Monthly Archives: July 2021

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)


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.


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.


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.