Earlier Articles In Series


Sino Indian Logjam – A Review

No Go For China in the Logjam 

Sino Indian Logjam : Aim, Capability and Environmental Analysis


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

Sino Indian Logjam: The Winter Haul

Sino Indian Logjam – The Chinese Three Card Trick

Sino Indian Logjam : After The Winter Freeze

The face-off at Naku La has been described as minor by India. The Chinese have brushed it off altogether. It has been reported by leading media channels. The incident might be minor. However, it is the second occurrence at the same place. When seen in the larger context of Chinese compulsions and behaviour, the face-off is not so simple. It needs a wider and greater thought. We will be foolish to ignore the signals. We will be even more foolish not to take appropriate action.

As President Biden was being sworn on 21 Jan, China  announced sanctions against 28 former U.S. officials and their families. Washington Post sees it as an attempt to bully  and threaten the new administration into ‘reversing course’. On 23 Jan, it sent eight bombers and four fighter jets to violate the southwestern corner of Taiwan’s air defence identification zone. It was a ‘in your face challenge’ to USA. The very next day the US reacted by sending  a  carrier group to the South China Sea ‘to ensure freedom of the seas, build partnerships that foster maritime security, and conduct a wide range of operations’. China responded by stating that it would shortly be carrying out naval drills in South China Sea without giving specific details of when and where. In simultaneous time frame, on 20 Jan, the Naku La face-off happened. These three actions are dispersed but co-related. It is apparent that a belligerent China is testing reactions and  probing for a weakness to either grab an opportunity or create one. Last year it failed militarily except for sinking a Vietnamese fishing boat and gaining a few fingers of desolate land. It needs and seeks more to prove a point. It needs a military victory which has eluded it.

Why does it need a victory? Remember, this year is the CCP centenary. It must showcase success. If it can grab an easy victory when others are defocused nothing like it. Need not be big. It has to be demonstrative of Chinese superiority. So it is probing for military chinks in the armour of adversaries – India and US/Taiwan combine. More importantly it must offset the economic instability which is hovering.  The Chinese tech giants were getting too big for comfort and are being sized down. These include Ali Baba and Tencent. Their central bank is tightening credit lines for various sectors including property and local governments.  Jump in the Yuan by nearly 10%, increased shipping costs and labour shortage are squeezing profits in Chinese factories which are otherwise running on full steam.  Bond defaults are happening.  Xi Jinping blew hot and cold at Davos. While he spoke of  “inclusive growth,” “green development,” “global governance”, “consensus building”,  “historic opportunity for collaboration” et al, he also spoke of “strong should not bully the weak” and warned against a “new cold war”. His tone was not the usual confident ‘China is Great’ story. The Chinese economy is not a runaway train without a full stop. There seem to be hidden economic commas emerging.

Then the Chinese Virus. It refuses to go away. What was being touted as a victory is now changing colours. Vast areas of China are re-locked Wuhan style. Massive testing is underway. Case numbers might be few. Disruption is high. It will adversely affect the economy. Further,  the efficacy of Chinese vaccines are being questioned. They might not stem the viral tide. As long as the virus is around, China will not get away. It is evident now that the Chinese people like others in temperate zones are susceptible to the Virus. The basic vaccination programs in China were interrupted during Mao’s days. Hence the adult and aging population is especially vulnerable.  All this is grist for the mill of the Chinese Virus. From available inputs it can be surmised that  the virus is going to trouble China for a long time.

As per New York Post “China’s coronavirus vaccines were supposed to deliver a geopolitical win that showcased the country’s scientific prowess and generosity. Instead, in some places, they have set off a backlash”. “Inefficacy”, “lack of data”, “non-delivery”, “vague promises” et al reveal a grimy film on their shining  “Vaccine Diplomacy”.  What’s more, it is also emerging that the Chinese are profiteering heavily from their vaccines since they are priced at par with Moderna and Pfizer. BTW. This opinion is from a Pakistani!  Well! Well!  Pakistanis are already parroting Prem Chopra’s famous dialogue – Nanga ko kya Nichodoge!  That’s what you get when Chinese are your bosom friends!  On a serious note, China has started a smear campaign against Indian and Western vaccines. Grapes are obviously sour. It must be galling for the Chinese to see India’s Vaccine Maitri succeeding! Hey, this was not supposed to happen! How can lowly India be seen to be winning the Vaccine Diplomacy race. Add insult to injury. India might be heading into herd immunity!  In which case, India might not need its massive vaccine production capacity. Its affordable  and efficacious vaccines will flood the world and offset Chinese power. Already 92 countries have lined up for Indian Vaccines including Cambodia (a staunch Chinese ally). This will last for at least a couple of years.

Net result. Victory into defeat? That is a political nightmare. Think long term as the Chinese do. The partnership between  a resurgent India and USA (ailing or not) is  strengthening. It  is not a great prospect for China.  Democracies are resilient. They will fall but rise. On the other hand, winds of change are blowing in Russia where a 44 year old lawyer is challenging the might of an autocratic set up. This contagious drift from Russia will be lethal for the Chinese, if it catches on. CCP must arrest the likely spread of this virus. It must hype and sustain nationalism. CCP must showcase successes which China does not have. They will externalise to manufacture it. Their obvious targets – India and Taiwan. The Naku La face  might not be as insignificant as is being made out. It is telling us something. However. The first examination is why Naku La again?


If there is one thing that India does not want – it is Chinese presence in / threat to the Siliguri Corridor (Please also see my article Face-Offs : Matrix Ahead ). Conversely, if there is one thing China does not want, it is any Indian offensive design into Tibet or continued  domination of the Chumbi Valley.   Naku La is critical to both these. Naku La sits at the head of the Muguthang Valley, which is an isolated valley parallel to the Giagong Plateau. The Muguthang Valley outflanks Giagong Plateau. Chinese deployment in Muguthang can interfere with our forces in Giagong and inhibit our offensive options into Tibet.  Shigatse, the main Chinese base and the Tibet- Nepal road are around 140 km from Giagong (within missile range). Muguthang also provides access to the Gurudongmar Road, North of Thangu Valley. Some passes on the intervening ridge enable an indirect approach to the Gurudongmar Road. A block on this road will cut off Indian Forces deployed on the Giagong Plateau. It also enables Chinese offensive options into Sikkim. This will broaden the base  and reduce the  vulnerability of the Chumbi Valley. It will assist enormously to complement any thrust through the Doklam area. The Chinese are repeatedly probing here. Naku La will be a constantly  contested and sensitive area in future also. China is desperately wanting to enter Muguthang through Naku La. Our forces were alert to Chinese designs. Good show once again.

The larger issue is that the intrusions across Naku La violate the 2003 agreement. The boundary between Sikkim and China was never under dispute. Even Google Maps shows it as a defined boundary.  Hence any armed intrusion across an agreed border tantamounts to war. In the least , it is repeated violation of the 2003 Agreement. Additionally, in 2003, the common understanding was that Tibet was generally North of the Mac Mahon Line.  Chinese claim on Arunachal Pradesh (South of Mac Mahon Line ) as ‘South Tibet’ started after 2003. Resultantly the extent of Tibet as understood and recognised by  India in 2003 is now disputed by Chinese. All in all , the claim on Arunachal Pradesh, repeated intrusions across Naku La and military aggression in Eastern Ladakh,  repudiates the 2003 Agreement in totality.  In view of this, India should not recognise Tibet as part of China and should be conveyed as such.




As Cleo Paskal  puts it,  China is waging a multi domain war against the world. The manifestations are clear. We need to respond accordingly. A belligerent China will keep probing for weaknesses –  along the LAC for a grab action or in its quest to annexe Taiwan. In the centenary year of the CCP it needs a victory. We need to be cognisant of this. We need to coordinate with Taiwan, USA and other Asian nations to keep a check on Chinese multi domain adventurism. A quid pro quo option should be ready. The need for QUAD is far more today than ever before. India must take the lead with the new US administration to take the agenda forward. We must evolve a policy for Tibet and unroll it in conjunction with that for Xijiang and Taiwan to make China look inward.  While we have a great opportunity in gaining ground and our neighbourhood through ‘Vaccine Maitri’ , China will endeavour to spoil the show. We have also confirmed the ban on 59 Chinese apps. China has already said that there will be bilateral effects. We need to understand that any hurtful Chinese push back can come only  militarily (in most likelihood).  As winter recedes, China will further externalise and attempt to again alter the LAC unilaterally by force – first by gaining a foot hold on any sensitive part of the LAC and then expanding it. I am sure the Indian Army will be alert to the situation. The ongoing rebalancing signals that. However we need to force multiply our rebalancing and extend our reach Into the depth areas of Chinese dispositions.  

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  1. This time around India needs to stabilise internal security at all costs. There is a bigger challenge from the dragon. A well merited and balanced assessment

  2. Looks like we need to exercise option of recognising Tibet ,long overdue .If we dont do that now dont know when we shall do it .Hope we move proactively now to forestall any military adventurism of the chinks

  3. Long overdue. But if we aren't courageous enough to name our aggressor, can we do this?

  4. Wonderful diagnosis and a very plausible prognosis of recent events along the LAC. Military preparedness .. must not be diluted… whatever our other imperatives are.

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