Don’t miss this opportunity, Modiji, warn China of military action and execute it!

PM Modi takes Xi Jinping on a guided tour of Mamallapuram ...
Modi and Xi at Mamallapuram

China has risen to be a great power in part because its leaders have had the knack for never missing an opportunity to exploit a situation or kick an adversary when he’s down. For instance, Mao leveraged the support Nikita Khrushchev sought from China in his Kremlin power struggle with Georgy Malenkov, immediate successor to Stalin, and Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov in the mid-1950s, for Russian transfer of nuclear weapons and missile technologies. And, always inclined from early in his reign to show up the “cocky” Nehru, Mao chose exactly the time when John F Kennedy blockaded Cuba for a showdown with Khrushchev over Russian missiles there in October 1962 to attack India.

It is the sort of ruthlessness and single-minded pursuit of power Indian leaders can apparently summon only against their political rivals at home. In the external sphere, they are ‘bheegi billees’ — timid and cautious, ready to take the counsel of fear. And it is fear and risk aversion that the China Study Group’s advice to Indian governments usually reeks of. CSG is the main shaper of the government’s China policy. In the present circumstances, its urging the Modi government to have the GOC, XIV Corps, continue parlaying with the Chinese sector commander, carry on with the buffer zone-concept that has compromized India’s territorial claims in eastern Ladakh, and otherwise seek refuge in interminable exchanges with the Chinese at various official levels, is not getting India anywhere, but who cares.

Consider the context China unexpectedly finds itself in. The US and the West are pretty much hanging up on Beijing on the trade and technology fronts. The Chinese economy is slumping. The corona pandemic, the new Chinese security law imposed on Hong Kong and President Trump’s desire to economically and security-wise scapegoat China for his re-election purposes, has led to America orchestrating an international campaign against China as the irresponsible spreader of the corona virus, ending Hong Kong’s special trading privileges, threatening economic sanctions, terminating Chinese investments in cutting edge technology companies in the US, and denying visas to Chinese citizens. Further, the US and the UK governments have banned the Chinese tech giant Huawei from the American and the British 5G telecommunications markets — a move that India too has wisely subscribed to, deployed two American aircraft carrier groups in the Philippine Sea — a proverbial stone’s throw away from the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, accelerated deliveries of advanced armaments to Japan and Taiwan, and asked its allies and friends to vote against a seat for China on the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea, which the US Assistant Secretary of State State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell likened to “hiring an arsonist to help run the fire department.”

Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang called in the U.S. Ambassador Terry Branstad “to warn the U.S. sternly that any bullying and unfairness imposed on China by the U.S. will meet resolute counterattack from China, and the U.S. attempt to obstruct China’s development”, he added, unconvincingly, “is doomed to failure.”

One hopes, the Modi government has enough sense to vote with like-minded countries to prevent China from occupying a seat on the Sea Tribunal.

But to get to the more urgent point: With China rattled and besieged on all fronts and stretched militarily in the east and the west, it is in no position to engage in all out hostilities in Ladakh. Now is therefore the time, an opportune one, for Delhi to trash all the ridiculous understandings to-date, end talks at all levels, and to announce a time limit of two-three weeks, starting now, for the PLA to get the hell out of Indian territory. And, in this regard, to issue a clear and public warning to Beijing, and so communicate it to the world so that international pressure can be mobilized, that the Indian armed forces will undertake limited military operations using all conventional means at their disposal to vacate every last square inch of Chinese troops come what may, and at whatever cost. The PLA has to unconditionally and voluntarily restore the status quo ante that foreign minister Jaishankar has already formally demanded, or be forced to do so. The Modi regime should follow up with the facilitation of high paced preparations by the Indian military for war backed, as I have suggested in earlier posts, by moving Agni missiles to the theatre and ordering the Arihant SSBN on patrol to loiter in its launch area just in case and, at the end of the 2-3 week deadline, to initiate without ado the promised military actions. The international community will sympathize with India and press Beijing to get out and keep out of Indian Ladakh.

The Indian government has so routinely messed up on historic opportunities to make strategic good, it will be no surprise if Narendra Modi too fails to be decisive, and stays with his ridiculous public stance that China is not in occupation of any Indian territory, and hence that there is no problem of territorial aggrandizement that needs to be addressed. The CSG members will cluck in satisfaction that they have done well.

Except, Modi needs to be reminded that it was a private American company, Maxar, that first released commercially available satellite imagery showing deep PLA penetrations into Indian Ladakh, detailing the infrastructure buildup — intelligence that Indian satellites had long ago picked up and conveyed to the Indian government. The real scandal, in the event, is that Modi did nothing with this information and, ostrich like, stuck his neck in the sand, implicitly denying that his good and great friend Xi Jinping did anything wrong.

Not sure how Modi will live down this episode, but that’s his personal outlook. That India has had its territory so brazenly annexed without China suffering any cost whatsoever, will mean such intrusive adventures will be repeated every summer by the PLA. And Beijing will rely on the Indian PM to ex post-facto legitimate the LAC being thus steadily pushed India-wards.

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.
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26 Responses to Don’t miss this opportunity, Modiji, warn China of military action and execute it!

  1. RG says:

    Agree. I would like to add some more context to it too.This is just not about seizing an opportunity cos it has arisen.

    This is the time when China wouldn’t want to sidestep her ascent with getting into a fight with India.India being a substantial power militarily and the size of her market,etc. It serves china to select a more opportune time, a time when the economic n military might is overwhelmingly in favor of china + when china can influence world politics more, such a time would hardly need any mil action by china to fix India.

    India’s china problem is not going away no matter what untill we become rich n strong or stronger. So this is a time when we can do something not only for our immediate Ladakh issue but also to impede their ascent.

    We should not be thinking in terms of a short war ,the longer we engage them the better for us and worse for them,. This does not mean in a big area of engagement, though that can result.It means fighting them for a longer period of time, the body bags and the fact and impression of it that China-the so called aspiring numero uno could not defeat India decisively would negatively affect the national morale of china. Also, it can create more problems for their ruler who is already under pressure within the party.

    Not because of ladkah only, which of course is the primary concern, but for our future,a mil action is required. This opportunity might not come our way again. With one action we can influence chinas future trajectory in our favor,or at least attempt it. Just see our banning apps is reflecting all over the world, the US might ban them too.

    No loss of any more territory, a substantial no. of chinese body bags sent back to china is the bottom line. Worst case scenario for us should be a stalemate, but we should be gunning for throwing them out and gaining ground. We can do this.

  2. Anjali says:

    There have been reports of a revenge attack by the bihar regiment on the day of the galwan incident wherein the ‘ghatak’ commandoes killed the pla soldiers the same way they had killed ours. This is no reoport of any bjp-bootlicking news channel and ‘nationalist’ tv anchors but retired army personnel.

  3. Kirit Porecha says:

    Dear Mr. Karnad,
    I read your articles with great interest. I agree with you that for > 10 months IA (definately under Govt. orders at the highest level), MEA and RAW decided to nothing to counter the Chinese incursions. Not even a warning or preemptive action from the Indians. The PLA took this as an invitation! The PLA is hell bent on doing something for their motherland in view of COVID-19, bullying, Huawei criticisms, etc.

    But I have serious questions with your advocacy of limited military action against the Chinese. Unfortunately our enemies (Pakistan, Bangladesh included) are in the ascendancy and come together against India very quickly. Secondly China has a enormous variety and quantity of missiles. The PLARF has simulated extensively the scenario wherein they launch missiles first without moving their infantry. This attack will be hard and fast, no time for the Indians to counter attack before cease fire is called. Plus their cyber warfare capabilities.

    Agni missiles will complicate the situation because PLARF conventional missiles are so overwhelming that a military conflict may not go beyond a few hours; very less time for the UN, US or Russia to intervene diplomatically in case India threatens Agni use.

    I think India does not have a military option. That’s why I think the Indians are averse to this option.

    If only India had GB by now. India can allow China full access to Gwadar, railway lines, oil pipelines. India can allow China to build Diamer-Bhasa dam (now in Indian territory) and other dams so that Pakistan still gets the power and water. Pakistan still gets to do CPEC projects with China. India can also join BRI to widen the economic benefits. All this can happen if China is convinced of the potential benefits of this scheme. Of course China can simply tell its all-weather friend, Pakistan that “hey, we have just modified CPEC. Are you with us?” I guess you would know Pakistan’s answer. This can bring so much peace and prosperity to this super populous region.

    As it is Gwadar port even with 10 Chinese subs patrolling is a “sitting duck” in a real confrontation with the USN. This port cannot guarantee China’s energy security in times of war. The Chinese know this is a stupid idea and are doing it to harass India.

    Just my two cents.

    Thank you.

    Kirit Porecha
    Houston, TX

  4. Shashank Bendre says:

    Modi government hides it’s failures on all fronts as usual, not taking parliament, opposition or the people into confidence. Wrong China policy- pleasing it’s President-is one of them. Modi doesn’t realise that ‘ Hugging diplomacy’ will not not work in real politic. Even in such a grave military situation that the nation finds itself in, the BJP is engaged in games to garner votes and hang on to power by all means at their disposal, good or bad. When the nation is facing threat from China, it is engaged in toppling state governments. That is because the party does not have a brain trust of well educated, informed members and people of high calibre who can guide it. It has messed up J&K situation too. So, with such a government in power having absolute control of Indian affairs-military, economic or political- one cannot hope for it to take any sensible decisions or steps. Yet a majority of Indians-including educated- want Modi to remain in power for ever! Very unfortunate!

  5. vivek says:

    this can only happen if its pakistan, govt, dont have such guts agains china, btw this is right time to do agni 6 , mirv test.

  6. himlynx says:

    While I agree with you in principle, there is no need to give away surprise by warning the other side. Did they give any warning before encroaching on our territory ?

  7. Gautam Das
    bharat karnad

    Fri, 17 Jul at 3:32 pm

    The right idea, and the last chance to do it.

    But I don’t think he has the guts..More likely it’s just a 56″ empty vessel. Pity!

    You’ve done your bit!


  8. ARINDAM BORA says:

    As much as all of us would love to see India evict the PLAGF & BDR from the territory on it’s side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) the drum-beating around the supposed disengagement, de-escalation and de-induction suggests that nothing of the sort is going to happen. I mean if a limited escalation to push back the Chinese is what was desired there was no need for the GOI and the Army top brass to expend so much capital on both diplomatic and ground commander level talks. ‘Talks’ for now seem to be the favoured and trusted option of GOI and even the Army to deal with any Chinese intrusion into Indian territory.

    I just wonder why would the Chinese carry out repeated incurisons and coercive ‘sit-ins’ just to talk and then go back and restore the previous status quo. Sure the border dispute is part of of a larger strategic policy of China to coerce, contain and cut India down to size but is would be naive atleast for the military to think that the intrusions and creeping westward push do not have any military ramifications. I am not belittling the Army or trying to pretend that I know more about these issues than the military. What I am trying to say is that in this entire saga since early May the military leadership has been talking like diplomats and surprisingly our ‘free and frank’ CDS General Bipin Rawat has become camera shy. The sacrifice Colonel Babu and his men notwithstanding the Army cannot come out of this with their reputation unscathed.
    The scouting for military supplies from Russia and Israel during a moment of crisis also speaks volume about the state of our military preparedness although that is not the fault of the military alone. The DRDO, OFB, other DPSUs and MOD bureaucrats too should be held accountable.

    In Depsang 2013, Chumur 2014, Doklam 2017 and now in 2020 do we know what the Chinese wanted in return for their withdrawing of troops. The inhabitants of Ladakh, the nomads whose grazing grounds for their livestock has reportedly decreased considerably owing to Chinese encroachment and people like Phunchuk Stobodan have been warning the nation for a long time about the creeping westward invasion but the political leadership and even the Army remain adamant that no territory has been lost. When questioned the response is escapist. Add to that the really petty, stupid and agenda driven narrative being peddled by some people in the media who are hostile to the Modi Government and we have a real circus on our hands while the Middle Kingdom has it’s way.

    What these frequent and repeated incursions along with military buildup along the Himalayan frontier could end up doing among many other things is diverting an even larger pie of the defence budget to the ground forces and our naval buildup will suffer even further at a time when the PLAN has been expanding at an unprecedented pace. Without a large enough Navy all this talk of QUAD, alliances with Vietnam, South Korea, Indonesia, Singapore will remain mere talk. So what we could end up with is what we have now, world’s largest ground force but with little power projection and expeditionary capabilities, special forces wasting away in CI/CT ops and thus of no strategic consequence, an Air Force struggling with depleting squadron strength and vintage aircraft and an overstretched Navy.

    So, why should one even care, Mr. Karnad Sir?

    • Sankar says:

      “In Depsang 2013, Chumur 2014, Doklam 2017 and now in 2020 do we know what the Chinese wanted in return for their withdrawing of troops.” –
      Here is the answer from an independent source:
      I may add to this, there are Nehru-Chou en Lai exchanges and agreement in 1950s recorded in Delhi that the boundary where Tibet, India and Bhutan meet cannot be changed or drawn unilaterally by China without India and Bhutan agreeing. And this time China reneged on that agreement and India simply backed off. Further news as reported also in IDR by former Brig Sinha is that Doklam plateau has now been fully occupied by PLA and they have built extensive defence structure to threaten Siliguri corridor when they may decide.

      • ARINDAM BORA says:

        Strategic multidirectional and multidimensional pincer moves to keep the adversary off balance and guessing about China’s motives. Add to that the ‘salami slicing’ of Indian territory in Ladakh where each move when see in isolation does not appear to be something too alarming but over time alters the ground situation in favour of the Chinese. And if India becomes confrontational in any sector the PLA can always put pressure on the other sectors as evident by the May incursions across the supposedly settled border in Northern Sikkim.

        There has been a propensity in India to view the incursions in isolation and keep peddling this ‘differing perception’ theory. Only now have we started to look in depth at the pattern and connect the dots. Even then a concrete action plan is lacking at the political level (even our military top brass talk like diplomats when it comes to China). China retains full spectrum escalation dominance over India and the later can only keep trying to ‘manage’ the crisis and ignore/deny the westward shifting of the so called Line of Actual Control (LAC).

  9. Rajiva Ranjan Singh says:

    We need to be firm and decisive in our action. In the process we may have to sacrifice a few lakh soldiers but the matter will ne sorted out like by Vietnam. Let us not hesitate to act.

  10. Sankar says:

    “China … its leaders have had the knack for never missing an opportunity to exploit a situation or kick an adversary… Mao chose exactly the time when John F Kennedy blockaded Cuba for a showdown with Khrushchev over Russian missiles in Cuba in October 1962 to attack India.” –
    I do not agree with that assessment although I know that all Indian political and semi-military experts hold that view.
    In my understanding wars between nation-states never erupt suddenly. It takes long years of strategic studies and military preparation to unleash military forces. And this is what happened in 1962. China after invading Lhasa in 1949 had decided to consolidate its hold on Tibet So they decided to take possession of Himalayan passes and Tibetan plateau to secure their military structure. This has been their part of hegemony and expansion of the State policy as the bottom line.
    In the aftermath of 1962, the Calcutta Statesman brought out a supplement ‘the Black September (or November?)’ where several past Indian Generals have written their own assessments. One of them, Lt Gen S.P.Thorat has recorded that trouble was brewing on Tibetan borders since 1950, year after year. Indian Army patrols have been regularly ambushed in Konga Pass, Chip Chap areas, Galwan Valley etc. The Army has been reporting and warning Delhi on each and every occasion. But the defense officials have brushed them aside and ignored the gravity under Nehru and Menon’s policy assuring them that they will fix the situation by diplomacy. As early as 1959, the Army had warned Delhi that China was preparing to attack and the attack could come along three routes. In the event (1962), it came along two of their predicted routes. The situation was so grim, that in 1959 Gen Thimayaa and Air Force and Navy Chiefs jointly submitted their resignations. But later on, they withdrew their resignations when the PM Nehru personally intervened and had assured them in his sweet talk that he will take care of everything. And then followed 1962. I had a copy of that Calcutta Statesman Supplement but lost it when someone borrowed it and never returned. Otherwise, I could have quoted verbatim from there. I hold the view that the Indian military resolve in that situation was not firm sufficiently to take control and gave in to their political masters.
    in hindsight 2020, one must say that Mao took a big gamble in 1962 by attacking India. China would have received a bloody nose in 1962 had Delhi stood firm and unleashed the air power by letting IAF devastate PLA. That would have been a disaster for Mao. This assessment has been superbly documented by Claude Arpi in his series of well-researched articles appearing in IDR (and elsewhere) over recent years now.
    To my reading of recent events, the Modi Raj is following virtually the same policy of Nehru-Menon step by step — no change – – and ‘assuring’ the gullible Indian public that they are in control by Army General level meetings for disengagements and insisting on protocols etc etc for LAC and so to insist on the status quo as per previous agreement to bring tranquility on the border since the age of expansionism is over!

    • While trouble was brewing on the border, Thorat as the Eastern army commander, in fact, in a 1958 military assessment laid out a plan to secure the front against China that GOI failed to implement. The point I tried to make was Mao’s choice of the time to initiate hostilities.

      • Sankar says:

        Thanks for your response which I accept unquestionably. I wanted to add a pointer to that wording “opportunity” since my hunch has been all along that Mao knew the occasion was an opportunity as well as a gamble for him – gamble if India decided to flex her muscle using air power and PLA would have nowhere to hide. That would explain why PLA did not continue further after its devastating attack occupying all the strategic passes in Himalyay and withdrew hurriedly from the plains – they did not give up their gains in strategic points. And this is the issue for those who say that the Indian military is not in the same state as in 1962 – they should be reminded that PLA is also not in the same state as in 1962. In fact, India was in a far better situation to continue the war after initial reverses and carry on the war in gaining ground in Tibet in the 1960s than at present due to its air force.
        It would be a great value for all of us, learners if you could elaborate your insight on what transpired from an Indian strategic perspective during 1950-60 as a background to the 1962 debacle. As recorded in history China repeatedly changed their maps for Tibet borders with India in negotiations with Delhi in the 1950s as they are doing now and Delhi has been complying with their demand – there is a glaring similarity of timidity on Delhi’s part to take on China. It seems history is repeating itself. What I scribbled here is just from my understanding of only a few past documents – hopefully, I have not veered much off the true track. Your contribution will be worthwhile as a comprehensive document for reference to this crucial topic since you carry so much knowledge on Thorat and other military plannings of the era.

  11. Ashish Bagade says:

    I think the thing thats making our political class reluctant to this move is basically….we don’t want to loose any more territory in any part of our border with China so to make this move we have to first fortify and estimate all possible PLA moves in other areas to make sure that they dont take any more territory especially near Kibithu in arunachal. Apart from that I think Bharat sir you are correct !!

  12. Joydeep Sircar
    bharat karnad

    Sat, 18 Jul at 11:01 am

    Very hawkish advice but good. The persistence with the weak 14 Corps commander shows lndia has no plan for aggressive action and is relying on obfuscation and long drawn talks to keep the public quiet. We dont even have the guts to declare that we are tearing up all adverse agreements that China has violated!

  13. Tony says:

    Modiji will do nothing except for banning chinese rakhis and chinese fire crackers , we are afterall emerging supapowah

  14. Pingback: Don’t miss this opportunity, Modiji, warn China of military action and execute it! | Patriots Forum

  15. Bhaskar says:

    Dear Sir,
    “… for the PLA to get the hell out of Indian territory… “. May I know what can India say to the world when there is no formally signed functional LAC (if I am not wrong)? China can very well say that it’s their perceived LAC and so they are sitting there, only that they have come up there now(hence it’s India which is escalating the situation). Is there any sort of agreement/understanding to bank upon to mention to foreign media w.r.t this?

  16. Similar to Galwan, on 2nd March 1969, on the banks of a frozen Ussuri River, the PLA ambushed a Soviet patrol and killed all the soldiers.
    But similarities end there. Russian retribution was swift and savage. Several hundred PLA caders killed on the island and on the frozen river. While 32 Soviet border guards were killed, 14 wounded.

  17. Tony says:

    Indian pot belly generals and policy makers need testosterone therapy when it comes to fight midgets of PeeLA . Thors Hammer will make sure bat eaters know we worship lord narsimha and Rudra with goddess kali who will fatten on blood of han. I am personally jacking up price of what I offer by 30 per cent where clientele is han.

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