Handling China with calculated cool but get a light tank

Image result for pics of the Xinqingtan tank

( Xinqingtan tank)

Thank God, the NSA Ajit Doval didn’t crumble under the weight of the occasion and give away the store on the Doklam confrontation to Messrs Xi, Wang, & Yang. Then again having been apparently instructed by the PM to under no conditions back down, this was expected. Delhi in the past has been hurried into inadvisable, symbolically pregnant, and wholly unnecessary compromises starting with the 1996 agreement during Narasimha Rao’s reign to maintain peace and tranquility on the border. The Modi policy of being strong without making a huge fuss about the developments on the border is the right tack to take in dealing with China. If Beijing thinks it has time on its side, time is even more India’s ally, hence, it will help if GOI shows less interest in border resolution, except as a comprehensive solution for the entire length of the border from the Aksai Chin to the eastern-most point of Arunachal Pradesh fronting on China. To merely sit down to negotiate a settlement for Doklam would be to waste the advantageous position India has achieved not just on the ground there but psychologically. For the first time Beijing really is at sixes and sevens.

But even as things were proceeding satisfactorily with Doval in Beijing, Arun Shourie an otherwise well informed and well-meaning public intellectual of great integrity, on the “Off the Cuff” forum broadcast by NDTV earlier this evening, proffered the wrongest possible advice on dealing with China. I am not sure where he picked up what he relayed as a lot of gung-ho posturing by India. Where, what, when? I haven’t seen any such thing other than realistic renderings of the situation that the Indian army is far better placed on the Doklam plateau than the PLA in that sub-sector, and that all the big threats and noises of war made by Beijing has not had even a bit of impact — the reason why I have said in past posts, the Chinese have gotten progressively hotter under the collar. Acting hard, fast and true — military actions-wise, but keeping cooler than cool — calculated cool — is how China needs to be handled. It’s the template for the future now that the army has put it in place. This requires, of course, that the level of the prepositioned stores is maintained at a high level. All else then falls into place, including faster induction in the two regiments of the more advanced Brahmos Block II supersonic cruise missiles with a steep (90 degree) dive capability. It is the sort of thing the PLA will be extremely wary of. It is a very good thing that the CAS ACM BS Dhanoa indicated that his Su-30MKIs on that front were prepared to enter the fray if PLA escalated and push & shove came to stomp & shoot.

Now that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has released the funds so that the acting defence minister Jaitley can get on with raising the second mountain division for the offensive  mountain warfare 17 Corps, the troubling issue of mobility remains.

In line with the other services that do not espy the need until it hits them in the face, the army finally managed to get on track with an offensive mountain corps and then did the wrong thing by deploying the T-72/90s with the prospect of these debouching from the Demchok area and the northern Sikkim plains  on to the Tibet plateau. Except these heavy tanks meant for plains/desert warfare are inappropriate for the high altitude desert of Tibet.

The PLA, which reads its needs and technology trends better, has developed, tested , and inducted into its forward forces some 300 of the 35 tonne light tank Xinqingtan with a 105mm main gun and a 1,000 hp power plant optimised for the rarefied air milieu of Tibet. For the last 20-odd years I have been championing the cause of a specialised light tank for mountain warfare duty. The last light tank the army operated was the French AMX-13. There’s enough technological capacity in the private and public sector to mount a joint development project for a light mountain tank to be produced in double-quick time with a special engine able to “catch” the air.  But the army has to produce QRs, which its armour directorate at the army HQrs hasn’t gotten round to doing. Yet.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Asian geopolitics, Bhutan, China, China military, civil-military relations, Decision-making, Defence Industry, domestic politics, DRDO, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Indian ecobomic situation, MEA/foreign policy, Military Acquisitions, Military/military advice, Missiles, society, South Asia, Weapons. Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Handling China with calculated cool but get a light tank

  1. Venkat says:

    Indians generally like to talk on TV show. Any small incident every Tom, Dick and Harry comes on TV. Time we ignored them and go by what Govt is doing. This Guys talks very less, good thing.
    Inidan army has operated Pt-76 light amphibious tanks too successfully.
    We need to have few hundred of light tanks, all of them should be such that they can be air dropped . We have relatively good number of heavy lifters like IL-76 and C-17.
    There was an RFI issued in 2009, wonder what happened , here is the link to DFI thread on the topic : http://defenceforumindia.com/forum/threads/rfi-for-300-light-tanks-wheeled-and-tracked.5839/page-6

    Same thing happened to 155 mm light artillery . So many controversies till this Govt signed the deal. I think the army quietly bought 105mm guns, something is better than nothing.
    Maybe it would be good idea to have a hundred or so light 105 mm truck mounted guns shown by Kalyani.

    • Venkat says:

      There is a detailed report on use of Stryker light tank vulnerabilities : http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/congress/2003_rpt/stryker_reality_of_war.pdf
      The above points should be valid for all light tanks.
      Maybe these Army has a reason we do not know for following up on RFI. No point in duscusding.
      We had issues in artillery procurement. The artillery branch sat down with indian industry. Today you see Dhanush & ATAGS under test.
      Same is happening in assault rifles, we do see results. Maybe the new IFCV platform in some ways will fulfil the need.

  2. Shaurya says:

    Bharat: I watched the interview of Shourie. What is it he said in the key parts that you disagree with? He did not want to build the rhetoric and said instead focus on building of our capacities. He is not saying back down and bend your knee. He was not talking of the local/sector positioning of forces or even across the LAC. In fact he said that there are things to understand and learn from China’s actions in the large strategic domain. I could not agree more with what he said.

    I think you are focusing on the tactical order of battle and force structure, Shourie was talking on larger national capacities and how NOT to get suckered in believing our own rhetoric or worse getting suckered into others rhetoric such as Trump.

    • What I am specifically referring to was Shourie’s implied thrust that Modi’s govt was doing it all wrong vis a vis the Doklam issue.

      • Shaurya says:

        OK, I think ever since the fall out between Shourie and team Modi, both things are happening together. 1. Shourie’s criticism of Modi’s policies and general approach is taken as being in spite – regardless of the facts of the matter. 2. The liberal elite in the media are taking full advantage of Shourie’s criticism legit or not and using it to shore up their own credibility. Shourie has chosen wrongly in the past, backing the snake VP Singh against RG’s INC and Modi against MMS/Sonia/INC. He regrets both of these and admits it as his mistakes.

        The truth of the matter is the type of leadership India deserves but our system is unable to garner is the root cause of his frustrations. A Modi, someone who has good intent and work ethic and is focused on power and winning elections is what we have now. Certainly a step better than the sycophants of INC but not the type of leader, who is vested in transformational change. I think both you and Shourie at many levels desire such a leader and both of you are critical of Modi’s inability to effect such change, despite his masterful ability to exploit events for propoganda.

        As to how this government will handle China’s latest border challenge is still a WIP but initial approaches, I agree with you are being done correctly by the Modi team. Also, I suspect Shourie is a little unaware of the local military conditions on the LAC that affords India to at the very least to not kow-tow to the PLA on the ground and have the gumption to play the spoiler for the grand machinations of the CPC.

        Do wish though that Modi shows some guts and takes some transformational decisions, in economics, defense and administration, let him do the grand staging of events but let the other pieces go in parallel. Things like demonetization are not examples of these. A common market could have been had without yet another centralization of power. There is still no real devolution of power to third tiers to raise their own revenues. Distribution of money to states is not the same as devolution of power. DRDO/OBB/DPSU need transformation and massive surgery. He is focused on reducing corruption in governance, e-governances, etc, good but what is needed is to restore private sector trust and confidence to invest in the country. Law and Order machinery needs investments and reform. Contracts need to mean something, rule of law needs to mean something. Public Sector Banks needs reform/privatization. Disinvestment of government from the business of business. Nothing major except for streamlining the work of the government is being undertaken. Modi is acting like a low level manager but to be fair to him that is what he promised 🙂

  3. Nilesh says:

    Are we sending Arjun Mk2 to the Russian tank Biathalon ? Can anyone confirm ? There are ominous reports circulating on the net that India has developed cold feet and is rather sending the Russian T-90 instead….If that’s true than it only reinforces that we Indians talk too much and deliver far less…and SHAME ON INDIA AND ITS MILITARY ENGINEERS !!!!! We should learn from China on this. The Chinese regularly use their own home grown tanks and make incremental improvements based on the competition results.

  4. Apna says:

    Some reality cgeck for delusional Indians and their new godfather the americans.



  5. Shaurya says:

    The T-72 is not optimized for high altitude plateaus, true. But if IA is able to make them work (say by starting its engines every day and using special fuel additives and other changes in SOP), the light tanks are no match against its armor and fire power. The PLA action is in response to the IA’s action, I am not sure if it is the smartest move by the PLA.

    Instead of a “light” tank, India’s option should be a mix of optimized T-72, along with AMP’s (wheeled and tracked) and LCH deployments. The failure of the Arjun project (I do not mean Arjun to be a failed tank) hopefully will provide some lessons for the FMBT project and not be focused just on the plains and build an optimized tank for the plateaus also.

  6. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    Regards Xinqingtan tank

    Now would be just the right time for Modi ji to order his 250 Namicas. Namicas are meant to battle it out against 120 mm guns. These 105 mm guns will not have the range or firing rates, to match Nags mounted on Namicas. Nags have been tested till 3.3 km and himalayan battlefields will be very good for Nag and Namica to operate in. In one fell swoop Modi ji would have killed several birds with a single stone.

    Even if some range issues are felt then the ERA tiles can be fitted or the seeker (already Indian) can be modified for still longer ranges. With an automated system you don’t even need to worry about the Nag increasing its weight by a few kilograms.

    • Shaurya says:

      Still better LCH with Helina! More range, mobility. I think even the Rudra can play a role in the mountains.

      • ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

        I was thinking of holding ground. These chinese are masters at not fighting till they are assured of a win. Pichkari wars and muscular mal-yudh is what they will do till they can reach that stage.

        Also Nag is more than enough for the light tank the Chinese are fielding. Wiki, quoting Janes says:
        “The missile has been tested successfully in 5 June 2017 at its full range of 4 km in hot desert conditions in a daytime trial at the Chandan Field Firing Range near Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, with a successful follow-up test taking place on 13 June 2017.”

        Third is the cost rationale. Dhruv itself is Rs. 40 crore. Armed variants would be more. The order was expected at Rs. 335 crores for 13 Namicas + 443 Nags sometime back. The Rs. 335 crore is a steal. If this inexpensive option has no takers in the GoI, then the helos have ever lesser chances. Top dollars are not meant for Indian products.

        For reference the BMP-2 upgrades are priced at Rs. 3 crore unit cost with matching production costs already incurred – ajaishukla.blogspot.in/2017/07/private-firms-miss-out-on-rs-2400-crore.html. And this Rs. 3 crore could have been beaten down to Rs. 2 crores too with probably some risks attached.

  7. Sir,i apologise for digressing a little bit & asking an irrelevant question, but how do you see the chances of a two and a half front war RIGHT NOW,the reason being,chinese have become nostalagic for their OBOR initiative.

  8. Reasoned says:

    First time India has shown – to put it in Bharat Karnad’s words – a will to power.

    • Could Doklam be just a stray incident?

      • Reasoned says:

        Depends entirely on modi and his advisers .
        That raises a question, why aren’t you in that position? ,you seem to know previous NSA , or you can try through VIF .

      • Raj_ryder says:

        Apparently its over. Both sides are pulling back

      • Shaurya says:

        I read Doklam as a continued attempt by China to flex its hard muscles and see to what extent can they push their will to power until they meet resistance by a power, who will not be easily subdued or co-opted. They know we will protect the LAC, this has been clear to them since Sumdorong Chu (1986).

        They have really stretched it in the SCS and not met physical resistance (the only kind they understand). PLA was testing to see, how far they can finger Bhutan and are a little surprised that IA has intervened in technically in physical aid of a third country. Today if we can do so with Bhutan, tomorrow it may be with Vietnam? It is this aspect that has surprised them. It is this aspect that forced them to blurt our that they will intervene in Kashmir with Pakistan.

        I do not think Doklam is a stray incident, this is just the start of China’s journey to great power.

      • Doklam as stray incident that I referred to in my response, was regarding India standing up for its interests as it has done in Doklam. I merely wondered if this instance of standing up was a one-off thing.

  9. raja says:

    Any country in the world whether has privatised defence forces?
    kindly reply.

  10. Manish Jaitly says:

    In the context, T55s may support the cause for now, till we get a light tank for the region.
    As an aside, your book ‘Why India is not a great power (yet)’ is an eye opener. Find it extremely enriching.

  11. ranjith says:

    What if China launches a limited attack in a terrain advantageous to it, kills a few of ours, then declares unilateral ceasefire? Do our leaders have the courage to hit back? Did the army factor in such a response from China? If China does attack us, this is the way they will do it.

  12. VJ says:

    this is latest news on this, which was not published by any indian media. What is your analysis after reading this?

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