The LoC Disputed Territory: Shown in green is Kashmiri region under Pakistani control. The orange-brown region represents Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir while the Aksai Chin is under Chinese control. Credit: CIA World Factbook.
By SAAG -By Dr Subhash Kapila
China and India are in an unprecedented ‘State of War’ in September 2020 going by the military operational situation of massed Chinese Army and Indian Army Divisions confrontation on India’s Himalayan Borders with China Occupied Tibet.
In the ongoing ‘State of War’ between China and India in Eastern Ladakh in September 2020 what are on display are two sets of military intentions of China and India. China is unwilling to give up its military intentions to alter the Line of Actual Control (LAC) to its advantage in Eastern Ladakh and India with renewed military robustness and political will is equally determined not to be coerced by China.
India currently by massive reinforcements of Indian Army troops, Tanks and heavy artillery in Eastern Ladakh has signalled that China has left it no option but to militarily checkmate China’s visibly demonstrated military expansionism in Eastern Ladakh.
Eastern Ladakh in 2020 is sitting on an explosive military situation where even a small incendiary unintended spark could ignite an all-out military conflict between China and India.
Eastern Ladakh in 2020 is the focal point of China and India being in ‘State of War’ where intense military confrontation is clearly ongoing as it did during the China-India War 1962 in Autumn.
History seems to be repeating itself in Autumn 2020 but with a difference. India and the Indian Army of 2020 are not ‘retreating’ in face of Chinese military expansionism. China today is facing an India which has mobilised massively and rapidly in Eastern Ladakh and displayed new military intentions of ‘Offensive Defence” to deter China bent on imposing its will on India.
China and India being in a ‘State of War’ on the existent Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh owes its origin directly to China’s military expansionism after repetitive reneging by China on over half a dozen ‘Peace and Border Tranquillity Agreements’ signed with India since 1993.
China long used to emboldenment by political timidity and feeble responses of past Indian Governments of different political dispensations miscalculated India’s intentions in 2020 and firm resolves not to be politically and militarily coerced by China, any longer.
Indian PM Narendra Modi despite dispensing with the ‘China Appeasement’ policies of earlier Governments did on two occasions at the Wuhan and Chennai Informal Summits in 2018 and 2019 with Chinese President Xi Jinping attempted peaceful resolution of China-India Military Confrontation, but to no avail.
In tandem with China-India Informal Summits for peace dialogues with China, the Modi Government had seriously tackled the challenges of India Army ‘War Preparedness’ on a fast-track mode along with development of strategic border roads, bridges and airfields—imperatives for Indian Army effectively facing the China Threat. This was seriously neglected by the preceding Congress Governments 2004-14.
India thus in roles reversal of the past and arising from the above confidence has made its intentions clear to China in declaratory terms that India will resolutely resist any Chinese military operations to change the status quo along the LAC not only in Eastern Ladakh but even in other Sectors.
China’s attempts to alter the existent LAC in Eastern Ladakh since April 2020 by attempting to push LAC deeper into Indian Territory to add depth to its illegally constructed Aksai Chin Highway through China Occupied Aksai Chin Plateau –the highway that links China Occupied Peripheries of Tibet and Xingjian is the latest bone of contention in the unending China-India Military Confrontation since the late 1950s. Analysis of Chinese determinations and intentions stands discussed in my preceding SAAG Papers.
China for the first time in the long tenuous military confrontation with India along the LAC feels threatened by India in 2020. Going by China’s prevailing military perceptions that India in 2020 has reduced the military asymmetries in the China-India military balance by Indian Army’s force modernisations, resetting its defence postures along the LAC into one of ‘Offensive Defence’ facilitated by sustained momentum of the Modi Government in terms of ‘War Preparedness’ and fast -rack Border Defence Infrastructure incorporating strategic roads and forward airfields.
In Eastern Ladakh, the completion by India of Darbuk-Shyok-Daualet Beg Oldie strategic road which runs parallel to China Occupied Aksai Chin Highway and the Daulet Beg Oldie Airfield in shadow of the Karakoram Pass, has in Chinese military perceptions now enabled Indian Army and its Special Forces to interdict the Aksai China Highway threatening Chins’ hold over Xingjiang and Western Tibet. China’s genocidal military occupational hold over Xingjiang and Tibet is under challenge under China’s own inherent contradictions, without India’s interventions.
China in the last six months has been attempting to occupy mountain heights dominating this new strategic Indian road to interfere with Indian military efforts to stiffen its Karakoram Pass area defences. In role reversal India for the first time undertook pre-emptive military operations to occupy dominating heights particularly those dominating the Spanggur Gap.
China in 2020 has been therefore rudely shocked by India’s Modi Government picking up the military gauntlet thrown by China at India in Eastern Ladakh preceded by similar attempts against Sikkim and elsewhere on the nearly 4,000 km long India’s Himalayan Borders with China Occupied Tibet.
In response to Chinese Army (no longer to be termed as Peoples Liberation Army) military expansionist attempts in Eastern Ladakh, Indian Army has reinforced the military deployment there by nearly 50,000 additional troops along with tanks, heavy artillery and presumably missiles, not only as a short-term measure but as long-term deployment, even in Arctic winters that prevail there, to deter China.
In the ongoing ‘State of War’ in September 2020 when opposing clash of political wills of China and India are in full play the speculative analysis of imminence of outbreak of a full blown war between the two Asian Giants with full panoply of nuclear and conventional military power comes to the forefront.
Military analyses in such scenarios logically incorporate assessments of relative strengths, military capabilities and of end-game political intentions and political wills of China and India.
In terms of objective assessments of relative military strengths and military capabilities in Eastern Ladakh of China and India one can assert that they are evenly matched. India’s War Preparedness, Force Structures and Deployments stand configured to effectively checkmate China’s offensive designs.
In Himalayan Warfare, operational logistics backup and sustainability of military deployments in High Altitude areas is a determinative factor. India here too is well o prepared.
In terms of political end-games intentions and poetical wills of India, it needs to be emphasised that while India seeks durable peace and resolution of China-India boundary disputes, the ‘New India’ in 2020 in terms of political intentions stands firmly and “Strongly Resolved’ to checkmate China’s military expansionism by alteration of LAC status quo.
India in 2020 has both the POLITICAL WILL and POLITICAL READINESS to not only stoutly oppose any Chinese military offensives, singly or in unison with Pakistan Army in a “Dual Front War’ but also a readiness to enlarge hostilities to other dimensions and theatres hithertofore not touched in past China-India Military Confrontations, irrespective of costs.
Concluding, it needs to be emphasised that the onus of any outbreak of a full blown-out war between China and India would rest squarely on the shoulders of China and the Chinese imperatives of geopolitical rationalisations globally stacked against it. China cannot continue to persist in its condescending imperial impulses against India in the 21st Century.
SAAG is the South Asia Analysis Group, a non-profit, non-commercial think tank. The objective of SAAG is to advance strategic analysis and contribute to the expansion of knowledge of Indian and International security and promote public understanding.