Calm at India-China Line of Control – Real or A Time to Prepare?

 

The Line of Control between India & China in the Ladakh-Tibet-Xinjiang area has been quiet for awhile. Some we know are relieved arguing the conflict is over. That is not unreasonable given how India has handled previous encroachments & hostilities by China. India’s pattern so far has been to gloss over Chinese encroachments & focus on a cordially positive approach to China for the future. 

But it may be different this time. Look what India did this past week:

  • Brahma Chellaney@ChellaneyJuly 30 – JUNE 15 INDIA-CHINA CLASHES: India, after honoring its 20 fallen soldiers as martyrs, revealed today that their names would be inscribed on the National War Memorial in New Delhi. Contrast this with China still refusing to divulge its losses after barring funerals for its fallen.

China’s refusal to acknowledge loss of Chinese soldiers is par for course especially given the fact that China lost more soldiers than India and the goal of humiliating India was thwarted. Despite the pride in how ferociously the outnumbered Indian soldiers fought & killed 35-45 Chinese soldiers, the Indian people and the Indian Government remain coldly angry. 

    

The National War Memorial in Delhi commemorates soldiers killed in declared, undeclared or proxy wars, as Mr. Chellaney points out and further opines:

  • Brahma Chellaney@ChellaneyIndia may be signaling that it is facing an undeclared war by China. The fact is that China’s actions, undertaken through stealth and deception, collectively constitute an act of war. Its Himalayan military buildup seeks to shield its forcible change of the status quo in Ladakh.

So why the quiet on the Ladakh-Tibet line of control? First the Indian Military was not prepared for a real conflict when the Chinese army entered land on India’s side of Line of Control. So the first priority has been to build up the Indian military capabilities & get the three services ready for a conflict if China begins one. Secondly, geopolitical discussions with like-minded countries have to be initiated & carried out. Finally decisions have to be taken about either restricting any conflict to Ladakh-Tibet sector or making it clear to China that any conflict would be expanded to cover all areas of the India-China space. 

This week, the South China Morning Post reported that India has moved 35,000 additional troops to the Line of Control between India & China. These troops will reportedly remain until China scales back its own buildup. The Times of India reported this week that,

  • “… the IAF deployed almost all its frontline fighter jets like Sukhoi 30 MKI, Jaguar, Mirage 2000 aircraft in the key frontier air bases in eastern Ladakh and elsewhere along the Line of Actual COntrol (LAC). The IAF has been carrying out night time combat air patrols over the eastern Ladakh region in an apparent message to China that it was ready to deal with any eventualities in the mountainous region.”

In addition, the Times of India reported that,

  • “The Indian Navy deployed a range of its frontline warships and submarines to send a clear message to China … The Navy has significantly expanded its deployment in the IOR [Indian Ocean Region] deploying a plethora of warships and submarines to create pressure points on China as the maritime space around the Malacca Straits in very critical for its supply chain through sea routes.”

The article also states,

  • “The Indian Navy’s clear message to Beijing through its aggressive deployment of almost all frontline warships and submarines in the Indian Ocean Region following escalation in the border row in eastern Ladakh has been “registered” by China, top defence sources said on Tuesday.”

Speaking of geopolitical discussions with like-minded countries & the Malacca Straits, the US strike force led by the US Aircraft Carrier Nimitz traveled from the South China Sea through the Malacca Straits & conducted a naval exercise with the Indian Navy last week. Was this talk of a kind and was it aimed at China? 

 

Another Times of India article reported that,

  • India has begun the process for 6 more long-range Poseidon-8i aircraft from the US & for fast-track procurement of 6 Predator-B armed dronesIndia is extensively using the naval P-8I patrol planes, which are packed with radars and electro-optic sensors as well as armed with Harpoon Block-II missiles and MK-54 lightweight torpedoes for surveillance missions over Indian Ocean as well as eastern Ladakh .. The 6 new P-8i aircraft for instance will have COMCASA-protected equipment, which are much more advanced and secure than the commercially available ones. … fast track procurement for for acquiring 6 [Predator-B armed] drones will be a huge jump in unmanned lethal capability for the armed forces if the “hunter-killer” Sea Guardians, with their advanced ground control stations, launch and recovery elements, air-to-ground missiles, smart bombs and the like are actually acquired by India ..

 

As India is building support structures with USA, Australia & even potentially Japan, China seems to be on track to damage relationship with one of China’s most important & militarily substantial recent partners. Russia has been a reliable supplier of sophisticated weapons to the Chinese military & both nations recently embarked on a energy partnership. This week stories emerged that Russia has decided to stop deliveries of their state of the art S-400 anti-aircraft system to China.  

 

China can, of course, can rely on NaPakistan, its most faithful & dependent ally, to act as s second front against India. But does faithful also mean reliable?

  • Derek J. Grossman@DerekJGrossmanNew headaches for China’s BRI: “Baloch & Sindhi separatist groups in Pakistan have announced they are forming an alliance aimed ostensibly at attacking Chinese interests in a development likely increase security costs for BRI projects in Pakistan.”

Grossman provides a link to an article in Nikkei Asian Review titled Pakistani separatist groups unite to target China’s Belt and Road

  • “”As China doubles down on the CPEC infrastructure projects from Kashmir to Karachi and Gwadar, the insurgent forces will seek to raise the costs by launching attacks and raids,” Mohan Malik, a professor of strategic studies at the National Defense College of the United Arab Emirates, told the Nikkei Asian Review.”
  • “Experts also link the new alliance to the recent India-China military standoff in the Himalayas. Malik believes that an escalation in separatist violence and proxy wars on the subcontinent will be an inevitable consequence of New Delhi-Beijing security tensions.[India and China] will engage in an intense geopolitical competition to win over the allegiance of countries and [separatist movements] hostile to the other.””

If that is not enough, the recent China-Iran deal has the potential to decrease the value of NaPakistan to China, according to an article in Nikkei Asian Review titled China-Iran deal overshadows Pakistan Belt and Road project.:

  • “Once the port at Jask (to be operated by China on Iran’s coast) is operational, Pakistan’s port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea will lose its unique strategic value to China, according to experts. … experts point out when the agreement between Beijing and Tehran is signed, it will likely diminish the importance of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in the Belt and Road because Iran is a more valuable partner to China than Pakistan.”

Now ask how China gets its access to Iran’s Jask port & NaPakistan’s Gwadar port? China has to go across Afghanistan to reach Iran & via a narrow highway bordering the top of India’s Ladakh to reach NaPakistan. With such robust & reliable access routes, China is planning to invest $46 billion in NaPakistan & $280 billion in Iran!! Both the Soviet Union and USA have not been able to make Afghanistan peaceful enough to build anything there but China can? And how long will that solitary highway across the Himalayan mountains will be left open by India in the event of a China-India war? 

So on one hand, you have India with joint naval exercises near the Malacca Straits with the US Navy, India being supplied by France with 4.5 generation strike aircraft & with the diplomatic support of much of the EU & UK and you have China with only NaPakistan & Iran as allies while losing military supplies from Russia, its recent & much ballyhooed partner. And all this on its western front that is far less strategic for China than its eastern front against USA, Japan, Australia & Taiwan.  

Yet, China is confident about taking on all the above both militarily & economically. If that doesn’t remind you of the isolated yet incredibly aggressive Imperial Japan of 1930s, what will?

 

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