Anatomy of China’s DBO In­tru­sion

The govern­ment should se­ri­ously re­view the ex­ter­nal in­tel­li­gence mech­a­nism and make the In­dian Army re­spon­si­ble for com­plete land bor­ders. All se­cu­rity forces in­clud­ing Bor­der Se­cu­rity Force, Indo-ti­betan Bor­der Po­lice, Sashas­tra Seema Bal on the bor­ders

SP's LandForces - - FRONT PAGE - Lt Gen­eral (Retd) P.C. Ka­toch

The govern­ment should once again se­ri­ously re­view the ex­ter­nal in­tel­li­gence mech­a­nism and make the In­dian Army re­spon­si­ble for com­plete land bor­ders. All se­cu­rity forces in­clud­ing Bor­der Se­cu­rity Force, ITBP, Sashas­tra Seema Bal on the bor­ders must be put un­der the op­er­a­tional con­trol of the Army.

SOON AF­TER 50 CHI­NESE were spot­ted camp­ing at Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO), Ladakh, on April 15, 2013, me­dia re­ports came up giv­ing var­ied lo­ca­tion of the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army (PLA) pla­toon. While some stated that the PLA pla­toon was po­si­tioned 10 km deep in­side the In­dian ter­ri­tory, some re­ported 18 and oth­ers stated they were 30 km within. Me­dia blitzkrieg in­clud­ing TV de­bates fol­lowed. The paci­fist lobby waved white flags re­it­er­at­ing that even mod­est phys­i­cal ac­tion by In­dia, say in es­tab­lish­ing a new post ‘else­where’, would cul­mi­nate in a Sino-In­dian war that would go nu­clear. The govern­ment fi­nally ad­mit­ted on April 25 that Chi­nese were in­deed 19 km in­side the In­dian ter­ri­tory. Two days prior to this, the Min­is­ter of Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs Sal­man Khur­shid had said that “th­ese things keep hap­pen­ing” and that the is­sue will be re­solved through dia­logue. De­fence Min­is­ter A.K. Antony stated that “In­dia will take ev­ery step to pro­tect its in­ter­ests.” He ini­ti­ated a se­ries of mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary In­dia-China flag meet­ings that have been fruit­less with the Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry cat­e­gor­i­cally re­it­er­at­ing that the PLA had not crossed the line of ac­tual con­trol (LAC) and that th­ese troops were lo­cated in­side the “Chi­nese ter­ri­tory.”

Fail­ures

We have wit­nessed many fail­ures and whether we will learn our lessons at all is a moot ques­tion with lack of strate­gic cul­ture, ab­sence of a national se­cu­rity strat­egy, lack of an in­te­grated bor­der man­age­ment struc­ture, ne­glect of for­ward com­mu­ni­ca­tions de­spite the sub­stan­tial up­grades by the ad­ver­sary and lack of in­tel­li­gence, to name a few. Surely, this camp did not come up overnight. So where are the re­ports from the Re­search and Anal­y­sis Wing (RAW), the In­tel­li­gence Bureau (IB) and above all the Indo-Ti­betan Bor­der Po­lice (ITBP) which is man­ning this sec­tor in­de­pen­dently? A 19-km deep in­tru­sion oc­cur­ring in the wake of the mas­sive in­tru­sions in Kargil dur­ing 1999, is all the more shame­ful. What has hap­pened to in­te­gra­tion and im­prove­ment of in­tel­li­gence that was ex­pected to have hap­pened post the Kargil con­flict?

The Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs Min­is­ter’s state­ment that “th­ese things keep hap­pen­ing” ap­pears out of con­text when the Min­istry of Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs (MEA) it­self is ad­mit­ting that this PLA pla­toon is sit­ting way be­yond even the Chi­nese per­cep­tion of the LAC. The MEA has full de­tails of Chi­nese per­cep­tion of the LAC, which has been the ba­sis of the on­go­ing bor­der talks. The De­fence Min­is­ter has ac­knowl­edged that there were 400 trans­gres­sions by the PLA dur­ing 2012. Th­ese, as well as sim­i­lar trans­gres­sions in the pre­vi­ous years, could per­haps be cat­e­gorised as trans­gres­sions be­cause of “their per­cep­tion of LAC” but cer­tainly not what has hap­pened at DBO. The lat­ter is a de­lib­er­ate and wan­ton in­tru­sion by the Chi­nese, which re­ally can­not be passed off as “th­ese things keep hap­pen­ing”.

Me­dia re­ports, quot­ing govern­ment sources, state that the DBO in­tru­sion is a “lo­calised ac­tion”. Noth­ing can be more ab­surd. Ev­ery unit and ev­ery for­ma­tion of the PLA is posted with Po­lit­i­cal Com­mis­sars who re­port di­rectly to the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party (CCP). Such is their con­trol that pro­mo­tion of PLA of­fi­cers is con­tin­gent upon the re­port by the Po­lit­i­cal Com­mis­sar. The PLA Chief him­self re­ports di­rectly to the CCP and not the Chi­nese Govern­ment. Un­der such a set up where is the ques­tion of a lo­cal PLA com­man­der es­tab­lish­ing a pla­toon 19-km deep in­side the In­dian ter­ri­tory all on his own? Such a state­ment may be meant to pacify pub­lic sen­ti­ments but govern­ment should not take this in­ci­dence as rou­tine.

Me­dia re­ports on April 25, 2013, stated that the Army Chief Gen­eral Bikram Singh met the De­fence Min­is­ter but sur­pris­ingly even af­ter 10 days of the in­tru­sion hav­ing been de­tected, there were no re­ports of the Cabi­net Com­mit­tee on Se­cu­rity (CCS) hav­ing met and dis­cussed the sit­u­a­tion in the pres­ence of Ser­vice Chiefs. It gives an im­pres­sion that the in­ci­dence is ac­tu­ally be­ing dealt as rou­tine oc­cur­rence. We ap­pear to be still un­der the Nehru-Kr­ishna Menon syn­drome of 1962 that China will do noth­ing ad­verse

Should the Chi­nese not va­cate Daulat Beg Oldi, it would hin­der the ITBP pa­trolling the Karako­ram Pass

to us. The lobby of de­featists too is go­ing full blast stat­ing that “China will take what it wants” and “China is so strong eco­nom­i­cally and mil­i­tar­ily that what can In­dia do”. The words ‘self-re­spect’ and ‘rep­u­ta­tion’ are ob­vi­ously not in their vo­cab­u­lary and they are un­aware of the strengths of our mil­i­tary. No won­der, we have been ruled by for­eign­ers for cen­turies. If we can­not get our acts to­gether, we will con­tinue to lose more and more ter­ri­tory. Do we un­der­stand the dam­age to In­dia’s global stand­ing when nu­mer­ous na­tions in­clud­ing in the Asia-Pa­cific and the In­dian Ocean re­gion are look­ing up to In­dia as a “se­cu­rity provider.”

Strate­gic Im­por­tance

DBO lies astride the old silk route lead­ing to Karako­ram Pass (KK Pass), which goes be­yond to Yarkand in China. Should the Chi­nese not va­cate DBO, it would hin­der the ITBP pa­trolling the KK Pass. There are al­ready con­flict­ing re­ports of the pe­ri­od­ic­ity of pa­trolling the KK Pass—when was the last time they did so and are the Chi­nese al­ready sit­ting on the re­verse slopes, ready to make an ap­pear­ance to sur­prise the vac­il­lat­ingly un­clear po­lit­i­cal hi­er­ar­chy of In­dia yet again. This apart, it would be pos­si­ble for DBO be­ing used as a base to threaten the route to Si­achen Base Camp that feeds the North­ern and Cen­tral Glaciers on the Sal­toro Range. Chi­nese oc­cu­pa­tion of DBO would turn the flanks of the In­dian de­fences on Sal­toro Range—sim­i­lar to Chi­nese claims to Dok­lam Plateau in Bhutan whose oc­cu­pa­tion by Chi­nese would turn the flanks of In­dian de­fences in East Sikkim, par­tic­u­larly in area of Tri Junc­tion. Dur­ing Op­er­a­tion ‘Vi­jay’ in 1999, China qui­etly de­vel­oped a road in eastern Ak­sai Chin to­wards DBO, the sig­nif­i­cance of which was ap­par­ently glossed over and has re­sulted in flux in the sit­u­a­tion at Dem­chok on ac­count of Chi­nese in­cur­sions and claims. Google im­agery of 2006 shows an ex­tra­or­di­nary large scale (1:500) ter­rain model ex­ten­sively du­pli­cat­ing eastern Ak­sai Chin built close to Yinchuan (cap­i­tal of Ningxia Au­ton­o­mous Re­gion). The 3,000 × 2,300 feet model is be­ing used for tank war-games in prepa­ra­tion of a fu­ture bat­tle in Eastern Ladakh/North Sikkim? In 2012, China called upon Ja­pan and South Korea to es­tab­lish as­tro­nom­i­cal ob­ser­va­to­ries in Ak­sai Chin, in an ap­par­ent bid to con­sol­i­date its hold on the re­gion.

Game Plan

The paci­fist lobby is try­ing its best to say that the DBO in­tru­sion is not part of any larger Chi­nese plan but has failed to give any logic for such as­ser­tion. It is naive not to see the writ­ing on the wall. The US think tanks had warned in 1999 that China will start flex­ing its mil­i­tary mus­cle by 2010, but In­dia hardly paid any heed to it. Some strate­gists are also say­ing that the DBO in­tru­sion is to pro­vide more depth to China’s Western High­way/ China’s National High­way 219 run­ning through Ak­sai Chin, con­nect­ing Ti­bet with the Xin­jiang re­gion. The fact is that China has larger de­signs ne­ces­si­tated by its hunger pangs for more and more re­sources and for ac­quir­ing mul­ti­ple land axes to the In­dian Ocean, the lat­ter also be­cause of op­po­si­tion at sea on its eastern front in­clud­ing Asia Pivot of the US. Chi­nese oc­cu­pa­tion of Ak­sai Chin was a strate­gic move look­ing into fu­ture re­quire­ments of re­sources, as was its tak­ing con­trol of Shaks­gam Val­ley in ex­change of nu­clear as­sis­tance to Pak­istan and now strate­gic foot­prints into Gil­git-Baltistan re­gion.

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