It seems that the present stand-off at DBO is unlikely to end soon. Drawing lessons from Wangdung incident in which the Indians displayed adroit diplomacy and military resolve, India needs to carefully calibrate her responses, both diplomatic and military, with restraint and firmness and not be inhibited to project force or to engage in a military confrontation should it become necessary and the stand-off continues. Enough options are available to India in Western Sector to threaten areas which are sensitive to China.
Since 1962, our thinking and actions were defensive and reactive. It is time we shed our inhibitions and think & act big.
In long term perspective, the real concern for India should be how to prevent reoccurrence of such incidents in future and what should be her strategy in relation to Sino-Indian border given the fact that the negotiations to settle the border are moving at a snail’s pace and any permanent solution is unlikely to emerge in the near future. Apart from some voids in equipment and force structure, a major weakness of India is paucity of infrastructure in border areas for undertaking and sustaining military operations. Unfortunately, the DBO sector was not strengthened since 1962 and no major infrastructural works were undertaken except for the gravel airstrip for landing of AN-32 aircraft in 2008.
As per reports, a road project linking DBO with Leh roughly following Shyok alignment was planned in 2001 but could not be executed. Till date, the Post is maintained mostly by air posing a serious constraint on the strength that can be positioned. Lack of infrastructure is not akin to DBO alone but extends to many more areas along the border. Sooner than later, India needs to address the issue of development of infrastructure which is long overdue in terms of construction of roads, airfields/ airstrips, ALGs, storage areas and dumps, staging areas, troop shelters/ accommodation and defence works conforming to its long term strategy both for defensive and offensive operations. These works must be undertaken on emergent basis in a phased manner and completed in the shortest possible time. Combined with this is the aspect of matching force levels commensurate with the overall strategy evolved. Raising of four mountain divisions including two for offensive operations is a welcome step.
The best of intentions can change overnight but building up of capabilities and infrastructure require very long time and cannot be done overnight. Better be prepared for that day.
Since 1962, our thinking and actions were defensive and reactive. It is time we shed our inhibitions and think & act big. Instead of resorting to kneejerk reactions every time the Chinese intrude into our area, we should per se deter such attempts with a credible force posture and capabilities for a tit-for-tat in areas sensitive to them. The strength of a nation lies in its capabilities to proactively act and steer independently without outside interference and pinpricks. A strong Indian military posture coupled with capabilities and determination may also force China to expedite border settlement which they have been dillydallying since long.
The above will no doubt call for a huge financial outlay and demands many sacrifices. National sovereignty cannot be measured in terms of costs. A strong national will, resolve and determination can overcome any such obstacles and it is time that we demonstrate these. Presently India and China have been having very cordial relations. The Sino-Indian border has been peaceful since 1962 barring a couple of incidents. There is a sincere urge on the part of leadership of both the countries to work towards improvement of relations and rapprochement. As one recalls, in international relations there are no permanent friends or foes; the only constant factor is one’s national interests. The best of intentions can change overnight but building up of capabilities and infrastructure require very long time and cannot be done overnight. Better be prepared for that day.
- “India China Boundary” by TS Murty, published by ABC Publishing House, New Delhi in 1987.
- “Paths of Peace” by TS Murty, published by ABC Publishing House, New Delhi in 1983.
- Article titled “ The Sumdorong Chu Incident” by V Natarajan, Bharat Rakshak Monitor, Volume 3 (3) Nov-Dec 2000.
- Article titled “Lessons from an Unsettled Boundary” by Manoj Joshi – The Hindu dated 27 April 2013.