DBO: India’s Response and Defence Preparedness
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 04 May , 2013

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.


  1. “India China Boundary” by TS Murty, published by ABC Publishing House, New Delhi in 1987.
  2. “Paths of Peace” by TS Murty, published by ABC Publishing House, New Delhi in 1983.
  3. Article titled “ The Sumdorong Chu Incident” by V Natarajan, Bharat Rakshak Monitor, Volume 3 (3) Nov-Dec 2000.
  4. Article titled “Lessons from an Unsettled Boundary” by Manoj Joshi – The Hindu dated 27 April 2013.
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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Brig Pillalmarri Subramanyam

Brig Pillalmarri Subramanyam, former Army Officer and served in DBO, Ladakh Area.

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14 thoughts on “DBO: India’s Response and Defence Preparedness

  1. Continued :
    Barahoti and Finger area in Sikkim.
    For Arunachal Pradesh, India must hold a referendum and as 90% people of Arunachal Pradesh supports India sovereignty, it will be in India.
    Arunachal Pradesh’s future must be decided by the people of Arunachal and not China.
    Therefore, this way Arunachal Pradesh will not be in status Quo and nor will it be under Give and take.
    When India took Sikkim in 1975, then also people of Sikkim voted for a union with India, same can be done for Arunachal as well.

  2. Continued :
    Deploy our best mountain divisions on the border with China. Indian Army must train the ladakhi locals as well with arms training in case of any conflict which may break out in future.
    China is a land thirsty country and its policy is to grab the land “”inch by inch”". Indian government’s reluctance to counter PLA incurions has resulted in India who have probably lost additional 1000 sq km territory since 1962 war.
    Indian Army must also mass hire soliders and officers as there is still a lot of vacant posts of the junior and senior officers in the Indian Army.
    Please be flexible enough to hire more officers in the Army as we need strength to counter China having an army of 22-25 Lac active troops.
    Our DRDO is also very backward and slow in developing arms and ammunitions and technology wise we are far behind China.
    If India wants to be a super power which India claims to be then India needs to develop its own technology to develop arms.
    No country can be a super power just by becoming the largest buyer of arms.
    India must adopt a very stringent policy on the border issue and must only show flexibility in case China is ready for a “”GIVE AND TAKE”". Staus Quo is not the solution.
    Aksai Chin can be ceded away with few specifications and changes.The boundry must be discussed as per McCartney-MacDonald Line of 1899 in Aksai Chin sector which will give India an advantage of retaking some of the lost land.
    India will have a control over Chip Chap valley, Galvan Valley, Dehra Compass , however Lingzi Tang Plains can be given to China as a goodwill gesture from India as it will give depth to China’s stretegic G219 highway.
    The border must meet at Lanak La and then finally to the Pangong Lake. Dambu Guru and Khurnak Fort may also be negotiable as concessions for China from India.In return to the consessions given my India, India may take most of the Demchok parcel, and all of Chumar area. In the middle sector, India will have Kaurik, Shipkila, Nelang valley and

  3. The author is a retired Brigadier and has served in DBO sector, therefore i expect that he knows in and out about the LAC in Ladakh sector specially the infamous DBO sector.

    Firstly, i will say that India’s condition of not being counter-intrusive with the China’s PLA is a symbol of Cowardice and the CONGRESS is responsible for that.

    The root cause is the former prime minister Jawahar Lal Nehru and his immoral policies which he saw from a prism of Socialism and treated Communist China as being a pert of the same ideology and who was too incapable and corrupt to have dealt with China and the rest who followed him from the congress. Anyways, the damage has already been done and there is nothing we can do to reverse the time which is gone.

    I wish a real patriotic and brave youngster could become a PM of this country.

    The only policy that will counter China for safe guarding our border is “”TIT FOR TAT “” and for that Indian Army must have decisive powers. The AFSPA must be given to the Indian Armed forces both against Pakistan and China.

    As the world knows that China is a booming econmy and is years ahead of India and for that reason China cannot be dealt with only a diplomatic will by India. The armed forces have to make things easy for our diplomats.

    We have to come out of the orthodox BABU TYPE diplomacy to counter China.

    The best answer to chinese PLA is that if they enter our area and calling it theirs and they can forgo just by saying that the “”incursion might have happened due to differing in perceptions of the LAC”" then why cant India do the same.

    If China enters in DBO sector, India must go and intrude in some other sector where there are differeing perceptions on the LAC.

    But before that India must atleast enhance its infrastructure with a counter mechanism and in case of a war, if that road or area which is being developed by India and in any case if it gets in hands of china, India must destroy it in seconds so that it could not be misused.

  4. I have been reading strategy of China from 1950 to till now .The main thing about chinese is that they don’t want india to develop that infrastructure that they have built in pok and aksai chin .even they connected tibet from lhasa to sinkiang in 1950.Shame to politicians who are involved in corruption..

  5. The fact is, Dalai Lama, who WAS NOT an indian, was born in what is now the so-called Arunachal Pradesh, which was a part of Tibet very long ago. Another fact is, the so-called Arunachal Pradesh was now occupied by India, which has for the past decades tried to move its people there.As to the reason of Sino-indian war, do you think it plausible to ascribe it to a feeling of being sidelined on the Chinese part? How ridiculous! A war caused by a feeling of not being taken seriously! Is that the history they taught you?Ok, now answer me: why Dalai Lama fled to India and why India was willing to accept him? Was it because China was sidelined? If you don’t believe my story of the war, you at least could see, by logical thinking, that India and China was not on good terms not because the latter was sidelined. It was because of territory disputes in the first place. Nehru had tried to take what is now called by India Arunachal Pradesh from China. And his reason is the McMahon Line, which was casually drawn by McMahon, regardless of the fact that Tibetans had lived areas south of that line for centuries. It was act of encroachment by the British. It as stealing! The Indians refused British occupation and freed themselves at last, but Nehru took a different stand when it comes to territoris taken by the aggressors from China, and wanted to Chinese to accept the encroachment and stealing. He even wanted to include Tibet in the “Big Inida” he dreamed of. By the way, the Indian opened fire first and killed first.

  6. This is the first article written in an easy to understand manner. It clearly describes the strategy required to handle this problem and also lay down the fundamentals of the actual ground problem.

  7. This article presents an in-depth analysis of the current incursion by China and the aggressive stand that the Chinese have adopted. It does not come as a surprise as they are in dispute on various other fronts in reference to land e.g. Japan, Taiwan and India. This aggressive stand that has been adopted was reported by a recent The Wall Street Journal Article .. China wants all it’s old territories back .. Taiwan, Japanese islands in dispute and parts of Indian territories. This article lays out the complete picture and the course of action. It can only be hoped that the indian politicians are listening.

  8. “Stregth respects strength” former president Abdul Kalam said. Strength is all round strength not military strength alone. India spends 40 b US$ on defence , 100 b US$ on debt servicing in a total outlay of 320 b US$ in 2013. Against that China spends 160 b US$ on defence, 200 b US$ in debt servicing in a total outlay of 1116 b US$. Author has explained the military situation and our reaction very well. I believe in short term besides what author has suggested we have to leverage common friends and countries facing strong arm tactics from China such as Japan and Vietnam to put pressure on China.
    On longer term we have to have national missions to improve productivity of defence expenditure and improve overall fiscal situation to make ourselves stronger. This can happen through strategic investments in energy (major import expenditure) alternatives, smart defence weapons and cyber warfare.

  9. Superb analysis and an excellent policy formulation by the Brigadier. Hope the Indian military will be able to get their message across to the political masters of the nation. Any false step in this matter by the political and civilian leadership would invite disaster for the nation. The jargon of “perception about the LOC” floated around in many circles to hush up debate and questioning is just a modern version of Hindi-Chini-Bhai-Bhai of the 1960s for which India paid heavily. It is amazing how some of the highly placed diplomats of India are naive in the area of international politics as can be seen from their writing such as MK Bhadrakumar’s rant in his punchline “Right-wing nationalism swarms India” – to quote: ” Why is the media or the political class shying away from even discussing the ground reality that history didn’t begin on April 15 in northern Ladakh and much water had flown under the bridge in the vicinity of the Chumar post in the Depsang Bulge area where Indian has been apparently acting belligerently when Gen (Retd) V K Singh was in command in South Block? ” One can only hope that the military leadership would get their upper hand over such opposition to come to the rescue of the nation in the hour of need.

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