The PM also balanced his vision of national development and peace which comes with the prowess of the armed forces. Undoubtedly, the visit will be an immense source of strength for the soldiers and the peoples of the nation alike.
By Lt Gen Rakesh Sharma, (Retd)
The visit of PM Narendra Modi to Leh in Ladakh on 03 July 2020 is noteworthy in many ways, coming as it is in the wake of the Ministry of Defence approving significant acquisitions. In the address to the soldiers at Nimu, there was an unmistaken clarion call to the Nation to stand as one, as it was to China that the era of expansionism is past. There was no ambiguity to the comity of nations of the world, that India will stand firm on principles, and remain stoic against the bully. The PM also balanced his vision of national development and peace which comes with the prowess of the armed forces. Undoubtedly, the visit will be an immense source of strength for the soldiers and the peoples of the nation alike.
To any keen observer, the events of the past two months have clearly shown aggression and assertiveness by China in its periphery, against a large number of nations. This obviously cannot be taken as impulsive or sporadic acts. It is a deep message to the nations of the world, that it considers itself as having ‘arrived’ as a superpower, and that this belligerence will become a norm in international politics. With India, there remains the long-standing issue of the disputed border, on the Line of Actual Control, which China has deliberately not allowed to move towards delineation and demarcation. There are serious geopolitical underpinnings to this intransigence, as India is a long-term challenger to the Chinese hegemony.
The last two months have witnessed marathon discussions at the apex levels between the militaries of China and India in Ladakh, to resolve the imbroglio. While there seems some disengagement at Galwan Valley, the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) has not budged from withdrawing from the Finger 4 of the North Bank of Pangong Tso, despite well understanding that the Indian LAC passes through Finger 8. It is evident that this is the new normal being shown by China.
The times insist on a holistic change of national policies as they pertain to China. There are four pointers to the future. One, on the LAC, Indian Armed Forces are in for long haul, as it seems unlikely that in the near future we will witness a status quo of April 2020. Indeed, on the LAC and on the high seas, the Indian Armed Forces are prepared, from a skirmish to a conventional war. There may be some shortfalls in preparations that need to be made up in a planned manner. Two, on the technological front, in realms of modern warfare like those encompass fields of the cyber and electro-magnetic realm, more progress is mandatory. We need to consolidate nationally to respond to a technological war. Three, Indian Government has taken strong measures on economic and trade policies (like the cancellation of Chinese apps). A holistic policy review is imperative, on direct and institutional investments. And four, there are like-minded nations on the Chinese periphery and around the world very concerned about the belligerent rise. There would be great opportunities to coalesce in joint efforts, mindful of a belligerent rise of China, and as its policies are manifesting globally.
For India, the recent events are a major tactical and strategic change that causes a total absence of trust of the PLA. In future, the Indian Armed Forces have to deter PLA from acquiring more territory, even at other disputed areas and points of vulnerability. Indian Armed Forces will have to adopt a robust and forceful defensive-offensive posture that denies any further incursions and transgressions, along the LAC. There will be possibilities of further clashes, which unlike previously, might transcend to use of firearms.
The apparent expansionism of China has been given a veritable message by the Indian Government and armed forces, that in spite of not wanting conventional war if imposed, there is an inherent strength. Contextually, it is essential to accept that the aggressive rise of China will be a great challenge, and we need to focus and prepare for the same.
(The author is a former Corps Commander of 14 Corps at Ladakh. Views expressed are personal.)