The Dragon Spewing Fire
Once again the danger of encroaching Chinses Dragon is looming large on Indian border. Though New Delhi denies media reports of Chinese intrusion in Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir in the last quarter of 2010 and army downplays it, the locals and the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council say the situation is alarming. According to them it has been a routine affair for Chinese to willingly intrude into Indian side and not only threaten the locals but also do away with their belongings and cattles. Though 2009 was the year when maximum number of Chinese incursions in far flung parts of Ladkah unfolded in media glare, most of the 2010 was rather calm except for one reported incident of Chinese assertion in October, 2010.
People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops had entered Ladakh in Pangong area and a Chinese helicopter was seen hovering over Chunur area along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in September-October last year. According to reports, the incursion was discovered only when the Chinese troops threatened a Ladakh contractor and his team after asking them to halt work on a passenger shed.
The details state that the Chinese troops, which included motor-cycle borne personnel of PLA, entered Gombir area in Demchok region of Ladakh and threatened the civilian workers who were building the shed, the plan for which was cleared by the Jammu and Kashmir Rural Development Department.
An official report, which was prepared after a meeting of officials from civilian administration, Army, central security agencies and Indo-Tibetan Border Police, stated that a passenger shed was approved at an estimated cost of Rs 200,000 to be built at ‘T’ point in village Gombir under the Border Area Development Project of Ministry of Home Affairs. The Chinese Army—PLA—came to the ‘T’ point and asked the contractor to stop the work, the report said.
Demchok is vast expanse of land with many places uninhabited. The Chinese incursions have been only reported from areas which are inhabited. There have been also reports of incursion from Pangong lake.
Deputy Commissioner of Leh, P Angchok, while confirming the incident to this correspondent on phone said, “They were constructing the passenger sheds in September-October for people living in the area while the Chinese troops objected to the construction work and threatened the workers involved in it. The matter was brought to our notice and the district administration reported the matter to the state government which informed Delhi in this regard.” He said, “The area where the incident took place is close to the LAC with no fencing or demarcation. As a result, the Chinese troops enter the Indian side easily.”
It has been discovered that at the behest of Indian Army, the state government has halted all construction works close to Chinese border as to increase road connectivity in the areas along the LAC, the state government was planning to construct several links, but had to shelve the projects after the Army’s advisory.
THE CHALLENGE OF CHINA
The recent denial of a visa by China to one of our senior most serving army officers has taken the Indian Security and Diplomatic establishment by considerable surprise, more so when the visa was being sought for an official visit. The surprise has clear and justifiable reasons to turn into consternation because of a cluster of similar messages conveyed through aggressive statements and actions over the last couple of years. The 6-8 months preceding Beijing Olympics was perhaps the only respite we have had.
Ever since our humiliating defeat of 1962, China has been blowing hot and cold to keep us continually off balance. Till the completion of the Ghormo-Lhasa rail line, the hot and cold was evenly spaced but after that clearly it has been mostly heat that we have felt. The reasons are obvious. Distance to Tibet from mainland China and the existing communications imposed substantial limitations on China’s capacity to control and administer this region. Equally, its ability to maintain, sustain and project military forces from this region were also constrained. The commissioning of the strategic rail line considerably eased the situation and thus also altered the military equation somewhat to Beijing’s advantage.
The rail link connecting mainland China to Tibet has a long history. Since the quelling of the Tibetan uprising in 1959 the necessity to better connect Tibet to Mainland China was unambiguously established. However, because of a host of other priorities like the border issues with the Soviet Union and Vietnam the decision to execute the project was finally taken in 1994. The stated objective of the rail line was to dismantle the isolation of Tibet and help create an “inseparable organic link”. The concept was also claimed as part of China’s ‘Western development strategy’ (WDS).
The Indian Defense and security establishment has been aware of the project ever since its inception. It has also been conscious of the serious security implications but regrettably other than haplessly observing the progress of the construction and its eventual commissioning in 2006, it has taken no counter measures to neutralise the strategic advantage that China would derive. Concurrent to the building of the rail line the Chinese have been painstakingly augmenting administrative and military capabilities across the Tibetan Plateau. Today China exercises firm control over the Tibetan Autonomous people and has the capacity to swiftly crush all dissent. It has also the capability to project sizeable military forces in both Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh.
In addition to the rail line, fresh airbases have been developed and their capacities increased. Ever since the activation of the rail line, we have also been witnessing the steady induction of missiles launchers (could be used to deliver either conventional or nuclear warheads) into the region.
Infrastructure development has kept apace with the flow of military hardware. Images of roads, communication arteries, logistic dumps, barracks downloaded from Google maps reveal the glaring disparity on either side of the divide.
It is not military conventional capability alone that is in China’s favour. Its Second Artillery (nuclear weapons forces) is infinitely superior to ours. Against China we do not even have a credible deterrent capability. Our delivery systems and warheads have limitations and the Chinese know it. They are further comforted by perhaps justifiable assessments that-may be not much is being done to redress this imbalance.
Over the last decade China has also been concentrating on building up its blue water navy; the rate at which its submarines and ships are growing is causing alarm not only to us but globally. Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Australia and the US are all appearing wary on this count.
Further, closer home the collusion with Pakistan to confront us on as many fronts as possible could not be more evident. A similar design can be discerned when Chinese activities are closely scrutinised in Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
What has been recounted makes a grim picture. And when viewed against the backdrop of the Chinese claims over large tracts of Arunachal Pradesh and the Aksai Chin region we have the serious prospects of a possible war on our hands. There are many arguments against such an eventuality but can we risk a repeat of the humiliation of 1962? And what if the Chinese and Pakistanis work in tandem? There is growing evidence that they are.
Our predicament is evident and can no longer be wished away. So, what next? It would be instructive to return to a letter written by Sardar Patel in Nov 1950 to Nehru, our former Prime Minister. The abridged letter is reproduced below.
“I have been anxiously thinking over the problem of Tibet and I thought I should share with you what is passing through my mind.
The Chinese Government has tried to delude us by professions of peaceful intention. My own feeling is that at a crucial period they managed to instill into our Ambassador a false sense of confidence in their so-called desire to settle the Tibetan problem by peaceful means. There can be no doubt that during the period covered by this correspondence the Chinese must have been concentrating for an onslaught on Tibet. The final action of the Chinese, in my judgment, is little short of perfidy. The tragedy of it is that the Tibetans put faith in us; they chose to be guided by us; and we have been unable to get them out of the meshes of Chinese diplomacy or Chinese malevolence.
Our Ambassador has been at great pains to find an explanation or justification for Chinese policy and actions. As the External Affairs Ministry remarked in one of their telegrams, there was a lack of firmness and unnecessary apology in one or two representations that he made to the Chinese Government on our behalf. Therefore, if the Chinese put faith in this, they must have distrusted us so completely as to have taken us as tools or stooges of Anglo-American diplomacy or strategy.
This feeling, if genuinely entertained by the Chinese in spite of your direct approaches to them, indicates that even though we regard ourselves as the friends of China, the Chinese do not regard us as their friends. During the last several months, outside the Russian camp, we have practically been alone in championing the cause of Chinese entry into UN and in securing from the Americans assurances on the question of Formosa. We have done everything we could to assuage Chinese feelings, to allay its apprehensions and to defend its legitimate claims in our discussions and correspondence with America and Britain and in the UN.
In spite of this, China is not convinced about our disinterestedness; it continues to regard us with suspicion and the whole psychology is one, at least outwardly, of scepticism perhaps mixed with a little hostility. Their last telegram to us is an act of gross discourtesy not only in the summary way it disposes of our protest against the entry of Chinese forces into Tibet but also in the wild insinuation that our attitude is determined by foreign influences. It looks as though it is not a friend speaking in that language but a potential enemy.
In the background of this, we have to consider what new situation now faces us as a result of the disappearance of Tibet, as we knew it; and the expansion of China almost up to our gates. Throughout history we have seldom been worried about our north-east frontier. The Himalayas have been regarded as an impenetrable barrier against any threat from the north. We had a friendly Tibet which gave us no trouble. China is united and strong.
All along the Himalayas in the north and north-east, we have on our side of the frontier a population ethnologically and culturally not different from Tibetans and Mongoloids. The undefined state of the frontier and the existence on our side of a population with its affinities to the Tibetans or Chinese has all the elements of the potential trouble between China and ourselves. Chinese ambitions in this respect not only cover the Himalayan slopes on our side but also include the important part of Assam.
They have their ambitions in Burma also while our western and north-western threat to security is still as prominent as before, a new threat has developed from the north and north-east. Thus, for the first time, after centuries, India’s defence has to concentrate itself on two fronts simultaneously. Our defence measures have so far been based on the calculations of superiority over Pakistan. In our calculations we shall now have to reckon with communist China in the north and in the north-east, a communist China which has definite ambitions and aims and which does not, in any way, seem friendly disposed towards us.
Let us also consider the political conditions on this potentially troublesome frontier. Our northern and north-eastern approaches consist of Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling and the tribal areas in Assam. From the point of view of communication, there are weak spots. Continuous defensive lines do not exist. There is almost an unlimited scope for infiltration. The contact of these areas with us is by no means close and intimate. The people inhabiting these portions have no established loyalty or devotion to India.
Nepal has a weak oligarchic regime based almost entirely on force: it is in conflict with a turbulent element of the population as well as with enlightened ideas of the modern age. In these circumstances, to make people alive to the new danger or to make them defensively strong are a very difficult task indeed and that difficulty can be got over only by enlightened firmness, strength and a clear line of policy. In my judgment the situation is one which we cannot afford either to be complacent or to be vacillating. We must have a clear idea of what we wish to achieve and also of the methods by which we should achieve it. Any faltering or lack of decisiveness in formulating our objectives or in pursuing our policies to attain those objectives is bound to weaken us and increase the threats which are so evident.
The whole situation thus raises a number of problems on which we must come to an early decision so that we can, as I said earlier, formulate the objectives of our policy and decide the method by which those objectives are to be attained. It is also clear that the action will have to be fairly comprehensive, involving not only our defence strategy and state of preparations but also problem of internal security to deal with which we have not a moment to lose. We shall also have to deal with administrative and political problems in the weak spots along the frontier to which I have already referred.
It is of course, impossible to be exhaustive in setting out all these problems. I am, however, giving below some of the problems which, in my opinion, require early solution and round which we have to build our administrative or military policies and measures to implement them.
- A military and intelligence appreciation of the Chinese threat to India both on the frontier and to internal security.
- An examination of military position and such redisposition of our forces as might be necessary, particularly with the idea of guarding important routes or areas which are likely to be the subject of dispute.
- An appraisement of the strength of our forces and, if necessary, reconsideration of our retrenchment plans for the Army in the light of the new threat.
- A long-term consideration of our defence needs. My own feeling is that, unless we assure our supplies of arms, ammunition and armour, we would be making our defence perpetually weak and we would not be able to stand up to the double threat of difficulties both from the west and north-west and north and north-east.
- The political and administrative steps which we should take to strengthen our northern and north-eastern frontier.
- Improvement of our communication, road, rail, air and wireless, in these areas and with the frontier outposts.
- The policy in regard to the McMahon Line.”
What is indeed remarkable is that the contents of this letter have not lost their relevance even today. The analysis was cogent and the recommendations astutely formulated. Sadly they were not acted upon. What is even more noteworthy is the enduring wisdom the letter contains. Ironically most of the recommendations remain valid even today.
The other comment that can be made with some justification is that our political leadership for most of our independent history seems to have been bereft of pragmatism and a resolve to do whatever is necessary to secure and advance our national strategic interests. The frequently offered argument in defense of the establishment that India is an extremely complex country to govern is not a good enough excuse for the drift that we have witnessed in the context of the numerous security concerns that have bedeviled us over the last six decades.
Our response to the potential threat from China has to be multidimensional with the military being given overriding importance. If we are militarily inadequately manned armed and equipped the undergirding to our security will inevitably be extremely fragile; there is only so much that diplomacy and dialogue can achieve. Alignments, cooperative arrangements, economic engagement have their role to play and must form part of the comprehensive strategy that we pursue. But these will gather adequate traction only if our defense apparatus poses a credible deterrence.
Our military machine has perennially faced a few problems. The first and perhaps the most important is the poor communication between the political leaders and the military. The political leadership is comfortable with the bureaucracy and prefers to deal with the defense officers through them. Unless this changes our defense capability will never be optimised. Both the political leadership and the military must introspect in this matter.
The second is the inadequacy of the defense budget. Given India’s security environment an allocation of barely two per cent of the GDP is wholly inadequate. The Nation, given our circumstances, can afford 3 per cent without seriously compromising on our developmental goals. The answer rather lies in the better management of the funds allocated for development and not curtailment of the defense budget.
The third requirement is the commitment of funds for the modernisation of the defence forces based on a long-term perspective. Fitting the services long-term plans into each year’s budget allocation has not worked. Service Chiefs have repeatedly emphasised this point but to no avail.
The third is the sloppy and inefficient way of spending the allotted funds. For decades the MOD and the services have been throwing stones at each other on the subject and scarce money continues to be poorly spent. Unfortunately our defence ministers have done little to solve this problem. A related issue is the system of procurement. Whatever system we create and we have tried many—nothing seems to work.
Lastly is the inescapable—frequently emphasised—imperative of a domestic defence industry that can meet most of the modernisation requirements of the defence forces. In 2001 the then Defence Minister—George Fernandes—had announced the policy of opening up the defence sector to the private industry as also permitting up to 26 per cent FDI but regrettably entrenched interests have ensured business as usual.
Reports indicate that the armed Forces have shifted focus from the North-west to the North and North-east. Appropriate structural changes are under consideration. With time, resources and some dedicated effort conventional force equilibrium will be achieved, however the problem of nuclear asymmetry will remain. While on this subject we may recall Mr George Fernandes’s statement immediately after our nuclear test in 1999 that China is our enemy number one. The context of the statement in the intervening years seems to have been lost sight of. This is a very serious handicap and some solution must be found.
Thus concurrent to the mission of upgrading defence capability the more complex issue of balancing the nuclear equation will prove to be a monumental challenge. But this problem cannot be wished away and has to be addressed head on with the utmost priority. Without a credible nuclear deterrent against China we will continue to be vulnerable to pressures and the bullying that we are frequently being subjected to.
In seeking a solution to our territorial issues we must understand that possibly the route to solving our boundaries with Pakistan may lie via Beijing but trying to deal with China through Pakistan will not work. We must therefore be clear about our priority.
In conclusion—notwithstanding the precautions we may be taking we have to engage China in a spirit of cooperation and friendship. If both our nations work in concert and have a complementary approach to global issues we can both prosper and develop. There is enough space for the two of us to transform the 21 century into an Asian Century. In any case the two most ancient civilisations of the world should be doing better than exchanging insults not forgetting that the World is watching.
By Lt Gen Vinay Shankar
(Excerpts from Bharat Verma Ed. Threat from China, Lancer, 2011).
The recent incident took place days after a flag meeting between the Indian and Chinese troops. In recent years, in order to improve bilateral relations, India and China signed two landmark agreements, the Peace and Tranquility Agreement in 1993, and the Confidence-Building Measures Agreement in 1996. Flag meetings are held seven times a year between the Indian and Chinese military delegations. Sources in the Army said that there was a clear understanding between India and China that both sides would inform each other before carrying out any construction in an area of 50 km on either side of the LAC. Both nations dispute each other’s claims on the LAC in Ladakh and it is part of the ongoing boundary talks. The last round was weeks before Chinese Premier Wen Jaibao visited India in mid-December. China has built a huge infrastructure on its side and in December last year, India announced its proposal to have a new airbase at Nyoma in Central Ladakh.
“The stopping of construction work amounts to encouraging Chinese transgression and interference. And it has become a regular feature after development activity started along the Chinese border. The Indian government should have a clear policy on it,” said another top officer in the district administration at Leh while talking to this correspondent.
Earlier in 2009, a road project had to be abandoned in the Ladakh area after a similar intervention by the Chinese army. Officials in Leh said the Chinese army occasionally crossed over under one pretext or another. China has become increasingly assertive in its questioning of India’s sovereignty over J&K. Since 2008, it has been issuing visas on a separate sheet of paper to residents of Jammu and Kashmir rather than stamping the visa in their passports, as is the norm with other Indian citizens. In August last year, China also denied a visa to Lieutenant General BS Jaswal—Commander of the Indian army’s Northern Command, which includes Kashmir—for an official visit to China, on the grounds that he “controlled” a “disputed area”.
Besides, over the past year, Beijing has been reaching out to the Hurriyat Conference, an umbrella organisation of Kashmiri separatist outfits. In March 2010, for instance, Chinese Foreign Affairs Director Ying Gang met with Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq in Geneva on the sidelines of the 13th session of the UN Human Rights Council. Besides questioning India’s sovereignty over Kashmir, China has been endorsing Islamabad’s control over the part of Kashmir it has administered since 1947.
India administers only 45 per cent of the territory of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir princely state, roughly 35 per cent remains under Pakistani administration and another 20 per cent under Chinese control. The territory under Chinese occupation includes Aksai Chin and the Shaksgam Valley that Pakistan gifted to China in 1963.
If the Indian intelligence and some international media reports are to believe then, in the northern areas of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, China is involved in the construction of several infrastructure projects, including roads, hydroelectric power projects, dams, expressways, bridges and telecommunication facilities. The Chinese troops are in occupation of approximately 38,000 sq km of Aksai Chin area of Indian territory. They have also built a road, the Karakoram highway, on the Indian area ceded by Pakistan to China, an intelligence source told this correspondent.
In January 2009, shepherds taking their cattle for grazing were threatened by Chinese troops. The Indian troops had thereafter gone for massive upgrade of infrastructure and military capabilities along the India-China border in Ladakh. Former Chief Executive Councilor, Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (Leh), Cherring Dory who was deputed by the state government to probe incursion of Chinese Army in Dokbug area and incidents of threatening of the local shepherds along LAC has stated that there had been massive migration from villages along LAC in the past two years.
“Currently many villages in Demchok are empty as there is no security provided to the residents to save them from haunting shadow of the Dragon,” Dory said. “Recently I along with some administrative officials went to Demchok. But the entire community has left from some villages there.”
He asserted that locals have complained that Chinese army continues to harass them and as nobody is securing them from Chinese, they have fled from the villages. “The residents of Demchok have brought to my notice that they complained to army and ITBP posts about the Chinese incursions but they turned a blind eye towards the grave issue. A hydrotherapy centre meant for Demchok residents is now used by Chinese soldiers. They take a bath there and leave. They do not allow the residents to use it. Our army instead of taking action against the PLA restricts us to our areas.” Describing the situation as worrisome, Dory said the residents of Demchok and surrounding areas are presently stopped by Chinese soldiers from going to winter grazing areas.
“There are winter pastures at Skakjung area in Demchok. The residents visit those fields along with their cattle during winter season, when everything gets frozen. This year and from the past many years, Chinese soldiers are harassing the shepherds and don’t allow them to visit there.”
Meanwhile, LAHDC, Chief Rigzin Spalbar has stated that a delegation from the Demchok area has complained that they would leave the area if developmental works were not undertaken. “The area is under-developed and people are angry with it,” Spalbar was quoted by a local publication. Army Chief General VK Singh has played down the Chinese aggression incidents and has said such incidents were not “alarming developments” and could not be termed as ‘intrusions’.
“The reported intrusion has been in an area, where there is perceptional difference of the LAC between India and China for very long time. As per India’s interpretation, the LAC runs in a particular manner and as per Chinese perception the line runs in a different alignment, and that is not marked on the ground,” said the General. “Therefore, there is an always perceptional problem. I do not see it as an alarming development I only see it as perception problem,” he added. The year 2009 saw several violations by Chinese. Earlier too in November 2009 road construction under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) had to be stopped after the Chinese side objected. The Chinese Army had painted boulders and rocks nearly 1.5 kilometers into the Indian territory near Mount Gya, recognised as International border by India and China with red spray paint.
The 22,420 ft Mount Gya, also known as “fair princess of snow” by Army, is located at the tri-junction of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir, Spiti in Himachal Pradesh, and Tibet. Its boundary was marked during the British era and regarded as International border by the two countries. Before this, Chinese helicopters had violated the Indian air space on June 21 along the Line of Actual Control in Chumar region and also heli-dropped some expired food. It is high time the Indian government should be jolted out of its deep slumber.
By Prakriiti Gupta from Leh
THE DANGER FROM CHINA
By Bharat Verma
The multi-dimensional threat between 2011-14 from China is real. Taken aback by screaming headlines in the media that nervous China may attack India in 2012, two former generals who commanded a corps and division respectively on the Sino-Indian borders went in to war game huddle.
Both military men concluded that the Chinese couldn’t breach their respective corps or divisional boundaries. Since the Chinese cannot get away by attacking well-entrenched corps or division they commanded earlier, the generals ruled out the possibility of China imposing war on India.
That the Chinese may simply bypass and drop Special Forces to choke vulnerable Siliguri Corridor and cut off the Northeast was overlooked.
Similarly, another general flaunted borrowed concept of ‘limited war’ with nuclear powered adversaries. He overlooked a simple fact that nuclear-armed neighbours may not be amenable to any such restrictions imposed by India.
The question: “Limited by whom?”
The answer: Self-imposed limitation on Indian mind built over centuries.
A gentleman was invited to Beijing for a period of ten days. He was overwhelmed by the gracious hospitality extended by the Chinese. Subtly, the Chinese conducted ‘psychological-warfare’ on him by repeatedly planting ideas that their country is a developing economy like India. To them, the first task at hand therefore was to remove poverty by developing the whole country. The Chinese sold the notion that this consolidation would require at least twenty years.
Hence, to suggest that China can attack India before twenty years is outrageous!
Laced with an overdose of hospitality, in merely ten days he convinced himself of the good intentions of the Chinese, overlooking their legacy of an imperial past. On his return, he vigorously promoted the concept that there was nothing to fear from China in the next twenty years, as it was too busy developing their country.
Born and brought up in India, he knew the Indian society inside-out, but is unable to forecast the immediate two years. Yet he could forecast the Chinese behaviour pattern for the next twenty years with certainty, in mere ten days of travel.
Indians continue to live in isolated compartments of their making without inter-linkages with the big picture. This compartmentalised thinking is a cultural defect that ensures absence of connectivity with other multiple lateral tactical pictures. These small pictures if sensibly stitched together create ‘whole’, which helps in formulation of a grand strategy.
The threat from China has crept to level ‘Orange’ for the past many years and the creeping invasion built over decades displays great features of stealth.
First, they invaded and forcibly occupied independent Tibet. Subsequently, to protect their flank in Tibet, the Chinese demand that Arunachal be part of China. Theoretically, even if India hands over conveniently termed Southern Tibet, China would then want to occupy whole of Northeast to protect flanks of newly assimilated Arunachal.
This is the Chinese style creeping invasion by stealth.
China primarily feels threatened by existence of the Union of India as it challenges its ambition of being the unilateral power leading Asia. Instead of integration of the citizenry and consolidation of different regions, our shortsighted politicians extend a helping hand to China and Pakistan by dividing Indians internally for vote-bank-politics.
To counter threat posed at multiple-levels by China, India’s long-term declared objective should be to demand vacation of all illegally occupied territories by China and Pakistan. To equate legal accession of Kashmir by New Delhi with forcible occupation of independent Tibet by China is a fallacy. Moreover, our borders were with independent Tibet and never with China.
Taiwan is an independent country and we should sign an FTA with them.
We should assist in re-unification of South Korea and North Korea. A united democratic Korea in China’s vicinity and militarised Japan in Asia aligned with India can impose severe restrictions on China and its proxies.
If dysfunctional Pakistan splinters, China will lose access to Gawdar Port too.
New Delhi should lower the trade profile with China. The one-way trade that favours Beijing ultimately helps it to divert profits to bolster Pakistan against India. This folly is akin to the Indian Prime Minster forcing taxpayers’ 25 million dollars aid on reluctant Pakistan.
Islamabad will use our money to bolster its terror machine against us!
Asian democracies should form an umbrella around China and interface it with the Western democracies. Beijing is mortally scared of democracies acting in unison and power of the free press they wield.
The announcement that 1962 will not be allowed to repeat shows that generals are preparing for the last war. With access to the latest technology from the West and abundance of quality human resources, we should be preparing for the next war. New Delhi should create lethal integrated highly acclaimed young war machine, which takes away the cost-benefit advantage of imposing war on India from the adversary.
Make India’s military power simply awesome to deter the enemy!
Acquiring modern military wherewithal by India’s multi-cultural democracy is vital. Indian democracy is unique and possibly the largest social experiment in diversity ever. Surrounded by authoritarian or Islamic fundamentalist regimes and situated within the arc of terrorism in Asia, this experiment to succeed requires a world-class military.
It is vital to rapidly modernise the Indian Armed Forces in terms of human resources and equip them with technological capabilities to conduct deep offensive operations. To win, always take the war to the enemy. Military needs to be equipped accordingly. Today, ill-equipped and ageing armed forces cannot meet the threat posed by China and Pakistan together.
The younger generation that takes over India from 2015 will be assertive and dynamic, with the ability to meet threats posed in a far superior manner. This will undermine the chances of adversary’s success. On the other, China’s ageing profile in the next three years, along with distorted policies like one child norm will be a drag on the society. The Chinese economic miracle is on the wane with internal turmoil on the rise.
Between 2011-14, New Delhi therefore is highly susceptible to an attack due to paralysis in its ageing leadership, inability to rapidly create strong decisive international alliances, take advantage of the latest defense technology and equipment on offer to outpace the adversary, and the inability to reclaim the strategic space in its vicinity.
The window of opportunity for China vis-à-vis India will start diminishing after this period with increasing internal turmoil and its right hand Pakistan withering away.
The writer is editor, Indian Defence Review
CHINA A SEEMINGLY INTERESTING MOVE ON ARUNACHAL PRADESH
By B Raman
China has made a seemingly interesting move on Arunachal Pradesh, the meaning and message of which has to be carefully analysed instead of treating it with suspicion as another anti-Indian move or as connected to the recent change in its policy relating to Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). An interaction on this subject between the officials of the two countries would add value to the analysis.
Arunachal Pradesh in our North-East is an integral part of India, but China does not recognise it to be so. It calls it southern Tibet and has been insisting that historically this area belonged to China and hence should revert to China. The border dispute between the two countries arising from the conflicting claims of the two sides has been under negotiation between designated special representatives of the two Prime Ministers. There has been no transparency either from Beijing or from New Delhi as to how the negotiations are going on. The general impression in the community of non-governmental analysts is that there has been no forward movement.
In the meanwhile, the two sides have been strengthening their strategic infrastructure in their territories in this area—China in its so-called Tibet Autonomous Region and India in Arunachal Pradesh. China has made better progress in this regard than India. It has constructed a railway line to Lhasa from Qinghai and has now undertaken its extension towards the Arunachal border. There is an unconfirmed report that it is planning to construct a second line from Qinghai to Lhasa to be dedicated to freight movement. It has strengthened its civil aviation infrastructure in Tibet. It has built more airports and is trying to make Tibet, the hub of aviation traffic in Western China.
Simultaneously, there has been a departure from Beijing’s past practice of avoiding any major military exercise in Tibet in order not to create unnecessary alarm in India. The first pan-China exercise (Stride—2009) conducted by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in August 2009 did not include the Chengdu Military Region whose jurisdiction covers Tibet. For the first time, one saw three military exercises relating to Tibet in 2010—two by the PLA (Air Force) in Tibet itself and one by the Army involving the Chengdu and Lanzhou Military Regions and coordinated by the Beijing Military Region. The Chengdu and Lanzhou Military regions share the responsibility for the defence of Tibet and Xinjiang. Any anxiety over causing concern in India is no longer an inhibiting factor influencing the timing and nature of China’s military exercises relating to Tibet.
In the diplomatic field, China lost no opportunity of asserting its claim to Arunachal Pradesh. It continued with its policy of not recognising the Indian passports of the residents of Arunachal Pradesh and not issuing them visas—regular or stapled—to visit China for official or non-official purposes. It protested every time an Indian dignitary or His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited Arunachal Pradesh—particularly Tawang. It strongly opposed the Asian Development Bank funding electric power projects in Arunachal Pradesh.
At a time, when it appeared to be becoming increasingly rigid in its attitude on Arunachal Pradesh, it has shown a seeming ray of flexibility by issuing stapled visas on Indian passports to two sports officials of Arunachal Pradesh to enable them to attend a sports-related event in China. Indian Weightlifting Federation’s Joint Secretary Abraham K Techi and a weightlifter, both residents of Arunachal Pradesh, were stopped recently by the Immigration at the New Delhi airport because their Indian passports had Chinese visas on plain papers stapled to their passports. They were going to Fujian in China at the invitation of the Chinese Weightlifting Association President Menguang to attend a weight-lifting contest from January 15 to17. The immigration did not allow them to board the flight in accordance with the practice of not allowing Indian citizens to travel to China with stapled and not regular Chinese visas.
The media has quoted a Spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) as stating that India considers Arunachal Pradesh as an integral part of India and has conveyed to the Chinese side that a uniform process of issue of visas to Indian citizens be followed regardless of the applicant’s ethnicity or place of domicile.
According to the Press Trust of India (PTI), an unidentified official of the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi, when contacted by it on this subject, stated as follows on January 13: “There is no change in our visa policy for residents of Arunachal Pradesh. China does not issue visas to officials from that state and will still not do it. For non-officials, we only issue stapled visas.”
It is not clear whether the agency has quoted the Chinese official correctly. It is unusual for a Chinese official to refer to the state as Arunachal Pradesh. Normally, he would have said so-called Arunachal Pradesh. His comments indicate that the issue of stapled visas to two residents of the state was a deliberate act and not the result of any mistake committed by the visa officer of the Chinese Embassy. The instructions to issue the stapled visas must have come from the Chinese Foreign Office in Beijing, whose prior clearance is necessary for the issue of visas to persons travelling to China in response to a local invitation. Only for tourists no prior clearance is required.
In the past, Beijing did not recognise the legality of the Indian passports of the residents of Arunachal Pradesh. That was why it was refusing to issue them any visa—regular on the passport or on a stapled plain piece of paper. By issuing the stapled visas to the two sports personalities of Arunachal Pradesh holding Indian passports, it has implicitly recognised the validity of their Indian passports. This does not mean any change in its claim of sovereignty over the territory. It only means it is trying to adopt a more flexible line in asserting its sovereignty.
How should India react to it: Reject the stapled visas even in respect of the residents of Arunachal Pradesh as it has been doing in respect of the residents of J&K? Or adopt a more flexible line in respect of the residents of Arunachal Pradesh without linking them to the residents of J&K? Encourage the Chinese to continue with their flexibility and expand it? These questions should be carefully considered by the Government of India before deciding on its response.
In an interesting dispatch in the Times of India of January 14, its Beijing correspondent Saibal Dasgupta has said as follows: “China’s decision to issue stapled visas to Arunachal Pradesh residents is a good omen, observers of India-China border negotiations said. It means China accepts people of Arunachal to be Indian citizens, which is major policy change for a country that describes it as its own province of ‘South Tibet’.”
“If this news is correct, it is a setback for our stand. Or, a major concession given to India,” Hu Shisheng, deputy director in the State-run Institute of South and Southeast Asian Studies, told TNN. Some Indian observers have taken a different view claiming that stapled visas were continuation of China’s policy of putting up obstacles in the way of a negotiated settlement of the boundary problem. But there are signs that the Indian government is secretly happy over the new development as China did not give any visas to residents of Arunachal earlier.
“We have been saying that people of Arunachal Pradesh do not need any visa as it is part of China. If stapled visa has been given, there must be a mutual agreement between the two countries,” he said. There was a “slim chance” of stapled visas being issued by mistake by some official because it is a sensitive issue. “There must have been a change in policy for such a thing to happen,” Hu said. He said the case of Arunachal should not be linked with Kashmir. Residents of Jammu and Kashmir are being given stapled visa because of the dispute between India and Pakistan. “China has said it is ready to change its policies and even redraw the border around Kashmir once India and Pakistan settle their disputes,” Hu said.
Unless there has been a mistake somewhere in the Chinese visa-issuing hierarchy, this action of the Chinese Embassy is significant and needs an imaginative response from the Government of India.
WHO RULES CHINA?
By Rajinder Puri
Chinese President Hu Jintao is in America to confer with President Obama. America’s economy is fragile. Washington has become hostage to Beijing due to its debt running into trillions. America to extricate itself from its predicament is left with no choice but to engage with Beijing and attempt to wean it towards democracy. Corporate America entered into an unholy alliance with China dominated by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The PLA is the biggest exporter of low tech products to America which have helped finance its expansion and growth for decades. Americans thought that as the richer nation they were secure because for them money is power. They forgot that for the Chinese power flows from the barrel of a gun. Now America leans on its allies to engage with Beijing more closely in order to persuade it to liberalize its regime. Perhaps that is one reason why the Indian government is pursuing its suicidal China policy of appeasement. India should ignore American advice on China. Unlike America, India is under no compulsion to engage with China. American policy towards China is unlikely to succeed. Washington does not even know who really calls the shots in Beijing.
For over a decade this scribe had been focusing on the visible divergence of policy between the Chinese civilian government and the PLA. In foreign policy the civilian government said things that were rubbished by foreign policy action dictated by the PLA. Of late more and more Americans are beginning to question the source of Beijing’s decision making. US think tanks are openly speculating about the real relationship between the Chinese government and the PLA. After his most recent China visit US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said there was “a disconnect” between the Chinese government and the PLA. It seems that President Hu was not even aware that China had tested a Stealth fighter jet! Earlier Chinese government officials interacting with American counterparts had betrayed similar ignorance about the PLA shooting a satellite. As Andrew Higgins for The Washington Post on the eve of President Hu’s current US visit pointed out: “Washington often has so much trouble figuring out who is making decisions in Beijing and why.” China is opaque. And even while President Obama confers with President Hu Jinatao currently in Washington he cannot be certain that he is speaking to China’s real boss.
The earlier assertion by this scribe that the PLA controls China may not be the entire truth. One needs to dig deeper. At risk of inviting extreme ridicule I offer a bizarre possibility. Could it be that China’s ultimate decision makers are faceless men who are part of a secret group comprising members of PLA, Communist Party and overseas Chinese? The positions these individuals may or may not occupy in public life may in no way indicate their real power. The world would not know the identity of these faceless individuals. More significantly, neither might most Chinese know of their existence. The following facts led me to speculate this.
China has a history of triads which were secret societies operating as powerful crime syndicates. The triads started as a resistance movement in the 1760s by Han Chinese against foreign Manchu rule during the Qing dynasty. The movement’s objective was to restore Han rule. The triads branched into several smaller groups that adopted the triangle as their emblem. Thus the term triad was coined by the British in colonial Hong Kong. After China’s Communists achieved power in 1949 Beijing forced triads to migrate to British ruled Hong Kong. Over time triads took to crimes ranging from extortion and money laundering to trafficking, drugs and prostitution. They participated in smuggling and counterfeiting manufacture.
Did Mao succeed in expelling triads from mainland China? It appears not. During the Cultural Revolution one fact that puzzled western journalists covering the event was how the Red Guards without any visible communication network succeeded in simultaneously executing its commands all over the country. Chinese media was not used. Neither was China’s Communist Party. Most victims of the Red Guards were party officials. Could not the Red Guards have been served by triads that remained in Mainland China? Secret societies may have had members too secret for the Chinese government to discover. The Red Guard-triad connection did surface after the Cultural Revolution.
Many Red Guards arrested and tortured after the Cultural Revolution fled overseas and joined or formed new triads. One such major gang was the Big Circle Gang known in Chinese as Tai Huen Chai. It was created in Hong Kong. It operates in several continents, mainly in Canada. The Big Circle Gang specializes in narcotics trade. The serious security threat posed by triads in Canada was investigated by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Security Service. In a joint report these institutions described how very rich Hong Kong Chinese tycoons close to Beijing for years, along with relatives of China’s political leaders and the Chinese Intelligence Service, colluded with “financial ventures” in Canada that helped conceal criminal and intelligence activities.
Now consider this. Over 50 per cent of the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in China is by overseas Chinese of Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. All three are claimed as part of mainland China. The overseas Chinese in the rest of Southeast Asia invest just a fraction of the amount invested by these three regions. Also, all the criminal subversive activity to promote the aims of the PLA is implemented by overseas Chinese and triads located outside China. Among such activities is the arms supply on behalf of the PLA to Islamist and other terrorists including those in India. This has been stated in a position paper submitted to US Congress by its former Director of the Task Force against Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, Yossef Bodansky. Thereby the Chinese government keeps its hands clean.
So, who calls the shots in China? If American officials are flummoxed by the identity of the power centre in China, should not the possibility of a faceless, secret group, somewhat like the earlier triads, be also considered? As the biggest investors in China’s economy, as the biggest facilitators of PLA’s subversive designs in foreign lands, may not overseas Chinese exercise a much bigger clout than commonly perceived? Many western commentators speculate whether there could ever be war between China and America. They do not realize that war may have already started. It is a different kind of war. The PLA could be using Islamist terrorists as cannon fodder to demolish the west. The next phase of unconventional war could be terrorist attacks in the west by white Islamist terror recruits. Reports reveal 12 converted Canadians are currently undergoing militant training in North Waziristan. After all, the PLA’s published treatise “Unrestricted Warfare” describes precisely how economy, culture, subversion, sabotage, propaganda, indeed everything can be used to demolish the enemy. China’s acquisition of military might be just for deterrence. All other means are already being deployed to attain mastery over the world. One axiom enunciated by “Unrestricted Warfare” is that there is nothing in the world that cannot be used as a weapon. Does that not say it all?
This theory may appear too fanciful. But does it not merit consideration when even the redoubtable intelligence agencies of the west admit ignorance about the real source of power and policy making in China? Given its size, culture and talent China’s ambition to become the world’s premier superpower is understandable. China’s subversive and often criminal policy to achieve that is not. It betrays a paranoid and criminal mindset at sharp variance from the image of its leaders. Ironically, in the natural course China would rise peacefully to global pre-eminence. But there seem to be elements inside China harming its own image and political future.