Taking on the Dragon
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Issue Vol. 27.4 Oct-Dec 2012 | Date : 06 May , 2014

Propaganda and Cyber Warfare

The Chinese offensive will be preceded by a massive propaganda blitz where Indian defence preparations will be played out as proof that India is preparing to invade the Middle Kingdom, never mind that it is over three thousand kilometers away from the war zone. In the evolving situation, the Chinese would project themselves as completely helpless with no option other than to launch a counter-offensive calling it self-defence. Thereafter a massive dose of cyber warfare can be expected to paralyse the command and control systems as also the commercial activities on the Indian side.

Since both India and China are nuclear weapons states, any conflict between the two will take place under a nuclear overhang.

Infrastructural Development in Border Areas by India

The biggest disadvantage that the Indian Army faces is the lack of significant improvement in infrastructure along the border areas since 1962. Successive governments in India have been neglecting this vital aspect while China has made phenomenal progress in this area. Because Chinese can swiftly mobilize forces in Tibet, warning period available to India will be short, due to lack of infrastructure deploying forces where required will be impeded.

The Collusive Scenario

In the event of a Sino-Indian conflict, a collusive scenario with Pakistan is a distinct possibility. Pakistan will be more than ready to take advantage of such a clash. This possibility ought to be of serious concern to Indian policy makers. In order to avoid a two-front war, one adversary would have to be diplomatically isolated. Indian diplomacy will thus have a big task on its hands. Militarily, however, the Indian forces must be prepared for a war on two fronts.

The Nuclear Shadow

Since both India and China are nuclear weapons states, any conflict between the two will take place under a nuclear overhang. Both countries, therefore, are likely to avoid any action which will threaten the adversary’s sensitive objectives in depth and thus invite a nuclear strike. In this respect, perhaps India has an advantage. Mainland China is too far away from the warzone. Offensive action by India will take place only in Tibet. As such, if India cannot threaten any target of high strategic importance in the Chinese heartland, the chances of a nuclear strike by China would be remote.

A defeat in a future conflict with China will be disastrous for India.

When Can a Conflict Take Place?

Crystal gazing has its own pitfalls but it can be said with a fair degree of certainty that a window of opportunity for China, if at all it exercises a conflict option to put India in its place, will only be after the US and NATO forces move out of Afghanistan and before the US can deploy naval forces in the area. This would obviate the possibility of these forces coming to India’s aid. Also China cannot afford to allow India to upgrade its forces substantially or catch up with her technologically.

The End State of the Conflict

Both countries will strive to achieve a degree and state favourable to them, China more so since it would have initiated the hostilities. But it can be said with reasonable certainty that Indian Army will be able to hold more than its own which means not to lose any territory but also launch its riposte thus exorcising the ghost of 1962. Employment of the IAF will surely invite air strikes by the PLAAF which hopefully will not be launched against cities as that would invite adverse world opinion. The Indian Navy by its domination of the Indian Ocean may create immense difficulties for China. A defeat in a future conflict with China will be disastrous for India. Apart from the economic ruin, it will substantially damage India’s standing in the comity of nations and degrade her status as an Asian power. Pakistan will not only be encouraged to step up its terrorist activities but may even resort to armed conflict to annex the Kashmir Valley, its pet obsession since 1947. On the other hand, even if India is able to bring about a stalemate, it will greatly enhance her prestige and put an end to Chinese domination in the Asian region.

We must also bear in mind that apart from sympathetic noises, we are unlikely to get any help from our so-called well-wishers in the NAM and even the Western powers. So India has to fight it alone – an extremely difficult task since eighty per cent of our military hardware is ex-import and spare and armament support can be choked off by the countries concerned.

At the end of the day, India needs to bear in mind what the great military thinker Clawswitz said: “The trauma of a military defeat can only be overcome by a military victory over the same opponent.” I rest my case.

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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

Maj Gen Sheru Thapliyal, PhD

served in the Regiment of Artillery and was awarded a Doctorate for his research & thesis on "Sino-Indian Relations".

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11 thoughts on “Taking on the Dragon

  1. India must believe in itself. India should be careful in NE India where China could launch a lightening attack and annex Arunchal Pradesh and redefine the geometry of Tibet. It is essential that mountain divisions and infrastructure are their to repel the attack.

  2. A couple of issuers here Sir ;
    No major offensive can be developed across the Saser La. It’s a logistical problem. Once down in the valley at Sasoma they can be bottled up and decimated. Every axis has its capabilities and limitations of the quantum of troops that can be applied on a particular axis. Yes if sleep like we usually do and if we let the LAC managed by the ITBP they may land up in Sasoma all be it to be massacred there. Nothing can move along these valleys until both sides are secured. If the Khalsar Plateau is held in strength nothing can move along the Shyok and Nubra Axis. It’s rather farfetched to visualize that they can develop an offensive on this axis.
    We are giving the Chinese too much in that they will get behind Chushul using the Shyok Axis. The movement has to be perforce along the valley floor which can easily be interdicted and any movement along the axis can be stemmed. To launch offensive operations against India in western Ladakh the Chinese have to carry out the build up over two axis ; one being from Sinkiang and the Second from Western Tibet. With judicious and bold use of Airborne and Special Forces these axis can be interdicted; after all it’s a battle of logistics.
    As a counter strike we must build up mobile forces in Western Ladakh to strike across the Demchok Corridor into Western Tibet as suggested by you. We should also exploit the dissent in Sinkiang to our favour in case of war.
    Let’s not underestimate the PLAAF .. they have modernized while we have 34 floundering squadrons of varying vintage. Indian needs at least 60 Squadrons to be effective on all fronts and have reasonable flexibility of deployment . Remember the Mayanmarese air space will be violated by the Chinese in case of a conflict with Indian. So they have major air bases in the two regions of Sichuan and Chengdu which will be used against us.
    Regards JP.

  3. China has nothing to achieve and too much to lose to attack India. They want Taiwan back as a priority. They want to secure the sea lanes to the middle east and to their major markets in the West. The technological development of their military is at least a generation away from being anything respectable by western and japanese standards. IF pakistan does something stupid and india attacks pakistan china would supply assistance.
    If China attacks India , it will be in another 25 to 30 years when they have a big drone and space army.

  4. Continuation from my previous post.

    3. Building of blue-water navy. Progress in this area seems to be better than in others, as far as one can gather from newspaper reports. Still, it is far from satisfactory. It has been suggested with good reasons that India must maintain five carrier-based battle groups. But we are aiming at only three. Even with that modest aim, the rate at which we are moving is far from desirable. To be truly, a blue water navy we cannot afford to not have nuclear-powered carriers. But it doesn’t seem to be on horizon yet. Our progress in building nuclear-powered submarines is also less than satisfactory. Aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines are the two most indispesible elements of a blue water navy. Without these we cannot challenge the Chinese in their waters. We would at most be able to defend within the Indian Ocean region. Even that would get progressively more difficult.

  5. Excellent article! I m sure these are many more war scenarios possible but cannot be described in a short article. It is also certain that all possible war games have been studied like a game of chess by think tanks on both sides. Given India’s options, as outlined in this article, it seems that the following must be taken up not only with priority but speedily:
    1. Building up of Army’s offensive capability both in the Eastern and Western sectors. The formation of the mountain strike corps and the mountaing artillary division for which Army has already submitted plans should be completed at the earliest.
    2. Infrastructure in border areas. It is well known that lack of roads and other infrastructure is not a result of neglect in the last 50 years since 1962 but part of a deliberate strategy. The strategy was to deny the invading forces ease to penetrate into the Indian territory. However, this did not mean that the border was left unguarded. It was especially for such reasons that heavy lift capability was created so that troops and supplies could be airlifted swiftly to even the remotest and most inaccecessible border posts of the Indian Army. This heavy lift capability came in handy in the 1986 face-off with the Chinese in the North East. But now that the technolgy has advanced so much that the absence of infrastructure would not prove to be any (or at least not strong enough) barrier, it was decided (a little more than a decade ago) to build necessary infrastructure in the border areas. This included roards, air fields etc. But what causes concern is the slow pace of progress. It’s unclear what exactly is causing the delay. There have been reports that it takes unusually long to get environmental clearance. If that is so, then, may be, the enviroment ministry should create special cell for speedy clearance of projects having a bearing on national security.

  6. My assessment
    Army: The Indian Army must cultivate the Nepalese and Tibetans. The war should be unleashed in Xinjing and Eastern Tibet. The Aim should be to free Tibet from China.
    IAF: Dont expect too much from these boys except for some minor damage to Chinese logistics and holding areas.
    Navy: The Navy will be sunk in the Arabian Sea. Two PLAN nuclear submarines will completely bottle up the IN. The Navy does not have the capability to operate in Chinese waters.
    Among the littorals in the Pacific Rim, only the Vietnames can probably come to our aid.
    All in all, India has no chance.

    • It is absolutely ridiculous to believe that 2 submarines can bottle up the entire indian navy . true china has a very large submarine fleet but india is also developing technologies to counter this particular threat . these include induction 8 boeing p8i anti submarine warfare aircraft and the induction 4 kamorta class corvettes specifically designed for anti submarine warfare with more to follow .

  7. A informative article. India Urgently needs to shed its Pacifist Policies & get ready to tackle the Chinese menace.There is a urgent meed to formulate a national Security Doctrine,A national security policy-External & Internal, ceate a post of Chief of Defence Staff, Create 2 mountain strike Corps-One For Arunachal Pradesh & one for Ladakh-each one having a brigade of Special Forces & a Aviation Brigade & Integrate special Forces with fighting units at the brigade level. The Indian army must shed its Defensive approach vs China & plan offensive operations along with the air force. Fortune favours the brave & Truth ultimately triumphs.

  8. No Indian action, whether defensive or offensive against China will get India anywhere unless it is backed by US. Can anyone think of Russia or any other power stepping in on behalf of India? In the absence of US support, a repeat of 1962 is quite probable. One does not have to be a military genius to see this. The sorry state of India’s economy, corruption ridden governance and weak centralized military command will run helter scalter in the face of China’s assault. The danger is magnified due to the nexus of China and Pakistan. It is quite possible that a frontal assault from China may be limited to minimize response from the West, but it will provide sufficient strength to Pakistan to move offenssively in Kashmir. This may be the only chance Pakistan will have to even the Bengladesh score. Is India prepared?

  9. First of all, the so called elites in the artificially and forcefully created and annexed land mass that is claimed to be India, are noting but fools to believe that they can keep on cheating and enslaving the smaller nations within the Indian-union from achieving complete political independence at some point in history. In China’s case, its made up largely og one Nation that can stand against any external threat, but the simply employment of “sepoy”, not to mention the use of cast issue, strategy would create deep division within Indian ranks. By using such psycological means and the massive military force, China will easily dominate the scene, and the immediate result would be the full-scale disintergration of this unstabe entity, similar to Soviet union. Things remain to be seen howmuch the Keralite fellow, Shiva Shankara Menon is going to lose to the Chinese now and a full-scale liberation of the entire masses in Indian abominatin.

  10. Excellent analysis.

    I would like to see the looks on Chinese leaders faces if all their disadvantages in Tibet are exploited.

    Future planning in Akas Chin for India is to plan cut off of the their Sinkiang highway. It is do-able.

    Chinese have no chances in Towang region if they are denied pathways and routes in the area. Had these been guarded in force the shape of 1962 war would have been different. Chinese exploited these routes and pathways to bypass SeLa. Rest is written history books.

    Hari sud

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