Jaishankar may give away what’s won in Ladakh

LAC crisis: Jaishankar, Wang Yi likely to discuss steps in Moscow next  month | India News,The Indian Express
Jaishankar and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi

India does not have a good record when it comes to negotiating post-military success. With the 161 Brigade under ‘Bogey’ Sen poised to take Muzzafarabad, Nehru decided to halt all operations in the 1947-48 conflict over the erstwhile princely kingdom of Jammu & Kashmir and trust the UN to resolve the issue. In 1965, at the Tashkent peace talks that the Soviet Union hosted to end the “war” with Pakistan, the diminutive Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri succumbed to the size-wise towering Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s plea for “rahmat” (kindness) and unthinkingly returned the Haji Pir Bulge to Pakistan, whose capture lopped off some 200 kms between Jammu and Srinagar. It laid waste to the singularly bold and resolute effort by 1 Para commanded by Major (later Lieutenant General) Ranjit Singh Dyal, MVC, that led to the capture of this salient from where Pakistan had infiltrated its soldiers in mufti into the Srinagar Valley as part of Operation Gibraltar, and has ever since done the same with jihadis.

Such stupidity was repeated six years later and then in trumps when, instead of imposing a victor’s peace — which is never fair or equitable to the losing party and so sanctified by international law, and compelling Pakistan to hand over Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan to India and formalizing the boundary or, at a minimum, cementing what is now the Line of Control in J&K into a delineated border, Indira Gandhi unconditionally returned 93,000 Pakistani Prisoners of War in Bangladesh to Pakistan. She was persuaded to do so by Pakistan PM Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s promise of delivering on this latter boundary solution once he stabilized the political situation back home. That Bhutto desperately needed this generous Indian gesture to establish his creds with GHQ, Rawalpindi, and to shore up his domestic standing and support was known to Indira’s advisers in Simla, not that they or the PM cared. India thus surrendered the single most significant leverage Delhi had to obtain a permanent politico-military fix for Kashmir, and said Good Bye to the last opportunity for durable peace in South Asia.

Sure, the situation in eastern Ladakh is nowhere comparable to these previous military successes, nor is it militarily settled in any way. After parroting for four months the Chinese-cum-Indian government/MEA line that the indistinct LAC was the reason for China’s aggression, and expecting Delhi to resolve the matter by reasoning with the Chinese at the twin (military and diplomatic) negotiating table, the army brass finally stirred. And then only because prime minister Modi prodded them. During his briefing in Nimu, Ladakh, he reportedly told Rawat, Naravane, Harinder & Co. to tell him what the army would do, not what the Chinese had done.

The actions to preemptively occupy the commanding heights (Black Top, Magar Hill, etc) in the mountains on the southern shore of the Pangong Tso followed and are fine, coming as a relief after an unbelievable period of passivity. But these cannot be counted as other than minor tactical gains that surprised the PLA. The Chinese plainly did not expect the Indian forces to take even such small initiatives. Whatever else these actions achieved, Beijing was alerted to India stiffening its spine somewhat and, after four months of unresisted occupation activity that may have added in excess of 60-odd sq kms in the Galwan and the Pangong (Fingers 4 to 8) areas to China’s bag, signaling it is in the game after all.

But now, Russia’s peacemaking foray intervenes. S Jaishankar, the giveaway expert — how can we forget the unforgetable! — the 2008 nuclear deal where he handed India’s nuclear testing option on a platter to Washington? — in the Foreign Office riding herd as minister, heads for Moscow, there to confer, September 9-11, with his Chinese and Russian counterparts, Wang Yi and Sergei Lavrov, respectively. Ostensibly to transact whatever Shanghai Cooperation Organization business there is to handle, Lavrov will push Jaishankar and Wang to, on the sidelines, hammer out a deal to end the Sino-Indian confrontation. That, in the process, Putin-ite Russia’s reputation as honest broker and go-between will be polished, explains Moscow’s motivation.

But what and where’s the danger? It lies in neither Modi nor Xi Jinping to-date saying anything that is directly accusatory or about the other’s culpability for things going askew in Ladakh. Modi has been scrupulous in avoiding making any reference to Chinese annexation of Indian territory and has consoled himself and the country by drawing an analogy to the “chakradhari” Lord Krishna in the Mahabharata epic and such like — how aptly I cannot say because my reading of English translations has been episodic, even as Xi has waxed authoritative about sinicizing the stubborn Dalai Lama-loving Tibetans. So, unless Modi gives the clearest instructions to Jaishankar, like the direct and clear order by the short time PM Deve Gowda to Arundhati Ghose, the Indian ambassador to the UN disarmament conference, to veto the draft comprehensive test ban treaty that was in the works in Geneva and which the Indian government was being pressured to sign, Jaishankar may take it upon himself to sell Indian interests down the drain.

Delhi’s declared position is that it wants the restoration of the status quo ante and rejects the Chinese terms of the two sides withdrawing an equal distance from wherever their forces currently find themselves. Jaishankar may believe that he can convince Modi that because this is all the give Wang offered him, and because peace with Xi’s China is so much the PM’s personal stake and priority, that he took it. Whence the Indian army will be asked to back down from the heights in the Chushul sector even as the PLA by and large retains its position on the newly realigned LAC there as also on the Galwan and the Pangong Tso.

Twenty-two years ago, the establishment IDSA journal — ‘Strategic Analysis’ published a research paper of mine in its January 1998 issue [“Getting Tough with China” (https://idsa.in/system/files/BhartKarnad1998.pdf — my name is misspelled in the URL!]. It argued for “equitable” not “equal” security, showing just why the peace and tranquility agreement signed by Narasimha Rao in 1996 was injurious to the national interest, as it required the two forces to pullback 40 kms. And how, in “as the crow flies”-terms, especially in the east, it would mean the Indian army backing all the way down to the foothills even as the PLA remains on the Tibetan Plateau in striking distance of the LAC. I had suggested that the pullback distance should involve the time it takes either side to mobilize a certain military mass on the LAC in each of the sectors. Should this be the Indian negotiating standard today, it would have to additionally factor in the differential in the extent and quality of the border infrastructure (roads, telecom connectivity, etc) which, in a comprehensive agreement, would necessitate the PLA retreating all long the disputed border roughly, at a minimum, to the west-east line Rutog-Shiquanhe-Zanda-Zhongba-Xigase-Yarlung-Bowo-Zayu. This, incidentally, in some ways is the true measure of the conventional military superiority the PLA presently enjoys over the Indian army in a long war.

In the shorter time frame, however, India is not that severely disadvantaged. And the Indian army may be better off carrying out actions in eastern Ladakh to permanently entrench itself on the heights that it has recently secured. And more particularly, it should get on with forcefully displacing the PLA from the Y-junction in the Depsang Plains and to occupy the tops of the range abutting on the eastern bank of the Shyok River in a salutary show of strength and intent, to protect the new highway to Daulat Beg Oldi and maintain its proximity to the Karakorum Highway. And Indian Special Forces (SF), with the Tibetan-manned Special Frontier Force and the Ladakh Scouts in the van with the Navy’s marine commando coming in from lake-side in a pincer attack, ought to be tasked with eliminating the PLA strong points on the ridges above Fingers 4 to 8 on the northern shore of the Pangong Tso. Fast-moving SFs are better suited for such ops than even the acclimated troops of the new mountain offensive corps. This part of Ladakh was inaccessible in 1962, a fact the PLA mercilessly exploited. In 2020 with the stocking and prepositioning of stores proceeding apace, the Indian Air Force in the worst case will hopefully be able to sustain an air bridge, periodically topping off supplies for forwardly deployed Indian formations in the winter.

One fervently prays the CDS General Rawat finds the above suggestions to be, in his own words from another context, “the best, suitable” course for the Indian military to follow. It will free Modi to tell Jaishankar to engage Wang in pleasantries about the Bolshoi theatre’s current production of Don Carlo, and do nothing else. The less our foreign minister is asked to do by way of negotiating, the less harm he will end up doing the country.

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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18 Responses to Jaishankar may give away what’s won in Ladakh

  1. Sankar says:

    Not at all in agreement here on:

    “In 1965, at the Tashkent peace talks that the Soviet Union hosted to end the “war” with Pakistan, the diminutive Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri succumbed to the size-wise towering Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s plea for “rahmat” (kindness) and unthinkingly returned the Haji Pir Bulge to Pakistan”,

    It has been documented, that in the Tashkent meeting to arrive at a compromised solution for “peace”, Kosygin put extreme pressure on Shastriji to return Haji Pir to Pak otherwise the superpowers would call a UN meeting to implement plebiscite in Kashmir and India could not count anymore on Soviet veto. Thus, Shastriji had to return Haji Pir.
    I find the qualification “diminutive” uncalled for Shastriji. To my information, he had the nerve of steel and no one could budge him once he had decided on some policy. You cannot judge a person from his appearance!

    Furthermore,
    ” imposing a victor’s peace — which is never fair or equitable to the losing party and so sanctified by international law, and compelling Pakistan to hand over Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan to India and formalizing the boundary or, at a minimum, cementing what is now the Line of Control in J&K into a delineated border,”

    Again, India was not that much of a “victor” since the strategic Chamb was handed over to Pak in a disastrous intelligence failure of the Indian army (corps commander Lt Gen Sartaj Singh – go through a number of articles in IDR).

    Furthermore,
    How could one “formalize” and “delineate a boundary” in Kashmir in 1971? The ceasefire line ended somewhere in the north Pt XXX (I forget the exact figures) which does not lead up to the Karakoram Pass (Maharajah’s J&K) or even north to Siachin. So how could one delineate the erstwhile state of J&K – where will you mark the delineation – losing Siachin and control of Karakoram, Nubra Valley, Daulet Beg Oldi etc?

    Siachin has been the greatest trophy in India’s hand as it controls Karakoram access, waterways of Shyok and Nubra as well as a possible future thrust in Shaksgam Valley. The Indian Army is now standing on Saltoro Ridge and Indira Col is in complete control.

    Read the map where at the ceasefire Indian and Paki Army stood at the conclusion of 1971 war. Besides, you could not formalize India’s boundary in J&K with Pak without going through the UN process where you were in the hands of the then US (Nixon-Kissinger) and China.

    I hold the view that the reality is India will be perpetually in conflict with Pak (unless it breaks up in the future as in 1971) and there will be no peace. This is because the creation of Pak was founded on hatred of Hindu India.

    • Describing Shastri and Ayub in physical terms was to juxtapose the seeming giant seeking understanding of the small-dimensioned leader. I trust CP Srivastava’s 1996 biography of Shastri as offering the most authoritative account of the Taskent talks. CP was joint secretary in the PMO.
      Look, a victor’s peace is imposed on the formally surrendering side — the balance and disposition of forces and the comparable territories under occupation is not the criterion. For example, the 1919 Versailles peace conference post- WW-I in which egregious peace terms were imposed on Wilhelmine Germany despite German forces not being on the defensive or losing territory. It gave rise to the ‘stab in the back’ theory that found traction in the wehrmacht and led to support for Hitler in the German armed forces.
      Indians, generally, are so like frogs in the well with just their small corpus of experience to base conclusions on. There’s a whole wide world of history out there for people to delve into.

  2. atamjeet singh says:

    is there any chance of india resuming nuclear testing(full scale) after this? And always u sir give a very real picture.

  3. Rakesh Kumar says:

    Sir jai hind! What do you think about Indian armed forces in next 20-30 years in self sufficiency, where would they stand in the world in terms of cyber warfare/non-contact warfare?

    • Unfortunately, the Indian military is largely dated, industrial age; its cyber and like capabilities are at a low level. Unless the armed services transform themselves we’ll be left far behind.

  4. Amit says:

    In 2008 Mr. Jaishankar was a bureaucrat under the UPA. Now he is Foreign Minister under the NDA. Don’t you think he was under UPA direction when giving away India’s nuclear testing rights? Now the situation is different. Why do you expect him to behave in the same manner?

  5. Bharat kumar says:

    Was Yesterday’s HSTDV india’s avangard?? Could we see it join strategic force command in 5 years

  6. Roy says:

    Do you have an opinion on Mr. Jaishankar’s “The India Way: Strategies for an Uncertain World”?

  7. Omkar says:

    The entire stage is being prepared for a war by the Chinese, with this planning being done on multiple fronts by the Chinese.
    It has raised some major questions and concerns for me.
    1) With the lone wolf diplomacy being exercised by the Chinese, will the so called pack of saviours and defenders of democracies side with India or will they crumble under the pressure of their businesses suffering from potential humongous losses mainly from the over dependence on the Chinese manufacturing sector and raw materials which may come if they side with India?
    2) If the countries side with India will their businesses relocate their supply and operational chains to other south asian countries or will they fear the wrath of Chinese shunning them out of their market and cutting their access to critical materials only found in China at competitive prices?
    3) What will happen to the plethora Indian businesses which are dependent on China for their supplies?
    4) With the Chinese having grip over different businesses all over the globe will they use their influence to exert political pressures in the respective countries through lobbying via these businesses to diminish Indian interests there?
    5) Can the Indian economy bear the strain of a war with China?
    6) Will the Chinese start the war during the November Elections in United States or will they start it in summer 2021?
    7)Are there any chances of the War Book being invoked?
    8)Can either side use the nuclear option leading to the scope of war getting out of control?
    9) Will the Indian side exercise options to counter the Chinese by executing an offensive through the north eastern region?
    10) How will the Chinese use some of the largest airfields in the world located near Arunachal Pradesh?
    11) Will they activate their propaganda machines to push their citizens located in various countries to pressurise their local representatives to either condemn or take neutral stance against the war?
    12) Will India target the CPEC?
    13) What effect will the war have on the citizens of India?

    • Will take up just one issue here: India could have benefited hugely from new supply chains in the offing as alternative to China-dominated ones on the decline. Except the Indian government, while promising a whole lot, has simply not removed the anti-investment regulatory barriers to attract manufacturing companies to set up shop here. In the main, labour and land acquisition laws are a boondoggle and corruption at the ground level is as rife as ever.

  8. Sankar says:

    @Omkar
    A propos your question No5 you have not set any criterion (or benchmark) to judge the survival of India’s economy. Hence it is an open question, no one knows how to answer you.
    A propos No3, upholding sovereignty is the prime survival significance for the Indian state – interests of business do not count in the context.
    Furthermore to No3, you must be aware that Ladakhis and Arunachalis and others living in the Himalayan mountain area are losing their pastures and livelihood year after year by China’s creeping encroachment on their landholding – and this is going on for decades. But you seem to be oblivious to this side, your concern is for India’s business only which benefits a certain section of citizens, not the others who are bonafide Indian citizens surviving from other avenues of livelihood. You and all who are raising such concerns in this context, prove themselves as of low life in my book. Have some humanity first!

    • Omkar says:

      Sankar it seems that your understanding of the dynamics of war and economics seems to be absolutely non existent.
      I have traveled to Arunachal and visited the border areas there too, the people there buy their daily groceries from the other side of the border. There has been absolutely nil development in those areas with respect to the basic economic growth.
      Apart from that whilst it is imperative for the India to defend itself and its sovereignty it also has to maintain its economy. Without a strong economic game plan a war is the most costly and in some cases reckless thing for a country to do except the United States apparently.
      The fact that you consider people raising viable concerns and questions low life exhibits your insular mentality. Did the heat of these concerns and questions melt you? Snowflake!
      It really saddens me that people like you want to push our brave heart soldiers with mostly outdated soviet armaments into a war with a country which manufactures its own military equipments and has capability to rapidly produce large amounts of required firepower along with replicas of other superpowers secret weapons not to mention their second largest defence budget.
      I bet you haven’t read the comptroller auditor generals report on the amount of firepower the Indian army possesses. It was published after uri attacks and it stated that if there was war on multiple fronts the firepower would last for only three months!
      Indian myriad of bureaucracy is extremely reactive with no real game plan, these are the people who are in a rat race to satisfy their overlord politicians.
      You must be an absolute certified ignoramus since you wish to push the brave Indian soldiers into precarious positions on the frontlines just to quench your inner thirst of patriotism whilst sitting in your comfy enclave in some urban neighbourhood.
      Remember the GDP is sliding down the slide and the war won’t be fought strictly on the battlefield only it will have several ramifications only various fronts others who raise questions and majority of Indians will suffer.
      Calling people who question low life won’t solve anything. Addressing and understanding the actual implications of those questions and concerns will help us. I know you are economically safe and shielded from any possible risks but that doesn’t imply that all the Indians are.
      You seem to be devoid of humanity towards the entire Indian populace purposely wanting to push a large amount of them into poverty. Hope you aren’t the character in real life which you have depicted through your reply.
      Also it’s the economy, stupid! Google this if you didn’t get what I meant.

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