. He adopted a “collective leadership” approach and was the architect of the ‘three represent’ (san ge daibiao) thought. It defined the role of CPC: to represent China’s advanced productive forces, orientation of the nation’s culture, and the fundamental interest of the majority of Chinese people. These were incorporated in the Chinese constitution in 2002.

During Jiang’s period, China experienced significant economic growth due to the continuation of economic reforms. Jiang passed the baton to Hu Jintao in 2002. At the age of 94, Jiang Zemin is the oldest living Paramount Communist leader.

Hu, who represented the ‘Fourth Generation’ of the CPC leadership, continued to follow the policies of his predecessor. He professed two main ideological concepts: “Scientific Outlook on Development and Harmonious Social Society”.

On completion of two terms, Hu Jintao handed over the reins to his successor Xi Jinping in 2012. Xi, a dark horse, was the consensus candidate over Li Keqiang, the incumbent Premier, to take on the mantle of the ‘Fifth Generation’ leadership.

Xi bears the tags of ‘Princeling’ and ‘Second Generation Red’, being the son of Xi Zhongxun, a revolutionary. Having joined the Communist Party in 1974 at the age of 21, he progressively moved up the Party hierarchy and burst on the political scene as the graft-fighting Governor of Fujian in 1999.

Given his mild demeanour, it was assumed that Xi would abide by the constitutional rule. However, he played his hand differently, emerging as the most powerful leader after Mao.

Xi set about systematically consolidating his position by strengthening his hold over the twin levers, CPC and PLA. Alongside, he launched an unbridled campaign to clean up the system, resulting in the punishment of more than a million office bearers, including ministers, senior government officials, and military personnel. The anti-corruption drive also proved handy to purge Xi’s political rivals like Bo Xilai.

Since 2013, Xi has initiated pathbreaking military reforms to make the PLA a modern fighting force at par with the Western militaries in the next two decades. The rationale behind the deep-rooted reforms was two-fold: prepare the military for China’s expanding global role, and establish the Party’s firm control over the military in consonance with Mao’s dictum, “Party controls the Gun”.

By reorganizing the Central Military Commission (CMC), Xi appointed himself Commander-in-Chief. At the 19th Party Congress held in 2017, he further strengthened his iron grip over the Party, and a year later went on to discard the two-term Presidency limit, to be life-long incumbent.

“Xi Jinping Thoughts for New Era Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” were enshrined in Communist Party constitution. Xi firmly believes that a return to original Maoism is the only way to save China’s future.

Xi’s new long march into power and prosperity

Xi has unveiled his ‘China Dream’ (Zhong Meng), which envisions a “powerful and prosperous” China that is a “great modern socialist country” by the middle of this century. He has referred to China entering a “New Era”, in which Beijing plays a greater role in world affairs, abandoning Deng’s policy of “hide and bide”.

To realise the China Dream, Xi has chosen the geo-economic route. His Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) envisages an investment of $1 trillion, and seeks to enlarge China’s influence across the globe through mega projects, employing chequebook diplomacy. Xi’s model is characterized by an “authoritarian political structure” and “state driven capitalism”.

While the world was fighting the coronavirus pandemic which ironically originated from Wuhan, China, Xi, by employing the strategy of Wei Ji (Crisis and Opportunity), managed to control the spread of the virus and claim victory. In line with his strongman image, Xi has made quick territorial gains in disputed areas including in the South and East China Seas, and the Eastern Ladakh region of India. Internally, Xi has tightened the noose around Hong Kong and Xinjiang, where the Uyghurs are facing intense repression.

During the ‘Two Sessions’ (Lianghui) held in March this year, the Chinese People’s Consultative Conference (CPPCC) approved the 14th Five Year Plan (2021-25), and laid out Xi’s Vision 2035. The major themes include prioritizing the quality of growth, achieving “common prosperity”, elevating China’s leadership role in global governance, and managing the great power rivalry with the United States.

A major overhaul is envisaged in the Chinese economy as it adopts the “dual circulation” system of boosting domestic consumption and creating new demand, and reduces the dependence on shrinking export markets.

Today, China is the world’s second largest economy with a GDP of $14 trillion, has the largest foreign exchange reserves, is the largest trading nation in terms of goods, and has the second largest military — all remarkable achievements for the CPC. Never in its history has China witnessed such prosperity. Even in the wake of the Covid pandemic, the Chinese economy has registered a growth of 18.3 per cent in the first quarter of 2021.

Xi Jinping’s scorecard over the last nine years makes a strong case for seeking a renewed mandate — a ‘Third Term’ — at the 20th Party Congress next year. However, Xi rides the dragon that is externally formidable but internally fragile. He is aware that in case his policies go awry, it could mean an existential crisis both for himself and the CPC.

Xi has gambled on the risky venture of elevating himself to the league of Mao and Deng, although as Princeling he does not belong to the tribe. If he does succeed in leading China into the ‘New Era’, then as per the Chinese 11th century classic ‘The General Mirror for Aid of Government’ (Cu Chi Tang Qian), Xi would qualify to be called an ‘Emperor’.

 

Maj Gen (Dr) G.G. Dwivedi (Retd)

Expert Explained MAJOR-GENERAL (RETD) G G DWIVEDI

Explained: Why Kailash Range Matters

The  Kailash  Range  was  the  theatre  of  conflict  during  the  1962  Chinese  offensive,  with  key battles  at  Rezang  La  and  Gurung  Hill.  In  2020,  Indian  troops  secured  Kailash  Ridge  in  an operation that took the Chinese by surprise. A look at the strategic importance of the mountain range, and the lessons learnt.

It was in early October 1962 that Chairman Mao Zedong decided to launch a large-scale invasion to severely punish India.  While  the  main  offensive  was  to  be  in  the  Eastern  Sector,  coordinated  operations  in  the  Western  Sector were to be undertaken to capture areas up to the 1960 Claim Line in eastern Ladakh, which entailed elimination of

43  Indian  posts.  Gaining  control  over  entire  Aksai  Chin  was  essential  to  guarantee  security  of  the  Western

Highway, linking Kashgarh in Xinjiang to Lhasa in Tibet.

The  People’s  Liberation  Army  (PLA)  offensive  began  on  October  20,  1962,  simultaneously  in  the  Eastern  and

Western Sectors. The operations in  Aksai Chin  were executed  in two  phases. During Phase One (October  20-28,

1962)  PLA  went  on  to  clear  Indian  posts  at  Daulat  Beg  Oldie,  Galwan,  astride  both  banks  of Pangong  Tso and Dungti-Demchok areas. Phase Two  was launched after a tactical  pause of three weeks on November 18, 1962 to capture the strategically important Kailash Range.

Reorganising India’s defences

The  Karakoram  Range  ends  on  the  northern  side  of  the  Pangong  Tso.  The  Kailash  Range  originates  from  the southern bank and runs northwest to southeast for over 60 km. The Kailash Ridge is characterised by rugged, broken terrain with heights varying between 4,000-5,500m, and its key features include Helmet Top, Gurung Hill, Spanggur Gap,  Muggar  Hill,  Mukhpari,  Rezang  La  and  Rechin  La.  The  Ridge  dominates  Chushul  Bowl;  an  important communications centre.

The lull following Phase One was utilised by the Indian Army to reorganise its defences. The 3 Infantry Division was  raised  at  Leh  on  October  26, 1962  under  Major  General  Budh  Singh.  The  HQ  of  114  Infantry Brigade  was moved  to  Chushul,  the  70  Infantry Brigade  took  over  the responsibility of  Indus  Valley  Sub  Sector,  and  the  I63

Infantry Brigade was inducted for the Defence of Leh.

Deployment at Chushul

The 114 Infantry Brigade responsible for Chushul area was holding a frontage of around 40 km, and was deployed as under:-

   1/8 Gorkha Rifles covered the northern side of Spanggur Gap. Its two companies were deployed on the Gurung

Hill, another company was deployed to the North, and a fourth company was in the Spanggur Gap itself with

Battalion HQ along with an ad-hoc company at the Chushul airfield.

   13  Kumaon  was  on  the  southern  side  of  the  Spanggur  Gap  with  two  companies  on  the  Muggar  Hill,  one company at Rezang La, and a fourth company along with Battalion HQ south of it.

   Brigade HQ along with 1 JAT and two troops AMX 13 tanks of 20 Lancers were located at Chushul. 13 Field

Regiment less a battery, equipped with 25 Pounder guns, was in support.

 

Chinese plan of attack

The  plan  duly  approved  by  the  Central  Military  Commission  (CMC)  envisaged  capturing  both  Rezang  La  and Gurung  Hill  simultaneously.  Troops  comprising  three  battalions  of  the  PLA’s  4  Infantry  Division  along  with supporting  units  were  concentrated  in  Retuzong  area,  about  40  km  from  the  border.  All  these  units  had  been  in action during Phase One as well. As per instructions from the CMC, operations were to be confined to the positions on the ridge line only.

Battle of Rezang La

The C Company of 13 Kumaon, responsible for the defence of Rezang La, was deployed two platoons up (Strong Points 7&9 ) with a third platoon and Company HQ on Point 5150 (Strong Point 8) in the centre. Besides, there were supporting detachments of 3-inch mortars, heavy machine guns and rocket launchers.

The Chinese, having carried out detailed reconnaissance of Rezang La, planned to outflank the position at night and attack simultaneously from the northern and southern directions at first light. Accordingly, the attacking troops were divided  into two  task  forces.  One task  force, composed  of 3rd  Battalion less company  of 11th Regiment,  was  to attack Strong Point 9 from the south. The second task force, composed of two companies (one each from the 3rd Battalions of 10th & 11th Regiments), was to attack Strong Point 8 from the North. The 3rd Battalion less company ex-10th Regiment, and 3rd Cavalry less two companies, were to act as reserves.

The two task forces started from Retuzong at 8 pm November 17 and were in their respective firm bases by 6 am on November  18. Following brief artillery bombardment, the  attack commenced  from both directions at 9:15  am.  A fierce battle ensued, with the defender beating back successive Chinese attacks. With communication snapped and the  position  encircled,  leaving  no  possibility  of  the  C  Company  being  reinforced,  it  was  “do  and  die”  situation. Major  Shaitan  Singh,  the  Company  Commander,  even  launched  a  local  counterattack.  Finally,  by  employing reserves, the Chinese did manage to break through and Rezang La fell by 10 pm November 18.

It was an epic battle, literally fought to the “last  man, last  round”. Of the total 141 personnel at Rezang  La, 135 fought  to  the  finish  and  5  were  taken  prisoners,  with  one  lone  survivor.  Major  Shaitan  Singh  was  posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra. The Chinese suffered 21 killed and 98 wounded.

Battle for Gurung Hill

Gurung Hill was held by two companies of 1/8 GR (Strong Points 16, 5 & 6) located northeast at Spanggur  Gap. Strong Point 16, the most dominating feature, was at a height of 5,100 m. It was held by a company minus a platoon. The defences were well coordinated and covered by a protective minefield. The position was supported by a troop of AMX 13 light tanks.

The task to capture Gurung Hill was assigned to Ali Detachment, the holding formation. A force of eight sections was mustered and duly reinforced by a platoon each of engineers and flame throwers, one heavy machine gun, one

57 mm recoilless gun and twelve 82mm mortars for fire support. One company of 3rd Cavalry was to act as reserve. The operation to capture Gurung Hill began at 9:22 am November 18, coordinated with the attack on Rezang La. It was  preceded  by brief  artillery  bombardment.  In  the  face  of  stiff  resistance  from Gorkhas  with  tanks  in  a  direct shooting role, the Chinese suffered heavy casualties and the attack was stalled. On regrouping and reinforcements joining in, the PLA resumed the offensive at 11 am. After repulsing repeated attacks with no reinforcements coming by, the position was captured by PLA towards last light on November 18. The intensity of fighting can be gauged from the casualties — 1/8 GR suffered 50 killed and several wounded while the Chinese sustained over 80 (killed and wounded). The PLA could not capture the remaining part of Gurung Hill i.e. Strong Points 5 & 6.

While only Rezang La and part of Gurung Hill had been captured, a decision was taken at the highest level to pull back  from  the  Kailash  Ridge  and  redeploy West  of  Chushul  on  the  night  of  December  19. The  Chinese  did  not follow the withdrawing troops or go for Chushul airfield. The PLA had only division-plus at their disposal for the

operations in Aksai Chin, and  hence  were severely constrained  to undertake any further operations. On the other

hand, India’s 3 Infantry Division had the capability to launch a limited counteroffensive. After declaring ceasefire

on November 21, Chinese troops fell back to depth positions due to logistics constraints.

Explained |What is the new disengagement agreement in eastern Ladakh?

August 2020: the present

The course of history was set to reverse 58 years later when. on August 30, 2020, the Special Frontier Force (SFF) troops secured Kailash Ridge as a pre-emptive operation, taking the PLA by surprise. This action proved a game- changer,  neutralising  gains  made  by  the  Chinese  along  the  northern  bank  of  Pangong  Tso  and  rendering  PLA positions  east  of  Spanggur  Gap-Maldo  Garrison  totally  vulnerable.  Why  the  PLA  did  not  go  for  Kailash  Ridge initially as part of its aggression in May 2020 could be because of two plausible reasons: first, paucity of infantry as 4 Infantry Division, now motorised, not suited to hold ground, and second, a presumption that Indian Army will not venture     to     undertake proactive counteractions.

 

In 1962, it was on the Kailash Ridge that    Indian    soldiers    proved    their mettle and made the PLA pay a heavy price,  despite  being  poorly  equipped and  ill-prepared.  Today,  given  a  rich  experience    in    high    altitude-cum- glacial  warfare,  coupled  with  vastly improved equipment and infrastructure,   the   Indian   Army   is well  positioned  to  hold  the  Kailash Range for good. The Chinese, on the other  hand,  are  beginning  to  realise the    harsh   realities   of   winters   at  the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Aware   of   the   inability   to   regain Kailash  Ridge  with  the  current  force level,    and    with   the    window  for launching   major   operations   already foreclosed due to the onset of winter  the   Chinese   may   use   all   ploys   to negotiate the Indian Army’s pull-back from  south  of   Pangong  Tso.   India should  be  wary  of  past  mistakes  and avoid  falling  into  the  Chinese  trap. The     PLA’s     current     aggression, wherein    it    flouted    a    series    of agreements     signed     between     the countries  over  last  three  decades  to unilaterally alter  the status quo  along the LAC, is a case in point. The Kailash Ridge marks a tryst with history,  a  turning  point,  as  it  is  the first piece of territory that  has been recovered  from Chinese illegal occupation, but definitely  not the last one as India’s  claim  line  is  the  Johnson  Line  of  1865.  External  Affairs  S  Jaishankar  recently  said  that  India  was  being tested  in  the  seven-month-long  standoff  with  China  in  eastern  Ladakh.  Therefore,  it  is  time  to  convey  a  stern message to the Chinese leadership that India will not compromise on its sovereignty.

Analyzing The Pandemic of The Century

Nicholas Taleb described „Black Swan‟ as an improbable event and random occurrence with  extreme  impact.  „Grey  Rhino‟,  on  the  other  hand,  as  per  Michele  Wucker,  is  a highly probable event that may occur  after a series of  warnings  and  visible  pieces of evidence  with  enormous  impact.  Originating  from  Wuhan,  China,  towards  the  end  of

2019, coronavirus appeared as a „Black Swan‟ creating havoc across the globe. In India it  mutated  into  „Grey  Rhino‟,  causing  mayhem  in  the  form  of  extreme  disruption  and destruction.

It  was  during  March  last  year  that  Covid-19  virus  cases  began  to  surface  in  India. Initially,  the  daily  infection  rate  was  barely  in  hundreds  in  comparison  to  Western nations where the count was in five figures, despite the advanced health care system. Given modest medical infrastructure and India is being predicted to be a potential hot spot, the Central Government declared nationwide lockdown towards late March 2020

to  obviate  a  catastrophe.  PM  Modi  addressed  the  nation  frequently  to  sensitise  the citizens about the consequences of the deadly virus.

Starting with insufficient PPE kits, N-95 masks and testing facilities, the Indian medical fraternity   led   the   charge   against   coronavirus,   duly   complemented   by   „Non-Profit Organisations‟ corporates and the public at large. Despite severe hardships, migrants‟ untold  suffering and millions  losing their livelihood,  the nation reposed  implicit faith  in the PM-led campaign against the pandemic. By mid-February 2021, daily infections had dropped to around ten thousand after hitting the peak of nearly a lac. Corona appeared to be on the wane, given the assurances by the top leadership including the PM and Health  Minister.  The  economy  was  showing  signs  of  recovery  and  the  business environment   looked   favourable,   marked   by   a   sense   of   optimism.   Going   by   the indicators, apparently, the „Black Swan‟ phase of the pandemic had been well handled.

BLACK SWAN TO GREY RHINO: SLEEP WALK TO THE EDGE

Now there was a window of opportunity for the Central and State administrations to get the house in order and prepare earnestly for the pandemic‟s second surge, evident from the  experience  of  US  and  Western  nations.  Even  the  forum  of  scientific  experts  had warned the officials against a more contagious variant of the Covid-19 virus taking hold of the country. Hence, making up shortages of critical medical equipment and ramping up  supply  chains  ought  to  have  been  taken  upon  the  highest  priority.  As  mass immunisation  offered  the  best  option  to  defeat  the  second  wave,  India  was  in  a  far better  position  than  even  the  advanced  nations  due  to  its  vast  potential  to  produce vaccine  doses.  However,  due  to  the  Government‟s  reluctance  to  fund  the  capacity building of vaccine manufacturing firms, the advantage could not be leveraged.

Ironically, complacency got better of prudence, faith trumped science and fixation with the election calendar threw all the Corona protocols to the wind. Assumptions like our young demographics and BCG  vaccination provided  us with  special  immunity against virus   proved   to   be   wishful   speculations.   Delusion   of   triumph   against   pandemic obfuscated all signs of impending disaster. The Covid-19 second wave did not turn into Tsunami overnight. The crisis had begun to loom large on the horizon towards the end of March. It appears India almost sleepwalked into the „Grey Rhino‟ trap.

It was only around 10 April when the daily cases crossed 150,000 that the panic button was  pressed.  By  the  end  of  April,  daily  Corona  infections  had  breached  the  four  lac mark.  The  health  infrastructure  in  many  states  has  been  overwhelmed.  The  role  of government machinery leaves much to be desired. With the situation having spun out of control, the nation today finds itself on the edge, many left to their own fate. It›s mid- May, the total infection stands at twenty-five million with over a quarter-million deaths. The daily cases continue to hover around 3.5 lakh, with approximately 4,000 deaths.

INDIA FIGHTS BACK

While  intense  fire  fighting  actions  are  on,  adhocism  and  past  assumptions  are inadequate to solve the existing cataclysm. The need of the hour is adaptive leadership

and strategic clarity. The toughest challenge facing the authorities is to reconcile to the fact  that  grievous  lapses  led  to  the  current  dire  straits.  Persistent  efforts  of  the administration  to  play  down  the  crisis  and  cacophony  of  blame  game  are  most disheartening. Instead, what is needed is the correct diagnostic of the problems areas and formulation of actionable strategies by the experts to mitigate the crisis situations. To this end, the constitution of 12 members National Task Force (NTF) by the Supreme Court  marks  a  step  in  the  right  direction.  For  effective  results,  the  NTF  should  be empowered   to   take   decisions   and   government   officials   must   ensure   a   speedy implementation mechanism.

Currently,  the  most  critical  issues  are  the  availability  of  oxygen,  ICU  beds  and  life- saving medical equipment. As for oxygen, the cruciality is not its shortage per se but the logistics constraints of the supply chains. Although the situation is now being addressed on a war footing by employing strategic air and naval assets and augmenting internal capacities,  it‟s  going  to  take  some  time  before  the  situation  eases  out.  Therefore, judicious  utilisation  and  prioritising  the  distribution  of  resources  can  considerably alleviate the criticality. Installing in situ oxygen plants in major hospitals must be done on the highest priority. Setting up field hospitals  facilities utilising the resources of the armed forces, central agencies like DRDO, ISRO, PSUs and industry has come as a great relief at a very crucial juncture.

During  the  calamities,  the  tendency  of  over-centralisation  just  cannot  work,  case  in point  initial  blunder  of  virus  testing  restricted  only  to  government  labs.  Delegation, deregulation   and   distribution   of   responsibility   are   the   key   essentials   to   handle unforeseen   contingencies.   In   fact,   the   NGOs,   local   bodies,   „resident   welfare associations‟ (RWAs) are already making yeoman contribution by setting up Covid beds and supplying life-saving equipment. I can personally vouch for it being part of some of these  initiatives.  Incidentally,  in  China,  the  „Residential  Committees‟  (Juzhu  Weiyuan Hui) played a pivotal role in controlling the coronavirus. One of the serious shortcomings still  is  the  lack  of  real-time  information  regarding  the  availability  of  beds  and  critical medicines. Here, well organised „Covid Care Centre‟ in each major city/town can prove to be of immense value and bolster much needed public confidence.

It is most unfortunate that bureaucratic procedural norms continue to hamper the import of  critical medical equipment and speedy distribution of foreign assistance material to the states. „Crisis Management Teams‟ composed of logistics experts must be deployed at key nodal centres to handle this issue, as each minute the lives are being lost. During such  abnormal  times,  the  leaders  in  public  life  should  be  visible  on  the  ground. Ironically,  most  appear  to  be  missing  in  action.  The  political  parties  have  substantial resources  at  their  disposal.  Instead  of  indulging  in  petty  squabbles,  it  is  a  great opportunity for these organisations to contribute in the hour of crisis by throwing open their facilities for the good of the fellow countrymen.

There is a need for a clear overall strategy. The topmost priority ought to be in saving precious   lives   and   bringing   down   the   infections   rate.   Besides   lockdowns,   strict adherence  to  regulations  pertaining  to  public  behaviour,  prioritising  allocations  of resources and capacity building merit immediate attention. The medical supply chains

need  to  be  reconfigured  and  the  expertise  of  multinationals  like Amazon  and  Flipkart could  be  ideally  exploited.  Measures  must  be  put  in  place  in  anticipation  of  the  third wave in view of the new variant of virus and vulnerability of the under18 population. A long  term  strategy  is  needed  to  fix  the  public  health  system  which  is  currently  in shambles.

The  vaccination programme has to move  in tandem as  it is  the best  defence against future waves. The strength of pharmaceutical companies should be leveraged to boost the production of vaccines, alongside seeking immediate IPR waiver. The current pace of  daily  vaccination  which  is  barely  2  million  needs  to  be  accelerated  significantly. Pricing must be standardised and Central Government should compensate the Pharma companies for subsidising the vaccines. For those „below the poverty line‟ vaccination must be free.

As a nation, we have tremendous resilience to bounce back during adverse situations but  have  a  poor  record  in  anticipating  these.  We  tend  to  believe  in  fait  accompli, ignoring  the  science,  besides  avoiding  introspection  of  lapses,  thus  missing  out  on valuable lessons. Even our strategic community is more at ease with hindsight wisdom than prognostics. History tells us, „If you don‟t learn from history, you are bound to suffer it.‟

India will win the fight against the pandemic, primarily due fortitude and forbearance of ordinary citizens- the real Victors. Nonetheless, the leadership of the day owes to the countrymen a solemn commitment; “never again will India fall victim to „Black Swan‟ or

„Grey Rhino‟ phenomenon”.

The author is a war Veteran, former Assistant Chief Strategic; Currently Professor Geo Strategy

& Management Studies, Distinguished Fellow at United Institution of India.

ANALYSING THE PANDEMIC OF THE CENTURY

Nicholas Taleb described „Black Swan‟ as an improbable event and random occurrence with  extreme  impact.  „Grey  Rhino‟,  on  the  other  hand,  as  per  Michele  Wucker,  is  a highly probable event that may occur  after a series of  warnings  and  visible  pieces of evidence  with  enormous  impact.  Originating  from  Wuhan,  China,  towards  the  end  of 2019, coronavirus appeared as a „Black Swan‟ creating havoc across the globe. In India it  mutated  into  „Grey  Rhino‟,  causing  mayhem  in  the  form  of  extreme  disruption  and destruction.

It  was  during  March  last  year  that  Covid-19  virus  cases  began  to  surface  in  India. Initially,  the  daily  infection  rate  was  barely  in  hundreds  in  comparison  to  Western nations where the count was in five figures, despite the advanced health care system. Given modest medical infrastructure and India is being predicted to be a potential hot spot, the Central Government declared nationwide lockdown towards late March 2020 to  obviate  a  catastrophe.  PM  Modi  addressed  the  nation  frequently  to  sensitise  the citizens about the consequences of the deadly virus.

Starting with insufficient PPE kits, N-95 masks and testing facilities, the Indian medical fraternity   led   the   charge   against   coronavirus,   duly   complemented   by   „Non-Profit Organisations‟ corporates and the public at large. Despite severe hardships, migrants‟ untold  suffering and millions  losing their livelihood,  the nation reposed  implicit faith  in the PM-led campaign against the pandemic. By mid-February 2021, daily infections had dropped to around ten thousand after hitting the peak of nearly a lac. Corona appeared to be on the wane, given the assurances by the top leadership including the PM and Health  Minister.  The  economy  was  showing  signs  of  recovery  and  the  business environment   looked   favourable,   marked   by   a   sense   of   optimism.   Going   by   the indicators, apparently, the „Black Swan‟ phase of the pandemic had been well handled.

BLACK SWAN TO GREY RHINO: SLEEP WALK TO THE EDGE

Now there was a window of opportunity for the Central and State administrations to get the house in order and prepare earnestly for the pandemic‟s second surge, evident from the  experience  of  US  and  Western  nations.  Even  the  forum  of  scientific  experts  had warned the officials against a more contagious variant of the Covid-19 virus taking hold of the country. Hence, making up shortages of critical medical equipment and ramping up  supply  chains  ought  to  have  been  taken  upon  the  highest  priority.  As  mass immunisation  offered  the  best  option  to  defeat  the  second  wave,  India  was  in  a  far better  position  than  even  the  advanced  nations  due  to  its  vast  potential  to  produce vaccine  doses.  However,  due  to  the  Government‟s  reluctance  to  fund  the  capacity building of vaccine manufacturing firms, the advantage could not be leveraged.

Ironically, complacency got better of prudence, faith trumped science and fixation with the election calendar threw all the Corona protocols to the wind. Assumptions like our young demographics and BCG  vaccination provided  us with  special  immunity against virus   proved   to   be   wishful   speculations.   Delusion   of   triumph   against   pandemic obfuscated all signs of impending disaster. The Covid-19 second wave did not turn into Tsunami overnight. The crisis had begun to loom large on the horizon towards the end of March. It appears India almost sleepwalked into the „Grey Rhino‟ trap.

It was only around 10 April when the daily cases crossed 150,000 that the panic button was  pressed.  By  the  end  of  April,  daily  Corona  infections  had  breached  the  four  lac mark.  The  health  infrastructure  in  many  states  has  been  overwhelmed.  The  role  of government machinery leaves much to be desired. With the situation having spun out of control, the nation today finds itself on the edge, many left to their own fate. It›s mid- May, the total infection stands at twenty-five million with over a quarter-million deaths. The daily cases continue to hover around 3.5 lakh, with approximately 4,000 deaths.

INDIA FIGHTS BACK

While  intense  fire  fighting  actions  are  on,  adhocism  and  past  assumptions  are inadequate to solve the existing cataclysm. The need of the hour is adaptive leadership and strategic clarity. The toughest challenge facing the authorities is to reconcile to the fact  that  grievous  lapses  led  to  the  current  dire  straits.  Persistent  efforts  of  the administration  to  play  down  the  crisis  and  cacophony  of  blame  game  are  most disheartening. Instead, what is needed is the correct diagnostic of the problems areas and formulation of actionable strategies by the experts to mitigate the crisis situations. To this end, the constitution of 12 members National Task Force (NTF) by the Supreme Court  marks  a  step  in  the  right  direction.  For  effective  results,  the  NTF  should  be empowered   to   take   decisions   and   government   officials   must   ensure   a   speedy implementation mechanism.

Currently,  the  most  critical  issues  are  the  availability  of  oxygen,  ICU  beds  and  life- saving medical equipment. As for oxygen, the cruciality is not its shortage per se but the logistics constraints of the supply chains. Although the situation is now being addressed on a war footing by employing strategic air and naval assets and augmenting internal capacities,  it‟s  going  to  take  some  time  before  the  situation  eases  out.  Therefore, judicious  utilisation  and  prioritising  the  distribution  of  resources  can  considerably alleviate the criticality. Installing in situ oxygen plants in major hospitals must be done on the highest priority. Setting up field hospitals  facilities utilising the resources of the armed forces, central agencies like DRDO, ISRO, PSUs and industry has come as a great relief at a very crucial juncture.

During  the  calamities,  the  tendency  of  over-centralisation  just  cannot  work,  case  in point  initial  blunder  of  virus  testing  restricted  only  to  government  labs.  Delegation, deregulation   and   distribution   of   responsibility   are   the   key   essentials   to   handle unforeseen   contingencies.   In   fact,   the   NGOs,   local   bodies,   „resident   welfare associations‟ (RWAs) are already making yeoman contribution by setting up Covid beds and supplying life-saving equipment. I can personally vouch for it being part of some of these  initiatives.  Incidentally,  in  China,  the  „Residential  Committees‟  (Juzhu  Weiyuan Hui) played a pivotal role in controlling the coronavirus. One of the serious shortcomings still  is  the  lack  of  real-time  information  regarding  the  availability  of  beds  and  critical medicines. Here, well organised „Covid Care Centre‟ in each major city/town can prove to be of immense value and bolster much needed public confidence.

It is most unfortunate that bureaucratic procedural norms continue to hamper the import of  critical medical equipment and speedy distribution of foreign assistance material to the states. „Crisis Management Teams‟ composed of logistics experts must be deployed at key nodal centres to handle this issue, as each minute the lives are being lost. During such  abnormal  times,  the  leaders  in  public  life  should  be  visible  on  the  ground. Ironically,  most  appear  to  be  missing  in  action.  The  political  parties  have  substantial resources  at  their  disposal.  Instead  of  indulging  in  petty  squabbles,  it  is  a  great opportunity for these organisations to contribute in the hour of crisis by throwing open their facilities for the good of the fellow countrymen.

There is a need for a clear overall strategy. The topmost priority ought to be in saving precious   lives   and   bringing   down   the   infections   rate.   Besides   lockdowns,   strict adherence  to  regulations  pertaining  to  public  behaviour,  prioritising  allocations  of resources and capacity building merit immediate attention. The medical supply chains need  to  be  reconfigured  and  the  expertise  of  multinationals  like Amazon  and  Flipkart could  be  ideally  exploited.  Measures  must  be  put  in  place  in  anticipation  of  the  third wave in view of the new variant of virus and vulnerability of the under18 population. A long  term  strategy  is  needed  to  fix  the  public  health  system  which  is  currently  in shambles.

The  vaccination programme has to move  in tandem as  it is  the best  defence against future waves. The strength of pharmaceutical companies should be leveraged to boost the production of vaccines, alongside seeking immediate IPR waiver. The current pace of  daily  vaccination  which  is  barely  2  million  needs  to  be  accelerated  significantly. Pricing must be standardised and Central Government should compensate the Pharma companies for subsidising the vaccines. For those „below the poverty line‟ vaccination must be free.

As a nation, we have tremendous resilience to bounce back during adverse situations but  have  a  poor  record  in  anticipating  these.  We  tend  to  believe  in  fait  accompli, ignoring  the  science,  besides  avoiding  introspection  of  lapses,  thus  missing  out  on valuable lessons. Even our strategic community is more at ease with hindsight wisdom than prognostics. History tells us, „If you don‟t learn from history, you are bound to suffer it.‟

India will win the fight against the pandemic, primarily due fortitude and forbearance of ordinary citizens- the real Victors. Nonetheless, the leadership of the day owes to the countrymen a solemn commitment; “never again will India fall victim to „Black Swan‟ or „ Grey Rhino‟ phenomenon”.

The author is a war Veteran, former Assistant Chief Strategic; Currently Professor Geo Strategy

& Management Studies, Distinguished Fellow at United Institution of India.

Aksai Chin 2.0: Xi’s bid to replicate Mao merits review to obviate past miscalculations

Communist leaders are known to have a deep understanding of their nation’s history and tend to make comparisons between present and the past, driven by conviction: “further you look back, farther you look ahead”.

Published in Indian Express on Nov. 24, 2020

Major-General-Dr-GG-Dwivedi-Retd (1)

Major General Dr GG Dwivedi (Retd).

Chinese thinking since ancient times advocated the need of a conducive periphery, that is a ‘subdued neighbourhood’, to be an essential prerequisite for its prosperity. Communist leaders are known to have a deep understanding of their nation’s history and tend to make comparisons between present and the past, driven by conviction: “further you look back, farther you look ahead”. Therefore,
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s bid to replicate (Chairman) Mao Zedong’s Aksai Chin play book some six decades later merits a review to obviate past miscalculations in defeating Dragon’s misadventure.

Aksai Chin 1962-Mao’s Game Plan

Henry Kissinger’s book ‘On China’ begins with Mao briefing his top commanders on the eve of the 1962 war wherein he recalled that China and India had fought “one and half” wars earlier. The first one in 649 AD, when Sino-Tibetan combined force rallied against rebellious successor following King Harshavardhana’s death. This followed centuries of religious and economic exchanges till Timurlane ransacked Delhi in 1398, what Mao referred to as “Half War”. Lesson Mao sought to drive home was: “Two neighbours could enjoy long period of peace, but to do so China had to use force to knock India to the negotiating table”.

By the summer of 1961, People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had advanced almost 112 km south-west of positions it held in 1958. In the end of 1961, the Chinese leadership realised that its policy to prevent India from establishing forward posts without bloodshed was not delivering. Consequently, on October 6, 1962, Mao decided on a large-scale invasion to severely punish India. A directive from Mao as the chairman of Central Military Commission (CMC) to General Lou Ruiquing, Chief of Staff PLA laid out broad strategy for the projected offensive. While the main assault was to be in the Eastern Sector to cause maximum destruction of Indian forces, coordinated operations were to be undertaken in the Western Sector to capture areas up to 1960 claim line which included complete Aksai Chin, to ensure security of the Western Highway, linking Kashgarh in Xinjiang to Lhasa in Tibet.

General Zhang Guo Hua, a Korean War Veteran was made the overall operational commander. The timing of offensive was selected with due deliberation. At the 10th Plenum of the 8th Central Committee of Communist Party of China (CPC) held in September 1962, Mao faced severe criticism due to the disastrous outcome of ‘great leap forward’. World attention at the time was focussed on ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’.
PLA offensive commenced on October 20, 1962, simultaneously on the Eastern and Western Fronts, taking the Indian leadership by complete surprise. The operations in Aksai Chin were executed in two phases. During phase one (October 20-28, 1962) PLA went on to clear Indian posts in DBO, Galwan, astride both banks of Pangong Tso and Dungti-Demchok areas. Phase two was launched after a tactical pause of three weeks on November 18, 1962, to secure Kailash Range including Gurung Hill and Razangla. PLA faced stiff resistance here and suffered over 200 casualties. Having secured areas up to the claim line, China declared ceasefire on November 21. PLA employed 4 Division and few local units for the operations under Xinjiang Military Region.

The Chinese victory helped Mao restore his position and dent India’s image in the global polity. He had expected the effect of India’s debacle to last for a decade; apparently it sustained far longer. Over the years, India’s approach to buy peace by adhering to ‘One China Policy’, high-level exchanges and signing series of agreements obviously did not work. On the other hand, Beijing was able to legitimise its claim over 38,000 km our territory illegally occupied and consolidate its position along the LAC by pursuing “nibble and negotiate” (Canshi he Tanpan) tactics, part of ‘bulletless war’ strategy. While border issue remained on the backburner, economic ties emerged as the key component of bilateral relations, tilted heavily in favour of People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Xi’s Grand Design 2020-India’s Response

Soon after assuming power in 2012, Xi initiated the process of path-breaking military reforms in consonance with China’s expanding role. This entailed a major shift in the military strategy incorporating combined “offshore waters defence with open sea protection” and “inter-theatre operations”. Post Doklam, China apparently reviewed its strategic objectives, evident from the massive upgrade of infrastructure in Tibet, with number of airbases, air defence positions and heliports near the LAC almost doubling over last three years.

As a sequel to reorganisation of military regions in to theatre commands, the ‘Western Theatre Command’ was assigned the operation responsibility of entire border against India. Its order of battle included the key Tibet and Xinjiang Military Regions, (both corps size formations), besides 76&76 Corps, six air divisions and missile base at Qinghai. Even Theatre Commander Gen Zhao Zongqi and Political Commissar Gen Wu were handpicked, former being Vietnam War Veteran and latter a rising star.

Given the timing, locations and force level of over three divisions, including 4 motorised and 6 mechanised divisions of South Xinjiang Military Region (SXMR), it is obvious that operation was planned at the CMC; President Xi being its chairman and commander-in-chief of PLA. The political intent was punitive to convey a strong message to Delhi to kowtow Beijing’s interests and desist from undertaking development of infrastructure in Ladakh, apprehending change in status quo. The military aim was to make swift territorial gains by occupying unheld contested areas astride the LAC and secure the 1960 Claim Line-de facto border for the final settlement. The status of new LAC was to be legitimised through prolonged negotiations, from position of strength. Coincidentally, DBO, Galwan and Pangong Tso are the same areas which the PLA had addressed during 1962 war.

The operations launched towards the beginning May 2020 went as planned, with PLA gaining ‘first mover’ advantage. Indian Army’s robust mirror deployment and Galwan incidence on 15 June 2020 which led to abrupt escalation had not been anticipated by the PLA. With Indian Army’s pre-emptive action on the 29-30 August 2020 of occupying strategically important Kailash Range took the Chinese leadership by complete surprise. With this move, Indian Army gained tremendous tactical advantage in the Pangong Tso sector. However, PLA had managed to gain a definite edge in DBO, Galwan and Hot Spring areas.

Obviate Past Miscalculations to Defeat Dragon’s Misadventure

Of the major reasons for India’s defeat in 1962 were twin presumptions; China’s inability to undertake offensive and Communist leadership commitment to honour the agreement. This misjudgement proved disastrous. After declaring unilaterally ceasefire, PLA pulled back to positions which could be administratively sustained. However, Chinese continued building military infrastructure to enable forward deployment of forces at a short notice.

Ironically, even six decades on, realistic assessment of rapid accretion in Chinese war waging potential and holistic strategy to meet the challenge still remains a work in progress. Even reactions to PLA’s periodic transgressions across the LAC since 2013 have been more by way of crisis management rather than calibrated responses. ‘Strategic Guidance’ format evolved mutually by PM Modi and President Xi, was taken as an ‘iron clad guarantee’ that Chinese military will cooperate in maintaining peace and tranquility on the LAC. Ironically, we misread China’s intent and capability yet again.

PRC’s assertive behaviour has a definite correlation with the internal situation as was in case of Mao in 1962. PLA’s current incursions coincided with Xi facing criticism for mishandling the Corona virus, besides slowing down of economy and world attention on battling COVID 19 pandemic. Two forth coming events; Communist Party’s Centenary in 2021 and 20th Party Congress in 2022 are decisive for Xi’s future. Hence, it is imperative to keep a close watch on China’s internal power dynamics scene.

Chinese are known to be hard-nosed negotiators, proved once again from the manner de-escalation talks remain deadlocked over last five months. It is primarily due to PLA’s rigid stance on Indian Army to disengage first, while denying its role as an aggressor. Post eighth rounds talks between the two Corps Cdrs on November 6, 2020, there are unconfirmed reports of phased disengagement in the offing. PLA has been pressing hard for Indian Army to pull back from Kailash Range and as a trade-off willing to fall back from Finger 8 from Finger 4.

Chinese are well aware of the criticality of the situation as India’s current deployment on the South Bank makes PLA positions at Maldo and beyond virtually untenable. Hence, vacating Kailash Range will be a strategic blunder, more so when the Chinese are silent about their ingress especially DBO-Depsang sector.

It is evident that Xi’s misadventure has failed to achieve political aim and military objective. In fact, over rated PLA is finding it hard to sustain through harsh winters. Its effort is to stage a selective pull back to get through the winters. India ought to be wary of Chinese ploys and avoid falling into PLA’s trap of sector wise disengagement. Our bottom line should be restoration of April 2020 status quo and disengagement process based on ‘confirm and verify’ principle. Any move to sign yet another agreement (with five already in place and sixth just signed last month) should be vehemently thwarted as Chinese are known to violate agreements at will.

Even if the current standoff crisis is resolved, the sanctity of LAC in future can only be ensured if it is well defended and not merely patrolled, which implies robust border management mechanism. The current system of multi-organisational complex set up needs to be replaced by single nodal agency with a unified command structure, wherein all elements are brought under operational control of the Army. Border militias based on ‘home and hearth’ concept can be a major asset. Besides, current efforts for massive upgrade of our infrastructure must be given further impetus to ensure calibrated timely responses.

Chinese traditionally respect strength (li), ranking nations as per their ‘Comprehensive National Power’ (CNP) and exploiting asymmetry to coerce the weak. India’s approach of exercising restraint in the wake of Chinese assertiveness has been perceived by Communist leadership as weakness. Hence, there is no option but to narrow down the prevailing power differential to deal with China on level footing. India needs to formulate long term pragmatic China policy based on hard ground realities and not on wishful assumptions. Institutionalising of strategic partnerships like ‘Quad’ and initiatives such as ‘Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor’ ought to be accorded highest priority.
Given the conflicting national interests coupled with unresolved border issue, India-China relations will continue to be marked by complexities and contradictions, defined more by “Competition-Confrontation” rather than “Competition-Cooperative”. It is only the audacity of our leadership to take bold decisions and courage to stand ground to safeguard strategic interests that will obviate disputes turning into conflict. After all, Chinese traditionally believe in sitting across the table only with the equals.

 

Aksai Chin 2.0: Xi’s bid to replicate Mao merits review to obviate past miscalculations

Communist leaders are known to have a deep understanding of their nation’s history and tend to make comparisons between present and the past, driven by conviction: “further you look back, farther you look ahead”.

November 24, 2020 in Indian Express

Major-General-Dr-GG-Dwivedi-Retd

Chinese thinking since ancient times advocated the need of a conducive periphery, that is a ‘subdued neighbourhood’, to be an essential prerequisite for its prosperity. Communist leaders are known to have a deep understanding of their nation’s history and tend to make comparisons between present and the past, driven by conviction: “further you look back, farther you look ahead”. Therefore,
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s bid to replicate (Chairman) Mao Zedong’s Aksai Chin play book some six decades later merits a review to obviate past miscalculations in defeating Dragon’s misadventure.

Aksai Chin 1962-Mao’s Game Plan

Henry Kissinger’s book ‘On China’ begins with Mao briefing his top commanders on the eve of the 1962 war wherein he recalled that China and India had fought “one and half” wars earlier. The first one in 649 AD, when Sino-Tibetan combined force rallied against rebellious successor following King Harshavardhana’s death. This followed centuries of religious and economic exchanges till Timurlane ransacked Delhi in 1398, what Mao referred to as “Half War”. Lesson Mao sought to drive home was: “Two neighbours could enjoy long period of peace, but to do so China had to use force to knock India to the negotiating table”.

By the summer of 1961, People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had advanced almost 112 km south-west of positions it held in 1958. In the end of 1961, the Chinese leadership realised that its policy to prevent India from establishing forward posts without bloodshed was not delivering. Consequently, on October 6, 1962, Mao decided on a large-scale invasion to severely punish India. A directive from Mao as the chairman of Central Military Commission (CMC) to General Lou Ruiquing, Chief of Staff PLA laid out broad strategy for the projected offensive. While the main assault was to be in the Eastern Sector to cause maximum destruction of Indian forces, coordinated operations were to be undertaken in the Western Sector to capture areas up to 1960 claim line which included complete Aksai Chin, to ensure security of the Western Highway, linking Kashgarh in Xinjiang to Lhasa in Tibet.

General Zhang Guo Hua, a Korean War Veteran was made the overall operational commander. The timing of offensive was selected with due deliberation. At the 10th Plenum of the 8th Central Committee of Communist Party of China (CPC) held in September 1962, Mao faced severe criticism due to the disastrous outcome of ‘great leap forward’. World attention at the time was focussed on ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’.
PLA offensive commenced on October 20, 1962, simultaneously on the Eastern and Western Fronts, taking the Indian leadership by complete surprise. The operations in Aksai Chin were executed in two phases. During phase one (October 20-28, 1962) PLA went on to clear Indian posts in DBO, Galwan, astride both banks of Pangong Tso and Dungti-Demchok areas. Phase two was launched after a tactical pause of three weeks on November 18, 1962, to secure Kailash Range including Gurung Hill and Razangla. PLA faced stiff resistance here and suffered over 200 casualties. Having secured areas up to the claim line, China declared ceasefire on November 21. PLA employed 4 Division and few local units for the operations under Xinjiang Military Region.

The Chinese victory helped Mao restore his position and dent India’s image in the global polity. He had expected the effect of India’s debacle to last for a decade; apparently it sustained far longer. Over the years, India’s approach to buy peace by adhering to ‘One China Policy’, high-level exchanges and signing series of agreements obviously did not work. On the other hand, Beijing was able to legitimise its claim over 38,000 km our territory illegally occupied and consolidate its position along the LAC by pursuing “nibble and negotiate” (Canshi he Tanpan) tactics, part of ‘bulletless war’ strategy. While border issue remained on the backburner, economic ties emerged as the key component of bilateral relations, tilted heavily in favour of People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Xi’s Grand Design 2020-India’s Response

Soon after assuming power in 2012, Xi initiated the process of path-breaking military reforms in consonance with China’s expanding role. This entailed a major shift in the military strategy incorporating combined “offshore waters defence with open sea protection” and “inter-theatre operations”. Post Doklam, China apparently reviewed its strategic objectives, evident from the massive upgrade of infrastructure in Tibet, with number of airbases, air defence positions and heliports near the LAC almost doubling over last three years.

As a sequel to reorganisation of military regions in to theatre commands, the ‘Western Theatre Command’ was assigned the operation responsibility of entire border against India. Its order of battle included the key Tibet and Xinjiang Military Regions, (both corps size formations), besides 76&76 Corps, six air divisions and missile base at Qinghai. Even Theatre Commander Gen Zhao Zongqi and Political Commissar Gen Wu were handpicked, former being Vietnam War Veteran and latter a rising star.

Given the timing, locations and force level of over three divisions, including 4 motorised and 6 mechanised divisions of South Xinjiang Military Region (SXMR), it is obvious that operation was planned at the CMC; President Xi being its chairman and commander-in-chief of PLA. The political intent was punitive to convey a strong message to Delhi to kowtow Beijing’s interests and desist from undertaking development of infrastructure in Ladakh, apprehending change in status quo. The military aim was to make swift territorial gains by occupying unheld contested areas astride the LAC and secure the 1960 Claim Line-de facto border for the final settlement. The status of new LAC was to be legitimised through prolonged negotiations, from position of strength. Coincidentally, DBO, Galwan and Pangong Tso are the same areas which the PLA had addressed during 1962 war.

The operations launched towards the beginning May 2020 went as planned, with PLA gaining ‘first mover’ advantage. Indian Army’s robust mirror deployment and Galwan incidence on 15 June 2020 which led to abrupt escalation had not been anticipated by the PLA. With Indian Army’s pre-emptive action on the 29-30 August 2020 of occupying strategically important Kailash Range took the Chinese leadership by complete surprise. With this move, Indian Army gained tremendous tactical advantage in the Pangong Tso sector. However, PLA had managed to gain a definite edge in DBO, Galwan and Hot Spring areas.

Obviate Past Miscalculations to Defeat Dragon’s Misadventure

Of the major reasons for India’s defeat in 1962 were twin presumptions; China’s inability to undertake offensive and Communist leadership commitment to honour the agreement. This misjudgement proved disastrous. After declaring unilaterally ceasefire, PLA pulled back to positions which could be administratively sustained. However, Chinese continued building military infrastructure to enable forward deployment of forces at a short notice.

Ironically, even six decades on, realistic assessment of rapid accretion in Chinese war waging potential and holistic strategy to meet the challenge still remains a work in progress. Even reactions to PLA’s periodic transgressions across the LAC since 2013 have been more by way of crisis management rather than calibrated responses. ‘Strategic Guidance’ format evolved mutually by PM Modi and President Xi, was taken as an ‘iron clad guarantee’ that Chinese military will cooperate in maintaining peace and tranquility on the LAC. Ironically, we misread China’s intent and capability yet again.

PRC’s assertive behaviour has a definite correlation with the internal situation as was in case of Mao in 1962. PLA’s current incursions coincided with Xi facing criticism for mishandling the Corona virus, besides slowing down of economy and world attention on battling COVID 19 pandemic. Two forth coming events; Communist Party’s Centenary in 2021 and 20th Party Congress in 2022 are decisive for Xi’s future. Hence, it is imperative to keep a close watch on China’s internal power dynamics scene.

Chinese are known to be hard-nosed negotiators, proved once again from the manner de-escalation talks remain deadlocked over last five months. It is primarily due to PLA’s rigid stance on Indian Army to disengage first, while denying its role as an aggressor. Post eighth rounds talks between the two Corps Cdrs on November 6, 2020, there are unconfirmed reports of phased disengagement in the offing. PLA has been pressing hard for Indian Army to pull back from Kailash Range and as a trade-off willing to fall back from Finger 8 from Finger 4.

Chinese are well aware of the criticality of the situation as India’s current deployment on the South Bank makes PLA positions at Maldo and beyond virtually untenable. Hence, vacating Kailash Range will be a strategic blunder, more so when the Chinese are silent about their ingress especially DBO-Depsang sector.

It is evident that Xi’s misadventure has failed to achieve political aim and military objective. In fact, over rated PLA is finding it hard to sustain through harsh winters. Its effort is to stage a selective pull back to get through the winters. India ought to be wary of Chinese ploys and avoid falling into PLA’s trap of sector wise disengagement. Our bottom line should be restoration of April 2020 status quo and disengagement process based on ‘confirm and verify’ principle. Any move to sign yet another agreement (with five already in place and sixth just signed last month) should be vehemently thwarted as Chinese are known to violate agreements at will.

Even if the current standoff crisis is resolved, the sanctity of LAC in future can only be ensured if it is well defended and not merely patrolled, which implies robust border management mechanism. The current system of multi-organisational complex set up needs to be replaced by single nodal agency with a unified command structure, wherein all elements are brought under operational control of the Army. Border militias based on ‘home and hearth’ concept can be a major asset. Besides, current efforts for massive upgrade of our infrastructure must be given further impetus to ensure calibrated timely responses.

Chinese traditionally respect strength (li), ranking nations as per their ‘Comprehensive National Power’ (CNP) and exploiting asymmetry to coerce the weak. India’s approach of exercising restraint in the wake of Chinese assertiveness has been perceived by Communist leadership as weakness. Hence, there is no option but to narrow down the prevailing power differential to deal with China on level footing. India needs to formulate long term pragmatic China policy based on hard ground realities and not on wishful assumptions. Institutionalising of strategic partnerships like ‘Quad’ and initiatives such as ‘Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor’ ought to be accorded highest priority.
Given the conflicting national interests coupled with unresolved border issue, India-China relations will continue to be marked by complexities and contradictions, defined more by “Competition-Confrontation” rather than “Competition-Cooperative”. It is only the audacity of our leadership to take bold decisions and courage to stand ground to safeguard strategic interests that will obviate disputes turning into conflict. After all, Chinese traditionally believe in sitting across the table only with the equals.

An Expert Explains: The PLA and its relationship with China’s Communist Party

To comprehend the aggressive behaviour of the Communist leadership, it is important to understand the symbiotic relationship between these two entities, and the nature of the generational transformation in the Chinese military.

Written by Maj Gen (retd) Prof G G Dwivedi | Updated: August 23, 2020 10:17:48 am

Members of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) march during a flag raising ceremony at an open day at the Ngong Shuen Chau Barracks in Hong Kong, China, on Sunday, June 30, 2019. (Bloomberg Photo: Eduardo Leal)

PLA

It is customary for a nation to have an army but extremely rare for a political party to have one. China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is an exception, as it owes allegiance to the Communist Party of China (CPC).

This exclusive arrangement was formalised in December 1929 during the Ninth Meeting of the CPC at Gutian in Fujian province where Mao Zedong, while addressing the men of the Fourth Army, clarified the role of the military: it was “to chiefly serve the political ends”, Mao said.

Here on, absolute control of the Communist Party over the army became entrenched. Interestingly, 85 years later, on December 30, 2014. President Xi Jinping during his address to ‘Military Political Work Conference’ at Gutian, reiterated that the “PLA remains the Party’s army, and must maintain absolute loyalty to political masters”.

The two most powerful organs in the Chinese system, crucial for the survival of the authoritarian regime, are the CPC and the PLA. To comprehend the aggressive behaviour of the Communist leadership, it is important to understand the symbiotic relationship between these two entities, and the nature of the generational transformation in the Chinese military.

The PLA: Birth, structure, evolution, and its symbiotic relationship with the Communist Party

The PLA traces its roots to the ‘Nanchang Uprising’ of August 1, 1927, the day the Communists led by stalwarts like Mao, Zhou Enlai and Zhu De rose against the nationalist forces. It played a key role in the successful culmination of the Communist revolution in 1949, and of the CPC coming to power. The PLA’s iconic commanders, Mao and Deng Xiaoping, led the People’s Republic of China (PRC) for almost a half century as its first and second generation leaders.

Given its symbiotic relationship with the CPC, the PLA is well represented in the two apex governing bodies – in the Politburo, the PLA has 2 members out of 25, and in the Central Committee, the PLA accounts for 18-20 per cent of the 205 permanent and 171 alternate members.

The Central Committee elects the Politburo and the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC), the highest political body that is currently composed of seven members. Until 1997, the PLA had representation in the PSC as well; General Liu Huaqing was the last general to hold that position.

PLA-China-flag

Members of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) march with a Chinese flag during a flag raising ceremony at an open day at the Ngong Shuen Chau Barracks in Hong Kong, China, on Sunday, June 30, 2019. (Bloomberg Photo: Eduardo Leal)

The Central Military Commission (CMC), the highest military body, is composed of the PLA top brass, appointed by the PSC. The chairman of the CMC is the Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of the PLA, usually the Secretary General of the CPC, and presently President Xi.

Senior PLA officers are invariably members of the CPC. While commanders handle operational and training aspects, Political Commissars are responsible for personal matters, propaganda and indoctrination to establish the Party’s authority over the PLA.

Barely a year after its creation, China jumped into the Korean War in 1950 to take on the United States. Fighting the adversary to a stalemate, the PLA suffered over half a million casualties, including Mao’s son Capt Anying.

In 1962, it defeated the Indian Army in a limited conflict. However, the PLA performed poorly against the Vietnamese Army in 1979. As a sequel to introspection, it went through a sustained restructuring and modernisation process.

In 1993, President Jiang Zemin, upon observing US military power on display in the 1991 Gulf War, directed the PLA to prepare for “local wars under modern conditions”. This paved the way for the initiation of major doctrinal reforms in the Chinese military. In 2004, President Hu Jintao laid down the revised mandate for the PLA: “To win local wars under informationised conditions”.

The PLA’s march towards modernisation: plan, timelines, goals and strategy

On assuming power as China’s ‘Fifth Generation’ leader in 2012, President Xi laid down his China Dream (Chong Meng): a “powerful and prosperous” PRC that would acquire “great power status by 2049”. In Xi’s vision, military reforms were critical to realise the ‘China Dream’, besides achieving key national objectives, namely: stability – unchallenged authority of the CPC; modernity – sustained economic progress; and sovereignty – integration of claimed territories with the motherland.

The strategic directions for military modernisation have been spelt out in the ‘White Papers on National Defence’. The 2015 White Paper focussed on the strategy of ‘Active Defence’, and that of 2019 delved on ‘Defence in the New Era’.

The timelines laid down to achieve the stated goals are: mechanisation by 2020, basic modernisation including informationisation by 2035, and transformation into a world class military force by the middle of the century.

The main thrust of military reforms has been on revamping systems and structures across the board. At the macro level, the focus was on civil-military integration, jointness, and optimisation.

The CMC is now responsible for policy formulation, controlling all the military assets and higher direction of war through 15 offices and departments. Three additional Headquarters, namely the Ground Forces, Rocket Force, and Strategic Force, were created to ensure centralised control of these assets at the highest level.

China-flag

The national flag of China. The ongoing reforms in the PLA are aligned with Xi’s grand projects. (Bloomberg Photo)

In the new command structure, the President as the C-in-C exercises direct operational control over the PLA.

The modernisation process of the PLA is doctrine driven: “Winning Local Wars under Informationised Conditions”. While ‘Local Wars’ envision short, swift engagements in pursuit of larger political aims, ‘Informationised Conditions’ refer to the predominance of technology in fighting the war.

The salient facets of China’s ways of war fighting are:

* Adopt a holistic approach to balance ‘war preparation’ and ‘war prevention’.

* Respond to multi-dimensional security threats by concentrating superior forces, ensuring self-dependence.

* Employ integrated combat forces to prevail in system-vs-system operations, featuring information dominance, precision strikes and joint operations.

* Reorientate from ‘theatre’ to ‘trans-theatre operations’, move to ‘off shore waters defence with open sea protection’, transit from territorial air defence to building air space capabilities including outer space, and strengthen strategic deterrence.

* Pursue ‘Grey Zone Conflict’ strategy alongside ‘nibble and negotiate’ tactics.

* Expand military cooperation to establish a regional security network.

At the operational level, the erstwhile 17-odd Army, Air Force, and Naval commands have been organised into five ‘Theatre Commands’ (TCs) – Eastern, Western, Central, Northern, and Southern. While the Eastern TC is responsible for the Taiwan Strait, the Western TC looks after the entire Indian border. Putting all the war fighting resources in each TC under one commander ensures seamless synergy and optimisation.

In addition, 84 corps size formations have been created, which include 13 operational corps and airborne corps, besides dedicated training facilities and logistics installations in each theatre.

While the PLA is reasonably well equipped, it lacks combat experience. To overcome this handicap, it trains under realistic conditions in well-organized combined training facilities. To support capacity building, adequate budgetary support has been provided. The official defence budget for the year 2020 was $179 billion (actual figures being much higher). However, its revenue expenditure is gradually rising due to the huge maintenance cost and provisioning for over 50 million veterans.

After claiming victory over the novel coronavirus in April this year, Xi has gone on the overdrive to consolidate his position at home and to project a strongman image abroad, through aggressive posturing by the PLA around the disputed territories in the South China Sea, and against India in Ladakh. It is part of Xi’s campaign to set the stage for the 20th Party Congress due in 2022, during which there will be a reshuffle in the leadership.

PLA’s Western Theatre Command, which has been engaging with the Indian Army

PLA’s aggression in Eastern Ladakh during May this year was well planned. Beijing’s strategic aim apparently was to convey a strong message to New Delhi to kowtow to China’s interests, and to desist from building border infrastructure so as to maintain the status quo.

In tactical terms, its twin objectives were to make territorial gains in the contested areas, and to seek to shift the Line of Actual Control (LAC) westward.

These operations have been undertaken by the PLA’s Western Theatre Command (WTC), the most expansive of the five TCs, which has responsibility for Tibet and the restive Xinjiang region. Gen Zhao Zongqi, Commander, and Gen Wu She Zhou, Political Commissar of the WTC, are handpicked for the job.

Depsang-Plains-Map

Both the Commander and the Political Commissar are members of the Central Committee of the CPC. While Zhao is a 1979 Vietnam War veteran who has commanded brigade and corps in this area, Wu is a rising star.

The major formations under the WTC are the South Xinjiang Military Region (SXMR) and the Tibet Military Region (TMR), both of corps size, 76 & 77 Corps; six air force divisions; the rocket force base in Qinghai; and the ‘joint logistics support centre’ at Xining. Its “combined arms tactical training base” (CATTB) is at Xichang-Qingtongxia.

SXMR under Maj Gen Liu Lin, who has considerable experience in the area, undertook the incursions with clear objectives:

Pangong Tso area: to dominate the Chushul Bowl,

* Galwan Valley: to dominate the Durbuk-DBO road,

Depsang Plateau: posture to pose a threat to Siachen and enhance security of the Western Highway.

Although the PLA gained an initial advantage, it did not expect the stiff resistance from the Indian Army. Given the PLA’s intent to hold on to the gains, coupled with the current levels of build-up by both sides, and with the military level talks yielding little results, the de-escalation process is in for a long haul.

On the eve of the PLA’s 93rd anniversary on August 1, 2020, Xi, while presiding over the ‘group study session’ of the CPC Central Committee, said: “To develop ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ and achieve national rejuvenation, efforts to make the country prosperous and making the military strong go hand in hand. Military capabilities must fit the national needs.”

Calling for leapfrogging developments, Xi underscored the implementation of strategic guidelines in the “new era”, including the drawing of a scientific roadmap and cultivating high-calibre military talent.

The ongoing reforms in the PLA are aligned with Xi’s grand projects like the Belt and Road Initiative and the Maritime Silk Route to enlarge China’s global footprint. The impact of the rapid accretion in the war-waging potential of the PLA is already being felt, given its growing aggressive behaviour.

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China has ensured that the border issue with India remains unresolved in order to retain the ability to mount tensions on the LAC at will. The current aggression by the PLA in Aksai Chin is part of a grand design with multiple strategic and tactical objectives. The WTC is China’s strategic theatre from the point of internal security, and of working with Pakistan against India.

To effectively cope with the PRC’s repeated misadventures, India needs to reset its China policy to one that is centred on its core interests.

There is need for a realistic articulation of threat assessment, and formulation of long-term strategy to effectively safeguard national sovereignty and integrity. This demands transformational initiatives to restructure apex organisational frameworks to successfully prosecute calibrated responses in the realm of a limited war scenario, through synergised application of war-waging potential.

 

Explained: Understanding India-China 5 point action plan to reduce LAC tension

Moscow: In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, India's External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, left, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pose for a photo as they meet on the sidelines of a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Moscow, Russia on  Sept. 10, 2020. The Indian and Chinese foreign ministers have agreed that their troops should disengage from a tense border standoff, maintain proper distance and ease tensions in the Ladakh region where the two sides in June had their deadliest clash in decades.AP/PTI Photo(AP11-09-2020_000047B)

The Indian Express speaks to Maj Gen Prof G G Dwivedi (retd), who has commanded troops in this sector and served as Defence Attaché in China, to put the India-China talks in perspective.