China is hardening its force posture including in Eastern Ladakh; demonstrated by the series of operational and tactical measures it is continuing to take. This is hardly to only intimidate India.
|The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army|
Pentagon’s recently released report to the US Congress titled ‘Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China’ is in the news. It talks of China’s strategy to achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation by 2049 deeply integrated with its ambitions to strengthen the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). It also says China’s describes building military requirements into civilian infrastructure, leveraging civilian construction for military purposes, and that ‘dual use’ villages established on foreign territory act like “extended cantonments” for military use, which are a major source of concern for India.
The report mentions the 100-house village built by China in Arunachal Pradesh during 2020. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has responded by saying India has neither accepted China’s illegal occupation of its territory nor any unjustified Chinese claims. The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General BipinnRawat, however, is desperately denying the village is in India and that the Chinese aggression in Eastern Ladakh has violated the Line of Actual Control (LAC); least someone questions his accountability for operational laxity against China while serving as Army Chief and later as CDS.
PLA is training to fight and win through increasingly realistic combat training using dedicated blue force opponents and other elements for realism
Among other issues, the US report also highlights the following:
China has said its territory and sovereignty are inviolable; in territory it obviously includes all illegal territorial claims. China’s new border law tasks the PLA to carry out border duties, organisedrillsand prevent invasion, encroachment, provocation and other acts.The law also states that China will strengthen border defence, support economic and social development as well as opening-up border areas, improve public services and infrastructure in such areas and the like.
China’s new border law tasks the PLA to carry out border duties, organise drills and prevent invasion, encroachment, provocation and other acts
China recently brought an electric bullet train toNyingchi16 km distance from Tibet’s border with Arunachal Pradesh and plans extending the Aksai Chin road to the north of Arunachal Pradesh linking the Ladakh with the Sikkim-Bhutan-Arunachal front. China is hardening its force posture including in Eastern Ladakh; demonstrated by the series operational and tactical measures it is continuing to take. This is hardly to only intimidate India.
The US report describes China’s influence operations, which target cultural institutions, media organisations, business, academic, and policy communities of countries, and international institutions to achieve outcomes favorable to its strategic objectives. This is very relevant to India where some Beijing stooges are busybuilding perception that areas like Depsang and Demchok are ‘legacy issues - to be given up? Others profess China believes in ‘winning a war without fighting’and therefore there is little chance of China forcing war on India which it cannot even afford.
Those who rule out even limited war with China for starters have not bothered to study the personality of Xi Jinping who is set for a third term as president followed by lifetime presidency? It is not without reason that his career progression has been compared to that of Hitler and accorded the title of ‘Xitler’. Soon after Xi became President, the PLA began exercising operations on a life-sized land model of Ladakh in interior Tibet. He has established ‘dual use’ villages in Arunachal and Bhutan and PLA detachments have been reported recently in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) along with officers of the Pakistani army and ISI to help establish similar villages.
Xi Jinping was a Secretary in China’s Minister of National Defence when China under Deng Xiaoping invaded Vietnam in 1979. Xi is in the same mould as Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping who said, “Tibet is the palm of China and Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and NEFA are its fingers”. It is significant to note here that by accumulating the type of power he already has; Xi Jinping has already surpassed Deng and soon will leave Mao behind after his third term is confirmed during the 20thNational Party Congress of China’s Communist Party to be held in year 2022.
China will not give up annexing Taiwan but will look for opportunity perhaps when the US is engaged elsewhere or subjected to a crippling biological attack
On assuming control of Communist China, Mao went for the annexation of Tibet, Xinjiang and Manchuria-inner Mongolia. Deng integrated Hong Kong and Macau with mainland China. Later China laid illegal claims in Western Pacific and began militarisation of South China Sea. China’s illegal claim to Tawang Plateau in Arunachal Pradesh was extended to entire Arunachal Pradesh in 2005.Xi therefore has the task cut out to integrate Taiwan and make the best of its other illegal territorial claims (including the vision of Mao about the palm of China and its five fingers) which affects India in big way.
When Xi should execute the merger of Taiwan and realise China’s other illegal territorial claims, the logical choice will be ‘earlier the better’ because: China (in conjunction Russia) is ahead of the US in spheres like hypersonic, cyber-space and space; India is trying to catch up with China militarily and improve its economy but the gap is large; India’s rise is not in China’s national interest; India-China bilateral trade has tilted more in China’s favour since the standoff in Eastern Ladakh, indicating India’s dependency on China has not reduced; strategic consolidation of the QUAD and AUKUS is still in the making, and; China’s population is ageing with the two-child policy not taking off - realising illegal territorial claims requires boots on ground.
The US has said it will defend Taiwan but can that conflict be limited to the sea even if the US and China both use ‘low yield nuclear weapons during China’s invasion of Taiwan? On the other hand if the US hits targets on mainland China, latter may react not only against US bases in say Guam and garrisons in Japan but also mainland US. Both China and the US would not want that considering the escalation that could follow. China willnot give up annexing Taiwan but will look for opportunity perhaps when the US is engaged elsewhere or subjected to a crippling biological attack.
At the same time, Xi would like to test China’s comprehensive national power and latest weaponry against India (abhorred as a US ally) to realise illegal territorial gains. A limited war under the nuclear threshold is very much on the cards – short and sharp while blaming India for aggression by illegally sitting on territory which actually belongs to China. China does appear to be preparing for this.