Ladakh Standoff: ‘Generally’ Speaking
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 14 Jun , 2020

With several retired defence officers commenting on the current standoff between the Indian Army and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China in Ladakh, there’s no dearth of views on how this issue should be resolved, both at the diplomatic and military levels. Veterans have gainfully drawn upon their intimate knowledge of the area as well as past experiences, and painstakingly corelated the same to the current situation. Resultantly, most have come out with articles that provide a reader with a holistic view of this seven-decade old problem alongwith a balanced assessment of the prevailing situation and some very judicious recommendations on what the government needs to do.

The general consensus of the erudite veteran community which is monitoring the standoff in Ladakh is that even though the crisis is far from over, the situation is being handled well and that it’s yet too early to set the alarm bells ringing. However, there are a few who think otherwise and one of them is a former Army Commander, but then, contrarian views are always welcome as they make any discussion or debate all the more interesting. Furthermore, having been the General officer Commanding in Chief (GOC-in-C) Northern Command, his views carry a lot of weight since he had entire Ladakh under his jurisdiction.

However, whereas his piece titled “India’s Fingers have come under Chinese boots. Denial won’t help us,” (The Print, June 4, 2020), is very informative, but his premature conclusion that “China now has the upper hands in talks,” indicates the possibility of preconceived notions or anti-establishment prejudices influencing his rational thoughts. The ‘upper hands’ observation of his is based on the assumption that with PLA “Having seized the initiative by securing approximately 40-60 square km of Indian territory in three different areas, China will be negotiating from a position of strength and will try to impose unacceptable conditions–no further development of border infrastructure on the Indian side–to restore status quo on its own terms. ”

Furthermore, by adding that “If diplomacy fails, China has come prepared for a border skirmish or a limited war,” he seems convinced that Beijing won’t back-off this time and if required, will even use force to get what it wants. Coming from a man who appears to know Ladakh and PLA like the back of his hand, this precise prognosis of impending doom is extremely depressing!

Whether or not China has really succeeded in “securing approximately 40-60 square km of Indian territory” isn’t confirmed. Even if they have done so, for the former Army Commander to make the situation appear irretrievable without even awaiting Indian army’s riposte, is to say the least, not only misleading but also something certainly not expected from a person of his standing and military experience. How could this former Army Commander ever forget that just within five years of the 1962 debacle, Indian army (IA) gave a bloody nose to the Chinese in Nathu La? Even in the field of military diplomacy, the Indian army proved its acumen by paying back the PLA in its own coin during the 2013 Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) intrusion in Depsang Valley of Ladakh.

A brief mention on the 2013 DBO standoff, which occurred in an area claimed by both India and China. As part of confidence building measures (CBMs) both IA and PLA patrolled this area but didn’t establish any permanent posts here. However, in April 2013, a platoon of PLA set up a camp in Rakhi Nula and when they refused to withdraw, the IA also established a camp just 300m away from the PLA camp. While this ‘eyeball to eyeball’ stalemate continued, in a proactive action that surprised the whole world, the IA did a ‘Rakhi Nula’ on PLA by establishing its own camp in the Chumar sector, 500 km South of DBO. This area was intentionally selected because it was close to a Chinese road through Tibet. Unnerved by this move, China in a “quid pro quo”, agreed to abandon its camp near DBO in return for a similar action by IA in Chumar.

The former Army Commander’s complaint that “… rather than evolving a clear strategy and broadly sharing it with the nation, the Narendra Modi government and the military have gone into ‘denial’ about any loss of territory, attributing the present situation to differing perceptions about the LAC” is surprising. How can a government which is in the thick of a territorial dispute with its neighbour disclose even its “broad strategy” by sharing it with the nation? In a subsequent piece titled ‘PM Modi’s silence on LAC stand-off is benefiting China. India must change its script’, (The Print, June, 11, 2020) he has been more specific by demanding that the “Modi government should take Parliament and the nation into confidence within the limits of security.” He also considers it “prudent for the Prime Minister to address the nation and military spokespersons to give formal briefings, at least once or twice a week.”

When the Home Minister has already given out the government’s strategy of using dialogue to resolve the issue and the army has quantitively and qualitatively augmented its force level in the area (which is an unambiguous indication that while India is hoping for the best, it is at the same time prepared for the worst), what else is there to tell the nation? In addition, with External Affairs sources further clarifying that “This will be a long haul and small steps need to be taken to resolve the situation,” it’s absolutely clear that New Delhi is prepared to weather it out rather than look for an expedient and hasty face-saving exit. So, what more information on New Delhi’s strategy for handling this faceoff is required to be told to us? Furthermore, when bullets aren’t flying and there’s no conflict on, what exactly do we want the military spokesperson to tell us during his weekly formal briefings?

So, since we have a lot of experience as far as incursions in Ladakh are concerned and know that these are long-drawn-out affairs, let’s not jump the gun by tilting windmills and start shouting from rooftops that ‘all’s lost’!

Tailpiece: The former Army Commander is of the view that “In the current crisis, the Modi government and the military have lost credibility and the battle of perception, and have literally endorsed China’s stand.” While I have no comments on this remark as far as the government is concerned, but as a veteran, the very thought of a former Lt Gen questioning the credibility of the very army he served in is extremely distressing! One may ask what his contribution was during his tenure as Commander of the region to prepare the forces for such a future contingency. If there has been any failure, then he too is responsible for it.

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28 thoughts on “Ladakh Standoff: ‘Generally’ Speaking

  1. The author is off-base. First of all, let me ask what has the author’s contribution been to the defense of the country? The answer I think is: Zero.

    Doesn’t the author realize that being a retired General does not mean that the country’s leadership cannot be criticized? The oaths an officer takes do not extend much past retirement.

    Isn’t it true that the government restricts and restrains the military leadership? If that is true, what can you expect from an army whose hands are tied?

    Somehow, quite a bit is getting lost. How many more lives is the author willing to sacrifice before China kills more soldiers? Will he volunteer his son or brother to go fight?

    In fact, it is only a retired General who can take the government to account. A serving General just cannot.

    The author should check his data and sources. If he doesn’t realize that China has intruded into the fingers, Galwan, and near DBO, the author must be reading Pakistani or Chinese news, or else is an agent of a political party.

    It is false for this author to compare the Nathu La incident in 1967 with the 1962 Sino-Indian conflict. The Nathu La incident was in one location for a 24 hour period. The 1962 conflict was along the entire border for five weeks. Next, the author will compare an airplane to a hair dryer. Unbelievable!

    The General is right. China has clearly signaled unwillingness this time to back off. They have come prepared. If the author is depressed to hear this, let the author be depressed, because his depression may help him see reality.

    If the author accuses the General to have anti-establishment leanings, perhaps he can be accused of being pro-establishment, or else is a lackey of the government.

    India lost 20 soldiers yesterday. How many more do you want to sacrifice, Mr. Kunwar? Perhaps, you don’t want to fight at all, which explains your faintheartedness and unwllingness to see reality the way it is.

    This author really wasted my time in having to write this.

    • I fully agree with you. The Chinese are using the same ‘tactics’ as in the 1950s to hoodwink power holders in Delhi to usurp the Indian sovereignty in Galwan and Pangong Tso, vital strategic areas in Ladakh. An incisive analysis appears in the postings by Bharat Karnad:

      “Time for Modi to use the brahmastra now that military escalation is on the cards due to Indian army’s blunder”

      Read on:

  2. The present Govt have created dissidents both in and away of the Country out of a bunch of iPolitical, Social and Economical njudicious actions. The bearucrats, workable class, schoolmen, sensitive/wise/secular class and the men of affairs are clubbed together with discontent. The neighbouring countries, especially the humbler are asserting cold relationship. Besides, there are some irrelevant statements and mussel flexing by the new Chief of Defence Staff and his subdues. The Govt is well aware of their failure and rest hopes on a group of big consultants and religion apt Hindus. They are afraid of revealing the facts with the Nation and its people. Though a few National grades dailies have reported the realities at Cino-Indian Border, the Govt is playing Ostrich. The Russian President have sought after an umpireship, but they maintain closer relations with the Indian National Congress.. POTUS also wished to mediate but that would draw attention of the Global Community to Kashmir issue. We are afraid of a slender and the Govt is between Scylla and Charybdis.

  3. This former military commander is, to say the least, harbouring anti-India sentiments by talking in a worse manner than even a layman – calling upon the PM to address the nation on the issue every once or twice a week ! Is it not a nonsense coming from a former military commander? As an experienced military leader, he was expected to think, devise and advise in his write-up a beffiting military strategy response by India to China’s action but he is talking like anti-establishment politician. Suppose, he is to advise the PM what he should say to this nation, what is his advice? Nothing … no contribution to the country like a military man! There are very many ways to counter arm-twist China: agressive posture near Tibbet; raise red-flag and take lead for a united world against China on Corona; publicly side with USA , Australia etc. against China; and, if needed, show the Indian strength and resolve to China like Doklam. But this “commander” (?) seems to have something else in his mind and, in that sense, he has rightly chosen “The Print” – an anti-Modi media mouthpiece – to carry his write-up.

    • And, what have you chosen, Mr. Shreepal Singh? You have chosen to be pro-Modi rather than seeing the truth for what it is?

      The esteemed General did present a strategy in his article and interview, but you are neither reading nor listening.

      Besides, learn to spell ‘Tibet’ properly.

      You are crazy! How are you going to solve the problem on the ground in Ladakh by taking up the case in the world against China on COVID?

      • One should be “pro-India” – and I am pro-India and not pro-Modi. Let’s not hate anybody. Let us face the truth: China is Communist dictatorship that has built a military machine over its 70 years history – ; and what did we Indians do over these years? Almost nothing … no aircraft, submarine, even rifle (except obsolete 303 like), … endless list. Just be honest: now efforts are being made to fill that gap (Make in India like things – you may accuse me pro-Modi for that). We have to face China …. and we will face as citizens proud of our military. Chinese source saying 63 Chinese killed against our 20 or so … are you not happy? And, plus this: China has to be countered on all fronts, including Covid19 .. don’t you understand this much even. Spealling of Tibbet ??? I am not a son of a British father – I am happy to be Hindi knowing Indian, who has learnt a foreign language like Englisj …. English language is no credit or praiseworthy. The Ex-General of whome the author is referrimg here is H.S. Pansg … read what his daughter had publicly said – total anti-national family. Do you want China should defeat India? So that Modi is removef? Do not live in illusion, please!!!

  4. China is in the process of taking over Pakistan. China has built the road and sold its old coal fired power stations and placed Pakistan in debt.Pakistan has already given Gwadar away. Pakistani companies cannot even collect refuge from cities like Karachi, supply water. Would you believe it, there is talk of Chinese taking over agriculture as well.

    Next on China’s list is India. China cannot buy India, too expensive. India is being softened slowly but surely. It can undermine, buy individuals, buy institutions, bit of terrorism and general mayhem. China in this way will walk through the back door. India has a history. Rajah Dhahir was defeated by a few outsiders with lot of local help. Babar was invited, wasn’t he. What about our old friend, Lord Clive. All he did was to help the locals fight the next guy. This went on until Punjab fell. Indian history says it was the British. Really? It was the locals what won it for them , for the Mughals before that and for the Arabs before that. Alexander didn’t have much of an Army. I reckon locals must have helped him too. When he couldn’t get any more locals, (because of the likes of Chanakiya, I guess) he gave up and went away.

    That is China’s game.

    • Chinese in the process of making Pakistan most power Full country in world.china is constructing roads biggest dams and ports in Pakistan.thousands of Chinese companies are coming to pak for billions dollar investment evil Indian gov is burning with fire. And indian public live in the world of fool paradise

      • You need internal strength to become strong. Beggars only get what they are given. China is building roads for its use not for new Chinese province of Pakxiang. China is not making you strong but sucking your blood. Just wait when you will have to pay back debt with exhorbitant interest. People who understand Chinese machinations in Pakistan are very clear that Pakistan is on the verge of becoming a vassal state of China. China is nobody’s friend.

  5. The Ladakh standoff has also exposed people like this, who reached the highest levels of the military, apart from small fry like Ajai Shukla. Surprised that the army staff evaluation and review system was able to let people like these slip through the cracks…

  6. Response from lresent govt is no different from MMS and destroyer in Chief Nehru. If govt does take appropriate acrtion it will be deceiving people. Stop finding excuses for justifying chinki action. We should occupy some other area, recognize Taiwan, stop imports, reconsider position of tibet. We have been led by cowards and PM is looking like a drama queen resorting to funny antics to win election. We need leadership not rationa,izing chinki action.

  7. Very nice counter article. I too was disturbed by that article titled like that. It’s good to understand that all such articles may really not mean much. As an army commander you r telling the country that the Chinese army is crushing our fingers and we r not capable to do anything, more than showing the govt in bad light, he showed our army as mere spectators.
    Indian army is extremely valiant and strong I trust that.

  8. Some of the learned Generals are confused about the CHINESE capabilities. Some Debunk China’s geo-strategic moves! The General appears to be underestimating the Enemy…. “Know your Enemy” and be better prepared. Chinese technological asymmetry will cripple adversaries even before the battle is joined!… severely degraded by high altitude and weather? Some appear to be fighting the last war and some have jumped to future war scenarios. There are a plethora of plans on how to resolve the issue by the VETERANS! I wonder if such articles should be coming out in the open domain like newspapers?

  9. Using dialogue and diplomacy to resolve a grave insult, loss of territory, loss of Ekta and Akhaandtaa ?

    If the strength of a nation ,where 85 crores need State support to survive, if there is lockdown and millions have no support of savings and thereby trudge back home , is “DIPLOMACY” , it is indeed laudable.

    We must then relieve the IA from the responsibility of LAC as ITBP under its Ministry , is and will suffice. Rest fislogues and Diplomacy will resolve.

    And India then can save on expenditure on Military satellites, which time and again fail the professional Indian Intelligence agencies, as in this instance.

    Nilesh Sir, a true patriot loves his nation foremost and always and the Government of the day , only when it does lasting good for the nation.

    I think all Veterans and patriotic citizens feel extremely insulted as Indians on capture of Indian territory,well defined in the LAC , by China. And feel that this Nation needs to give a strong military reply because we are a very strong nation, recognised so by all leading nations, specially after 2014 .And are member of many international anti China coalitions and forums and have also send Navy to patrol South China Sea.

    What is the delay in Strong Military action in Ladakh or along entire LAC , isn’t understood? And every day’s delay will cost us more manpower to evict them. In Kargil , it was 8:1 .
    Therefore the General’s concern are factual and its print in national media is genuine information & analysis on the situation for the countrymen, puzzled at the lack of response and credible news , on this grave Chinese affront, undermining our territorial integrity .

    The military leadership too must answer , after we won back the list area, as to how they were caught napoing .

  10. While the criticism of The Article ‘Fingers’ is on cards along with that of its Author. There are certainly issues which merit attention:
    1. We are only guesstimating Chinese objectives. This can range from basic premise of asserting claim and gain territory for tactical advantage to major strategic and geopolitical rights, assert and give signal even to US (that from Sea of Japan to Taiwan to South China Sea to Indonesia to Indian Ocean Region to Karakoram to West Asia, China will not hesitate to press and seek resolutions as it deems fit.
    2. To India it’s message is unambiguous. ‘We shall tie you in knots on the LAC, from Pakistan, Nepal etc.’ Will not permit you to operate from a position of strength. Negotiations will be on our terms, rhetoric’s in media aside.
    3. At operational level there is a real threat to Karakoram & Ladakh range from East as well. It has long been overlooked but should no more be ignored. Same goes for the Shyok route. This requires reassessment of our defensive and offensive ability in Ladakh and initiate measures in quick time.
    4. The old strategic thought that there are going to be no major wars needs reassessment. This is based on enemy’s intent and not his capability. It had resulted in situation that while we are extremely volatile and proactive to actions by Pakistan (and now even Nepal), our Military limitations do not deter China from its Aggressive approach and intent.
    5. The truth is that while you may think yourself as a competitor of China, it does not reciprocate as it knows our weakness and is ready to exploit.
    6. Unity of Command on LAC all along is an operational necessity but foreign, home and defence offices are always at variance, sabotaging efficiency on ground.
    7. Finally, I can tell you that neither the foreign nor home nor defence ministries are going to entertain a stronger military argument as it endangers their control of decision making. CDS notwithstanding. Answer lies in Delhi and not on LAC.

  11. thanks for the article. journals like wire spread misinformation. common people like ne get worried on seeing the articles in print et al…. though we dont trust theur integrity. your article is a timely writeup to general public. keep it up. 👏👏. Jai Hind

  12. Though I agree with the author that it would be futile to have a so called ‘military spokesperson’ to brief the nation weekly when we already have umpteen number of channels through which the govt. can broadcast its view and line of action, but it is to be noted that the official briefings given by govt. is ambiguous and not very transparent.
    While there is a complete denial by the officers, yet through multiple news prints it is being promulgated that China have in actuality transgressed pretty deep into the Indian territory.

  13. I have to say this about Indian opposition politicians and ex generals. They always undermine the government’s negotiations with hostile foreign power. What is this about Indian psyche, it is in the genes, methinks. There is always someone willing to be bought.

  14. His contribution was that he brought the concept of recce warriors, the concept which no body in IA could understand. Further he was enforcing this as his idea, however, he noticed and copied it from Japanese Army after a visit there.

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