Time of the greatest danger is now!

Image result for pics of indian army on china border

Acting defence minister Arun Jaitley said yesterday in Parliament that the country had learned the 1962 lessons well and the Indian armed services were well prepared for a border war. That may be so, but the capability to fight is also dictated by when China will take the initiative to open the first round, and where.

Not sure if the Modi Government is primed to the fact that the 1962 hostilities were started by China just as the October missile crisis got underway and the US was preoccupied by the Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba in that near end-of-the-world crisis. It was evidence of “strategic boldness and tactical caution” that Shivshankar Menon  claims, ironically, as the leitmotif of Indian foreign policy! In any case, a ’62 type of international situation is again in the offing — a nuclear crisis now involving the US and North Korea. With an unrestrained Trump warning of “fire and fury of a kind the world has never seen” should Pyongyang again issue a threat to the US — very Chinese Global Times-speak! — to which Kim Jon-Un replied almost instantly with tripling down on another graver threat, this time directly against the US island of Guam, major military station mid-Pacific — boy, this guy is ballsy!! — Northeast Asia is set for a strategic humdinger. It will be interesting to watch how this pans out, but I am happy to predict and prophecy that it will be Washington that blinks first. The in your face attitude and policy carried out with panache always wins in international affairs, something the Indian government and MEA in particular have been too timid to even contemplate.

Xi Jinping is desperate to save face in whatever small way he can, and considering how far out on the rhetorical limb his regime has gone in incessantly beating the war drum, there WILL be action. Beijing has mentioned armed intrusion into “Kashmir”, which has enough Indian forces in situ,  but it may be a way to divert the Indian military’s attention from the LAC. In any case, a North Korea-US fracas will provide Beijing with just the cover to precipitate an incident, use it to escalate to big unit action and then blame the forward Indian units and India for starting the war, forcing the PLA to react. This is what China did in 1962. And then, after some level of hostilities is attained, announce a ceasefire, claim due punishment has been meted out and that a sobered up India has been “taught a lesson”. Except, this time whatever territory the PLA captures they will keep. This is standard Chinese modus operandi, which MEA and the govt’s main China policy advisory arm — the China Study Circle, I am sure, has not warned Modi about.

If the above scenario holds and Chinese initiatory action is imminent, it is “all hands on deck”-moment, but this time the Indian armed forces have to ensure that should PLA start an affray anywhere, the Indian Army will not just fight back at that geographical location but retaliate by opening up fronts in other sectors for operations where PLA is disadvantageously placed with the idea of keeping the captured territory on the LAC for good. Once the army goes into action, the IAF should join right away, and plan on taking out forward Chinese assets as  preliminary action, leaving it to PLAAF to escalate if it chooses to. It’d be fun to see the IAF Su-30s slaughter the high-altitude constrained PLAAF fighters taking off from Tibetan bases. The Navy should likewise get right into it and, may be, sink a smaller warship — there are some dozen-odd Chinese navy ships in the Indian Ocean right now. That will draw PLAN subs affording the Indian Akula the opportunity to tail them for a shoot. It is only such disproportionate response that will prove to Beijing that it is not 1962, not all the speechifying by Jaitley, et al.

So far, Modi has done well to talk little, hold firm on the ground. But I sense complacency creeping in with things having gone well, so far. Hope he pulls the govt out of any such stupor and musters the confidence and the guts to expressly task the Indian armed forces for rapid and intense counteraction across the LAC, in the air, and the Indian Ocean. Passive defensive-mindedness has been the bane of the Indian govt and military to-date. Time to correct this impression, hence also time that Gen Bipin Rawat, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, and Admiral Sunil Lanba put their respective forces on high alert, because something is going to happen. If Beijing behaves the way it has always done, hostilities are round the corner, and they better be absolutely ready to respond aggressively. The Prime Minister will be well advised to, perhaps, hint at another Himalayan rumble in the offing in his Independence Day speech if not earlier , and thus prepare the people and the apparatus of state for the “war” coming down the pike.

Simply put, China should NOT be permitted under any circumstances to save face and get away with claiming it has taught India a lesson. Because that will mean Modi having egg on his face. The Indian government and military should ensure that it is Beijing that takes home the lesson that this is, in fact, the “New India” they are now dealing with, not the same old, same old.

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, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Indian Navy, Indian Ocean, Latin America, Missiles, Russia, society, South Asia, Tibet, United States, US., Weapons, Western militaries. Bookmark the permalink.

41 Responses to Time of the greatest danger is now!

  1. PD says:

    I tend to agree with Mr Karnad this time, though for different reasons. I see almost similar sounds emanating from the Government as in the past and therein lies the danger for me. I also see an attempt by MoD to put the Army in the corner by granting the VCOAS the powers to buy urgently needed items without going through MoD. Knowing the lead times involved in procuring any quantity of spares and ammunition, it is a smart ploy by the MoD to be able to point fingers at the Forces. I wish I am wrong but if the balloon does indeed go up, as stated by Mr. Karnad, MoD has ensured that it is the Army that will be doing the answering, if any. On the other hand, MoD will be there to accept plaudits if things go right.
    I sincerely hope that this belligerence by China does not escalate into a shooting confrontation, because the losers will be both, to different degrees though. China has upped the ante to a point that makes it require a face saver. If backroom concessions are obtained from China on issues of concern, it may not be a bad bargain to give them a face saver without giving the hint of surrender.
    That’s what the diplomats are there for. They should be made to work for their wine and cheese.

  2. Sir, but YOU YOURSELF till yesterday had been saying that PLA is just bluff and bluster. Now you are saying that conflict can happen, what will be the modus operandi in this scenario ? Are you saying that China is going to defeat us again ? If that is the case we (INDIANS) will be happy to give up our lives & go to the frontlines to assist our nation,we are not cowards.

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

    I don’t mind a real war. Its long overdue. Its better to die this way then to let the poor idiots die standing in lines for their own money :D. Or on the swatch streets paying for their dirty toilets when they don’t even have enough for the next meal.

    Indian generals have also talked for far too long on TV. Sir ji, the COIN and Flood Rescue were not your job. That is a job that does not get done by any professional body because of your incessant budget hogging.

    But I also find it peculiar that this new China speaks so much. I thought these guys were the reticent kind and we were the unruly kind. May be we have only just begun experiencing the side effects of Pichkari wars and this is how later day mandarins do their wars. May be we should consult with the Vietnamese and Japanese and South Koreans if this is how the Chinese talk when they have drum up a Pichkari war. If Pichkari wars is what we are gonna get, then it would be a strange nostalgic feeling to lose in a bloody Pichkari war, what we should have gained in a real one. This incessant talk show could be part of some 6th generation warfare, where these Mandarins already have an upper hand. In which case US military advisors too should get ready to coin new jargons and theories.


  4. PLA is still bluffing and that was my first blog on the topic. And I was right, and I am still be proved right. China simply did not expect the GOI and Indian military to firm up as they have done. This went against their calculations. Some 2 months on it is Beijing that is rhetorically painting itself into an ever tighter corner that it can’t easily get out of. So this is an evolving situation.

    • Aban says:

      In an event of a conflict what is the possibility of a third party, entering the scene. Like Pakistan or Japan

      • no, i was watching a show in USA on infowars.com by alex jones & the CIA analyst (retd) was saying that,its the same situation like october missile crisis vis-a-via N.Korea even now, no country will come to our rescue. We will have to lift our own weight

      • Unlikely that either Pakistan or Japan would enter the fray. Interlopers in a conflict always have lots more to lose than gain.

      • Aban says:

        How true the NYTimes news that Vietnam is suspending gas drilling operations in South China sea? Last resistance in SE Asia crumbling? Will Vietnam be co-opted by China ?

      • Aban says:

        Futile to expect any help from a helpless Japan. They had a huge role in making China a frankenstein’s monster by allowing Japanese companies to invest heavily in China for 3 decades . As we speak there are close to 10,000 Japanese companies operating in China having investments worth hundreds of billion dollars stuck in China. Lastly even Dalai Lama is talking of Hindi-Chini bhai bhai. How long before Tibetan leaders succumb to China’s financial muscle and Tibet become non-issue.

      • Dalai Lama & others are irrelevant, today only 2 individuals are relevant in the country vis-a-via the doklam issue, 1- NSA DOVAL , 2- PMO which is run by MODI, do you really believe that modi will bend backwards before reaching to an agreeable situation with the PLA ? He CANNOT,otherwise, he will never win the next elections. And he is not used to losing the elections,afterall,he is a student of Political Science , just like Our Chanakya Mr. Bharat Karnad.

      • Aban says:

        It boils to two things- Does India have the resources to hold against China in case the conflict stretches for months ? And what it does about replacing Chinese imports with indigenous production and bring down trade deficit.

  5. Reasoned says:

    Bharat, don’t you think the strategic community will be more acquiescent to
    your policy suggestions, given your prognosis about Chinese posture was right all along the way, and the risk averse mandarine-speakers who were scoffing at you for so long were wrong
    , insisting on either ” the peaceful rise of China ” or ” Indian inadequacies ” and every other excuse to derail the robust policy posture against China.

  6. devraj says:

    Respected Sir,
    China knows very well. Any conventional full scale or short term war with india will be draw or defeat for china.victory is impossible.Huge setback.to escape it if china use nuclear card as blackmail.how india tackle its megaton nuke capability with 20kt nukes.India hold back also by fear of millions casualities from chinese megaton nukes while indian 20kt nukes just only give only few thousand casualites for chinese cites.Chinese 3.3 megaton bomb vs Indian 20kt bomb?.Real challange for india.As china want to insult india otherwise it destrpys chinese global power image.

  7. rbalmoori says:

    I posted this comment on your previous Doklam article.

    “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.”

    This is the exact strategy that will be pursued by China if it decides to act. The question remains if India will meekly accept the ceasefire. My advice would be to emulate Kim Jong Un and explode a nuke right on the faces of the invading forces within our side of the border and let the Chinese escalate if they have the cojones. Under no circumstance should we allow the Chinese to proclaim victory. The alternative will be a century of humiliation.

    • ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

      China can do what you state but do you presume that something like that cannot be done in India too.

      Indians and Pakis has been killing soldiers of each other without declaration of war. That is if we totally ignore Indian civilians being killed by Paki supported terrorists. Does the world looks like it cares.

      Point is not what India can or cannot do rather whether Indian leadership will do what is required or not.

  8. Shaurya says:

    The Chinese gambit of 1962 using the Cuban missile crisis as an opportunity to strike can work in the reverse too. If US intervenes in Korea and escalates in the SCS then it is India’s turn to take advantage of the opportunity. Will India teach the Chinese a lesson on the LAC?


  9. MS says:

    Do you see what you have written? It is so true and timely, that you need to find a way to send this assessment to atleast some people who matter. You are dead right that China will keep the seized territory, so India should quickly ‘tune’ their mindset for advancing and occupying important and also large areas.

    In these times of propaganda, it will be clear to citizens very quickly who lost or who won.

    I hope our defensive attitude in media is only for media though we are ready for it. But the work will have to done by leadership- Acquire areas important to us and in “large quantity”. There are some ppl thinking that China will occupy some and we would do the same, and later both will retreat. I just can’t believe this-why would China retreat when it could keep, and no one in the world will pick a fight with China over the seize.

    Pls tell the generals that they need to be ready to roll the fireball, advance and advance by a great deal. I will go by your feel that we could do it well(that means winning in war parlance), if we quickly tune our attitude, thinking and strategy considering that China would like to sieze and KEEP.

    It is not 60 billion of trade imbalance at stake for them but the trillion dollar global trade because everything will have to go up in smoke. Oh Mr Karnad, how I wish we had a mindset to win and not just defend should there be action.

    North Korea could even get a seat at NSG because, as you say, they have the attitude and willingness to use the power.

  10. MS, I think we are slowly developing a spine in general as a society. One can see it in sport and business. Personally I am not sure our politicians, or even ‘uniforms’ have the spine to take an aggressive posture towards China (yet). I fear, that Modi’s half hearted bravado could be more dangerous than Congress’s pussy footing. That said, so far so good. If India wants to sit on the big table, it will have to earn it; and now may not be a bad time to do so.

    • Two things :-
      1- If you are talking about HALF-HEARTED MODI,earlier who was not given a visa to US & was considered as a diplomatic pariah by the luteyns media circle & the indian elite,what was his training ground ? Its the RSS,so he will have to eventually answer to his people as well
      2- When the same Modi, talks about 65% of the total population below 35 years of age, the same age group which is the core base of his electorate will not feel good,if he kneels down to a foreign adversory
      Hence i am just emphasising on the point that modi is not Half-Hearted, he is the same 2002 model MERCHANT OF DEATH (as propogated till date by the luteyns media), had the NDA-1 govt, which also had an RSS GUY like Vajpayee & Advani in the PMO & HMO back then would had done something,even in OPERATION PARAAKRAM, i think they would had win the 2004 polls

      • By half hearted, I am pointing to the ability to open other fronts, commit the airforce early, and into making attacks in Tibet; and a possibility of allowing the Navy to have a crack. That I dont know, and neither does anyone yet. Do we fight to win or do we fight not to lose are 2 different things. time will tell.

  11. Also Xi thinking probably mirrors Comrade Mao’s, just like he cut Nehru down to size with 62, Xi might feel that Modi’s influence in with world is disproportionate and would like to “attempt” to cut him down to size

  12. Respected Sir, you still did not answer my query, what will happen NOW, will there be a full blown war with PLA, YES OR NO ???

  13. Zaphon says:

    Dear Professor, once again you’ve called things correctly. It’s not a question of whether there will be a war or not, but rather be prepared, be alert and don’t be complacent. If I might ask this, has India stabilized its production of Agni missiles to offer an effective and adequately survivable response in case things really go bad? Or at the very least to have a deterrent effect? Perhaps a fresh series of thermonuclear tests are in order? Your thoughts welcomed – particularly if you were to estimate Agni numbers where would they be – two dozen each Agni-1, -2.-3? I really appreciate your most erudite commentaries.

    • Re: Agni missiles — yes, but in the low 2-figures.

      • Zaphon says:

        Would you then suggest maybe 20-24 each – Agni 1,2,3,4 or would 16 be better? Thanks – any guidance appreciated. You’ve never failed to do a great job informing us.

      • Zaphon says:

        Perhaps I should clarify – I mean missiles not launchers. So 12 launchers with 24 missiles for each type (Agni-1, 2, 3,4) or 8 launchers with 16 missiles for each type. With such low number of missiles even Agni-V might have entered service? What approximate figures might be most acceptable? Again, I really appreciate your answering my query and I am always in awe of the strength of your conviction that India could and should be strong

      • I meant low 2-figs on the production front. In deployed mode, sufficient numbers.

      • Zaphon says:

        Oh! So are you saying that each of the Agni family (1,2,3 and 4) is being produced at the rate of 10+ per year? Assuming Agni-5 isn’t in production yet, that would be 40 Agnis/ yr. Would that be fair? Or is it more like 3 each Agni 1,2,3, and 4 per year? Once again, I cannot express enough thanks for your clarifying these things.

      • Zaphon says:

        Dear professor, would you suggest that deployed Agni figures for each of 1,2, 3,4 would be around 36 each now or would 24 be better?
        Also, I’ve been reading your book – again – “Nuclear Weapons & Indian Security” which is outstanding.
        On page 320 and on page 376, you refer to Indian fission weapons of 20 kilotons to 100 kilotons weighing between 200-300kg. Would it be fair to say that this is what exists today?

        Appreciate any guidance and it is really incredible of you to respond to our queries and comments like this. It is the sign of a classy scholar keen to enlighten rather than merely comment. Thank you.

  14. Kya says:

    The matter of fact is that corrupt Indians are needling China for the last few years and more in the last few weeks on orders from their american masters. The Americans do not want China to help North Korea. So USA asks her new vassal India to open second front against china so that USA can push on South China Sea. Indians are in the worst position militarily, worse than in ’62 compared to China. But India has been emboldened by assurances from USA. Shame on India to be a vassal of Anglo-Americans again.

  15. raja says:

    Aswamedha yagna…Bulldozer and China!

  16. Venkat says:

    Trump situation looks pretty complex : Trump ignoring china & directly speaking about North Korea, US ships & aircraft carrying their freedom of navigation sorties more frequently, Doklam, Pakistanis suddenly realising CPEC is not like an American gift, Sri Lankans modifying their port agreement . We live in interesting times.
    One thing we will miss is the 155 mm light artillery. We can just say Salam MoD Babudom.
    What is the use of empowering Vice chief now of spending a few thousand crores ? Will this be permanent or just an excuse to make army a bakra ?

    • ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

      Re. “What is the use of empowering Vice chief now of spending a few thousand crores ? Will this be permanent or just an excuse to make army a bakra ?”

      This is Dhirendra Singh Committee report by the back door.
      New Thapars and Kauls are being set up to guard against the possibility of a loss.

  17. Satyaki says:

    Bharat Sir,

    If indeed each of A-1/A-2/A-3/A-4 is being produced at 10+ per year, that is about 40 delivery systems a year. Would that not mean that even as of today, our SFC can destroy 5 large metropolises in PRC ? If so, would’nt a simple way to put an end to the standoff be to backtrack on our ‘no first use’ and to promise the destruction of 5 major PRC cities in the event of a large conventional attack from that side irrespective of the inevitable consequences ? Such a stance on our part would guarantee a deescalation (and our safety in the face of PRC might), just as North Korea’s stance guarantees its safety in the face of U.S. might.

  18. Rahul(Kol) says:

    I beg to differ with you Mr Karnad on this. There is a hell lot of difference between 1962 Cuban missile crisis and 2017 N.Korea missile crisis. There, China was not even a player and Cuba was 10,000+ kms away from China and it had nothing to do or get bothered about, its the Soviets who got entangled with the USA and allowed China, whose relationship with the Soviets were on a downward spiral enough room to launch a Himalayan adventure…

    In 2017, things are different because N.Korea is at the door of China and it is USA vs China here and any USA action to eliminate the baby faced Lawson can result in an unification of both Koreas bringing USA troops at the border of China…So China would probably not like to do a Himalayan blunder….

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

    And BTW the big escalation has happened while India was celebrating Janamashtami yesterday.

    From the mulyudh to pathar bazi.

    “After Chinese troopers found their path blocked by Indian soldiers who formed a human chain, they began hurling stones, prompting a swift retaliation by Indian border guards.”

  20. The great PLA now down to throwing stones. ha ha ha

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