The SENSEX is zooming and therefore all is hunky dory. The Government is busy with its economic agenda. All is well. Doklam!! What of it? Are war clouds looming? Are we conjuring up reasons for why a war is not in China’s best interest???
There has been so much written on the Doklam issue … The question that remains unanswered is: should India prepare for war??!! Are we preparing or is it all hogwash?
Are some unabashed hawks pushing India into a war with China?
There has been so much written on the Doklam issue and the sanctimonious Chinese hyperbole that anything more will be only repetition. The question that remains unanswered is: should India prepare for war??!! Are we preparing or is it all hogwash?
Are we all standing by to see who will fire the first bullet and then begin preparations??
A war is a nation’s political choice. Is the Government of the day prepared for a war if it is thrust upon India? Has it mustered the resources of all the elements of national power to synergise their comprehensive strength? Or will we witness the usual ad-hocism? Are we expecting a localised border skirmish only? A two-and-a-half front war, if actually fought, will be because of the failure of the Government to ensure one front is suppressed by its ‘offensive’ diplomacy (an oxymoron?!).
To truly defend the territorial boundary of a country, there is need to secure areas up to its ‘strategic’ boundary. War must be carried into the adversary’s territory. Ipso facto, territorial boundaries and ‘strategic’ boundaries are not co-terminus. The tenets of China’s military philosophy of ‘pre-emption’, ‘active defence’ and ‘defensive counter-attack’ is its ‘jus ad bellum’ for its offensive under the rubric of strategic defence in anticipation of an likely offensive by an adversary.
War needs to have a political aim. What could be India’s political aim for a war resulting from the Doklam stand-off? Defend India! Contrary to what is stated in the previous paragraph, in a conflict situation, India, not being a belligerent power but a reactive power, it would be reacting to Chinese offensive military action(s) anywhere along the IB/LAC (International Boundary/Line of Actual Control).
…should India see any forward movement of a large force into the Chumbi Valley and Doklam Plateau as an act of war? Yes, it should. Otherwise India loses the advantage…
It will be naïve to assume that China would have commenced the road construction activity from south of Yatung in the Chumbi Valley up towards the Doklam Plateau, an area where a similar standoff had taken place earlier too, without adequate back up forces in the rear areas to be able to effectively respond in case of a flare up. Therefore, India must take it for granted that those units and forces which were inducted into TAR (Tibet Autonomous Region) this summer for regular training and live fire exercises were actually inducted with the aim of being prepared and ready to react to such a contingency that has come to pass. It thus becomes so obvious that China had planned this action in Doklam in 2016 to be executed in 2017.
Consequently, should India see any forward movement of a large force into the Chumbi Valley and Doklam Plateau as an act of war? Yes, it should. Otherwise India loses the advantage it has opposite Doklam and at the same time it would be failing in its commitment to Bhutan to aid to protect its territorial sovereignty. If India is attacked in the Chumbi region, should India open another front where it is at a military advantage? Sure, it could go in for such a quid pro quo in say Eastern Ladakh. But, India may also like to keep the conflict confined to just this one region, unless provoked further.
How would the armed forces translate the political aim to a military aim?
The first and foremost military aim would be to prevent loss of territory (including the island territories and air space).Linked to it would be the aim to prevent the belligerent gaining any ground of advantage. As a corollary – inflict maximum casualties in men and material and degrade adversary’s offensive capability. SOF (Special Operation Forces) would also be deployed to augment the capability to inflict heavy damage. Besides the option of a quid pro quo, the Army can launch a counter-offensive or a riposte if the conflict is confined to just this region only. This will entail operations across the IB/LAC. However, if the political government places such restrictions like ‘not to cross’ the LAC/IB, as was done during the Kargil war, the military forces will be severely constrained.
India can ill afford to rely on some unrealistic, intuitive advice like that of the IB Chief Mullick overlooking the ground realities of the events leading up to the 1962 war. It is a truism that in being prepared for war a nation will prevent a war.
To be prepared for the last option the government needs to get its act together. The country has the diplomatic corps for ‘soft-power’ and the grinding ‘jaw-jaw’ work, which, in the present circumstances, has been effectively deployed for action and is on course – Track 1, 1.5, 2 etc. The ‘hard-power’ elements need to start preparing (Jaw-Jaw better than War-War!!!).
The recent case of the Chinese Ambassador meeting various opposition politicians shows our inherent ‘strategic immaturity’. While it may be a normal practice for Ambassadors to meet politicians of all hues, in this particular circumstance, the Ambassador was subtly gauging the nation’s political solidarity to give a feedback to his Government. Had these politicians refrained from meeting the Ambassador in view of the Doklam standoff, China would have got a very different message about India’s resolve and support to the government by all political parties. This was not to be due to the limited political vision.
Returning to the issue of ‘hard-power’ preparations – the R&AW (Research and Analysis Wing) and NTRO (National Technical Research Organisation), it can be expected, would have geared up their resources for more specific surveillance of the whole of TAR especially the three main road highways entering Tibet, the railway line from Golmud to Lhasa, the airports and movement south across the bridges on the Tsang Po.
The DIA (Defence Intelligence Agency) and Military/Air Force intelligence units should have been activated in their respective areas to dominate their areas of influence for operational and tactical intelligence. Alongside, NIA (National Intelligence Agency), IB (Intelligence Bureau), and State SIB’s (Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau) would have spread their tentacles to counter any threats being fostered internally. It is also expected that CERT-In (Indian Computer Emergency Response Team) and military cyber units under DIA have also been placed on round the clock alert and optimally prepared for a likely crippling offensive CNO (Cyber Network Operation) that China can unleash on India. This may seem unnecessarily hawkish to the peacenik conformists, but India can ill afford to rely on some unrealistic, intuitive advice like that of the IB Chief Mullick overlooking the ground realities of the events leading up to the 1962 war. It is a truism that in being prepared for war a nation will prevent a war.
The Mountain Strike Corps would be honing its contingency plans and preparing accordingly.
Dwelling on how China will initiate and launch the initial phases of its war is being kept out of this article. Suffice to say that the country and armed forces must be prepared for a heavy dose of civil and military CNO followed or accompanied by a concentrated assault with conventional missiles in a phase that may be termed ‘non-contact’ war. The book on “Unrestricted Warfare” will give insights into his aspirations, which may not be practical in many cases, but needs to be factored in.
The Army across the entire Northern border should have, by now, reinforced their forward posts. The personnel on the posts should have carried out live firing of the personal weapons and crew served support weapons at the local adhoc firing ranges in the vicinity of their posts. They will be carrying out regular patrolling and laying ambushes in the gaps between the posts. Anti-personnel mines would have been moved up and prepared for the eventuality of these being laid. Supporting Artillery would have prepared their various types of gun positions and their Observation Post Officers carried out a check registration of Defensive Fire targets by the method of ‘silent ranging’.
Signal communications would be laid with duplicate and triplicate communication alternatives. All communications would have been strictly routed only through fixed line or OFC (Optical Fibre Cable). Logistic preparations for sustained operations built up even if it means depleting reserves held with the military theatres along the western border. At the ‘operational level’ plans for counter-offensive and riposte would be worked out, forces warned and loose ends tied up. At the strategic level, dual tasked forces would have been warned for mobilisation. The Mountain Strike Corps would be honing its contingency plans and preparing accordingly. Similarly adequate orders would have been given to the Strategic Forces Command. Also one can assume that the triad would be in place.
The Navy has an onerous task to protect the vast coastline. The vulnerability of Andaman and Nicobar Island to clandestine occupation by even a small Chinese force will be high on their agenda.
The Air Force would be coordinating with the Army for its requirement of strategic air-lift, C 130J for SOF operations and intra theatre relocation of forces and wherewithal. The requirement of utility helicopters for heli-borne operations and movement of reserve forces in the local battle zone would also have been done. The Air Force would also be identifying targets to isolate the anticipated battle area(s) and cut off the enemy from his support and logistic chain. The Air Headquarters would be revising the list of strategic targets it will engage when given the word ‘go’. The special weapons it will utilise for these missions would be accordingly prepared. The Air Force would be monitoring the build up of air resources on the airfields in TAR and forward relocation of radars, surface to air missile units and detachments and anti-aircraft artillery. It would be maintaining round the clock strategic surveillance through the dedicated military spy satellite and its SU 30MKI’s. The active operational airfields would have got their complement of Army Air Defence units for close protection. PGM’s would have been relocated to the air fields that are planned to be activated.
The Navy has an onerous task to protect the vast coastline. The vulnerability of Andaman and Nicobar Island to clandestine occupation by even a small Chinese force will be high on their agenda. They will carry out sea denial operations and through extensive missions of P-8I’s Poseidon Long Range Patrol aircraft, and monitor Chinese PLAN submarines prowling in the Bay of Bengal in particular. The Navy would be required to dominate the 200 km wide Nine Degree Channel in the Lakshadweep, 150 km wide Ten Degree Channel in the Andaman’s and the exit of the Malacca Straits.
The ITBP (Indo Tibet Border Police Force) battalions deployed along the northern border should have been directed to report to the local Army formations responsible for operations in the area. CRPF (Central Armed Police Force) units to be deployed at various Vulnerable Points in the hinterland should have been activated and also directed to report to the Army to be incorporated in the rear area security plan. According to the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, the Ministry of Defence is responsible for Defence of India and every part thereof including preparation for defence and all such acts as may be conducive in times of war to its prosecution and after its termination to effective demobilisation. Further, according to the Homepage of the MoD web site, it is stated that – “The responsibility for national defence rests with the Cabinet”.
War may not be India’s choice but not to prepare for it when there are war clouds looming would amount to a gross act of treason.
To ensure a coordinated effort by the country in such a crisis – the Military Operations (MO) Directorate should be constituted as the sole source of orders for execution of armed actions. The Chairman COSC (Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee) also should be operating through the MO Directorate (till such time India has a fully functional War Room and Chief of Defence Staff is appointed). To deal with the current situation in Doklam, all the internal and external intelligence civil and military agencies should be meeting daily to take stock of the situation. The Cabinet Committee on Security should be meeting at least once a week.
It will be evident from the foregoing, that preparing for war is a whole lot more serious than making statements in the media. If India is not undertaking these measures already, as elaborated above, then statements of being ready for ‘two and a half front war’ is utter balderdash. It is true that a diplomatic solution is being worked out for amicably settling the Doklam issue, but what if it fails? Without hard power handy a country has to make unacceptable compromises in its national interests to accommodate those of a belligerent. War may not be India’s choice but not to prepare for it when there are war clouds looming would amount to a gross act of treason.
Let my Countrymen not be fooled by our own people in power.