One year of Galwan clash: A look at CCP and PLA’s grand designs globally

June 03, 2021 1:43 PM

Most experts in 2020 were debating the intent of the CCP/PLA with a focus on Indo – China bonhomie by the Modi – Xi Jinping Summits, which blindsided the Indian establishment to the nefarious designs of the PLA.

galwan valleyGalwan River has its origin in the Karakoram ranges and it runs 80 Kms Westwards through Aksai Chin and East Ladakh to join the Shyok River. (Photo source: Reuters)

By LT COL MANOJ K CHANNAN,

Fight for the sake of duty, treating alike happiness and distress, loss and gain, victory and defeat. Fulfilling your responsibility in this way, you will never incur sin – Bhagwat Gita

The above quote is from the Bhagwat Gita in which the duties of a soldier were explained by Lord Krishna to Arjun as he faltered to wage war against his enemies. The Indian Army is motivated and has never bowed before any challenge within the country or on UN missions abroad. All ranks are concerned with Namak, Naam aur Nishan and the “ijjat” of the unit he serves in.

Most experts in 2020 were debating the intent of the CCP/PLA with a focus on Indo – China bonhomie by the Modi – Xi Jinping Summits, which blindsided the Indian establishment to the nefarious designs of the PLA. It was a repeat of Vajpayee’s Lahore visit for enduring peace and the Kargil intrusions leading to a bitter conflict to regain the heights overlooking the Srinagar – Kargil – Leh highway.

The April 2020 deployment of PLA for training purposes couched by the onset of the Pandemic in India, a total lockdown, lack of intelligence assessments of the PLA intent, thus leading to deep intrusions and denial of patrolling rights to the Indian Army along the Northern Banks of Pangong Tso as well as in the Galwan Valley and further West in the Depsang plains, led to the rushing of additional troops with equipment to contain the Chinese actions.

Galwan and other areas witnessed unarmed clashes. However, Galwan Valley witnessed an unprecedented clash leading to casualties on either side, India lost 20 of its Bravehearts, and the PLA casualties as ascertained later were higher, thus giving the Indian Army moral ascendancy.

Braveheart’s led by Late Col Suresh Babu, MVC, Posthumous; who in the twenty-first century created history by engaging with a belligerent PLA, without firing a shot, in a contest to remove a military post on the Indian side of the perceived Line of Actual Control. A strong message was communicated to the CCP/PLA.

This was followed by the occupation of Kailash Ranges, thus upsetting the CCP/PLA game plan. Over the past year; several rounds of Ministerial-level talks on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation in Moscow, and Corps Commander level talks assisted by Ministry of External Affair representatives ensured that a conflict didn’t flare up and the eyeball to eyeball deployment was pulled back partially.

Kailash Range was vacated as part of the agreed pull back.

PLA continues to hold dominating heights on the Daulat Beg Oldie subsector, the impasse has yet to be broken and both sides continue to build their infrastructure having weathered the winters of 2020- 21.

The turnover of troops, as well as preparedness for a long deployment, are well understood by the military planners on both sides.

While being sensitive to the Ladakh sector, the region was reinforced, strategic planners warn of CCP/PLA creating similar situations along the 4000 km long Line of Actual Control and India’s ability to contain such a move, with considerations of limited resources available.

PLA has shown its interest in the Ladakh Sub-sector as well as in Sikkim as well as Arunachal Pradesh in keeping the Indian Army deployed in the winter months to prevent any ingression.

Memories are short in Public Domain. Let us recapitulate what is Galwan Valley?

Ghulam Rassul Galwan was a Ladakhi adventurer who was part of numerous British expeditions into Tibet, Yarkand and the Karakoram ranges. In 1892 the Seventh Earl of Dunmore named this Galwan Nullah as 14-year-old Galwan led the expedition to complete its task.

The Significance.

It’s a historic flashpoint of the Indo-China conflict of 1962 and continues to remain one as over several decades, the CCP/PLA have deliberately chosen not to settle the approximate 4,000 Km long Line of Actual Control.

Galwan River has its origin in the Karakoram ranges and it runs 80 Kms Westwards through Aksai Chin and East Ladakh to join the Shyok River. The valley has sharp ridgelines and the glacial waters are cold in the summer months.

While the cause and effect are based on some historic miscalculations and forward posturing without adequate troops to task, lack of extreme winter clothing and training, wrong intelligence assessments to the Chinese reaction; caused much grief to India as a Nation, the Braveheart’s on the ground then and now did not shirk from their duty and laid down their lives in the highest traditions of the Indian Army.

The 1962 Indo China conflict is studied at the training institutions and lessons learnt are debated keenly by the military students, we need to reflect on what went wrong and have there been steps taken to prevent being outsmarted by a wily enemy.

CCP/PLA Intentions

With its stated goal of becoming the leading power of the 21st Century, China has embarked on an ambitious project of the “One Belt One Road” Initiative.  Touted as Xi Jinping’s pet project, it is likely to have far-reaching geopolitical implications for the region as well as strategic ramifications on the host countries.

The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) became a reality in November 2016, when the first Chinese convoy from Sinkiang Province reached Port Gwadar in Pakistan, built by the Chinese.

Now under a new initiative termed as “Maritime Silk Road” in conformity with the “Strings of Pearl Strategy,” the Chinese are developing new Ports along the Sea Lanes of Communications (SLOC) originating from the South China Sea to the Suez Canal and the Persian Gulf.

Close to Singapore and Malaysia, a new Container Transhipment Port as big as Singapore Port is under construction at Melaka in the straits of Malacca.

Similar Ports are under development in Port Darwin (currently under review by the Australian Government), Port Hambantota (Sri Lanka), Port Bagamoyo in Tanzania and Port Sudan.  There is no doubt that China is giving substance to its “Comprehensive National Power (CNP)” with these initiatives.

The peace between North and South Korea has prevailed. China has a stake in keeping Kim Jong-un’s regime in power in the North.

In the East China Sea, China has intensified its naval presence around the Japanese-claimed but uninhabited Senkaku Islands. China appears to be wearing down Japan’s resolve to resist its claims over what it calls the Diaoyu Islands.

The United States has assured Japan the islands fall under their mutual defence security guarantee. But a confrontation with China could test US backing and possibly set the stage for escalated confrontation elsewhere. The Biden administration is keen to drag China over hot coals on the China virus pandemic, relentlessly.

China’s military infrastructure development in the South China Sea, and the US Navy’s conduct freedom of navigation operations (FONOPS); keeps the area as a possible trigger point for a conflict.

China’s claims to the waters and islands in the Philippines territorial waters was rejected, despite which China continues to intrude on the islands claimed by the Philippines and Indonesia.

Recently, Chinese vessels were anchored in the Philippines territorial waters inside its exclusive economic zone on the premised dictum that possession is nine-tenths of the law.

Recent Observations

The Chinese have been castigating the Bangladesh government for supporting the QUAD and have not minced their words on the likely outcome.

In Myanmar, the coup and takeover of the country by Tatmadaw and the CCP/PLA tacit support are understood. Though Tatmadaw is conscious of the trap in following the CCP diktats blindly.

In Sri Lanka, Hambantota Port is now an exclusive SEZ of the Chinese PLA Navy having a berthing place 290 Kms South of Peninsular India. It’s well to consider the fact that the Indian Navy has to circumvent the Island Nation while moving naval platforms from Western Seaboard to the Eastern Seaboard.

Keeping in mind the complex situation that India is in. combatting the Pandemic, vaccination of the citizens, natural disasters on its western and eastern coasts. Peace along the LoC is holding; the Chinese are contained along the Line of Actual Control.

Suggestions

Vigorously pursue and engage with friendly foreign countries in the Western region as well as in SouthWest Asia and South East Asia to negate the Chinese influence. QUAD needs to move from a diplomatic plank to a military alliance and to that end, the joint exercises should be carried out to dominate the SLOCs.

Engage within SAARC with friendly countries and support the governments politically and economically.

Engage with China diplomatically to ensure that the situation does not escalate at the LAC. While China will remain a competitor/adversary; we need soft skills to negate its CNP.

Step up efforts to engage with Taiwan and Hong Kong.

The recent Israel – Hamas conflict saw the use of AI, supercomputing and precision-guided munitions to take out the military leadership; its implementation in our operational plans.

Develop capabilities to prevent hacking and cyber-attacks which may disrupt energy needs, transportation thereby imposing economic losses to a fragile economy.

Pursue the raising of mountain strike corps to cater for the three sectors of Ladakh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

Be prepared for “Out of the Area Contingencies”.

Restructure the border guarding forces under a unified command.

Disengage from internal security duties. The CAPF and NDRF to be equipped with assets to address all types of calamities.

To sum up, CCP/PLA will keep the global situation in a state of flux as it continues to work towards the position of being the only economic and military superpower. To that end, it is using, all it has in its capabilities be it legal or illegal, coercion or simple economic baits and leaving no stones unturned to buy out leaderships were required to add planetary resources to its kitty.

(The author is an Indian Army Veteran. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)

 

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