The armies of India and China have been stationed opposite each other on the LAC for about 20 months. Eastern Ladakh is not the only area where China has tried to infiltrate. China has done the same thing in Doklam and is also eyeing areas like Arunachal Pradesh, Siliguri Corridor. In the year 2020, the armies of China and Indian clashed with each other in the Galvan Valley. In this violent clash, 20 Indian soldiers were martyred and many Chinese soldiers were also killed. Since then the tension reached its peak and India prepared a new strategy regarding China.
On Wednesday, CDS General Bipin Rawat died in a helicopter crash. General Rawat was the biggest challenge before China. His departure has indeed caused a great loss to the country on the defense front. In such a situation, the question is whether India is taking adequate steps to deal with China’s threat in the region? In his article for The Times of India Take. Gen (R.) D.S. Hooda has answered this-
Life lost on LAC in 2020 after 1975
The question is, is India on the right track to compete with China? To answer this, we have to look at the steps taken by India, whether it is with the current tension on Ladakh or to formulate a strategy to deal with China’s long-term threat. It has to be admitted that last year the formation of the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) and the large number of infiltration surprised the Indian Army. Initially, efforts were made to ignore these activities and it was hoped that this crisis would be resolved peacefully. However, this hope was badly shattered in the Galwan violence of June 2020 and for the first time since 1975, a soldier lost his life on the LAC.
Indian Army strengthened on LAC in one and a half year
India responded strongly and resolutely, be it militarily or strategically. In the last one and a half years, the Indian Army has strengthened its defensive strength and has matched the deployment of the PLA in Tibet. Appropriate steps have been taken to improve the infrastructure and electronic surveillance along the LAC. The large force, including the offensive corps, has been redeployed from the Pakistani front towards the northern border.
‘India-China relations are not like before’
Diplomatically, India has insisted that the situation in the LAC has adversely affected bilateral ties and now “trade is not the same” between the two countries. Recently at the Bloomberg New Economic Forum in Singapore, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had said that we are going through a bad phase of our relationship as they (China) have taken many steps in violation of agreements for which they have no concrete answer. Not there. This prompts a rethink about where they want our relationship to take us.
Strategy will have to be made to deal with the long-term challenge
In my view, after the initial injury, India fought back the current standoff in Ladakh with great determination. But when we look at India’s strategy to deal with China’s long-term challenge, there are some fundamental flaws in it. The absence of a national security strategy in India is the first constraint that hinders the development of a comprehensive plan to deal with our external threats. The challenges to India’s national, regional and global objectives need to be clearly addressed by the Chinese side. After clearly understanding the threats, we can formulate an approach to counter them.
India’s foreign policy has to decide the direction
India is currently associated with several bilateral and multilateral organizations such as the Quad, which are formed to respond to China’s aggression in the region. The NSS will help define the expectations and limits of these arrangements and India’s dialogue strategy. India is facing challenges such as Islamic terrorism both on its borders and from Afghanistan. Competition between the US and China is increasing in the Indo-Pacific region and trade and technology are now being used as weapons. Under these circumstances, India’s foreign policy options and direction need to be carefully considered.
Difficult to compete with China with budget
The NSS will also be instrumental in the formulation of a national security strategy and a military capability development plan. The appointment of Chief of Defense Staff is a positive step and will help in taking forward the procurement priority of the three services. However, capacity development depends on two things, budget and strategy. In the absence of a national strategy, the army is strengthened to plan its modernization mainly on the basis of budget. This is a serious problem as the gap between the defense budgets of India and China will continue to widen in the times to come. The Indian army cannot compete with the Chinese army in terms of budget but can generate strategic thinking to develop appropriate capabilities.
ITBP should work under the leadership of the army
India’s LAC management strategy also needs to be reconsidered. At present, there is a system of dual control on the LAC. Both the Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) are stationed in the region and report to two different ministries. Technically the LAC is the responsibility of the ITBP whereas the response to all major incidents is led by the Army. In future, the conflict on the LAC may increase further, in such a situation, the army should come forward as a ‘lead agency’ under whose command the ITBP should be placed.
Military presence and strategy both necessary
The LAC management strategy should also focus on the development of border areas. While the military presence is necessary for border defense, civil settlements, grazing rights and for strengthening India’s border claims. China is already adopting such a strategy in building over 600 ‘Xiaokang Border Defense Villages’ along the LAC and the border with Bhutan. India is fully prepared to deal with any immediate Chinese provocation along the LAC. He now has to devise a long-term strategy to deal with the growing power of China.