(Any visit by a top Indian Official to China will convey our weakness and will have long term ramifications, keeping in view the threatening utterances and posturing by China)
DOKLAM fiasco was officially transmitted in public domain on 16th June,2017. Unconfirmed reports in Indian media have stated that PLA elements were seen skirting around that area as early as April this year. On the 6th July, 2017, I happen to accidentally tune in to a Chinese radio station transmitting on short wave. There was a running commentary in crisp English about Indian misdemeanor by sending troops in Chinese territory. Commentary also included mention of exemplary restraint shown by China towards aggressive Indian posturing in Chinese and third country (Bhutan) territory. Name of Bhutan was never mentioned. The commentary stated that official version will be on the air at 2100h on 6th July. At the appointed hour Chinese foreign office spokes person commenced his tirade against India by enumerating unfriendly Indian actions in the recent past, which are listed below.
- Allowing Dalai Lama to visit Arunachal Pradesh (Chinese territory not disputed territory) as guest of Indian Government. He substantiated his claim by stating that Chinese government does not grant Visas to residents of Arunachal. But he added that concept of STAPLED VISA was in vogue at the request of Indian Government.
- He further added that Indian stand on South China Sea islands was ambivalent.
- He was categorical in mentioning about 1962 war and added that Indian have not learnt their lessons from the drubbing at the hands of PLA Army.
- He mentioned that there was no question of any negotiation/parleys since it was India, which has unilaterally moved Army units in their territory.
- He concluded his 15 minute tirade by issuing a threat that China will adopt all measures and reserves the right to take whatever action she deems fit, including
Military action if Indian troops fail to withdraw. He, however, stopped short of issuing a deadline. I am certain our intelligence agencies and China desk official also listen to Radio Beijing and publicity by New China News Agency (NCNA).
China foreign office has already briefed the envoys from P-5 countries about the situation stating emphatically that the patience is running out. All above factually accurate utterances are only one step short of initiating offensive action by PLA. While Modi government has shown the ability to take/execute/ and stand by tough decisions on numerous issues. But the governing apparatus appears to be dithering in taking any substantive action except for having decided to move Indian Army units to DOKLAM plateau. An absolutely exceptional act of courage and diplomacy!
But what after that? Chinese have rebuffed the foreign secretary rather bluntly when he attempted to diffuse tensions by mentioning that “let differences not become disputes”. It would be an extremely sad day if the Modi Government also resorts to the infamous “WAIT AND WATCH” policy enunciated by all previous governments.
After direct threats by China during past two weeks it is about time we made our stand clear and unambiguous. Our actions could be:-
- Firstly, cancelling NSA Ajit Doval’s visit to China for BRICS meeting, clearly stating that threatening posture adopted by China will not be tolerated. Precedence already exists. We declined to attend SAARC meeting.
- Secondly, clearly enunciating our stand that “UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES CHINESE WILL BE ALLOWED TO BUILD A ROAD IN THAT REGION”.
- Thirdly, agreeing with China in totality that 2017 is indeed not 1962. We are capable of giving them a ‘bloody’ nose and we must.
- In order to diffuse the situation we must insist on Chinese top official agreeing to visit India to discuss the issue.
Withdrawal from DOKLAM plateau would be worse than a military defeat, if we go to war. My worry, however, remains our indecisive approach. Few days back a national daily of prominence carried an article by an eminently qualified military strategist. He mentioned SIX options (read eventualities) wrt DOKLAM stand off. While the strategist categorically mentioned Chinese Military action as one of the eventuality, but he did not mention an Indian offensive. At one of the intellectual bastion in Delhi, during informal chat over tea, when I mentioned that in view of prevailing ‘hysteria’ in China, NSA’s visit should be called off, an eminent foreign service officer mentioned that military officers do not understand diplomacy. I entirely agreed with him by stating that indeed military officers do not agree with ‘Diplomacy’ as another name for ‘COWARDICE and/or INDECISION’. Our conversation ended since the coffee had also finished.
Without any doubt it was political decision on the advice of Diplomats that we must move Indian Army units to DOKLAM. CoAS on his own could/would not have done this. Did the military strategists not appreciate the consequences that might follow?
We are only few ‘baby steps’ away from what could become a full blown conflict. Tactically speaking China will not wait for long (not beyond 30th September) because presently the weather conditions prevailing in that region will hamper IAF strike elements operation. As the monsoon begins to withdraw, cloud cover virtually disappears and visibility improves considerably. Chinese will worry about IAF operations (if allowed to operate unlike 1962) and will be at receiving end. Threat to IAF elements will emanate from SAMs only. Current Chinese inventory SAMs have rather poor launch to kill ratio. Strike elements of PLAAF (Chinese Air Force) will hardly be able to interfere with our ground operations due to limited throw weight capability, since neighbouring airfields in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) are at medium altitudes. All IAF airfields are at sea level enabling maximum pay load and radii of action.
WARS are invariably associated with death and disaster. But not always. ‘YOM KIPPUR’ war is a near perfect example of how a swift war can result in long and sustained peace in the region. I am a firm believer in Chanakyan philosophy of exercising/unleashing the deterrent if dialogue fails. In present case ‘DIALOGUE HAS NOT FAILED; CHINA IS NOT WILLING TO HAVE A DIALOGUE’.
I will hazard a guess; if we go to war and win it, terrorism in J&K might just be eliminated. On purpose I have chosen to exclude the oft quoted (which I consider idiotic) ‘two front war’ etc. We have enough to fight provided we are ‘ALLOWED’ to fight.
Gp Capt TP Srivastava