Folks, let me share some thoughts on the latest developments in Eastern Ladakh over the past few days. As always, writing this blog post on the go, in the hope that it will eventually make sense!
Here goes ..
Firstly, I will NOT talk about the specific military situation in the area because, frankly, there is far too much noise on social media for me to paint a correct picture of what exactly has happened on the ground.
That said, the only fair assumption that I am going to endorse is that Indian troops have actually gone and occupied some heights with the aim of pre-empting Chinese movements. In fact, this seems to have been the line of the Chinese as well. So before moving ahead, let me delve on this particular aspect for some time.
At the outset let me say – This is HUGE!
And why do I say that?
Well, this is because it seems to be the first time that Indian soldiers have actually done something like this on the LAC (Doklam notwithstanding. That was a different ball-game altogether).
So much so, that the Chinese themselves didn’t know how to react to this event. Such was the confusion that Shri Hu went crying on Twitter that ‘THIS TIME’ it was the Indians that had changed the status quo, implicitly acknowledging that thus far it was China that was doing so!
In fact, so rattled were they that they went into a ‘statement frenzy’, ‘denouncing’ India for trying to emulate what they themselves have been doing for all these years! I guess they didn’t get the memo that says ‘Imitation is the best form of flattery’!
This brings me to yet another question – Have we really gone 4km inside Chinese territory?
Well, who knows!
Regardless, fact remains that the mere occupation of commanding heights implies that if not physically, we would still be able to visually dominate a large area beyond and if need be, interfere with PLA movements there. Remember Kargil, and the threat to NH-1 posed by the Pakis?
How far ahead can we do that, depends upon the geography of the are which again, I have absolutely no idea about. But then, the 4km figure does get some context.
Next question is whether we have actually crossed the LAC or not.
Out here, what I’ll offer is the fact that firstly, the LAC has NOT been officially demarcated by India and China. Instead, what exists is a perception of where the LAC lies. This naturally means that there are areas that both sides claim to be on their side of the LAC.
In fact, this was what the initial fracas over the various Fingers from 4 to 8 all about in the months of May and June.
So what my guess is that the Indian armymen might very much be on their own side of what they claim, while having physically crossed and occupied areas that China thinks belongs to them.
From various accounts, one thing that is crystal clear is that it was a tactical move, undertaken to pre-empt the Chinese.
That it caught the Chinese by surprise says a LOT about the mental faculties of the PLA commanders and their rigid decision making.
Oh, talking about ‘rigid’, I’ll just leave this tweet from a few days ago over here.
Ok, coming back to this blog post, it is a fair assumption to say that the PLA are justified in crying buckets at having ‘lost’ territory to the Indian Army. Well, here is a piece of news for them – they have a LOT more territory to lose .. all of Aksai Chin, in fact.
Another V.E.R.Y interesting aspect that more or less is agreed to be true is the fact that Tibetan troops of the ‘hush hush establishment’ (which has its own wikipedia page, btw!) were involved as well!
No wonder that the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokie was a bit .. err .. curious about Tibetans serving as Indian troops!
This fact is as symbolic in the perception realm as it is deadly on the battlefield. The Tibetans are universally acknowledged to be under tremendous suppression by China. The news of they actually fighting back to re-enter their lands, even if in a small increment, is bound to pique interest in a LOT of world capitals, not to say galvanize their fellow countrymen who are still under Chinese occupation within Tibet itself.
So herein lies yet another symbolic victory, going more than the 4km being talked about.
In fact, it goes all the way to Lhasa!
Of course, lest I be declared guilty of getting carried away in a premature victory dance, let me put it out that the ongoing fracas in Eastern Ladakh is still very far from resolution. Things can still get resolved amicably (till the next round, that is), or go far south.
But one thing is for sure – For the time being it is China that seems to be in uncharted territory. I say it not only due to the fact that there have been so many statements from so many Chinese stakeholders (refer a few tweets above), but also since it is now the PLA that have the unenvious task of reacting to an Indian move.
Do they go and physically dislodge the Indians from those heights now?
But isn’t the era of nail studded clubs and stones and fisticuffs over, thanks to the sacrifice of the boys of the Bihar Regiment & their CO?
And what about the tens of thousands of troops amassed by India in the region?
Bottomline: I wouldn’t be envious of the situation that the Chinese commander would be finding himself in at this moment. And no, it is not just about the events on the battlefield, but also the pressure he must be under from the very highest political echelons in Beijing!
Btw, talking about the tens of thousands of troops, I’m not too sure about the PLA being very excited about staying the winter in these areas, their heated and oxygenated tents notwithstanding!
On the contrary, I saw reports on my TL that the Indian Army had procured (or was in the process of procuring) additional winter gear for 30,000 soldiers!
Call it whatever, but I call it a brilliant psychological punch right in the solar plexus of the PLA!
By amassing all those young boys flaunting their shiny toys, the PLA would have thought that they could just roll over the Indians without even having to fire a bullet. But here was the Tiger showing the finger to the Dragon by not just hastening his infrastructure projects but also signalling his readiness to take on the Dragon, man to man as well!
I pity the poor single child ‘princelings’ that make up the PLA for the long winter that stares at them not too far from now. I wonder how will they keep themselves amused! (https://metro.co.uk/2017/08/24/chinese-soldiers-failed-fitness-tests-because-they-are-too-unfit-and-masturbate-too-much-6876635/)
But jokes apart, on a more serious note, two large masses of armed men sitting not very far from each other and that too, under such circumstances, is never a good news.
All it takes is one little misunderstanding, or one error in judgement on part of any commander at any level can result in things getting out of hand at a moment’s notice.
Not that I doubt our boys aren’t prepared for that, mind you. Our boys are amongst the best soldiers anywhere in the world, a fact that wasn’t lost to the PLA in 1962 as well!
On the other hand, empirical evidence suggests quite the contrary about the PLA. Here’s what I blogged about their performance under fire by rag -tag militiamen some years ago :-
Yet, once the guns start booming, there is not knowing when or how will they stop. Add to this the fact that there is a real possibility of such a contingency spreading to other areas as well, including Sikkim and Arunachal. Wrote about it some months ago the blog post linked below:
This brings me to another question, or a flight of fancy, if you choose to call it that – Will a military clash, if it happens, stay confined to merely the Himalayas, or will China find guns shooting at it from the South/East China Sea and/or Taiwan Strait as well?
Yup, you may want to read that question above once more.
I have no doubts in my mind that the days of the world at large blindly believing the crap of ‘peaceful rise’ of China are well and truly over. All it takes is a mere glance at various statements and more importantly, ACTIONS around the world and you know that a LOT of paradigms related to China are changing.
Add to that the upcoming US elections and things don’t look too rosy for Xi ‘Winnie The Pooh’ Jinping in the days and weeks to come.
I wrote about this as well, some months ago in THIS blog post just as the world was learning how to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Must read the blog post linked above. I insist!
So here it is – all this hype and hoopla on social media notwithstanding (including this blog post by me), what speaks the LOUDEST is, in fact, the utter quiet on the part of the GOI, even as the PRC goes ballistic with statement after statement.
This silence has a LOT to say indeed. Call it whatever u may, I choose to draw an analogy with the golden silence of India against Pakistani ramblings in all recent border tensions, starting with the BSF mortars playing havoc with Pakistan Rangers in Oct 2014, right upto the abrogation of Article 370.
All in all, the coming days, weeks and even months are going to be testing times for our Nation in particular and the world in general.
The PLA, in any case not very keen to spend the winters in the middle of nowhere, may even end up forcing the hand of their political masters.
How might that manifest remains to be seen.
I’d assume that the weather will start getting colder and colder from October onwards. So that leaves the entire month of September open for any contingency that they might seek.
Call it a personal bias, but September is something that I have been looking at since long, not just on the Himalayas but elsewhere as well.
But one fact remains crystal clear – the PLA knows all too well that the Indian soldier is no pushover on the battlefield, a fact that was further underlined on the night of 15-16 June in Galwan at the hands of Col Santosh Babu and his Vir Biharis.
The PLA may signal their willingness to stay the winter all that they want, but fact remains that the moment the first gun fires, they might be worse off logistically than the Indian Army.
The areas in contention today are the same where the PLA lost hundreds of their men at the hands of ill-equipped Indian soldiers in 1962, who earned TWO Param Vir Chakras that winter.
The elephant may be a reluctant fighter, but when it does, it tramples all in its path.
I think it is time to wind up this blog post with another ‘flight of fancy’ – What are the odds that the current situation on the LAC is actually a manifestation of a political upheaval going on in Beijing?
This too might be worth ruminating over, for what it’s worth.
Talking about Tibetan brothers getting back to their lands, the Global Times may let out all sorts of propaganda videos in the vain hope that these will scare the Indians, but fact remains that they can NEVER even come close to making something like this of the Tibetan Warriors!
In the end, I’ll just leave this tweet here to sum up this chain of thoughts.
This is just the beginning, mind you .. the beginning of the end, that is. The process may take days, weeks or even years, but it is well and truly underway.
Before signing off, let me just link THIS blog post that I wrote some years ago on the Doklam Standoff. Plz do read this one as well. I insist!