IASbhai Daily Editorial Hunt | 20th Nov 2020
Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.” – Grandma Moses
EDITORIAL HUNT #251 :“LoC and LAC | The Bidirectional Risks | UPSC”
Harsh Pant | Lieutenant General D.S. Hooda
LoC and LAC | The Bidirectional Risks | UPSC
Is India facing a two-front threat?
Diplomacy and military thinking will have to evolve more rapidly than we assumed
SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 2 : IR
In the evolving security and diplomatic architecture in the Indo-Pacific, how will the geopolitics of the three play out in the midst of distrust at LAC and LoC ? Comment -(GS 2)
- Disengagement and de-escalation process
- Technology edge
- China–Pakistan Economic Corridor
SOURCES : WIKIPEDIA
- A CRYSTAL CLEAR PICTURE : The ongoing stand-off with China in eastern Ladakh has brought India closer to that reality.
- POSSIBILITIES OF TWO FRONT WAR : A two-front war is not a prospect in the near future, but a two-front threat has become more real.
- DIALOGUES AND DISENGAGEMENT : The military and political establishment felt that we could stave off any military action from China through political and diplomatic action.
A MATTER OF DIPLOMACY
- ESSENTIAL STATECRAFT : Experts also say that a two-front war would mean a failure of Indian diplomacy.
- STRUCTURAL ISSUE : Two major nations with whom you don’t have good relations straddling you on two sides of the border.
- CONVENTIONAL STRENGTH : There has always been an assumption that we may manage the Line of Actual Control (LAC) better than the LoC because of certain factors.
- ASSERTION : India has become more assertive and vocal in terms of what it believes to be its own role in the region, how it defines its parameters, the debate on Article 370, Aksai Chin, etc.
- THE CRUX OF ISSUE : In reality, China is a regime that believes its time has come and also believes that India is taking certain steps that are important to be countered in real time.
- DIPLOMATIC MATURITY : The combination of these variables means that Indian diplomacy and military thinking will have to evolve more rapidly than we had earlier assumed.
- UNCERTAIN BORDERS : While deliberations continue on a possible proposal for disengagement and de-escalation to end the stand-off, the close proximity of deployments leaves a possibility for escalation.
STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
- RECOGNISING PRIMARY THREAT : In case there is a two-front conflict or threat, we will need to designate a primary and secondary theatre based on who presents the greater danger.
- DEFENCE STRENGTH : India and the Indian military have some distinct strengths.Over the years, we have built extremely strong defences along the border.
- HIGH ALTITUDE AREAS : These mountains are not easy for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to apply major force because of logistical and terrain constraints.
- INDIAN AIR FORCE HAS UPPER HAND : The Air Force has a geographical advantage over the PLA Air Force and has also built a fairly strong strategic airlift capability.
- INDO-PACIFIC REALM : Our Navy has a significant edge over the PLA Navy in the Indian Ocean and there is pretty good maritime domain awareness.
- MILITARY POTENTIAL : China has a much greater military potential.If they’re able to bring this military potential to bear, we could have a big challenge, even in the Indian Ocean.
- TECHNOLOGY EDGE : The PLA also has a technology edge in some very critical areas like ballistic missile, electronic warfare, cyber, air defence, etc.,
- LACK OF INFRASTRUCTURE : Despite all our efforts, there are shortfalls in infrastructure along the northern borders.
NOT AN EASY TASK
- HIGH ALTITUDE REGION : When we talk of Siachen, we are talking of the Saltoro ridge with heights ranging from 18,000 ft to more than 20,000 ft.
- COMMUNICATION GAP : We should not look at ‘collusivity’ of China and Pakistan purely in geographic terms but in strategic terms.
- STRATEGIC INTERESTS : Siachen is important but geographically it is very difficult to carry out major military operations there.
- DS-DBO ROAD : Depsang is strategically important to us ; it gives access to Siachen. Also, we have the DS-DBO road which is a vital link to the northern areas of Ladakh and to the DBO airfield.
- TACTICS AND DEPLOYMENT : The terrain in Depsang lends itself to fairly large mechanised manoeuvres. It’s an area where an attacking force has an advantage.
CHINA–PAKISTAN ECONOMIC CORRIDOR (CPEC)
SOURCES : RESEARCH GATE
- GATEWAY TO WEST ASIA : It has already emerged as a major variable in terms of how we define our relationship with both Pakistan and China.
- CHINESE-WOLF-POLICIES : And the more China feels vulnerable in the CPEC, the more open and explicit its policies have become vis-à-vis India.
- EPICENTRE OF TRADE : If the CPEC is the fulcrum around which a China-Pakistan collusion is emerging or will emerge in the future, then India knows how to have countervailing mechanisms in place.
GEO-POLITICS AND INDO-PACIFIC REGION
- DIPLOMATIC ARCHITECTURE : China is now a very important player in the global matrix.So, India will have to take that factor into account.
- GLOBAL BACKLASH : However, China is facing an intense backlash across the world post COVID-19, post the kind of aggressive postures it has adopted.
- LINK BUILDING WITH SIMILAR PRISM : So, there are opportunities there as well for India to build relationships with countries, which perhaps look at the world through a similar prism.
- GLOBAL GEOPOLITICS : Chinese actions have made it virtually impossible for several major powers to have a normal relationship with China.
- INDO-PACIFIC REGION : So clearly, the Indo-Pacific seems to be becoming very contested.Ultimately, India will have to fight its own battles.
- DEGREE OF INCLINATION : India is coming out very vocally about where it stands on a number of these issues, perhaps we will see a greater degree of alignment among major powers.
- BILATERAL ENGAGEMENTS : The attempt from the Indian side diplomatically was to have these bilateral engagements , partly because India has been reluctant to join any alliance framework.
THE NEW NORMALS
- MARITIME DYNAMICS : Now that, The Indo-Pacific is widely accepted as a framework through which you look at the region and at the maritime dynamic.
- ACCEPTING NEW NORMALS : And Chinese behaviour itself is a major driver of the challenge.There is now a new dynamic and a new normal on the LAC.
- WINDS ALONG LAC : We are going to see greater militarisation along the LAC.The old protocols and agreements that guided the conduct of soldiers on both sides have all broken down.
- NEW ARRANGEMENTS : So, greater distrust is going to now be the new normal for the next few years until we put in place new protocols to get a degree of trust again between the two militaries.
- POWERS ARE SET TO GROW : We also must be conscious of the fact that the power differential between India and China is only set to grow in the future.
- LEADERSHIP ROLES : At the strategic level, there needs to be greater dialogue between the civil and military leaderships to see how this can be bridged.
- OPEN DIALOGUES : Unfortunately, our state of civil-military relationship and the structures that are in place don’t really encourage an open dialogue between the military leadership and the political leadership.
Even our strategic and doctrinal thinking of how we are going to handle a two-front threat if it comes requires very extensive debate between the political leadership and military leadership.
SOURCES: THE HINDU EDITORIAL HUNT | LoC and LAC | The Bidirectional Risks | UPSC