A Grand bargain — a Ladakh DMZ for McMahon Line, is absent. Jaishankar’s peace on a piecemeal basis benefits China.

[Jaishankar: Making the wrong point?]

The one thing tried and tested diplomats are not supposed to do is use wrong words that convey or signal the wrong message, and provide ammunition to the adversary.

In the wake of the verified pullback (begun Sept 8, completed Sept 12) by Indian and Chinese PLA troops from the Gogra and Hot Springs areas of Ladakh, the external affairs minister S Jaishankar said this yesterday, to quote him in toto: “You have heard me speak many times about the border. I don’t think I would say anything new there today, except I would recognise that we had disengagement at P[atrolling]P[oint]-15 and the disngagement as I understand was completed and that is one problem less on the border.”

The inelegance of his statement [sure, it was extemporaneous, but diplomats are supposed to be able to think on their feet and, at all times, speak carefully] — repetition of words (engagement) and wrong construction (“new there” — where?; “new” about the “border” is, perhaps, what he meant to say) apart, what the minister said is disturbing, more so in light of the MEA spokesman’s statement of Sept 9 elaborating on the short press release issued a day earlier.

Take the most important point in the MEA statement, that India and China will “cease forward deployments in this area in a phased, coordinated and verified manner, resulting in the return of the troops of both sides to their respective areas.” What are the “respective areas” being referred to here? The area to which Indian units have retreated to are, of course, in India. But so is the “area” the PLA troops have got back to!

Thus, the Indian government has implicitly accepted a Ladakh remapped by China! Worse, another point in this MEA statement commits India to ensuring that there will be no attempt unilaterally to change the new “status quo” that’s obtained. A third important point promises talks to “resolve the remaining issues along LAC and restore peace and tranquility in India-China border areas”, including the PPs 10, 11, 12, 13, presumably, along the same lines. With the PLA controlling the Y-Junction — the entry point, as it were, to the Depsang Bulge adjoining the Xinjiang Highway, Indian units cannot access these areas.

The question to ask the Modi regime, therefore, is this: Has it first of all accepted the Chinese 1959 claim line? This latest agreement would suggest it has. It means New Delhi, in effect. has formally renounced India’s historic border with China. China has offered the solution of a buffer zone to be implemented piecemeal — as a means of separating the two armies and avoiding hostile encounters of the 2020 Galwan kind. One such partial buffer zone was earlier established with the Tibetan exiles-manned Special Frontier Force units climbing down from Rezang La, and other posts on the Kailash Range heights in exchange for the PLA withdrawing from the Finger 3 terrain feature on the northern shore of the Pangong Tso. That was a bum deal.

Now another swath of land running across Gogra and Hot Springs too is a buffer. Once fully negotiated, Beijing hopes the buffer zone would stretch all the way from the Depsang to the Pangong Lake. In fact, senior army officers indicate that the PLA commander at the recent 16th session of the corps level army commanders’ meeting communicated that China may consider vacating the Depsang Plains in return for India accepting such a buffer zone. The former Northern Army commander, Lt Gen HS Panag, too hints that such an arrangement may be in the works. (See https://theprint.in/opinion/no-war-no-peace-in-pp15-but-china-wants-more-in-depsang-plains-charding-ninglung-nala/1129023/ )

Presently, there are three claim lines — one that India has historically recognized as the Sino-Indian boundary (and so identified in the map below). The second line is the 1959 Chinese claimline (dotted yellow line) incorporating the entire mass of territory in northeastern Ladakh and Indian Aksai Chin totaling some 1,000 sq kms. And the third line is the Line of Actual Control (in red). Except there is a belt of Indian territory between the second and the third lines the Chinese have intruded into and are negotiating about. They would like to see this in-between territory converted into a Depsang to Pangong Tso buffer zone, in effect, a de-militarized zone (DMZ) a’la the 38th Parallel in Korea delineated for military reasons by US President Harry Truman, the Soviet jefe maximo, Josef Stalin, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at the post-WW II Potsdam Conference in July 1945.

[Map of contested Ladakh & Aksai Chin. Source: The Print]

It is in this context, that Jaishankar’s comment of “one problem less on the border” merits concern. Look at the map again. Would any government sign away India’s sovereignty on so large a piece of national territory without making a case for it, and participating in informed debates within Parliament and outside just because the Prime Minister needed to create a conducive milieu for his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Samarkand?

The Chinese are seemingly working on the principle what’s mine is mine, what’s yours is also mine barring what you are ready to fight for, and India on the basis that whatever I can get from China is fine. Over the years,this fairly lax Indian attitude has enabled a mostly peaceful, because stealthy, takeover of Indian territory by the Chinese until the territorial creep led to the 2020 Galwan encounter, when the two forces began eye-balling each other over territory between Beijing’s 1959 claim line and the LAC in eastern Ladakh.

With India having lost so much territory already, the Modi government would ideally like China to agree on the LAC as border. Except, this requires a restoration of the status quo ante that Jaishankar has been iterating for a while now. But the Chinese, realizing that New Delhi can be pushed around easier than they had earlier assumed, have made it amply clear they are unwilling to ease their stranglehold on the Y-Junction and permit Indian access to the Depsang Plains short of India signing off on an extended DMZ that will prevent the Indian army from militarily exploiting proximity to the Xinjiang Highway or endangering the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor branching off at the Karakorum Pass.

Jaishankar may well argue that the territory lost to the Chinese in earlier years was owing to a force majeure situation — China’s marshalling an irresistible force. But if the argument is that this piece of Indian land has been under Chinese occupation since the mid-1950s when they built the Xinjiang Highway through it and an inattentive New Delhi let the PLA gobble up that part of Aksai Chin, and that realistically, India is not now nor will ever be in a position to get it back, then the issue becomes what is India getting for, in effect, accepting Chinese sovereignty over it?

There’s no sign of Jaishankar countering the Chinese proposal for a DMZ and India’s reconciling to Chinese sovereignty over the 1,000 sq kms of captured territory in northeastern Ladakh by demanding that Beijing recognize the McMahon Line in the east, as part of a grand bargain — a solution, incidentally, first offered by Zhouenlai to Jawaharlal Nehru in the Fifties and again by Dengxiaoping to Rajiv Gandhi in the 1980s. Such a final solution for a vexed border dispute would make sense, and not be difficult for Modi to sell to the Indian people. But there’s no such grand bargain on the anvil, which makes this particular deal in Ladakh more onerous.

The most alarming possibility is this: After firming up its Ladakh end, China will begin moving on Arunachal with a view to detaching the Tawang District where the main Tibetan Lamasaries are located, and which the Chinese call “southern Tibet” in the hope that here too New Delhi can be strong-armed into striking a territorial deal on Chinese terms. In that case, there will be war, the outcome of which though uncertain potentially favours the PLA, which is advantaged in every way. It may not be a military disaster for India on the scale of 1962, but could dent the army’s reputation in lots of ways.

It is precisely such a denouement that MEA may be worried about and why it is trying to distance itself from it. For instance, Jaishankar’s Ministry has already begun putting out commentaries via retired diplomats commentating in the media that it was the army commanders at their parleys in Chushul who hammered out the deal for the disengagement in Ladakh, without once hinting that the said army commanders negotiated strictly per MEA script and instructions. (See https://asiatimes.com/2022/09/disentangling-india-china-himalayan-standoff/ )

Still, it boggles the mind that the Indian government is party to realizing peace on the LAC on a piecemeal basis, which serves China’s purpose. By not linking negotiations regarding the western theatre (Ladakh) to developments in the eastern sector (Arunachal Pradedsh), Beijing can stretch out the negotiations concerning the LAC indefinitely — the tactics it has successfully used so far. This is not in India’s interest.

Modi has to see the wisdom in insisting that the deal is for all of the disputed border, or there are no negotiations at all, and let the local conditions then dictate whether there will be hostilities or not. But in that case, and looking holistically at the bilateral relations, New Delhi will have to begin ramping up punitive actions, trade sanctions, etc to slowly but conspicuously begin closing off the open access to the vast Indian market the Chinese Companies have so far availed of. Modi has to communicate to Xi that either China agrees to have all round good relations without the distraction of a militarily live border, or India prepares for all-round hostility, and that there’s no middle ground.

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‘China Wants To keep India On The Hook’

Interview of Bharat Karnad published in Rediff News, September 12, 2022 08:54 IST at

https://www.rediff.com/news/interview/bharat-karnad-china-wants-to-keep-india-on-the-hook/20220912.htm

‘This was Indian land the PLA advanced on and occupied.’
‘The Chinese then ‘negotiated’ a pullback of their troops a small distance on Indian territory even as Indian jawans draw back further into India from the forward position.’
‘An apparently satisfied Indian government says this is a great move for peace! How great is that for China!’

IMAGE: September 11, 2022: Army Chief General Manoj Chandrasekhar Pande on his visit to Ladakh to witness Exercise Parvat Prahar. General Pande was briefed on operational preparedness by commanders on the ground. Photograph: ADG PI – Indian Army/Twitter

“This is only a shallow disengagement conceded for immediate political gain, namely, Modi’s presence at the SCO heads of government meeting,” Dr Bharat Karnad, the national security expert at the Centre for Policy Research, the New Delhi-based think-tank, tells Rediff.com‘s Senior Contributor Rashme Sehgal.

“It is neither a permanent withdrawal nor the harbinger of a more enduring arrangement and, even less, a first step in the process of formally delineating a boundary which does not serve Beijing’s purpose,” he adds.

How far can the present Gogra disengagement be seen as a positive step, breaking of the gridlock as it were, or is it being done keeping the SCO meet in mind?

This disengagement, while good in itself in that it reduces the possibility of armed units of the two sides coming quite literally to blows with proximal patrolling, is essentially a Chinese attempt to see the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit mid-September pass off without incident.

It also seems like a placatory or even an incentivising move to ensure Prime Minister Narendra Modi attends the heads of government meeting.

Beijing continues to claim that the April 2020 status quo is a result of India’s illegal crossing of the Line of Actual Control and is therefore not acceptable to China.

This is the offensive negotiating strategy Beijing has always adopted in a nutshell — claim that because it is India that has intruded into Chinese territory, it is Indian troops that need to vacate all the land they have illegally occupied or encroached upon, thereby reinforcing its claims on Indian territory.

And because, the MEA/Indian government never asserts its own position in equally blunt manner, in the optics of this confrontation, it is India that ends up looking like the aggressor!

Will this disengagement which incidentally only involves only the going back of 50 troops on both sides lead to greater de-escalation of troops or is this only another ploy by the Chinese?

The first thing to keep in mind is that this withdrawal by both sides is happening on Indian territory!

This was Indian land the PLA advanced on and occupied. The Chinese then ‘negotiated’ a pullback of their troops a small distance on Indian territory even as Indian jawans draw back further into India from the forward position.

An apparently satisfied Indian government says this is a great move for peace! How great is that for China!

In any case, this is only a shallow disengagement conceded by the Chinese for immediate political gain, namely, Modi’s presence at the SCO heads of government meeting in Samarkand.

It is neither a permanent withdrawal nor the harbinger of a more enduring arrangement and, even less, a first step in the process of formally delineating a boundary which does not serve Beijing’s purpose.

It is better to keep the dispute on simmer, bring the situation occasionally to boil, and keep India on the hook,

IMAGE: Indian and Chinese troops and tanks disengage from the banks of the Pangong Tso lake area in eastern Ladakh, February 16, 2021. Photograph: ANI Photo

The Depsang Plains area remains a critical flashpoint. This area has seen massive deployment and buildup of Chinese troops since May 2020. Do you see any signs of this being resolved.

No. Because the capture of the Depsang Bulge is critical in military geography terms to the People’s Liberation Army holding on to — and thus denying to India — the vast border frontage northeast of the Y-Junction, on the northern shore of the Shyok river and adjoining the southern Tibet area through which passes the Xinjiang Highway (GS 219).

The significance here is that the GS 219 bifurcates at the Karakoram Pass to become the arterial China-Pakistan Economic Corridor terminating in the warm water port of Gwadar on the Balochistan coast.

Were India to retake this sub-sector on the Line of Actual Control, it would have a stranglehold on the highway — the lifeline to Xinjiang, and the Karakorum Pass, which China will not allow.

Hence, the PLA will never pull back from its foward position in the Depsang Plains.

IMAGE: General Pande interacts with officers and troops in Ladakh. Photograph: ADG PI – Indian Army/Twitter

The Chinese army continues to block the Indian Army to their traditional PPs 10,11,12,13 since April 2020 having moved 18 km inside what India considers to be its own territory…

Because all these patrolling points are in the area northeast of the Y-Junction pivotal, for reasons alluded to in my response to the previous question, to the PLA and China.

The basic problem for India has always been to hold the nearly 500 km-long line — Daulat Beg Oldi-Demchok in the Depsang Plains, in which mission the army has manifestly failed, losing ground over the years in small parcels until now when the PLA has annexed and absorbed some 1,000 sq kms in this whole sub-sector.

If Modi-Jaishankar (Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi and External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar) somehow get President Xi Jinping to agree to a ‘restoration of the status quo ante‘ involving this piece of territory, it will be a very tremendous diplomatic feat.

The Chinese have built massive infrastructure in eastern Ladakh which includes a key bridge in the Pangong Tso area. Also, they have doubled the deployment of fighter aircraft in the Eastern Ladakh sector.
What has our response been to this?

The Pangong bridge constructed on the north shore to connect their garrisons in the Khurnak Fort area to Moldo will cut the PLA forces’s transit time from one to the other area from a couple of days to only a few hours.

And the PLA Air Force bases have gone up from three to 30 in the southern Tibet region, and increased deployment from some 30 combat aircraft to reportedly as many as 300 combat aircraft.

The IAF’s response, insofar as what can be made out, is the occasional aircraft sortie along the southern Pangong Lake shore with extreme care taken to offer the PLAAF no provocation. This is in reaction to the PLA Air Force combat aircraft flying well beyond the Line of Actual Control into Indian territory almost at will and unmolested by IAF.

IMAGE: Indian and Chinese troops and tanks disengage from the banks of the Pangong lake area in Eastern Ladakh in February 2021. Photograph: ANI Photo

China is not at all happy to see the growing closeness developing between Japan and India on military matters including conducting joint military drills and advancing their security relationship.

I have always maintained that China and the PLA are spooked by two countries: Vietnam, who gave the PLA a bloody hiding in 1979 when they deigned to invade northern Vietnam to, what else, ‘teach Hanoi a lesson’ and instead were taught one.

It was an embarrassing defeat and the PLA hightailed it out of the battle areas.

And the other is a militarised Japan.

The ‘rape of Nanjing’ and the horrors committed against the Chinese population by the Japanese imperial land forces have so seared the Chinese consciousness, Beijing still has nightmares.

And so I have long advocated that India should do every thing possible to stoke these Chinese fears.

It ought to urge Tokyo rapidly to build up militarily — a process already initiated by the late prime minister Abe Shinzo, and offer strategic nuclear cooperation with Japan in whatever form (and to Taiwan).

And nuclear missile arm Vietnam as payback for Beijing’s equipping Pakistan with nuclear missiles.

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Ek dhakka aur do – topple the NPT regime, skewer China!

[The Chinese delegation at the 2022 NPT RevCon]

It was only appropriate that Russia, the country that proved just how foolish and ridiculously naive Ukraine was to trust the trio of the United States, Russia, and Britain and surrender its share of the erstwhile Soviet Union’s thermonuclear arsenal, courtesy the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, prevented a consensus “final document” from emerging at the 10th edition of the five-yearly UN Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference (RevCon).

This conference periodically to assert the primacy of the NPT regime, delayed for a couple of years by the COVID pandemic, began in New York August 1 and concluded August 26. Considering how relations between Russia and the US are heading south, the Russian action, in effect, kicked the RevCon into life support, bringing the future of the NPT itself into question. Russia did so to protest the reference in the draft paper to the alleged Russian attacks on or near the Zaphorizhzhya nuclear power station. Many European states felt that even an accidental strike could create a Chernobyl-like nuclear catastrophe. In other words, Moscow used an issue unconnected with nonproliferation to damage the NPT regime. And, a damned good thing to happen from India’s strategic point of view!

As observers at these RevCons, Indian diplomats dish out the usual disarmament pablum produced by the DISA (Disarmament and International Security) Division in MEA. Just as well that nothing, if anything, of note was said by them because otherwise it’d have been reported at least in the Indian Press (even if no other media takes notice). The correct thing for Delhi to have done from the time of the first RevCon in May 1975 was to give it a miss. And it should have been followd up by boycotting the subsequent RevCons to signal India’s unhappiness with the global nuclear order lorded over by the five “NPT recognized” weapons states — the US, Russia, UK, France and China. Instead, while not being a signatory to the NPT and therefore not bound by its rules, India has acted all along as if it is a bonafide member of this treaty that was, incidentally, originally designed by Washington in the Sixties to keep India from crossing the nuclear weapons threshold!

Delhi is in the forefront of the worldwide nonproliferation effort just so it is in America’s good books, eager to burnish its image as, what else, a “responsible” state. To be perceived as such has required grave compromises to be made by various Indian governments. Such as refraining from selling and exporting entirely indigenously developed technologies related to the Bomb and to 220MW heavy water-moderated light water reactor-based power plants. China should long ago have been paid back in kind for its policy of nuclear missile arming Pakistan in the early 1980s by transferring nuclear-warheaded Prithvi and later Agni ballistic missiles and Brahmos cruise missiles to countries on China’s periphery. It is an option I have been advocating from 1998 and my time in the (First) National Security Advisory Board, but which is now getting shut down because the Indian government seems intent on shackling itself to the do’s and don’ts of the Nuclear Suppliers Group — an offshoot of the NPT, and entry into which group, ironically, is subject to a Chinese veto!

The 2008 civilian nuclear cooperation deal with the US — negotiated as I keep reminding everyone, by the then Joint Secretary (Americas) in MEA and now foreign minister, S Jaishankar, furthers Washington’s twin nonproliferation goals of ensuring that India sticks by the “voluntary moratorium” on nuclear testing announced by Atal Bihari vajpayee in May 1998, which capped the Indian N-weapons tech at the simple fission 10-20 kiloton level. Except, without new and open-ended nuclear tests, the Indian strategic deterrent will be minus proven thermonuclear weapons (because the fusion device tested in the 1998 tests was a dud). This deal was supposed to enable India access to US N-tech. Except, India never really needed US civilian nuclear technology in the first place what with Trombay having mastered all three fuel cycles (uranium, plutonium and thorium). But this rationale provided the Manmohan Singh government with political cover for signing the deal which actually is a strategic liability. Especially so, considering Manmohan Singh’s promise of “20,000 MW by 2020” was predicated on India buying multi-billion dollar Westinghouse AP 1000 reactors that the US Atomic Energy Commission refused to certify as safe! None of this matters now, because the aim of successive governments Narasimha Rao’s onwards was less to buy anything from the US than to pacify Washington by deliberately keeping India a sub-par nuclear weapons state.

A government that means to push India into global reckoning as a country that will get to the top by any and all means, and only abide by treaties and conventions it negotiates has, to-date, not emerged. Instead of putting the fear of God into the P-5 and the big power NPT managers that either India gets what it wants or it will strive to bring down the whole UN caboodle, and particularly the unfair and inequitable NPT-based international nuclear order, like the barrage of explosive charges (in a 9-second TV spectacle last Sunday) did the illegal 30-storey structure in Noida, India talks big, acts small and helps the US and the West perpetuate the status quo.

If Modi wants to change things, do right by India, and pitchfork the country into the ranks of meaningful powers — if only as a spoiler on the world scene, he can and should break out of the system of self-restraint and, firstly, resume nuclear testing; secondly, waste no time in ignoring the NPT-NSG restrictions and onpassing nuclear weapons technology and N-power reactors — perhaps as a package! — to Vietnam, Indonesia, and Philippines and whoever else wants it, and is willing to pay for it. These two actions will instantly destroy the NPT order, and begin seriously to unravel the UN. North Korea with its regular nuclear and missile tests has long offered provocations, as do the nuclear buildup plans of the P-5 with the US, Russia and China in the lead. This development, by the way, directly contravenes Article VI of the NPT mandating nuclear weapons stockpile reductions by the Five NPT-acknowledged powers in return for the rest of the 191 members of this treaty regime foreswearing the Bomb.This is a very good reason to torpedo the NPT.

The plea here then is for India to be disruptive like China is. Ambassador Fu Cong at the RevCon, extolled the virtues of “self-defence” while Chinese strategic forces are on an overdrive to achieve the 2,500 thermonuclear weapons/warheads strength by 2030 — a deterrent size and timeline laid down by President Xi Jinping. In other words, China, unlike a discombobulated India that takes its nonproliferation pledges seriously, is determined to be the equal of the US and Russia in this and every other respect. Meantime, Modi’s India appears content to be bested by Pakistan, its 150 nuclear warheads/weapons beaten by 160 Bombs in the latter’s employ.

Thirdly, India should needle China all it can and on every issue that riles Chinese sensibilities. Thus, India should be in the forefront of publicizing the UN report accusing China of gross human rights, genocidal, abuses of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang using tactics honed by the PLA in Chinese-occupied Tibet, and repeatedly urge Beijing to respect the nationalist urges of the Uyghurs seeking an independent East Turkestan, and get under the Chinese skin that way. Simultaneously, Delhi should with much fanfare and public hoo-ha celebrate Taiwan and support international efforts to solidify that country militarily and symbolically even offer Taipei “strategic weapons technology”– not that Taiwan needs any help in crafting nuclear weapons of its own . Taiwan’s own N-weapons programme was compelled by the US into a state of dormancy, but if activated can produce a weapon inside of 3-6 months. In the interim, India can offer Taipei some 2 dozen warheads as deterrent for fitting into the nosecone geometries of Taiwanese mssiles. This measure combined with Delhi’s publicly disavowing the “one China” paradigm on the basis of China not respecting the “One India” concept encompassing all of Jammu & Kashmir, including Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Baltistan, and the principalities of Hunza, Gilgit, Chitral et al in the “Northern Areas”, will put the fat on fire.

And, finally, what will it take for Prime Minister Modi to shut down Chinese access to the Indian consumer market where Chinese companies continue to make a killing? And why does his government continue to ease the rules for Chinese firms? Like the exemptions the Finance Ministry announced for Chinese companies yesterday exporting green energy tech and components to India? Would it take another round of military clashes in Ladakh or in Arunachal? Why are Jaishankar and his MEA promoting the idea of Modi’s meeting with Xi on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit to be held mid-September? Is Modi really all that much of an innocent, and has no clue about what’s what with Xi and China? And that the PM’s interest in somehow restoring a pre-Galwan clash-like normalcy to his personal relations with the Chinese supremo and to bilateral relations, cannot be realized without hurting India?

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Understanding Strategic Threats to India

[On parade, the Chinese Dong Feng (East Wind)-41 ICBM, with 8-10 MIRVed thermonuclear warheads]

This interview for Def-Talks, conducted by Aadi Achint, is a sort of “stream of consciousness’ session where I range far and wide, but with the aim of counterpoising the official views and the opinions of just about all the members of the media/Press commentariat who do little more than embroider the government line of the day. It may be accessed below.

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ITBP on LAC — accepting the new Chinese normal?

[ITBP patrol on the LAC]

The August 15 issue of a pink paper announced to the consternation of many that the Narendra Modi government is considering handing over the 3,488 km long disputed border with China to the paramilitary Indo-Tibetan Border Police to manage. The main reasons adduced for such handover is apparently “to avoid border conflicts” and, even if belatedly, to realize the “one border, once force”-concept approved by the last Bharatiya Janata Party regime in 2004.

The deep ingress into, and occupation of sizeable Indian territory by China — in excess of 1,000 sq kms in the area northeast of the Y-Junction abutting on the Xinjiang Highway, has not only not been acknowledged by New Delhi but is something Defence Minister Rajnath Singh continues studiously to ignore. He spares no occassion, in fact, to promote the fiction, for instance, that not an inch of Indian ground has been annexed by the People’s Liberation Army. The newsreport also disclosed that ITBP has 180 border outposts, with 140 troopers stationed in each of them, for a total of 25,200 deployed on the LAC. And that two years ago, an additional 47 ITBP border outposts were sanctioned — 34 in Arunachal Pradesh, the rest in Ladakh. (https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/govt-examining-plan-to-give-lead-role-to-itbp-along-lac/articleshow/93562475.cms)

This little bit of kite-flying by Home Ministry bureaucrats is because they see it as an opportune time to wrench control of the LAC from the Indian army and Defence Ministry, and expand their turf. After all, their minister, Amit Shah, is the second most powerful man in the country and the Prime Minister’s only political confidante. What he can be made officially to desire is pushable as long as a good case can be made for it to Modi who will, however, need some convincing. Modi can be expected to be uneasy. His last two initiatives in the national defence field have not been the successes he was expecting. Resistance from within has all but stalled the process of integrating the military services, and the Agnipath-Agniveer programme has drawn political flak and sparked countrywide protests in the unemployables-rich BIMARU (Bihar-Madhya Pradesh-Rajasthan-Uttar Pradesh) belt that is also electorally consequential. And, 2024 general elections are just two short years away.

The late Jaswant Singh’s son, Manvendra Singh, who left the ruling BJP for Sonia-Rahul Gandhi’s Congress to improve his political prospects — talk of scampering on to a sinking ship! — in a recent article ( https://theprint.in/opinion/dont-give-itbp-lead-role-at-lac-it-will-weaken-local-command-mha-mod-turf-war-is-hurting/1087732/ ) contended correctly that Home Ministry’s taking charge of the live China border will result in duplication of costs and procurement systems, and both weaken the logistics and force management on the LAC and, by implication, needlessly complicate an already fraught problem of sustaining a credible deterrent presence on the Himalayan heights.

But the more worrying aspect of such decision is the intention behind it. Could it be a prelude to Modi cutting a deal with the Chinese President Xi Jinping wherein the precondition — “restoration of the status quo ante”, i.e., the return of all the land the PLA has to-date occupied/absorbed in exchange for normalcy in bilateral relations that external affairs minister S Jaishankar has repeated ad infinitum is junked, China gets to keep what it has annexed and India, well, lumps it? Meaning, Delhi accepts the Chinese terms and the new territorial normal, including the LAC drawn expansively on the Chinese 1959 claimline imposed by Beijing in Ladakh, in the Dok La trijunction area and elsewhere? Such a “compromise” will also require the Indian government, as per the Chinese demand, to reiterate the “One China” principle.

What’s the basis for the above conclusion?

For one thing, the Ministry for External Affairs/Government of India has not to-date ever placed the Tibet and Taiwan issues on the same political plane as Kashmir, the whole of which Beijing has never ackowledged as part of India. Thus, as far as Beijing is concerned, there are two claimants to the erstwhile Princely Kingdom of Jammu & Kashmir, and the portion consisting of Gilgit, Hunza, Baltistan and the other principalities (Chitral, Nagar, etc) falling within the ambit of “Northern Areas” and illegally in the possession of Pakistan, is Pakistan’s, with Pakistan, moreover, having a legitimate claim on Indian J&K as well. The Xi dispensation right up to the 2020 Galwan River clashes kept turning the knife in India’s side by initiating the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), for example, without at anytime referring to the 1963 Ayub Khan-Zhouenlai accord which specifically mentioned the indeterminate status of J&K pending a final settlement between India and Pakistan. This, at a minimum, required Beijing to secure Delhi’s consent for CPEC as it passed through Kashmir territory claimed by India. But no such diplomatic assent was sought from Delhi, and China proceeded to treat the Northern Areas, implicitly, as integral to Pakistan through which it could construct the CPEC highway via the Karakorum Pass to Gwadar and related projects.

India, in the mean time, continued to respect Chinese sensitivities and unreservedly backed the concept of “One China”. This as Taiwan opened an embassy in Delhi masquerading as a “Trade mission” and sought, even if obtusely, diplomatic recognition. (Indeed, it was rumoured during the brief rule by Chandrashekhar as Prime Minister, Nov 1990- June 1991, when the country’s economy was in dire straits and the country’s holdings of gold had to be flown to the vaults of the Bank of England in London as collateral for loans, that Taipei would gladly take care of India’s then external national debt totaling some US$8-$10 billion for permission to fly the Taiwanese flag on its mission, which offer was rejected!). In any case, in 2003 Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee during his state visit paved a policy path that internalised the Chinese terms, losing India the little leverage it had left, by accepting Tibet as part of China (in return for Beijing accepting Sikkim as a state in the Indian Union)! The offending Joint Communique reflected MEA’s traditional passive-frightened attitude to China and matching negotiating skills! It is a document the Chinese embassy gleefully reminds the Indian media of. Finally riled enough to take offense, the MEA only relatively recently stopped talking of ‘One China’ and then did not come out swinging by equating ‘One China’ with ‘One India” inclusive of all of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir — a policy I advocated in in my 2015 book Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet). Worse, the Indian government has been traipsing around the issue of Taiwan and India’s growing ties with Taipei — economic, trade, technological and military, without tipping over into recognizing Taiwan as a separate and distinct entity whose sovereignty Beijing needed to be mindful of.

So, how does all this tie in with Home Ministry’s ITBP-LAC gambit? Unfortunately, the loosely worded Indo-Tibetan Border Police Act, 1992, enacted in 1996, describes the task of ITBP (like that of the other paramilitary organization — Border Security Force) as “ensuring the security of the borders of India and for matters connected therewith”. In effect, it makes these paramils, theoretically at least, the equals of the army. It may help buttress Home Ministry’s legal arguments for putting the ITBP in harm’s way on the frontlines on the LAC. But because this paramil is nowhere as well equipped or organized for warfighting, and lacks the requisite ethos for combat as the army is, the ITBP units will be an impediment and hindrance to the army, which even though handicapped in other ways, will have to take care of business. So, if the ITBP is manifestly operationally incapable, how does it help to position it in the van to take on the Chinese group armies?

The answer is in the newsreport unveiling this damnfool idea. It suggested that having the ITBP on the LAC would reduce the possibility of military conflict. In most countries, paramilitaries are tasked to police/monitor settled, clearly demarcated, and internationally recognized borders. The border with China is not delineated whence territory on either side of the disputed LAC is up for grabs. Except, whenever opportunity presents itself the Chinese People’s Liberation Army grabs Indian territory; on the other hand, the Indian army doesn’t reciprocate by taking over parcels of real estate on the Chinese side. Beijing’s standing instructions to the PLA, in the event, are apparently to stake claims on Indian territory patrolled by Indian soldiers, occupy any land devoid of an Indian military presence, and to exploit the Indian army’s disposition policy by capturing areas/posts from where Indian units are usually withdrawn during winter because the absence of a network of border roads, communications setups, storage depots and other support infrastructure, makes it impossible to prop up a forward presence in strength.

The Pakistan army elements occupied the posts on the Kargil heights vacated by Indian troops in high winter and precipitated a limited war in 1999. And it led the PLA to annex strategically important territory in the general area of the Y-Junction on the Depsang Plains, and on the Galwan and elsewhere and to confront the surprised Indian army with a fait accompli. It is the sort of territorial aggrandizement the Indian army usually makes no attempt to forcibly try and reverse. Now that the PLA is well settled in these formerly Indian areas, Beijing is looking forward to capturing more territory and not to restoring previous conditions as pleaded by Jaishankar. If in these circumstances the Modi government wants to avoid military hostilities, whom would they rather have on the LAC facing the Chinese — the Indian army, which is apt when pushed to shove back, or the paramilitary ITBP officered by persons from the Indian Police Service and with little real warfighting capability?

In the wake of the 1962 war, the ITBP was orginally raised as Special Forces, trained by US Rangers for enemy rear area operations and bulk-manned by Tibetan youth from the exile community who would be motivated to do maximum harm to PLA lording it over their homeland. Over time, the Tibetan strength in this paramil dwindled and ITBP became just another Home Ministry-controlled police unit recruiting from all over and deployed in roles it had no business playing. Such as “aid to civil”, fighting Naxals in the Red Corridor, or doing more quotidian jobs, like security duty at airports, etc. But then this is what the IPS leadership of the ITBP is most comfortable doing, and fits in with why some in the Modi government, who are not keen on having armed confrontations with China, would would want an inoffensive police-type oufit out there on the LAC!

In any case, just how unconnected to field reality the IPS officers leading ITBP are may be judged by the statements made by its sometime Director-General, Sanjay Arora, a policeman from Tamil Nadu cadre. He is reported by Press as saying “Our preparation on LAC is fantastic” and that the ITBP “is ready for any eventuality” and by way of a nugget of wisdom adds that “China is a country like us”!! (See https://www.aninews.in/news/national/general-news/our-preparation-on-lac-is-fantastic-ready-for-any-eventuality-itbp-dg20211115202607/ ). It is hard to know what to make of Mr. Arora other than that he is given to hyperbole and is completely ignorant of the adversary his force may face. Lucky for him, he was recently shifted from ITBP and made Police Commissioner, Delhi, and will not be helming the paramil when PLA initiates live action!

Posted in Afghanistan, asia-Pacific/Indo-Pacific, Asian geopolitics, Bhutan, Central Asia, China, China military, civil-military relations, Culture, Decision-making, Defence procurement, domestic politics, geopolitics/geostrategy, Great Power imperatives, guerilla warfare, India's China Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Army, Indian Ocean, Indian para-military forces, Indo-Pacific, Military Acquisitions, Military/military advice, Pakistan, Pakistan military, SAARC, society, South Asia, Special Forces, Taiwan, Tibet, United States, US. | 22 Comments

The Chanakya Dialogues | China: Pushing The World To The Edge |

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2ekctNvZzE

————-

Controversy has been triggered mostly in air force circles by my last post regarding the IAF leasing the upgraded and advanced ‘White Swan’ variant of the Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bomber, specifically over whether Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha actually said India would be going in for this aircraft.

I leave it to the readers of this blog to see and hear the former Air Force Chief’s mentioning the need for a “bomber” in his keynote address at the First edition of the Chanakya Dialogues and, in the interaction session, his response to my direct question about the leasing of the White Swan from Russia, and decide if he indirectly confirmed that such a deal was in the works.

See The Chanakya Dialogues | VISION 2035: AEROSPACE CAPABILITY OF INDIAN ARMED FORCES | ACM ARUP RAHA at

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‘Modi has done little to punish China’

‘It is only when Beijing sees a country with an infirm political will such as India that it acts up as the PLA has done in eastern Ladakh.’

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi with Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist party of China, in Wuhan, April 28, 2018.

Will Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan have a domino effect across the world?

Can India use its fallout to turn the tables to its advantage against China?

Bharat Karnad, Emeritus Professor at the National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, the New Delhi think-tank, discusses the possible outcomes of the Pelosi visit.

“The Modi regime has so far done little to punish China by way of cutting off Chinese access to the Indian market in the hope that this show of moderation will dissuade Beijing from resuming offensive military activity in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh,” Dr Karnad tells Rediff.com Senior Contributor Rashme Sehgal.

———–

The biggest takeaway for India from the Pelosi visit and the subsequent belligerent display of Chinese firepower against Taiwan should be that China can be contained.
Are there lessons India needs to learn from this?

I have always maintained that China is less (strong) militarily than it projects itself and when challenged by a resolute adversary usually thinks better of it and either does nothing or, as in the post-Pelosi trip Taiwan case, lets off steam ex-post facto.

It is only when Beijing sees a country with an infirm political will such as India that it acts up as the PLA has done in eastern Ladakh.

It is obvious that Xi Jinping does not want to precipitate matters till the Chinese Communist party’s 20th congress in October and he succeeds in getting an unprecedented third term.
The stakes are too high for him, but will he find different ways to get back at the US?
Is that likely in the near future and what form will that take?

The results of the 20th party congress are a foregone conclusion. Xi has strengthened his support among the key elements of the State, especially the PLA by cultivating the base and installing leaders/commissars/commanders of his choice in strategic posts.

The question is can Xi get punitive without hurting China’s interests? He can’t. The access to US technology and talent is already closed off. But despite tariff increases, America is the richest market that it (China) simply cannot afford to lose.

So other than a symbolic gesture here, a fired-up confrontational rhetoric there, and continued fire drills and combat aircraft flights crossing the median line and offering the barest provocation in the Taiwan Strait, Beijing will do nothing.

Taiwan

IMAGE: A Taiwan Air Force Mirage 2000-5 aircraft lands at the Hsinchu air base in Hsinchu, Taiwan, August 7, 2022. Photograph: Ann Wang/Reuters

Some experts believe if China receives a rebuff in Taiwan, Xi will seek to scale up China’s international status by seeking a military victory against India. Is this likely to happen? Is India ready to meet such a challenge given that the Chinese have been strengthening their positions on the Indian territory they took over in 2020?

Xi will get China into even deeper trouble if he thinks he can vent domestic pressure building up because he did nothing to prevent Pelosi from visiting Taipei as he had promised, by initiating hostilities against India.

The Modi regime has so far done little to punish China by way of cutting off Chinese access to the Indian market in the hope that this show of moderation will dissuade Beijing from resuming offensive military activity in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh.

When this assumption is proved wrong. Modi will be forced to take conspicuously strong economic measures to severely restrict bilateral trade of nearly $126 billion in 2021 heavily favouring China.

It is in India’s interest that China continues to be engaged with Taiwan and the US, so as to decrease the likelihood of a Chinese attack. By October, winter will have set in the upper Himalayas, will that decrease the likelihood of a Chinese attack on Ladakh/Arunachal Pradesh?

For the reasons adduced above, there’s no possibility of China militarily acting up anywhere along the disputed border anytime soon.

IMAGE: A People’s Liberation Army Air Force aircraft flies over the 68 nautical mile spot, one of mainland China’s closest points to the island of Taiwan, August 5, 2022. Photograph: Aly Song/Reuters

If we tie up the knots, is the recent US arms deal with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri and Pelosi’s visit, all part of a concerted US attempt to reclaim its leadership in the global arena?

You assume that the US is capable of expertly manipulating developments and juggling various policy balls in Arab West Asia, Israel, India, Iran, China, Taiwan when, in reality, like India, it is in the business of dousing this or that bushfire as the occasion demands.

There’s no hard strategy as such because as Henry Kissinger famously said America is too wealthy, too powerful, to need to plan or even strategise!

Nancy Pelosi’s visit factored in the fact that economic conditions in China are not so good and China being an export driven economy will not be in a position to face economic sanctions.

That’s what most effectively deters a mercantilist China — the threat of the loss of markets.

Some experts believe QUAD has not created the kind of momentum expected from it.

True. But was it ever really expected to? It is precisely the reason why I advocated in my 2018 book — Staggering Forward: Narendra Modi and India’s Global Ambition, that a better geostrategic arrangement to serve Indian interests is for India to securitise two schemes — a modified quadrilateral or Mod Quad with the US, retaining a role of the extra-territorial balancer it has always performed but otherwise replaced in the Quad by a group of capable Southeast Asian States, including Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines, and BRIS (Brazil, Russia, India South Africa) — BRICS minus China.

BRIS will work because Russia is as keen as the US in ensuring India is enabled to balance China’s growing power in Asia and the Indo-Pacific.

IMAGE: US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, left, with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. Photograph: Kind courtesy Tsai Ing-wen/Twitter

Will growing tensions between China and Taiwan affect the supply of semi conductor chips given that Taiwan is the largest producer of these chips in the world?

China is setting up its own very large fab units to produce high calibre chips.

In the period it will take to erect these facilities, it has to rely on TMSC and other Taiwanese chip producers because it cannot anymore get them, nor the chip manufacturing wherewithal from the US.

Already we are witnessing a major conflict raging between Russia and Ukraine. Given global warming etc, is this the time to precipitate more military action in the eastern hemisphere?

Global warming will exacerbate the tensions between the developed North and the developing South with mass migrations from climate-affected countries of Asia, the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa, and Central and South America to the more prosperous nations of Europe and North America.


Published by RediffNews, Aug 9, 2022 at https://www.rediff.com/news/interview/dr-bharat-karnad-modi-has-done-little-to-punish-china/20220809.htm

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IAF will finally get a strategic bomber

[Tu-160 White Swan in a refuelling exercise]

The Indian Air Force seems to be getting over the strategic hump, perhaps with a little push from the PMO, and will soon acquire the advanced and upgraded version of the Tu-160 Blackjack called the ‘White Swan’. This transaction, after the S-400 and help in hypersonic weapons technology, confirms Russia’s status as the sole supplier to India of prime military technologies (even if for a hefty price!).

This was disclosed in a throwaway line about a “bomber” being acquired by IAF, which was preceded by a generous acknowledgement — “Mr Bharat Karnad will be happy to know”, by the former CAS, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha. He was delivering the keynote speech yesterday at the first edition of the ‘Chanakya Dialogues’ hosted by the Chanakya Foundation in New Delhi. On further questioning by me, he confirmed that the aircraft in question was the Tu-160.

By way of another casual remark, he also indicated that a nuclear-warheaded version of a hypersonic glide weapon may soon be on the way. No doubt it is an armament that will be carried in the White Swan’s weapons bay.

It will reverse the obdurately tactical and theatre-level orientation of the IAF brass for 70-odd years. It resulted in August 1971 in the IAF rejecting the Tu-22 Backfire bomber offered the Air Marshal Sheodev Singh Mission by the Soviet Defence Minister, the legendary Admiral of the Fleet, Sergei Gorshkov. Moscow had not reckoned with the obstinately nonstrategic mindset of Air Chief Marshal PC Lal — regarded, incidentally, as a great leader by the IAF!– and his cohort running the service at the time. Indeed, Gorshkov was so certain the IAF would jump at this offer he had a squadron of this bomber aircraft painted with IAF roundels and parked on a military base outside Moscow for flight to India. Nonsensical reasons were offered for this plainly idiotic nyet decision by IAF — the pilot needed to be winched up into the cockpit, the aircraft, ex-Bareilly, would not reach cruising altitude before crossing into Pakistan, etc. Pakistan! — for God’s sake, with no hint of China as the obvious threat to neutralise with this bomber and this, mind you, at a time when the Bangladesh War was in the offing and China had already threatened to intervene if India moved militarily against Pakistan! So what did IAF choose instead? MiG-23BN — no joke!! Worse, the IAF, dog-in-the-manger like, not only did not want the Backfire for itself, it later prevented the Indian Navy from buying this aircraft for maritime surveillance, fearing the Navy was trespassing on its turf by expropriating the strategic bombing role. (These and other details first revealed and analysed in my 2002, 2nd ed 2005 book – ‘Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security.’)

Post-1974 and India’s possessing very basic 12 kiloton gravity nuclear bombs, the Tu-22 would have been a credible recallable manned option as nuclear deterrent before India obtained in the late 1980s the first of the Agni land-based missiles. The Tu-22 could have been replaced with newer versions of the aircraft, including the latest, most advanced, Tu-22M3, and would now have comprised a more compelling two-pronged air vector in the nuclear triad along with the Tu-160.

It is always heartening when something one has ardently advocated over the years begins to take shape, becomes reality. [For the case made for a genuine strategic bomber, and this aircraft in particular, see pages 335-336 in my 2015 book –‘ Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)’.] The negotiations with Russia are apparently in the final stages for securing on lease six – a third of a squadron — better than nothing! of the supersonic, fly-by-wire, 4-man crewed Tu-160. It will leave the frontline Russian fleet with 29 of these aircraft, because only a total of 35 ‘White Swans’ have been built. Published material suggests the White Swan Tu-160 (the equivalent of the American B-1 strategic bomber) has a 70metres/second climb rate, max speed of 2,200 km/h and cruising speed of 960km/h, unrefueled range of 12,300km, and combat radius of 7,300km.

One version of the bomber runs on hydrogen fuel, which may be right up Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plan for converting the country to a hydrogen economy. Though for reasons of fuel/fueling aspects, the aircraft India leases will likely stick with the variant run on enhanced aviation fuel.

To show off its astonishing endurance, the Russian Air Force staged a Murmansk to Venezuela sortie in 2008 (to show support for the regime of Left-leaning President Nicolás Maduro Moros at a time when the Obama Administration was tightening the sanctions screw on it), and in 2010 a 23 hour patrol covering 18,000 kms over the Russian landmass.

The options and possibilities this bomber offers should make the mouths of IAF warplanners and operations guys water. Preparatory planning should begin for nuclear targeting by the White Swans of the most distant Chinese targets — Beijing!, with the more critical, but relatively proximal, targets, such as the Three Gorges Dam and its system of downstream dams and the Lop Nor nuclear weapons complex in Xinjiang left, if necessary, for the Su-30MKIs to take out. The Sukhois can be embarked from Tezpur/Kalaikunda in the one case, and the Ainee base in Tajikistan available to IAF, in the other.

The problem IAF will have is in basing the Blackjack. The Bareilly base — which ran the Canberra medium bomber and the MiG-25 Foxbat high-altitude surveillance aircraft, won’t do. Bareilly is too near major and satellite PLAAF airfields on the Tibetan plateau in the central sector of the LAC, not to pose risks to the White Swans based there. A base in southern central India will be the safest and best option considering the “long-legged” Tu-160 will still be able to hit deep inside China, and have IAF air defence/interceptor aircraft out of a string of air bases in northern India as protective tier.

Posted in asia-Pacific/Indo-Pacific, Asian geopolitics, Bangladesh, Central Asia, China, China military, Culture, Decision-making, Defence procurement, Europe, Geopolitics, geopolitics/geostrategy, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's Pakistan Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Indian Navy, Indo-Pacific, Latin America, Military Acquisitions, Military/military advice, Missiles, Nuclear Policy & Strategy, Nuclear Weapons, Pakistan, Relations with Russia, Russia, russian assistance, russian military, sanctions, South Asia, Strategic Forces Command, Tibet, United States, US., Weapons | 72 Comments

Flashpoint! Taiwan Strait?

[ US Navy’s USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier strike group]

There are some very nervous people in Washington and Beijng, each wishing the other side regains good sense in time and backs down. The person who will decide the direction the latest Taiwan crisis will take is the powerful Speaker of the Lower House of the US Congress — the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, a plucky 80 + year old California Congresswoman, who has always been a drama queen. She means to pay the Taiwan a visit. The Biden Administration tried to deflect this political venture by asking her to postpone her visit for the nonce on some trumped up reason or the other, not cancel it. This would save both America’s face and China’s and put off the crisis to another day.

Till last heard, Pelosi will have none of it; her trip is on. She revealed to the media that the Biden Administration fears the aircraft carrying her could be be ambushed, shot down by Chinese combat aircraft in the air corridors cleared for her flight to Taipei. This assumes that Beijing will, in fact, follow through on its promise of severe response in case Pelosi disregards the “One China principle”, proceeds on her Taiwan goodwill mission, and precipitates a crisis. While it will prove that Beijing’s huffing and puffing wasn’t all bluff, the shooting down of Pelosi’s aircraft will quickly ratchet up the crisis to a flashpoint.

The US military is rounding into business. The USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier strike group left Singapore July 27, heading towards Taiwanese waters, no doubt to be on hand to, among other things, provide Pelosi’s plane, which will have US aircraft ex-Guam for protecton, augmented fighter escort if needed for her flight into Taipei, and otherwise to be in the van of the US military units in the area in case President Xi Jinping decides he has too much to lose domestically by allowing the American leader to carry on unhindered after instructing his regime to make so much hoo-ha about it, and orders the PLA air force and PLA navy into action.

A tense General Mark Milley, Chairman, US Joint Chiefs of Staff, flanked by the Commander-in-Chief US Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral Chris Aquilino, in Sydney to attend the 24th Indo-Pacific Chiefs of Defense Conference, said: “We will do what is necessary to ensure a safe…conduct of [Pelosi’s] visit…I’ll just leave it at that…what that results in we’ll have to wait and see.”

This is too delicious a strategic crisis to ignore, It pits America against China in a test of wills with the prospect of only one side coming up tops. It is a test case of future confrontations in Asia. On two previous relatively recent occasions, China thought better of it and withdrew. In response to PLA’s firing surface-to-surface rocket and missile barrages, President Bill Clinton in 1995 ordered the USS Chester Nimitz carrier strike group into the Taiwan Strait. In 2007 the USS Kitty Hawk strike group loitered in the same Strait without eliciting any Chinese response. That Beijing reacted so strongly this time around, thereby deliberately and with forethought raising the ante, suggests that Xi and his military commanders in the Central Military Commission are confident that the PLA forces, much improved, can take on the US.

How will this crisis pan out? There are only two possibilities,

Pelosi decides this is all too much and scrubs the Taiwan trip handing Beijing a political victory it will milk to the max reinforcing. in the process, China’s tendency, in General Milley’s words, to “bully or dominate” other nations. The fiasco will further erode what credibility America has left as ally and strategic partner, and showcase Washington’s unwillingness to stand up to the emerging Asian behemoth, and likely provide not only Taiwan, but also Japan and South Korea, with more motivation to acquire nuclear weapons and, security-wise, become independent of the US.

[Liaoning in the Hong Kong waters]

The second possibility is that Xi will recognize that all the Chinese angst and vituperation against Taiwanese secessionism and American provocation is not going to raise the fighting quality of the PLA forces, and any hostilities may prove to the world what many already suspect that China is not a peer rival of the US, that the Chinese navy’s shiny new aircraft carriers — Liaoning and the Shandong (sans aircraft!), for instance, are like the rest of the PLA, paper tigers, good enough only to scare, say, India with!

In this confrontation with so much riding on it, there will be a winner. My money is on China getting cold feet because, by my reckoning, PLA, PLAAF, PLAN are still 20 years away from being America’s military equal.

Posted in asia-Pacific/Indo-Pacific, Asian geopolitics, Australia, China, China military, Decision-making, Geopolitics, geopolitics/geostrategy, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, Indo-Pacific, Japan, Northeast Asia, Nuclear Policy & Strategy, Nuclear Weapons, Taiwan, United States, US., Weapons, Western militaries | 61 Comments

Should India discard No First Use Nuclear Doctrine?

Those who may be interested in the subject but missed the online debate, it is available on youtube.com at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbzUHYG0h3A

The discussion on this important topic hosted by “Argumentative Indians” is scheduled for 7 PM IST today –Sunday, July 17, 2022.

Those among the readers of this blog who have nothing scheduled for this evening may care to join in, in the live, on-line, debate.

The link is

Posted in asia-Pacific/Indo-Pacific, Asian geopolitics, China, China military, Culture, Decision-making, disarmament, Europe, Geopolitics, geopolitics/geostrategy, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's Pakistan Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Indian Navy, Indian Ocean, Indo-Pacific, Military/military advice, Missiles, nonproliferation, North Korea, Northeast Asia, nuclear industry, Nuclear Policy & Strategy, Nuclear Weapons, Pakistan, Pakistan military, Pakistan nuclear forces, Relations with Russia, Russia, russian military, society, South Asia, Strategic Forces Command, Taiwan, United States, US., Weapons | 15 Comments