Dragon Designs: A tactical perspective on Sino – Indian relations

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There have been ongoing discussions about Sino-Indian relations over the past few days following the recent Indo China face-offs in Ladakh. I’ve been speaking in leading television networks, as a Defence Expert on Geo Strategic and Military matters, with an in-depth analysis on border issues, having served in these terrains while I was in service in the Indian army.

I thought of penning my views to add the right perspective for the readers, and let them have a fair peep into our stand and not being nebulous about such a serious issue at this juncture. As a Defence Strategist, my analysis of the tactics and trends of Chinese Army may be helpful from an academic and general understanding of the issue.

The Sino Indian relations have always been like sea saw. India shares border with China in five states of India. The border disputes, the expansionist designs and territorial fetishism of China is not new. In fact, it is deep-seated in history stemming not only from colonial incursions but also nomadic invaders, who plundered the rich Yellow River Valley civilisation and ruled China. The boundary disputes with dragon started way back in 1865 when India followed the Johnson line and PRC MacDonald Line of 1899. The line agreed between Great Britain, China and Tibet as part of Simla Convention of 1914 was an ambiguous treaty concerning the status of Tibet.

The convention with annexes defined the boundaries between China and Tibet, Tibet and British India as mediated by British administrator Henry MacMohan and was known as MacMohan Line. China has a well-defined peripheral policy, the core of which was defence through development and forced migration.

The post 1949 Hanisation of Tibet and Xin jiang is more validation of imperial policy. Historically the Chinese have grabbed large areas in Aksai Chin region and have refused to give it back, this had also led to the 1962 Himalayan Conflict. There has been number of peace protocols and confidence building measures from 1996 onwards which have resulted in 22 rounds of high level meetings, but nothing fruitful has been visible. The centrality of Pakistan remains the peripheral of Chinas foreign policy and is a direct assault on India’s sovereignty.

Dragon Designs

The past decade have seen China militarise the South China Sea (SCS). China is using instrumentality of force by Communist Party of China (CPC) in projecting its power, at the time of pandemic, a worldwide crisis, it continues to show its military prowess not only SCS but beyond.

China established a new administrative district for Spartly Paracel Archipelagos and named 80 islands along with other geographical features in the sea. Vietnam and Philippines could challenge these actions diplomatically without any effect. China has long term strategy towards its claims in the region. Taiwan, Japan and South Korea has to face Chinese military recklessness. The Liaoning aircraft carrier strike group sailed close to Taiwan and Japan is a step in Force projection.

China planning to establish an Air Defence Identification Zone in SCS shows Chinese assertiveness and this was more evident and visible in Chinese defence White paper of 2019 which says China to be a super power by 2050. India has not gone unscathed the face of in Pagang Tso , Galwan Valley, Eastern Ladakh, Sikkim, Kaurik, Shipki La, Namkha Chu, Sumdrong Chu, Longlu, Yangtse.

The situation in Arunachal Pradesh is a case in point. India records around 300 Incursions by PLA troops every year. 2017 saw the number shootings go up to 426, the year Doklam was in news. 23 intrusion points still remain disputed despite talks and dialogues.

Dragon Dreams

China wants a multi-polar world, but a uni-polar Asia. China needs a sustainable marine economy, hence has been spending a huge fortune on naval build-ups. China and Japan are clamouring for rebalancing of power as both countries are dynamics of Asia. India has been posing as a rival in Asia, and China feels the ballooning footprint of India in the region. China also knows India is not a small push over and can create ripples in Indian Ocean Region.

China has Military and strategic plans as it has a large shadow in every part of the world. The Money Mantra plays a big card as China prospered the most from globalisation. Its success was built on the just in time supply-chain model that funnels cheap exports and components to the thousands of business globally.

In my opinion, the withdrawal of multinationals from China and India’s clinical implementation of policy perception will be key factor in meandering the Sino Indian relations. The strength of China was human capital, India already has that in abundance, it is not a power-house for manufacture prowess yet, but a huge internal consumer appetite makes India a dream destination for multinationals to invest.

China is going to use India’s neighbours, in dealing with India. There is the tactical use of Nepal as a signal that it would engage with India’s neighbours and embarrass India in its larger surrogate conflict. China is aware that a strategic aim in gaining physical territory against India is difficult to achieve and therefore aims to extract tactical gains, what we saw in eastern Ladakh recently, but the pull back by Chinese Army and the softness in tone and tenor of Chinese diplomatic statements shows the prudence on part of CPC to douse the bad global press and the economic furtherance in Indian Markets. The Indian vigil and vision has to be East echeloned and not get paranoid by our neighbour on the far west.

Brig (Dr) Vinod Dutta

Brigadier Dr Vinod Dutta has almost three decades of experience in Disaster & Crisis Management, Response, Relief & Recovery, Supply Chain Logistics, and Training. The former Secretary, DCMG (Disaster Management), the Brigadier handled supply Chain Logistics during the KARGIL war, has been the Logistics Advisor to The Royal Govt of Bhutan and a faculty at prestigious colleges with a double masters in Management & Strategic Studies, a Law degree, M Phil in Management & PhD.