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SINO INDIAN LOGJAM : THE WINTER HAUL By Lt Gen P R Shankar (Retd)

Also published in the Daily Guardian @ https://thedailyguardian.com/e-paper/tdg-epaper/15-october-2020/


Earlier Articles In Series

 

Sino Indian Logjam – A Review

https://www.gunnersshot.com/2020/08/sino-indian-logjam-review-by-lt-gen-p-r.html

 

No Go For China in the Logjam 

https://www.gunnersshot.com/2020/09/no-go-for-china-in-logjam-by-lt-gen-p-r.html

 

Sino Indian Logjam : Aim, Capability and Environmental Analysis

https://www.gunnersshot.com/2020/09/sino-indian-logjam-aim-capability-and.html

 

Sino Indian Logjam : Facts, Risks, Options and the Sum of all Fears

https://www.gunnersshot.com/2020/09/sino-indian-logjam-facts-risks-options.html

 

The latest round of talks between Sino Indian militaries have ended predictably without a  way forward. As winter sets in both sides hunker down to fight the elements more than each other. What is it that each can achieve in winter? What is the element of risk involved in contemplated actions? What can really happen? These are  questions which arise as China continues with its crablike untrustworthy moves. Further, some indigenous opinions say that we negotiate with the Chinese on their offer. They need a lecture on “Atma Samman Bharat”.  

 

The Chinese Gambits

 

Wow!  Finally! China has a stand . It stated ‘China-India border LAC is very clear, that is the LAC on November 7, 1959. China announced it in the 1950s, and the international community including India are also clear about it’. However, no one is clear about the line. It is presumptuous on the part of China to think every one knows the  famous  ‘Green Line’ of Chou En Lai, which varies with Chinese convenience.  We rejected it in 1959. No reason to accept it now. It appears that Chinese have pruned down their lofty aims with which they started this ambitious military expedition. It is a climbdown. Make no mistakes.  However the ‘Chinese are Chinese’. They must be seen to be having an upper hand. Hence, they promptly stated that they do not recognize the UT of Ladakh.

 

China must also show that it has the initiative and poses strategic threats to India. Thinks it is already a superpower after all!  Hence a flurry of ‘String of Pearls’ activity. Yang Jiechi, the Political Bureau member of CCP, Central Committee  went to Myanmar to progress the CMEC. However there seems to be wariness in Myanmar. Our COAS and foreign secretary went on 4-5 Oct 2020 to reassure Myanmar as a counter. Wang Jiechi also went to Srilanka to deepen their relationship in the post pandemic period. In plain words it means ‘expand the debt trap so that Srilanka is immersed in further debt’. Early days. Need to watch out. Srilanka could fall for a sucker punch again. China continues to woo Bangladesh. In Jul, China  announced tariff exemption for 97% of Bangladeshi products. On 04 Oct, Xi Jinping said China is ready to align with Bangladesh leaders to and jointly promote the construction of the BRI projects. In the meanwhile Nepalese people are pushing back with street protests outside the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu over constructing buildings on Nepalese territory. China is also trying to operationalise the ‘Debt Trap’ against Maldives; which is under pressure to relinquish control over one of its islands against loans. While the Sino Pak relationship is booming,  the opposition has found its mojo. After a long  time the public and opposition are protesting the Army involvement in politics. Thanks to Papa John Bajwa and CPEC.  Overall, China  continues with efforts to make inroads with all our neighbours,  despite blips in Pakistan and Nepal – its two most important pawns in the Sino Indian Chess board. 

 

Internationally,  China is bereft of any alliances. Its friends are few and unreliable. Its partners are pariah states – Pakistan and North Korea. Its internal problems related to diseases, ethnic issues, pollution, food problems, diplomatic isolation, military limitation and economic trimming persist. The Pew Research data of the negative views of 14 advanced countries about China gives  a lot of room for introspection. The South China Sea and Taiwan situation remains tense. Lot of threats and hot air. The two front situation has not changed. Things are not rosy. 

 

The Indian Response

 

India has been quietly preparing for the winter. Wintering in Ladakh is a matter of experience besides wherewithal. Indian experience will come to the fore. The Atal Tunnel is inaugurated.  It increases the road open time and will reduce our air effort considerably. The QUAD foreign ministers met recently in Tokyo. The statement of our External Affairs Minister was quite explicit and pointed to China. The sounds emanating from there were not exactly music to Chinese ears. India has conducted a slew of tests of various varieties of missiles in the recent past – Hypersonic, antitank, extended range supersonic cruise,  subsonic cruise, a missile launched torpedo, a submarine launched missile,  antiradiation warheads et al. All these are a potent message to China. If there is one thing China should take seriously, it is these missiles. The missile program is really successful in our country. 


Overall the situation is stable. Not too conducive to China. However,  let us not forget that India wished Taiwan on its National Day with nice posters on Shantipath opposite the Chinese Embassy despite the Chinese ambassadors stupid diktat to our media.. 

 

                       


Weather

 


The winter is setting in with temperatures getting into the minus of zero zone in Ladakh.  Soon Indus and Pangong Tso will solidify. The ground goes hard. Mobility will improve. There will be clear skies. The dense air will be excellent for flying and air operations. The winds will pick up in the plains. Past mid-November, snowfall in higher reaches and cloudy days will increase. Mid November onwards frigid conditions are the norm. A winter subtropical jet stream ( rivers of wind) blows in the Himalayas from West to East as shown in the illustration above in this season. It overlaps the Ladakh area. Jet streams are cold tubes of air blowing at speeds varying from 30m/s to over 100m/s, with strong vertical wind shears, strong horizontal temperature gradients and areas of clear air turbulence. They are at heights of 6-14 km above msl and the tube diameter could be up to 50km. These dimensions and exact locations are highly variable and unpredictable. Local turbulences add to this phenomenon. Jet streams are used by long haul jets to aid flight. However, short haul, high manoeuvre operational flying is another kettle of fish in a jet stream. Light weight UAVS will be extremely difficult to handle. They could be blown away if caught in the jet stream. Long range Missiles and Rockets will become inconsistent and inaccurate since their control systems might be inadequate. If targets are located on steep gradients,  hill tops, and narrow valleys; guided missiles could miss their targets altogether. All fancy  operations are suspect in winter. Planning becomes iffy. Manned air operations will prevail. Overall large scale operations will be difficult but are not precluded. Logistics will be very difficult to sustain force ratios for offensive operations. Small scale operations will be the norm. The subtropical jet stream, incidentally, causes the North East Monsoon.

 

Current Situation and International Opinion

 

The  situation on ground is unchanged since 29-30 Aug when India occupied key heights and turned tables on the Chinese. Since then it is dawning on international Chinese scholars, that China is losing it. In Jul , when the Chinese had the initiative,  M/s Yun Sun (a Chinese Scholar in Stimson Centre) said ‘If a strategic friendship with India is untenable, it frees up room for tactical gains’.  The same lady now says ‘It should at least be debated whether China might have just won the battle and lost the war……. China’s sheer loss is strategic, and tactical advances in an uninhabitable mountain region cannot offset that fact’.  180 degrees? Gordon Chang’s article  headline in NEWSWEEK screamed ‘The Chinese Army flops in India. What will Xi do next’. Slowly those who have an upper story functionally intact are coming round to my opinion (expressed in Jul) that the Chinese are strategically myopic.  They were too tactically focused without thinking through strategic ramifications or having a fall back option. Overall,  with the occupation of the Kailash Range, the strategic and tactical advantage is with us. China has some territorial advantage. They will not let go of it without some additional leverage. 

 

Further Courses of Action 


At this stage there is bound to be a debate as to what are the options available to both India and China. Further courses of military action will be dependent on the Aim, Risk (of failure or success) and Escalation factors in each of the available options in the current winter weather and terrain conditions. 

 

Indian Aims and Options. In my opinion Indian aims and options are simple. Firstly. It will aim to blunt any Chinese offensive and mount a limited counter offensive to evict lodgements or get into better bargaining positions thereof. Secondly. If opportunity arises it must  attempt to achieve territorial parity by a Quid Pro Quo action. Even a small piece of territory is ok. Thirdly. It can manoeuvre in mountains to get into an advantageous position to foreclose any Chinese offensive without heavy costs. Fourthly. It can commence insurgency in Tibet in an adverse situation. The risk factor is pretty low and escalation can be controlled. All these are well within Indian capability. Small team actions with the backing of big firepower will be the order of the day. 

 

Chinese Aims and Options. Chinese aims and options are complex. It will aim to achieve or declare victory. That demands a major rake up in violence levels. In the least it will aim for a face saving exit. However the time for small team Chinese actions is over. Barring Depsang plains, its chances of penetrating the Indian defence line is low. Even a penetration at Depsang might not lead to victory, since a riposte can come anywhere in the South. Moldo garrison, and Spangur are huge vulnerabilities. The Finger area is vulnerable to attrition. Considering they have a clear weakness in well trained Infantry , the risk of failure for the Chinese is very high if they attempt a major offensive. Since China has to up the ante in any action, the escalation factors are high. Hence China runs the risk of not being able to control the narrative. I have grave doubts if the Chinese leadership is up to it in the overall context. I also grant that people will have grave doubts and will express incredulity at my opinions. However, please read all my ‘Sino-Indian’ writings on www.gunnersshot.com and you will see that so far I have not gone wrong – strategically, operationally or tactically in second guessing Chinese intent or actions.  

 

India’s Best Bet. India’s best bet is to play below par. Hold tight and do not give the Chinese a chance. Do not underestimate them. Do not let your guard down. Given a chance, grab some piece of territory or occupy a key terrain feature. It is time to shift gear into ambiguity on the ‘One China’ policy and Tibet. India must use asymmetric options which are aplenty. We must continue to force multiply military actions with economic, diplomatic and geopolitical actions. How about banning Alibaba? There are enough reports about it siphoning data away. The message to China should be clear. The Indian door is shut. 

 

To Negotiate or Not

 

After China dangled the carrot  of the 1959  line, many have started advocating to negotiate, on that line or another, citing pragmatism.  All these positions are  well inside the cartographic boundaries we have maintained for the past 70 years. The offer from China was rejected in 1959 and continued to be rejected for 60 years despite facing a humiliation in 1962. If in all these years we felt that the 1959 line or any of these intermediaries were ok we should have thrown in the towel long back. We should also be clear that we are preparing to negotiate with China  on its proposal and its terms for a settlement. The same untrustworthy China which has not honoured any of its international commitments or treaties ever since we can remember. Please read Chris Patten’s article on why China’s leaders cannot be trusted.  With due respect to these thinkers and elders, they are less than naïve. If an expansionist China can betray us in 1962, they will do so in future also. 

 

China is still negotiating from a position of territorial advantage. It is a good bargaining chip.  That has to be neutralised. To still think that China has greater stamina due to its CNP is a gross misjudgement. Look at the Taliban vs USA example. Nothing vs Everything and still USA is hurting. We need to get China down a few notches more. In my opinion there are a plenty of hybrid and asymmetric options available to us. We need to think differently. That is all. Just hark back. My ‘father of the nation’ got us Independence from a great empire with far less resources at his disposal using the most asymmetric and unorthodox options. China is a far less adversary and India has far more arrows in its quiver yet. The Chinese and Pakistanis seem to have realised it. Some of us have not. We must negotiate on better terms. Let us not run out of patience. Give the undernourished Armed Forces a chance. They will deliver despite everything. They have put China in the international dock. If they cannot, we can always fall back to our  over endowed bureaucratic, diplomatic and political class.  As I said earlier – the Chinese have come in uninvited. It is India’s choice to let them go back. . 

 

Lastly as long as the Virus lasts China will continue to weaken. 

As long as the current situation on the LAC lasts, China will be seen to be ineffective.

 So what is the hurry?     


 

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26 responses to “SINO INDIAN LOGJAM : THE WINTER HAUL By Lt Gen P R Shankar (Retd)”

  1. The Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict was too esoteric for Indians, whose minds were still living in the ignorance of the 1980s, to understand how high-tech warfare would unfold. The backward Indian army was preaching foolish fanaticism and the world was treated to the performance of an anti-intellectual society. The European and American media commented that the Chinese army would win without a hitch. The backward Indian army will suffer an even more tragic defeat than that of 1962.

  2. Cominsdot… you are delusional. Get real !!! Never mess with the Indian Army.

  3. Fantastic analysis Sir, as usual. Do hope our decision makers read and follow your advice!

  4. Great article Sir, totally agree with you, time to get back aksai chin & force the adversary to vacate Tibet. Indian Army is invincible today

  5. Great analysis sir and to a very large extent agree to every of your recommendations. I am sure the CSG is thinking on similar lines

  6. Perfect analysis as always Sir. Cominsdot is on delusional thought process bereft of reality. Earlier Chinese troops were advised to send a last message to their families and now being told to prepare for war. Couldn't be more discombobulated..

  7. Time for weak yindoos to support separatist and freedom struggle for Tibet. We hate uncivilised Chinese and want a border with Tibet

  8. Are you or any of your family in the fauj? Obviously not otherwise the last thing you would wish for is war.

  9. Cominsdot… was worth a good laugh. Poor fellows are losing the plot totally. Great analysis as always. Winter already knocking and the Chinese will find themselves knock-kneed in the sub zero terrain pretty soon.

  10. Ultimate solution now or 50 years later would only be that China accepts Indian sovereignty over AlsaiChin as well as Gilgit-Baltistan while India formally allows use of highways and other infrastructure in those territories by China, with token tariffs

  11. I want to see China-Pak road linkage severed permanently until both these countries recognise our territorial claims on POK when it can be restored under Indian supervision..nothing short will satisfy me

  12. I salute you Sir and your brilliant analysis of the prevailing situation at and around Ladakh borders. It's way more incisive, logical and truthful than Sawhneys, Shuklas and Chellaneys put together.I, as a civilian, can simply put it to gross Chinese idiocy and obduracy. They've bitten off more than they could chew.The “Great Chinese Bluff” was always known to our Army (some Indian Politicians and Parties couldn't or didn't want to know the reality of modern China – it's strengths and weaknesses). But, it's perhaps the first time the “Great Chinese Bluff” has been called for the benefit of world at large. In the coming months and years, Bat eaters of Beijing will get many punches to their nose from smaller neighbors who have been facing Chinese aggression and imperialism.

  13. Excellent analysis – as always. Patience will win us the day, truly. Thanks for this analysis.

  14. Excellent as always. My compliments.

  15. Sir,An insightful analysis as ever.Very rightly addressed the issue of options available including at geopolitical, economic & diplomatic levels.Hide your strength and hide your time…. it should be our dictum now…Best Regards 🙏🙏

  16. You're definitely entitled to your opinions and reposing of faith in any Army of your choice.The PLA as such is a professional force that could even be counted upon to use tanks against their own unarmed civilians at Tiananmen. As for ruthlessness, I really admire the way they have swept their dead and injured from Pangong Tso under the carpet. Or for that matter, the way in which Xi Jinping has removed many of his Generals because they were simply too corrupt. Yeah. The PLA definitely looks pretty good to me… 😂

  17. Very well researched and balanced view if strategic options.Gen Shankar – You are the best!!!Fantastic effort my friend.Dr (Lt Col) John Chenetra

  18. Pragmatic apch…let's beat the Chinese in their own game…obfuscate…delay…deny and wait out the winters….

  19. hi sunnylong time!all well? best wishes to all

  20. Very well analysed Sir. Hope , they wake up now.

  21. You are living with your eyes half closed.Take some bat soup n be happy

  22. Excellent analysis as always, Sir.

  23. Excellent Read Sir .. in depth Analysis and Very Credible Prognosis for Us…Our Compliments….

  24. Cominsdot…l am plain curious. Have the Chinese won a single war other than in 1962 against an ill-equipped, ill-prepared India? Why did they stop after being bulldozed at Galwan? Why did they pull back at a couple of places? Why did they not react when we occupied certain features on 29-30th August? If they are so powerful, why is it taking them months of procrastination to declare war on India and secure their high stakes CPEC? At least be convincing when you are on someone's payrolls. So, that your Akas admire you.

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