FORCE Visits China

Seven Days in China
The Middle Kingdom is assertive, but remains polite
Pravin Sawhney
Beijing/Shanghai: it took me some time to figure out who had invited me on a week-long visit to Beijing and Shanghai. The call came from the first secretary, press section at the Chinese embassy in new Delhi. When told by my office that i was in munich, he called me there. extending the invitation on behalf of the all China journalists’ association (aCja), he asked me to join a group of ‘senior indian journalists’ to visit China. The proposed dates did not suit me, so in less than 48 hours the Chinese graciously altered their dates by a week. two things struck me as unusual. Why did the aCja not invite me directly and why were the dates changed to accommodate me? When i asked the Chinese press officer about the programme, he spoke about the opportunity to meet with Chinese military officials and visit defence installations. The detailed itinerary, he said, was being worked out and would be provided on arrival in Beijing. i had never been to China and here i was being offered the opportunity to meet with Peoples’ Liberation army (PLa) officials. That i was excited is putting it mildly. i have been working on China for years and my first book: ‘The Defence Makeover: 10 Myths that Shape India’s Image’ published in 2001, long before the indian government woke up to the military threat, listed ‘China is not a military threat’ as the foremost myth successfully perpetrated by new Delhi. My maiden visit to China from June 17 to 22 was a success and here are my 11 takeaway observations: 4 months before the visit of Prime minister Wen jiabao to india in December 2010, China decided to unilaterally announce its perception of the border, making any further negotiations on border resolution impossible. For this reason, at the 15th round of Special Representatives (SR) talks held in Delhi on 17 january 2012, both sides signed the ‘Border mechanism Framework’ for stability on the Line of actual Control. The two foreign offices had established formal means to keep the border peaceful. against this backdrop, Colonel guo hongtao, staff officer of the asian affairs bureau, foreign affairs office, ministry of national Defence (mnD), who had participated in the Special Representatives (SR) talks on border resolution, told me with an air of finality: “China’s border with india is 2,000km long”. 4 China has indicated that its claims on the disputed border are more complex than are understood in india. “indian security forces have made more intrusions in 2011 into Chinese territo-


FORCE | August 2012


FORCE | August 2012


” said major general Yao Yunzhu. The world’s focus on China is clearly in two areas: defence and diplomacy. education and science and technology matters. 4 China is conscious that as a (the) risen power. any lingering doubts on Chinese media and journalism were cleared by senior editor. a senior editor at the China Daily newspaper office in Beijing admitted that a government constituted board cleared every evening what news would go into the paper. She has been in this position since 2002 and was happy to talk about China’s public relations system. i was told that there are nearly 700 foreign journalists living in Beijing alone. across China. ministry of foreign affairs. The code of conduct.FORCE Visits China global radar. ma jisheng. to interviews and replies to emails and of course publicity on the internet.” she recalled. “my media group is open to healthy criticism of the government on health. in another interaction. each regional centre contributes a vicechairman to the Board of Leadership of aCja. The lead in conveying this was taken by senior editor. the deputy director general. MY HOST Senior Editor. The staff under her has increased and many people have been sent to the US and the Uk for ‘internet training. member of the board of leadership. “There are high difficulties in border resolution. another day. Zhu Shouchen. ma jisheng cautioned. Both the state council and foreign ministry information offices that we visited are grand buildings with posh facilities and extremely competent staff. i believe the issue will be resolved with time. especially trade. this office does a variety of things. “Before 2002 there were no press conferences and the news releases. from press releases to organising press conferences and briefings. it needs to open up and be transparent. The aCja has three tasks. “now. executive secretary. went a step further and asserted that: “all reports (in indian media) of Chinese ingressions are false. if not the leading role in this policy-making. most of the Chinese media are members of aCja organised in 494 media committees under six major regional centres. the only reminder that it was Beijing was the Chinese spokesperson speaking native language through a translation gadget provided on each desk. PLa academy of military Sciences.’ She admitted that after the foreign ministry and mnD opened their own information offices. in another meeting. She was seated next to Colonel guo hongtao during the long interaction with us (visiting indian journalists) at the ministry of national Defence (mnD) in Beijing. were ad hoc. meant journalism with Chinese characteristics.” she said. This has been accentuated by an inter-dependent world shrunk further by the information revolution.” 4 China says that the complex border resolution should not come in the way of overall bilateral relations. she said. director of the Centre of China-america Defence Relations. information department. member of the board of leadership.” she said with a smile. There was no mechanism. the (indian media) focus should not be on the border issue. Zhu Shouchen.” general Yao said. not only is the PLa authorised to speak on the politically sensitive border issue. constantly on the There were repeated suggestions for the Indian media to exercise overall restraint when talking about China so as not to impede improvements in bilateral relations The chief information officer at the State Council information office. “as both sides have agreed to have peaceful borders. All China Journalist Association ries (disputed border) than we Chinese have made into india. if any. The daily regular press briefing (packed with foreign journalists) that i attended could well have been at the US state department.” 4 There is an extraordinary consistency in what the PLa (mnD) officials and diplomats (ministry of foreign affairs) say on the disputed border issue. executive secretary. established the foreign ministry’s Press information office in 2001 and set-up the ministry of national Defence (mnD) spokesperson system in 2008. earlier. China opened its State Council (council of ministers) information office in 1990. Wang Lan of the multi-billion dollar Wen hui group in Shanghai. it has an extremely important. With a pause and smile she added that it was still difficult to get officials to understand the importance of media interaction. aCja. 4 There were repeated suggestions for the indian media to exercise overall restraint when talking about China so as not to impede improvements in bilateral relations. few journalists 18 FORCE | August 2012 . he spoke at length about the ‘code of conduct’ followed by the aCja. namely to train journalists. Unlike in india. teach them to abide by the code of conduct and facilitate foreign journalists in China. Xi Yanchun was a bright and attractive lady in her thirties (she told us) who had worked in the US media for four years when she was offered the present position.

spending some time by myself in a Shanghai popular market.” she added rather ruefully. explained by henry kissinger in his book. why all Chinese officials we met during the visit spoke only through the language interpreter. The central message of Sun tzu. sees itself as the ‘middle kingdom’. a talented Wei qi player moves into empty spaces on the board. For instance. China. a pleasant freelancer called Liu non. at one of the official dinner banquets i attended. Sun tzu is about China’s distinctive military theory which is in harmony with Wei qi. ‘On China’ Wei qi is about strategic encirclement as opposed to Chess which seeks a checkmate with head-on collision. 4 all PLa officials i met were reluctant to talk about Pakistan. which should never be disclosed. Later. is to develop strategic thought that placed a premium on victory through psychological advantage and preached avoidance of direct conflict. (which started in the mid-nineteenth century with the opium wars and ended with the arrival of mao’s communist China). as a period of deep humiliation. The Chess player aims for total victory. But this was not the real point they wanted to drive home. which was indicated as China’s bilateral relationship. another PLa official told me that in today’s world.’ once we finished discussing Wei qi. this is a reason. the commanding officer. Wei qi generates strategic flexibility. senior THE NEW SHANGHAI All about sky-scrapers come to the state council information office. Wei qi is about the protracted campaign. purportedly lost during the subjugation period. gradually mitigating the strategic potential of his opponent’s pieces. The great Wall of China suggests that China has no expansionist designs. 4 The Chinese view colonial rule. i found that all of us had been presented with two slim booklets titled ‘The Wis- 20 FORCE | August 2012 . they averred. without asking. Russia and later japan. they said. but Wei qi was readily available. was for india and China to have more bilateral cooperation and openness. PLa officials in command positions spoke about the West and the US in particular as their enemy. “Those two offices are considered important. during the visit to 1 armoured regiment (brigade) outside Beijing. this may help in thinking up a credible rather than the real reply. when China was subjugated by Britain. now called core interest areas. the museum guide and our language interpreter compared China and india under colonial rules. Unlike all Chinese. our guide dwelt on the humiliations depicted in a series of paintings. he added that the Chinese fight in selfdefence only when their core interests are affected. What Wei qi teaches is the art of hiding intentions. The Wei qi player seeks relative advantage.FORCE Visits China dom of Sun Tzu’ and ‘The Great Wall’ by the mnD information office in a small gift bag. conveying the notion of China’s centrality in global affairs and the importance of both national unity and the need to recover territories. Speaking in english. Probably. ‘if Chess is about decisive battle. many indians believe that the colonial period had ‘many positives’ about it. the game usually beginning as a struggle for the centre of the board. when making official points even when they understood and spoke good english. 4 all the Chinese officials i spoke with agreed that Wei qi (pronounced way chee) is the most popular intellectual game in China as opposed to Chess in the rest of the world. i remembered. more as an afterthought. kissinger provides a keen insight into the two games in his book. an added benefit of speaking through an interpreter is that the person gets more response time to a query. one PLa officer said that many Chinese now play both games with equal interest and ease. France. it is difficult to hide capabilities. The need. i discovered that no shops kept chess- boards. Wei qi teaches the art of strategic encirclement. Chess produces single-mindedness. however. During the visit to the national museum in Shanghai. Where the skilful chess player aims to eliminate his opponent’s pieces in a series of head-on clashes. we were told. Chess teaches the Clausewitzian concepts of centreof-gravity and the decisive-points. This was mentioned to me by a PLa officer at another official dinner.

and defence institutes have invited experts to talk with one another. he pointed to a soldier practicing simulation shooting and said the tank he was seeking to destroy was the US abram.” he asserted. will the new generation of PLa officers. instead of focussing on PLa’s perspective on various issues. This is leading towards friendly coexistence. and unlike the US which dropped nuclear bombs. we should continue with security and defence mechanism talks.” The future. 22 FORCE | August 2012 . The last thing i wondered was why had the mnD invited four indian journalists with such dissimilar understanding of the subject? Surely. “a breakthrough has been achieved in military relations between india and China.. The PLa soldier. “We need to consolidate what has been achieved in last 10 years. in private. the first secretary. is bright. have a larger say in defence policy making as well? and will they be more assertive? i wonder. The visit was China’s attempt at transparency in defence matters. he did not stop at this and decided to drill his point further. while the enemy is shown in blue. the Deputy Director general of the information office. this ate unnecessarily into the allocated time. Colonel guo hongtao. The answer to who had actually invited us was provided by the itinerary. which understands equipment and ‘informationised’ opera- tions better. the three military installations we visited — the PLaa (PLa army) 1 armoured regiment headquarters. 4 all presentations emphasised on the PLa ‘making progress towards “information-isation”. after the visit. which it hopes to complete by 2020. PLa staff officer who has participated in the bilateral border talks spent substantive time explaining this. For example. With a grin. the armies have done joint anti-terrorism training. can fight better with a fourth of the food eaten by a US soldier. we should maintain and broaden visits.’ explained. in which junior and middle rank officers are adept. and we should find ways to expand mutual cooperation. according to him. press section of the Chinese embassy sent me a message expressing hope that the indian military would consider a reciprocal interaction. they would have done homework on the invitees’ backgrounds. with computers at each level. mnD was quick to tell me that senior PLa officers do not suffer from this handicap. a senior PLa officer in a lighter mood conceded that many PLa generals were also uncomfortable with computers. This was probably the first time that the mnD has invited indian journalists for a peek into the enigma that is the PLa. however. Chinese soldiers will fight only in self-defence. Colonel Yang Yujun. if this is indeed true. communication & reconnaissance systems and platforms.” he said.FORCE Visits China OLD AND NEW TOGETHER Shanghai has a mix of old houses and modern architecture colonel (brigadier) Su Rong said that during simulation training. the PLaaF (PLa air Force) 24 air division outside Beijing and the PLan (PLa navy) Shanghai naval garrison — were new and grand constructions. interestingly. i casually mentioned that indian senior military officers (especially army officers) aren’t comfortable using computers. asked the Shanghai naval garrison commander what he thought of the inS Shivalik’s combat capabilities (it had recently come port calling there). the home forces are depicted in red colour. Both navies have done rescue operations together. through greater military transparency is keen to understand what the indian armed forces are doing with their US counterparts. if indeed the PLa has such good defence works for its middle-level command headquarters. this means total networking of all sensors. to test the waters. it conveyed an eloquent sense of generous finances being spent on acquisitions and capabilities. The invitation was from China’s ministry of national defence (mnD) and the all China journalists’ association (aCja) was merely the front. “all officers are comfortable with computers. The colonel disclosed that both sides are working on doing the third army to army exercise hand-in-hand which started in 2008. he said. 4 an interesting bilateral issue that the PLa is keen to pursue is military to military relations. he boasted. talking through the interpreter. a lot of time was spent by my colleagues asking questions which could make pageone stories for newspapers back home. it does not need a genius to figure out that the PLa. what do you say when an indian journalist who’s been covering defence for a hindi newspaper for over three decades. all the poor fellow could say was “The ship was clean and tidy and i understand it has stealth capability”.

FORCE Visits China China Has Shrunk the Border While for us the border is 4. The first is China’s traditional claim line. Because of these three different lines. “The border question is about four lines. what is the way forward on the border issue? after a brief consultation amongst themselves the first question was taken by Colonel guo hongtao. the so-called mcmahon Line.” my other questions were clubbed to- 24 FORCE | August 2012 . Beijing insists it is 2. and 64 cases until april 2012). Foreign affairs office. which is longer. staff officer of the asian affairs Bureau. China in 2004 has replaced the China-Sikkim border with the india-Sikkim border. The fourth line is about Sikkim. The second is the line claimed by india.000km long. The third line is the line presently held by both sides (Line of actual Control). PLa academy of military Sciences and the PLa national Defence University poised to take questions. mnD. which is 2.k.056km. he said. There were eight People’s Liberation army (PLa) officers from the information office. antony recently informed the Parliament in writing that there were 228 cases of Chinese intrusions into india in 2010. we can say that india has done more transgressions than the Chinese side. 213 cases in 2011.000km only Pravin Sawhney | BEIJING the oPPoRtUnitY to aSk haRD questions on the bilateral border dispute came on the afternoon of june 18 at the Chinese ministry of national Defence (mnD) information office. my three questions for them were: What is the length of China’s border with india? What about indian allegations of PLa transgressions into indian territories? (Defence minister a. and.

This should change. Senior Colonel Ouyang Wei and Senior Colonel Xu Weidi holding the FORCE 100th issue.LEFT TO RIGHT Major General Yao Yunzhu. Colonel Yang Yujun. Senior Colonel Geng Yansheng. Both sides have agreed to have a peaceful border. ingressions are not important. according to her. “india has done more ingressions into China than China has done into india. the focus should not be on it. These are because both sides have different perceptions of the border.” two days later. Both sides should exercise ‘strategic patience’ for the way forward. PLa academy of military Sciences. (bottom right) Ma Jisheng gether and replied by major general Yao Yunzhu. director of the Centre on China-american defence relations. on the afternoon of june 20. The indian media and elite do not have a positive idea (attitude) of the relations. when visiting the information office of the ministry of foreign affairs. But. i once again brought up the border issue FORCE | August 2012 25 . as border is one of the issues between us.

with a dual purpose. Therefore. The future generation will have more wisdom to solve the border problem. the entire 4056 km border has been renamed as the LAC. Area Trig Heights Qizil Jilga Aksai Chin Road Karakoram Pass Siachen Gal wa nR . (The 2001 Border Management report under former Union home secretary Madhav Godbole constituted by the government of India in Cabinet Secretariat order number C182/1/2000-NSCS (CS) dated 16 May 2000 refers to the India-China border as 4. Earlier. The total of the middle sector (554km). a veteran who joined service in early eighties and has been witness to the rise of China and the concomitant need for political and diplomatic transparency. on the other hand.” The Chinese cannot be more unambiguous. on the border issue. we will have the magic to solve the border issue.FORCE Visits China THE WESTERN SECTOR: LADAKH C H I N A Xinjiang Haji Langar Daulat Beg Oldi Chip Chap R. For people who have misgivings. Leh Phobrang Karu Dambu Guru Area PangongTso T I B E T Pangong Lake Chusul Spanggur In du Spanggur Lake Rezang La Chang La Indian Claimed Border Line of Actual Control Disputed Area Demchok 4 The original LAC after the 1962 India-China war was 320 km stretch from Daulat Beg Oldi to Demchok in Ladakh and had a 20 km demilitarised zone on either side.000km border with China along the tri-junction of afghanistan- sR . What came my way was a long speech by ma jisheng. he told me that. We have a 2. the deputy director general. a watermelon when it is ripe falls automatically. But difficulties remain high. LAC Kongka Pass Lanak La Shyok R.226km) comes to 1. 4 After the 1993 ‘Border Peace and Tranquility Agreement’. Chang Chenmo R. it is difficult to solve their problems. which will help us solve difficult problems. Sikkim (198km) and the eastern sector (arunachal Pradesh 1.000km when rounded off. The border issue is difficult and is not likely to be resolved soon. “all reports (in the indian media) on Chinese transgressions are false. India had only the traditional border in the eastern sector called McMahon line. it is wise for both sides to spend more time on the political and diplomatic issues between us. has never said but maintains that its border with China is 4. we sought cooperation in other areas. We should seek happiness.978km or 2. once we have more cooperation and mutual understanding. maybe. information department. the time is not ripe for the border issue.056km long. They have said that their disputed border with india is 2. But for people who like one another. 26 FORCE | August 2012 . ministry of foreign affairs. it is easy to solve problems. We should do the same and continue with mutual cooperation. it was to elicit response of China’s foreign affairs ministry and to compare any variations with mnD. we should keep the border issue on one track.056km long). trade for example. We need patience. we should keep working in other areas. on another track. i believe the trade issue will help us solve the border issue through time. india. China has so far solved its border problem with 10 countries including Russia.000km long. This was done by a two-track approach. we have made some progress in the last 10 years. While keeping the negotiations going on the border issue.

afghanistan-Xinjiang-Pok.S. Pasi Ghat A N M A R Pakistan-Pakistan occupied kashmir (Pok). which is the entire state of Arunachal Pradesh Kayala Gelling Nayula Lo La Longju Lung Maja Namka Chu B H U T A N A S S A M Ka me ng R. M Loh Khinzemane Chanize Bumla Tawang Sumdrong Chu it R Y . the Chinese are obliquely suggesting that india no longer has a border with China in Pok and Ladakh — which have now been designated as disputed areas between india and Pakistan by Beijing.000sqkm arunachal Pradesh as its territory (it is called Zang Nan meaning south tibet). LAC Zikyen La Kepanla Guyor La East Dibang n Sia Disputed Area China claims 90. a large number of indian security forces are in arunachal Pradesh. it has also been informed that Pok and by extension kashmir held by india are disputed territories. Deng managed to bid goodbye to the mao era and gave the call for ‘reforms and opening up under the four modernisation programmes’. Beijing announced its present stance of the border being a mere 2. ending at Demchok in Ladakh.FORCE Visits China THE EASTERN SECTOR: ARUNACHAL PRADESH C H I N A Line of Actual Control Chinese claim line T Nala Dzola Pangla g san po R. no surprise that india has maintained a stoic silence on the new Chinese claims which have grave national security implications. The last time China had offered to resolve the border was on 21 june 1980. China insisted that group Captain m. The two instances are proof. Lt. india’s stance is consistent with its ap- peasement policy towards China since 1988 when Prime minister Rajiv gandhi became the first head of government to visit China after the 1962 war. it is. Tulung La Asaphila Chimpung La Lutin La Bum La Su Siy ba nsi ri R . general B. Deng had finally returned to power in 1978 after a long exile and the passing away of mao Zedong and Zhou enlai. When i asked during the july 18 interaction at mnD information office. india has been told to not only forgo its claims on aksai Chin (occupied in September 1957 by China) and the Shaksgam valley (ceded by Pakistan to China in 1963). China. “The general was posted in kashmir (a disputed area) and we had to keep Pakistan’s sensitivity in mind. Deng. did not require a visa to travel. that China claims the entire 90. who belongs to arunachal Pradesh and was a member of a 30-member indian military delegation visiting China in january 2012. her firm handling of the 1971 war with Pakistan and the 28 FORCE | August 2012 . in the eastern sector. if indeed one was needed. needed peace for its market reforms. for instance. We offered a compromise to india that jaswal should be made a member instead of the head of delegation but the indian side refused. india however decided to exclude the officer from the delegation rather than allow him to travel without a visa to China. why was this done. gR R. the indian government should also recognise the existing status quo. was impressed by mrs indira gandhi. the Chinese ambassador in india had in 2006 publicly laid claims over arunachal Pradesh. With their current politely worded line. with 12 disputed borders (many more territorial claims). Bra h pu ma tra R. in any case. india does not have a border with China in this sector. the Western sector with China. however. hence. we can recognise the existing status quo. This probably also explains the Chinese position that india has intruded more into their territories than the other way around. Colonel guo hongtao said. i mean the so-called mcmahon line. at the December 1978 plenum of the 11th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. But in the Western sector. om Along Kibithod Diphu Walong . meanwhile.000 sq km of Indian territory. Deng Xiaoping spoke of a settlement: “according to the Line of Control. i think you can pass this message to mrs (indira) gandhi. For this reason. in an interview to krishan kumar. months before Prime minister Wen jiabao’s visit to india in December same year.000km long in 2010.” Similarly.” The timing from China’s standpoint was propitious. the Shaksgam valley. chief editor of Defence News. jaswal who was heading a military delegation to China. and the Pok and the entire western sector are disputed borders with Pakistan. Beijing had refused a visa in 2010 to the then northern army commander. after all. Pang- ing.

The entire disputed border was renamed the Line of actual Control (LaC). a myth was created about Prime minister gandhi’s successful China visit. Prime minister Vajpayee’s visit to China in july 2003 did not help india’s case. all indian Prime ministers who visited China have endeavoured to do one better. to discuss border resolution at the political level (special representatives). k. The 1986 Sumdorong Chu crisis between india and China had hardened Beijing’s position. pushed border resolution to a low priority. the lesser bureaucratic track lost its importance. Prime minister narasimha Rao signed the ‘Border Peace and tranquillity agreement’ (BPta) during his September 1993 China visit. PLa intrusions increased manifold. ‘My China Diary 1956-88’ should have known better. despite Chinese protests. even if it meant appeasement by unilateral concessions. a. india moved three divisions forward to the mcmahon line and China amassed its 63rd field army from the Chengdu military region. both sides could now solve the border progressively in three parts (western. after 1993 and especially after the 1998 nuclear tests by india when relations between the two countries dipped. it became evident that solving the border was not the urgency.V. a territorial swap for border resolution was not possible any longer. that border resolution could wait for another time. the minister of state for foreign affairs. of course.. The border resolution no longer appeared india’s core interest area. and two. at india’s request.B. with two parallel tracks. were not understood in india.” it should have occurred to Delhi why Deng refused to talk border resolution with a Prime minister having 413 Congress members of Parliament in the Lok Sabha? What had happened between 1980 and 1988 to make China change its mind? This is not all. While the crisis was diffused with sense prevailing in Delhi and Beijing. one. one day. 30 FORCE | August 2012 . Similarly. without a credible military muscle. raising the level of the task earlier being done by bureaucrats. the PLa had warned india not to occupy this area. now and into the future. During my recent visit to Beijing. the manmohan Singh government’s willingness to focus on bilateral trade. exercise Chequerboard and operation trident (against China). China’s spectacular rise. given her domestic compulsion. who had visited China in june 1988 told him that. the disputed post which had little tactical value for india but had an observation value for China. Unfortunately. who took credit for the successful visit of Prime minister gandhi to China in December 1988 in his book. This did not help. after all. This place had witnessed the rout of india’s 7th brigade in the 1962 war and to be sure. did not go unnoticed by Deng. Thereafter. at the peak of the crisis in 1987. China’s intentions. But all that China has really done is to show Sikkim and india in the same colour coding on its maps. all it got were Chinese maps showing Sikkim as part of india. The other major step was the agreement. fast-changing geopolitics and importantly. The SRs signed the diplomatic framework to maintain stability on LaC. with the entire border made into LaC. Rajiv gandhi visited China in December 1988. This small incident will be recorded in history as the turning point in relations between india and China. the army chief general Sundarji escalated matters.FORCE Visits China passage of the 38th amendment bill in the indian Parliament on 23 april 1975 which merged Sikkim as the 22nd state of the Union of india. on the other hand. they found that the Chinese had occupied it and refused to vacate it. middle and eastern sectors) and make it peaceful. This move was interpreted by Delhi as its victory: instead of the entire border. PLa officer Colonel hongtao did say that ‘SikkimChina’ has been replaced by ‘Sikkimindia’. The peculiarity of the disputed border between india and China is that it is neither delimited (agreed) on maps. narasimha Rao. and a roadblock to india’s rise in this century. By focussing on bilateral trade (expected to reach USD 100 billion before 2015) and saddling the SRs with a new job. Prime minister manmohan Singh has given China an unambiguous signal. when in a show of generosity PLa gave the post back to india which Delhi hailed as a major victory. remained with the PLa till 1995. which by definition is a military-held line. natwar Singh. remain meaningless. The visits of Prime ministers P. The reluctant foreign minister of the 1988 Rajiv gandhi visit to China. Thus. for tactical advantage and generate psychological pressure on the other side. instead of diffusing the situation. mrs gandhi could not visit China. to collect salaries and rations. on the one hand. but things had altered by then. This was because China focussed on its border management while india remained comatose. This policy will have severe negative national security implications for india. the creation of the LaC and the need to make it peaceful pushed the border resolution further away. and operation Pawan (against Sri Lanka). the LaC was a 320km stretch from Daulat Beg oldie to Demchok in Ladakh. hitherto. Chinese intrusions and claims of disputed areas have grown with each passing year. alarm bells should have rung in Delhi. a small indian intelligence Bureau detachment at Sumdorong Chu (close to nymjang Chu in north kameng) left its post. This was in addition to the bureaucratic level continuing with peace on the LaC under the 1993 agreement. it no longer appeared a priority. a retired foreign secretary told FoRCe a few years ago that the ministry of external affairs is always under pressure to show sizeable gains during a Prime ministerial visit to China. her successor. especially when the chief minister of Bengal jyoti Basu. in reality. this worked to China’s advantage with two major negatives for india. Between 1962 and 1993. the side with better border management could alter the Line of actual Control. The Sumdorong Chu crisis was part of india’s military activism in the eighties under Rajiv gandhi-general k. The remaining border was referred to as the traditional one by india. there have been two border skirmishes/ show of strength incidents: the 1967 series of firings at nathu La and Cho La in Sikkim and the 1986 Sumdorong Chu crisis. While talks on the border issue between india and China began in December 1981. “China is in no hurry to solve the border problem but is keen to improve relations in other fields. Sundarji team. incidentally. in return for the formal acknowledgement that tibet is a part of China. when the PLa started building infrastructure in the tibet autonomous Region (taR) beginning 1989. Vajpayee and manmohan Singh to China vindicate his astute observation. Finally at the 15th round of Special Representatives (SR) talks in january 2012. mrs gandhi has probably been the only Prime minister since independence who understood that talks with Pakistan and China. which witnessed operation Brass-tacks (against Pakistan). and the Chinese understand power too well. the yearlong movement of forces. in june 1986. on return. nor demarcated (accepted) on the ground. equipment and ammunition by both sides convinced China that it needed to develop military capabilities in the region.

The presentation was made by Colonel Yang Yujun. the first two are generic and inane subjects. especially when making a presentation to a potential rival audience. Surprisingly. Central Military Commission The Iron Structure China’s Higher Defence Management Pravin Sawhney | BEIJING it iS CUStomaRY FoR a miLitaRY presentation to be sequential: give out the country’s stated defence policy.60. mention roles and missions of the armed forces. most nations would hesitate to dwell too much on their hDm. head of general Logistics Department (gLD). and eight million militia. the People’s Liberation army (PLa). the 6. These eight are Chief of general Staff headquarters (gShQ). and towards the end talk about the higher Defence management (hDm). chief of PLa air Force (PLaaF). The hDm is country-specific and its nuances determine how envisaged wars would be fought and won. it has 12 members. head of general armament Department (gaD) and the minister of national defence.FORCE Visits China THE TOWERING FIGURE President Hu Jintao is Chairman. whose significance i shall discuss in the next article: Unrestricted War. deputy director general of the information office. mostly related to their hDm. presently — general Liang guanglie. This is because hDm impacts at the strategic and operational level of war. standing at the apex of the military (nuclear and conventional) chain of command and military-industrial complex. mnD. it was done well. it commands a 2. i have flagged eight highlights of the Chinese armed forces below. head of general Political Department (gPD). chief of PLa Second artillery (PLaSa). of the three issues. 4 The Central military Commis- sion (CmC) is China’s highest military command and control organisation. of which eight are necessarily from the PLa. plenty can be said without giving out much.3 million strong regular force. if the message was to convey comparative superiority of the Chinese hDm. chief of PLa navy (PLan).000 People’s armed Police Force (PaPF). whose three hour interactive session with visiting indian journalists at the ministry of national defence (mnD) information office on june 18 commenced with China’s higher Defence management (hDm). There are 34 FORCE | August 2012 . this was not the case with PLa officials.

one each in a regiment (brigade. Senior Colonel Su Rong told me that there are six political commissars in each division (8. strategic and operational direction and operational tasks.000 soldiers). to do his task well. Under each air command at maC level are aviation divisions. it is because of this unity that PLa soldiers deliver more with less food. the effort is on both single service training and combined exercises with the PLaa. it is important to be professional and have an ideology too. the PLaaF does both single and combined arms training. “are established according to China’s administrative jurisdiction. the PLaa units have arms and services including infantry. which has been the traditional stance of communist China. nanjing.800 soldiers). Xi jinping. During the visit to PLaaF 24th air Division. Xi jinping. and civilians in turn. the political officers are called director and each PLaa company has a political instructor. Senior Colonel Xu Longcum told me that. 1. commander i armoured regiment (brigade). a PLa soldier needs just one fourth the food a US soldier needs. the military view is the most important. it suggests that PLa has more weightage in civil-military relations.” This is in consonance with PLaaF thinking which has graduated from being a support force to a main-battle assault force. Commanders of the maCs are appointed by the Central military Commission (CmC) and report to the CmC both during peace and war-time through the chief of general Staff headquarters (gShQ). 4 The general Political Department (gPD). jinan. The chain of command for nuclear-armed missiles runs from the CMC. given the predominance of PLa officials in the CmC. which we visited. general guo Boxiong and general Xu Caihou. Three observations are noteworthy. Considering that the political officers are PLa officers doing party work and not party functionaries in army uniform inside the PLa. air defence. is unique to the PLa. army aviation and Special Forces. Second. being a triple hatter. and transforms into aero-command. armour. First. During war. The gPD is a clear indication that the PLa is not apolitical. has under it seven air commands located in each of the seven maCs.” The PLaa’s seven maCs are in Shenyang. by building capabilities for air strike. i was told.” it was explained to me that this arrangement helps enhance PLa interest in local affairs.FORCE Visits China Central Military Commission (CMC) General Staff Headquarters (GSHQ) Note: Chairman Vice-Chairman PLA Members Defence Minsiter General Political Department (GPD) 1 3 7 1 General Logistics Department (GLD) General Armament Department (GAD) Chief of GSHQ Chief of PLAAF Chief of PLAN Chief of PLASA Political Department Head Logistics Department Head Armament Department Head three vice-chairmen namely. Beijing. i asked Senior Colonel (brigadier) Su Rong. and third. the PLaaF air command comes under command of the co-located commander maC. on the other hand. the Chairman CmC interacts directly with the PLa and the Politburo at the same time. force projection and support. if not the predominant element of China’s national security policy-making. which is an interesting joint operations concept for synergy and works differently during peace and war time. as per Colonel Yujun. We believe that human beings are as important as equipment. high-tech force was an aberration. which are sub-divided into air regiments and air stations. through the GSHQ. his reply was forceful. Lanzhou. The Chairman of the Central military Commission (CmC) is hu jintao. is well versed with the PLa’s thinking. if having political officers in the PLaa (PLa army) — an organization that aims to become a professional. who is also the President of China and Chairman of the Communist Party Politburo. artillery. Probingly. it also helps Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members understand the PLa better. the highest policy-making forum. each combined corps has mobile operational units consisting of divisions and regiments (brigades). The maCs. guangzhou and Chengdu. the commander MAC is the sole authority for its employment 4 The PLaa and PLaaF are organised into seven aero-Commands. The PLaa comprising 18 combined corps (group armies) is distributed into seven military area Commands (maCs). i had two inter-related questions on this joint operations arrangement: is there the option for PLaaF commander to take 36 FORCE | August 2012 . “during peace. geographical location. as the man expected to succeed President hu jintao. implying defence policy continuity. During peace-time. at the battalion level. “Political officers are needed for unity (between PLa and civilians). learn about military affairs which would help them in mobilisation and understanding use of civilian infrastructure for war. For conventional ballistic missiles. the chief of staff. engineering. already a vice-chairman of the CmC. to commander PLASA. as the PLa political wing wields clout outside the military. signals. The PLaaF. no other military in the world has a similar representation. Thus views of the military are known to the Politburo and the latter’s policies are acceptable to the military.

is a member of the CmC and reports to the gShQ. This implies that the PLaaF can do its independent roles like strike and force projection (which it practises during peace-time) only within the ambit of the overall plan conceived by the PLaa commander of the concerned maC. and combat support units. through the gShQ.” he said. “We have no military area Command (maC) with an overall PLaaF commander.60. 4 The presentation mentioned PLaaF having an airborne corps in passing. i. and aircraft carrier battle groups. retains flexibility in war as he remains in regular contact with the CmC through the gShQ. Like the PLaa and PLan. however. The joint plans are sent to gShQ. asked two questions on PLaaF’s 15th airborne corps. The chain of command for nuclear-armed missiles runs from the CmC. For conventional ballistic missiles.000) General Staff Headquarters (GSHQ) PeOPLe’S LIBeRATIOn ARMy (PLA) (2.CHAIn OF MILITARy COMMAnD Central Military Commission (CMC) People’s Armed Police Force (PAPF) (6. which is a tri-service headquarters. however. why does FORCE | August 2012 37 . 4 The PLa Second artillery (PLaSa) is an independent force of the PLa and includes all land-based nucle- ar missile force. where final approval is given. The PLaa commander. The chief of PLaSa. the PLa has left little doubt about how it intends to use conventional ballistic missiles. Colonel Yujun confirmed that.” This is an important development with far reaching operational implications. things changed dramatically with wider options available for use. “medium and short range strategic missiles are under the second artillery but tactical missiles are now under the local commander. while the other was not. weapons delivery sites. conventional missile force. who is always from the PLaa. The latter will be used in conjunction with the PLaaF to allow the air force to retain sorties for strike and air superiority missions. The planning for joint operations is done by the commander maC in consultation with his commander air Command. The conventional missiles’ targets would be heavily protected communication centres.3 MILLIOn) General Political Department (GPD) General Logistics Department (GLD) Militia (8 million) General Armament Department (GAD) nuclear Command Chain PLAAF 7 Air Commands North Sea Fleet PLAN East Sea Fleet South Sea Fleet Nuclear Missiles Conventional Missiles MILITARy AReA COMMAnDS (MACs) (Theatre Commands) Shenyang Beijing Lanzhou Jinan Nanjing Guangzhou Chengdu (Chengdu MAC is responsible for the entire LAC against India) PLASA Total 7 MACs over the joint operations command (aero-Command)? how are joint operations planned during peace-time? Colonel Yujun clarified that command during war will remain with commander maC. the commander maC is the sole authority for its employment. while all ballistic missiles with conventional warheads are under command and control of the concerned maC commander. Until early nineties. once PLaSa acquired better missile accuracies and converted a large number of medium and short range ballistic missiles in its inventory into dual-capable missiles. who is always from the PLaa. to commander PLaSa. it means that all strategic or nuclear missiles are with commander PLaSa. one was answered. in its 1996 military demonstration against taiwan and all subsequent training exercises. maC. it is axiomatic that conventional ballistic missiles would be employed in the initial stages of a conflict from widely dispersed sites. the PLaSa had confined its training to itself.

which are critical to an intense battle. the responsibility for arms purchases. under the state council (council of ministers or government) is the leading administrative organ of national defence undertakings. The spine to mechanisation is provided by the general Logistics Department (gLD). and in consultation with the CmC. The 15th corps troops would be supplemented by PLaa and PLan special-purpose (Special Forces) units. the maCs have integral army aviation units to supplement 15th corps strategic effort. the PLa through the gLD has taken two steps: creation of a single supply system for a maC and incorporation of nearby civilian supply depots to assist logistics in times of emergency. an important organisational concept at the operational level of war. economic globalization. 4 While China’s defence minister (always a retired PLaa officer) is a member of the CmC. the ministry of national Defence (mnD) has nothing to do with hard-core military work. and streamline weapons procurement and maintenance apparatus. he turned his attention to the overarching question: what is China’s defence policy? This was covered under three headings: the security environment. it is authorised to mobilise PLa reserve force (militia) which is the backbone of the regular army.’ he explained that China has built facilities in friendly countries.” in india’s context. massive storage sites have been created for holding ammunition reserves in the various operational theatres where maC forces would fight their wars. reconnaissance and other unconventional operations. The creation of the gaD is proof that China is determined to avail opportunities to strengthen its defence industrial base. extremism and secessionism. contain taiwan and three evil forces (terrorism. China has identified four threats to its national security. China’s armed forces are focussed on five areas: safeguard sovereignty and the rise of China. engaging in sabotage. The response was a big smile. the need is to have lean and mean combat forces — the teeth component. moreover. and information or network globalization. oversee development of mechanised. “the militia is an organic part of the armed forces and performs combat readiness support and defensive operations and assist in social order. military co-operation with friendly foreign militaries. Considering that all PLa forces are meant for mobile operations. to address logistics. given the altered security environment. The 15th corps’ missions would include occupying strategic points in the enemy’s rear. threats and the PLa’s responsibilities. The operational logistics or the tail factor is an entity by itself and is geared to fully support combat at various levels. This has increased threats from outstanding land and maritime border disputes. i pressed this issue and said that indications were that 15th airborne corps could lift a division plus worth of fully combatant troops (13. it is now the third largest exporter of arms and equipment. which could be targeted by armed hostile groups. including counter-terrorism.’ This explains the two-step approach of the PLa: mechanisation which has been achieved and information-ization that it ‘hopes to complete by 2020’. extremism. in Colonel Yujun’s words. Created in april 1998. which is the backbone of the PLa’s modernization.FORCE Visits China PLaaF not have special-purpose (Special Forces) units? Colonel Yujun reply was.” he emphasised. 4 The briefing to us mentioned that ‘the PLa is building capability to win local wars in conditions of information-ization by strengthening composite development of mechanisation and information-ization with the latter as the leading factor. information and high-technology warfare systems. electronic and cyber security. all PLaaF. The single supply system has two peculiarities. The colonel concluded his brief defence policy presentation by saying that “China’s strategy is to attack only after being attacked.’ (i will dwell on this vital aspect in my subsequent article: The way forward). The first relates to ‘the imbalance in strategic military 38 FORCE | August 2012 .” at the end of the presentation at the mnD information office. The last threat identified by the colonel was to China’s investments abroad. the PLa border guards (paramilitary forces) which face the itBP and regular indian army on the LaC are militia forces. according to Colonel Yujun. my question that went unanswered was: how many combat troops can 15th airborne corps lift? During a formal dinner.” he further elaborated that. research & development and equipment maintenance was scattered among numerous military and defence industrial organizations with little coordination. anti-piracy. Previously.” Based in henan province in central China. i felt that there was a need to elaborate on the general armament Department (gaD) as well. when required. and secessionism). and military co-operation with other countries. information-ization. given these threats and challenges. it is responsible for public relations. The vindication comes from recent reports that China is no longer the biggest importer of equipment in the world.000 soldiers). the 15th airborne corps is meant for independent strategic missions: limited power projection and deep strike manoeuvrability. “We have to guard against the triple threat of terrorism. and peacekeeping. demonstrating a major shift from horizontal combination to vertical combination. power. outer space.. destroying enemy’s key communication hubs and preventing his supporting forces from reaching the front. “PLaaF does not need special-purpose units as they are inbuilt into its organisation. The third threat relates to ‘China’s interests and facilities outside the borders. capability for operations other than war. is meant to improve defence management. in addition to the special-purpose (Special Forces) clandestine missions. China’s security environment has been shaped by three factors: the dissolution of the bipolar system after the Cold War. The PLAAF can do its independent roles like strike and force projection (which it practises during peacetime) only within the ambit of the overall plan conceived by the PLAA commander of the concerned MAC 4 after Colonel Yujun had dwelled on PLa’s higher Defence management (hDm). search and rescue. which are under the control of maCs and are trained to fight behind enemy lines. The second threat to China is from within: its social transformation. This cannot be good for China’s image and the armed forces have to be prepared to safeguard the nation’s interests. “The mnD. PLan and PLaa forces in a maC area can draw rations and fuel supplies from a single point. They receive extensive parachute training. did not elaborate on what exactly these meant. the gaD headed by a PLaa officer. however. he.

he put up a requirement for ultra-light howitzers for these divisions. a. but it takes long to build capabilities. antony concurred with in his 2009 classified directive to the Chiefs of Staff Committee: prepare for a ‘twofront’ war. his statement had been mis-interpreted. which are expected to be procured soon. the month general kapoor retired. general Deepak kapoor informed the nation that China too. his were no idle words. more importantly. general kapoor understood the realities of india’s higher Defence management (hDm).k. the then chief of army staff (CoaS). than any CoaS in recent times. to the government. is a military threat. to repeat a cliché: intentions can change any moment. something that defence minister. which was his re- sponsibility. he reportedly said that the army was “preparing for a two-front war”. reviewing operational plans and defence preparedness. general kapoor was building ‘threat-based’ capabilities. under the Foreign military Sales (FmS) route from the United States. he got immediate sanction to raise two divisions (the last raising of 29 infantry division was in 1983). These mountain divisions were raised and placed in the order of Battle (oRBat) of the eastern army Command by march 2010.FORCE Visits China Unrestricted War India is far more vulnerable than is generally accepted Pravin Sawhney | NEW DELHI / BEIJING in DeCemBeR 2009. to be fair to general kapoor. he was the first Chief of the army Staff (CoaS) in 25 years. Considering that the defence ministry has no services’ representation for decision making (the 40 FORCE | August 2012 . he travelled more times to the eastern theatre. which is the political leadership’s prerogative. who gave a plan for force accretion to cater to the Chinese threat. While this created a furore both inside and outside the country. he spoke about building capabilities. in response to a question by the media. he did not say that india intended to fight a two-front war.

is to see that he gets due acknowledgement for being the first CoaS after years of nationwide slumber. (Above) China’s well gravelled track upto the LAC at Bum La. This resulted in the Cabinet Committee on Defence headed by the Prime minister returning the army plan for a mountain corps plus capabilities to the Chiefs of Staff Committee. the gains and losses show most on the ground. to buttress my arguments on hDm). the service chiefs must necessarily have cordial relations with defence ministry civilian bureaucracy to expedite services’ procurements.STUDY IN CONTRAST (Left) India’s main feeder road from the Assam plains into Arunachal Pradesh’s Kameng district. (his successor. a year into his retirement.” his war appreciation: “The boundary dispute could result in a crisis or war with China. the other two services have their own concerns. general Bikram Singh by his remarks to the media that modernization will be ‘more focussed’ has reverted to the sensible ‘threat-based’ acquisitions plan). (CoSC) for the other two defence services to add their needs as well. The air force is focussed on strategic reach. to wake up to the China threat. The Dalai Lama and the tibet issue will not lead to conflict as india will not up the ante on these matters. i will take the liberty here to disclose a bit of what he told me. (i have two purposes. The navy is concerned about the People’s Liberation army navy’s (PLan or PLa navy) growing capabilities. We have started work in a focussed way but the gap is not likely to be FORCE | August 2012 41 . one. after all. the present CoaS. Singh sought to dilute the ‘threat-based’ acquisitions plan by his call for ‘transformation’ or ‘capability-based’ acquisitions. i had a long interaction with general kapoor. general V. his assessment was: “india has a nonconfrontational attitude towards China. The threat matters more to the army because of the Line of actual Control (LaC) and the lack of infrastructure.” his thinking on CoSC (he was Chairman. no paper has been prepared.k. This is the only road available for troops’ movement towards the LAC. and two. China is more powerful. China has such proper tracks all along the LAC integrated Defence headquarters does mere staff work for the ministry). hopefully. Both the air and naval headquarters excel in this. CoSC for six months from 31 august 2009 to 31 march 2010): “There is no combined services’ thinking on the China threat. Like the army. Since he did not give out any classified information.” on preparedness: “We are about 10 years behind China in preparedness on the disputed border.

China will hesitate to get into a war with us as global sympathy will be with the underdog (india) and that will not help them. the air headquarters’ views were more tempered. The humiliation of the 1962 war is so much ingrained in our services’ psyche that even the Chinese are aware of this. they differed on the nature and immediacy of the threat. in the low-level threat.” nearfuture was explained as 10 years. Reserves from 3 and 4 corps were moved forward. General Deepak Kapoor has been an operationally under-rated commander overcome. should it happen. First. army headquarters acknowledges that the PLa is capable of mobilising up to 32 divisions on the LaC against us in one season. the need is for better politico-military synergy. to be defended at all costs. but to appreciate the nature of war itself. Unfortunately. the only issue on which the army and the air force agree completely is that the next war. While the iaF harps on a limited war. But eastern army Commander Lt. the 1986 Sumdorong Chu crisis was an extraordinary muscle-flexing by india. During my interaction at the Chinese ministry of national Defence. The indian army’s present operational stance and nature of war with China is based upon this little understood event. with tawang being designated as the corps vital area. Sundarji. a review of the 1986 Sumdorong Chu crisis would be in order. was the concluding thought. PLa’s 63rd army from Chengdu was facing india’s two mountain divisions in tawang. with China following likewise. But to work with them to figure out what kind of confrontation is most likely. The eastern air Command was more concerned about two operational issues: how to face the Chinese ballistic missiles’ challenge and their demonstrated capability (in exercise Stride-2009) to capture en- emy airfields. close to the Thag La ridge on the Line of actual Control (LaC). once the PLa refused to vacate the post. Probably being close to the seat of central government. after the 1962 rout of india’s 7th brigade. i was surprised to hear major general Yao Yunzhu of the People’s Liberation army (PLa) say: 42 FORCE | August 2012 . The medium level threat envisages eight to 12 divisions facing us. Before we get on with this subject. will not be a repeat of the 1962 rout.n. the scene of the massacre of the 7th brigade. The man in-charge at the air headquarters told me that. The political leader’s task — unlike what defence minister antony repeatedly says — is not to help the defence services with modernization plans alone. with China. or will it be something entirely different? This question. like the PLa officer suggested. but to ensure that we are not preparing for the last war. the saving grace is that given the terrain limitations. an indian intelligence Bureau post. india under the team of Prime minister Rajiv gandhi and general k. “moreover. Probably. low. general Sundarji asked the nearby indian 77th brigade to forcibly evict the Chinese from the supposed iB post. The need is not to forget the 1962 war completely. or the 1986 Sumdorong Chu crisis. the indian air Force (iaF) will be able to hold the Chinese air force (PLaaF) in a limited war. was occupied by PLa soldiers. the starting point for the indian armed forces should not be modernization for a likely border war with China. to my mind. it will be difficult for the PLa to bring more than 20 divisions on us together. in one year. by the spring of 1987. Sharma (later CoaS). in any case. a confrontationist attitude does not help the service. the PLa has been assessed to field five to six divisions on the LaC against india.” in 2010. Though both headquarters agreed on the need for capability and infrastructure development. as the army was busy building and restoring its defences on the LaC and seeking acquisitions.” on acquisitions: “We have to have good personal rapport with the defence ministry for timely acquisitions. asked how he was to respond to the PLa’s tactical nuclear weapons (known to be in MAN RESPONSIBLE FOR BUILD UP Former Chief of Army Staff. the army has assessed four levels of military threat from China: non-contact war (coercion and intimidation). The higher Defence management (hDm) is all about this.” i was told. my reasons are different. the indian army’s nightmare had begun. can only be answered by the political and military leadership putting their heads together. The high level threat could be 18 to 20 divisions staring us in the face. the air force was doing much the same. decided to build up troops (operation trident). Will the next war be a repeat of the 1962 war. given the flexibility of air power. a FoRCe team travelled to the eastern air Command in Shillong (and its air station in tezpur) and met with senior officials at the air headquarters to get their assessment on China. when they found it temporarily vacated. general V. medium and high level threats. general Sundarji ordered airlifting of artillery ammunition worth crores to be stocked in the forward areas. which is at the heart of the india-China conflict. “There is no Chinese threat in the near future.FORCE Visits China “The 1962 memory should be forgotten.” While i agree with her completely. Unknown to the PLa.

the crisis was compounded by operational problems. work on roads sanctioned in 2001 is stuck for similar reasons). But with a difference — in tawang. as the FoRCe team had travelled to tawang and beyond in august 2010. are invisible. if they exist at all. krishna Rao’s plan presented to her in 1980. many of them do not have tracks. PLa officer Colonel Yang Yujun whom i met in Beijing. The road that leads to tsona Dzong is a well-tarred gravel road. operational commanders had favoured holding the Se La or Bomdi La line in strength. Unlike indian troops. at a height of 15. The roads are extremely narrow and precarious. general Sundarji pushed the whole mass forward. PLa’s good border management helps them in incremental encroachments. trained in mobile operations. one also gets an idea of the so-called ‘defensive operations’. Unlike the indian army which is holding the LaC in strength. The PLa has three major advantages at the strategic level. The entire sector has been strewn with a plethora of tactically networked surveillance devices. sense prevailed in Delhi. with all signs of further escalation. Standing at Bum La. The Chinese border guards hold positions sparingly in penny pockets. troops now hold the line much ahead of where they were during operation trident. The Chinese have deliberately avoided making ‘black-top’ roads. which are monitored regularly. which allows better water drainage during monsoons. There is unity of command between the PLaa and the border guards (militia) — the latter is commanded by regular PLaa officers. they instead rely on technology. it was a panic situation and india had placed itself in an unenviable position. here also. tawang. While China learnt the right lesson. continues to be our operational stance. The most important is excellent border management. is 40km inside in depth at tsona Dzong. infrastructure and viable lines of communication along the entire border with China. responsible for the sensitive sector. The regular forces. With so many additional troops being pumped into arunachal Pradesh. The two-front war scenario stared india in the face. Their physical absence also keeps the indian troops under enormous psychological pres- 44 FORCE | August 2012 . troops have to lug loads — walking from five hours to two days from the last track-head. (north Sikkim is another area of great sensitivity. the PLaa is nowhere to be seen. This was also the stance during the 1962 war. During peacetime. in any case. which was in its sixth year. told me that “The militia performs combat readiness support and defensive operations. given the decrepit state of tawang’s road and tracks. We met with senior officers of the 190 mountain brigade. Beijing. the corps defended area. at present. the state of overall infrastructure along the LaC needs no elaboration. abandoned the step-by-step infrastructure development plan it had adopted in 1980. against this operational stance. he also made use of the operational stance general krishna Rao had first suggested. Somehow. are pathetic to say the least. The development till then had been a great help during the indian troop build-up in 1986. The Chinese militia brigade (2 border guard regiment) facing tawang. They have good roads (and overall infrastructure) right up to the LaC. general Sundarji was to make use of this planned infrastructural development. has over 200 posts. with tawang as the centre for kameng district and Walong for Lohit district. Plus they have what the army calls ‘friction of terrain’ — massive and regular landslides are a norm during the rains. in a good-will gesture after the supposedly ‘successful’ China visit by Prime minister Rajiv gandhi in 1988. it is not difficult to understand how the PLa will benefit from a monsoon campaign against india. This left Subansari and Siang with a minimalist posture. let us compare the strategic and operational levels for the two sides. when forward posts were occupied without adequate logistics support. Called operation Falcon.000 ft — one gets a good sense of road communications. The latter. the plan was to develop over a 15year period.FORCE Visits China Trijunction India-Tibet-Bhutan Namk Lhasa Le To Tsona Dzong C H I N A TIBET MILITARY DISTRICT Thagla Ridge a Chu Bum La Porter Track Wangdung Hathung La Sumdorong Chu Ziminthang NORTH Shakti KAMENG Towang Lum La Towang Chu I N D I A Tulung La Lumpu New Road Nyamjang Chu A R U N A C H A L P R A D E S H Jhang To Bhutan Se La SKETCH OF SuMDORONG CHu AND SuRROuNDING AREAS tibet) if they were used. after diplomatic relations were restored between india and China in 1976. Beijing and islamabad and the twin crises were diffused. as that puts pressure on the indian side not to made ‘blacktop’ roads.V. But work has not yet commenced — it awaits clearance from the environment ministry.” i knew how it does this. it aimed to overcome the deficiencies of the 1962 war. under Deng Xiaoping decided to develop infrastructure and good border management along the disputed border with india. Since 1958. This. the Chinese militia seem to be under no pressure to maintain round the clock vigil. But during operation trident. Prime minister indira gandhi had approved CoaS general k. a second road axis leading to tawang (which is crucial for speedy troop buildup) was approved by the Vajpayee government in 2001. the tracks on our sides. Second. ahead of tawang. The indian army was already committed heavily in operation Brasstacks against Pakistan. for operation trident. india did the opposite.

(The regiment has 1. 1 armour regiment is under 6 armour division. FORCE | August 2012 45 . with enormous flexibility before and during a war. headquarters 1 armour regiment (brigade). and the third strategic benefit is with regard to Chinese possession of tactical nuclear weapons (tnW) — something india does not have nor is inclined to have.ABOVE AND RIGHT Main building. unity of command and joint operations concept. which has three armour regiments. all equipment is mechanised for mobile operations and simulation is important part of training) sure. and its commander. senior colonel (brigadier) Su Rong.800 combatants including 167 officers. The regiment has three tank battalions with 40 tanks in each battalion. This is made possible by close politico-military interaction. one self-propelled gun regiment and an air defence regiment with a total of 8. China’s second strategic advantage lies in good and quick decision making. rong is 42 years old and has been in command since two years. One-third of the troops are on two years compulsory service. excellent strategic sustenance (through the general Logistics Department (gLD) and the general armaments Department (gaD)).000 combatants.

This is the defensive part. The PLa has concentrated on acquiring force multipliers: electronic support measures. it is a pity that the indian army’s Special Forces are being regularly used as improved commandos for counter-terrorism tasks in jammu and kashmir. to support a fast battle fought by the PLa’s mobile forces. The PLa’s vertical envelopment prowess was demonstrated during exercise Stride-2009.k.000 feet.000 feet). even the terrain favours the PLa. Reportedly. increased surveillance capabilities and precision-guided munitions. Regarding offensive capability. The biggest is the theatre itself. Central and eastern army Commands. next on its priority have been innovative fire application means with electronic control and observation systems. can equal a single theatre commander’s firm grip over war with direct access to the nation’s political-military leadership (Central military Commission). The indian troops have to undergo an excruciatingly long threestage acclimatisation process over 14 days (six days for stage one at 10. continues to have a much higher priority over mountain formations. Probably. the indian army and the iaF need to allot high priority to an integrated air defence. and four days each for the remaining two stages at 12. The PLa’s other twin operational advantages are its Special Forces (each service has its own units skilled to do what they should: operate behind enemy lines) and impressive air-lift capabilities. taking off from such heights.FORCE Visits China capture an indian advanced Landing ground (aLg) close to the LaC? What if the PLa’s Special Forces dropped directly in the Brahmaputra valley? to prevent such situation. have no such requirement. the PLa’s advantages mock the indian army’s war preparedness. PLa officer Colonel Yujun confirmed to me that “the Chengdu military area Command is responsible for taR. plus the Western and eastern air Commands. (The air division has two air regiments each with 40 aircraft. The aircraft are fully networked with night fighting capabilities. China’s overall forces commander will retain initiative throughout the conflict escalation ladder. is its operational logistics (discussed in the previous article). The tibetan autonomous Region (taR). The pilots do an average of 120 hours flying per year with emphasis on simulation. PLaaF aircraft will not be able carry full weapon loads. remains a question. ammunition and missile storage arrangements in the tibet autonomous Region (taR). which has the iaF brass worried. the PLa will elicit much better responses and flexibility. when he shifted from threat-based to capability-based procurements. Chief of staff. Western. senior colonel (air commodore) Xu Longcum standing next to an upgraded third generation J-10 aircraft with dual air to air and air to ground roles. a single PLa theatre with complete unity of command (aero-Command) faces four army commands and two air force commands from india on the disputed border. what stops the PLa from threatening to use tnW in the high altitude terrain with little collateral damage? at the operational level. there are enough logistics.” Pitted against this are the indian army’s northern. Singh’s inglorious tenure. What if the PLa was to 46 FORCE | August 2012 . the indian military is undecided.000 feet and 15. 24th air division. But how skilled and trained the air force and army’s Special Forces are. battlefield command and control systems. india lags behind in all these aspects because equipment for the western sector against Pakistan. as has been the case in the west against Pakistan. no amount of operational coordination that the six senior indian commanders will do. Training includes both tactical and combined arms.2:1. The average age of pilots is 30 years. This is no longer true. The division has 100 pilots with the pilot to aircraft ratio being 1. The iaF has procured american C-130j aircraft for special operations. in short. in any case CoaS general V. This is not all. the only advantage talked about for india has been the high-altitude of PLaaF airfields in taR. Yet another operational advantage with the PLa. being already on the plateau. a serving air marshal rank officer told the FoRCe team at eastern air headquarters that the People’s Liberation army–air Force (PLaaF) has developed special aircraft tyre material.) if the PLa does not get a quick breakthrough against a determined indian army deployed with defences in depth. the PLa. given the comparable command profiles. This is not all. did not help the case for acquisitions against China.

it can be said that the PLa has overwhelming advantages over the indian military for a border war in the himalayas. These are ‘The Future of Power. according to Brenner. now regarded as the founding sage of Chinese information warfare.’ armed with a bit of understanding about cyber. general ata hasnain. War will be conducted in non-war spheres. air force and the army (in the same order) are networking (the Chinese call this information-ization) themselves. the navy. recruiting from universities. that. nye. to my mind we have been very presumptuous in concluding that the PLa will play by the rules.’ This was in 1988. terrorist proxy. or brought down altogether. FoRCe met with concerned government people to understand how well india was prepared against the new threat. The need is to dwell on PLa’s present thinking in two areas: Cyber and space. was asked to answer. the PLa has been actively creating information Warfare militias. ‘Cyber War’ by Richard a. a quick recall informed me that we did face trouble with the FoRCe online edition and our e-mails. we could achieve the greatest of all strategic objectives. how important cyber security was to them. might be its greatest strength. there would be no decisive battles’. This is somewhat similar to the indian army’s concept of reconnaissance in depth. But the Chinese saw that C3i was fragile. They now talk about battle-space which has created confusion about who’s in that space and where the space is. the articulate senior colonel (he has done the Royal College of Defence Studies course in London with Lt. so it was also the american military’s point of greatest vulnerability. just as control of information had been the key to the american victory. paralysing or corrupting information systems would be the key to preventing american victory. Later at a formal dinner. who was quiet till then. ‘as for the US military. developed a strategy of unrestricted warfare that combines electronic. and commercial it companies. we blamed on the server. Senior Colonel Xu Weidi. realising that a conventional confrontation with the United States would be a folly.’ Brenner informs us that the PLa pamphlet on ‘unrestricted warfare’ was published in 1999 by two senior PLa colonels. While we have discussed various aspects of a conventional war (kinetic war) that india may be faced with against China. Strategists everywhere have therefore stopped talking about battle-fields. we need to cast our minds to around 2009 when reports of various indian government military and civilian website getting hacked started emerging. from the strategic teaching and research department of the PLa University of national Defence. rather than capture and hold ground. henceforth. The advantage that the colonel and the PLa have.’ by joel Brenner. The indian armed forces will find it extremely difficult to take on the PLa’s offensive tactical concept of simultaneous engagement on several fronts and points. FORCE | August 2012 47 . economic. i remember learning from the times of india newspaper in Delhi sometime in march 2010. is that they have been mulling over cyber issues since 1988. especially telecom firms.’ Colonels Qiao and Wang wrote: ‘From now on. Clarke. the battle-space is now everywhere. The needed military balance between the western sector against Pakistan and the eastern sector against China is not there.” was his response.’ by joseph S. the present military Secretary). “no one will win the battle in the cyber-space and hence no one should engage in cyber-war. another tactical concept could be advance on several fronts. The first rule of unrestricted warfare is that there are no rules. interestingly. in some cases they undergo light military indoctrination. forced local landings: amphibious operation landings using land forces and marine infantry component of PLan. nye writes that: ‘Chinese strategists. and last not least. Shen Weiguang. We (the US) know that China’s academy of military Science has endorsed the formation of cyber-militia and directed the PLa to make the creation of such units a priority. This could destroy the enemy’s will to launch a war or wage a war. in our view. Brenner informs us that ‘the Chinese see conflict on all fronts — but they do not see conflict as inconsistent with co-operation where interests intersect. Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui who had studied the american prowess displayed during the first gulf War (1991) closely. we seem to be at sea in understanding our adversary. Communications and intelligence (C3i). diplomatic. he was just back from Washington where the two sides had deliberated on cyber aspects.using which the less load-carrying disadvantage has been eliminated. this would be a disaster of unimaginable proportions. Control. depth and height of the operational space already appear to be old-fashioned and obsolete. it is a punitive theatre level action using Special Forces and heli-borne troops designed to mess up the enemy’s rear. The needle of suspicion in all cases pointed to China. ignorantly. in summation. alarmed by this development. ‘if we could destroy the enemy’s political. against this backdrop. was luckily seated next to me. all of which. he dwelled at length on the subject. told his perplexed PLa audience at the national Defence University. Their central thesis was that ‘the american military could be stopped in its tracks because its command and control rode on porous networks that could be penetrated. if true. corrupted. i recommend three extraordinary books written by eminent americans on what the PLa is up to. FoRCe team’s research showed that not only was there a need for much more to be done — all affected parties comprising military and sensitive government ministries were not on the same page — they were working in compartments. it would be difficult for the military sphere to serve as the automatic dominant sphere in every war. We should focus on security in cyber. The first is the long-range raid. research institutes. they are proportionately making themselves vulnerable to the cyber-threat. Considering that all three defence services. Yet another could be breakthrough by means of ballistic missiles or even a threat of tactical nuclear weapons. Consider the following four tactical concepts the PLa could employ. that FoRCe newsmagazine’s website was amongst important sites purportedly hacked by Chinese.’ Brenner writes. just as we neglected the Chinese front from 1986 onwards till finally waking up in 2009. ‘Since 2002. i asked the PLa officers’ panel that i met on june 19 at the Chinese ministry of national defence. The subject is cyber-security: the biggest challenge in the information age this century.’ he further writes that. Command. he told me that he was part of the Chinese team which was in talks with the US. and military infrastructure by putting virus-infected microchips into their systems. his concept of war and battlefield and how he may fight it. cyber. and ‘america the Vulnerable. economic and propaganda tools to deceive and exhaust the american system. all the prevailing concepts about the breadth. i must admit that his knowledge on cyber was exceptional and few officers in the indian military would match him.

“Demonstrating satellite interception is not something that 48 FORCE | August 2012 .” Probably the answer lies in cold statistics. we will be able to track up to 200. low earth or any other orbit. he replied. came into being in March 2012. i will generate an electronic scenario at the launch pad as if i am getting data from another satellite or ground-based radar and take that as the input for my mission-control centre. So technically. i can launch an interceptor. india has enough commercial satellites in space. captain Wei Xiaodong.000 pieces of debris in space. under command of the east Sea Fleet. air force and then army) satellites for communications and targeting needs. The demonstrated capability of DRDo’s exo-interceptor is only 80 km above earth. But it would play havoc with space supported C3i systems. explaining the programme. trying to modernize the armed forces. China’s aSat capability would smash legacy satellites into smithereens. as you know.” When i asked him. whether it is in the polar. Under the PLan restructuring.k. Surprisingly.000 kilometres per hour. thanks to aero-dynamic and other reasons. grasping the import of Chinese space capability. Dr V. it desires good space situation awareness. leaving clouds of debris which would adversely affect much needed situational awareness. where the path can be unpredictable. This set alarm bells in the US. tom kennedy told me recently at the Farnborough international air Show on july 8 that: “The Space-Fence programme. even if the DRDo were able to make an interceptor which could reach a height of 300 km — satellites in Leo move at speeds up to 28. i will know if i have accurately hit the target or not. straddling different ministries. once the programme reaches initial operating capability in 2017. he said. india’s reaction given by the director general. Shouldn’t we be worried about China’s demonstrated aSat capability? once we get a sense of China’s unrestricted warfare doctrine and its cyber and space prowess.. only they can answer this question. none less than the Prime minister’s office (Pmo) should prepare a holistic plan. why the Chinese thought it necessary to demonstrate anti-satellite capability. The Polar orbit is at a height of 843 km. surveillance and countermine measures. (housed in a new magnificent building. The armed forces cannot be allowed to prepare for the last war. We also have plans to launch dedicated military (navy. at present. Then. with three tasks at hand: operational.000 pieces of debris in space. Raytheon to launch the SpaceFence programme. Since the path is known. Unlike in ballistic missiles. the garrison. Chief of staff. The main difference between the garrison is its’ less focus on logistics than the earlier naval base. with a land-based interceptor. i can always simulate the satellite path electronically. there is a need to do a successful aSat. This increase is due to the advanced radar technology that will allow the US air Force to detect much smaller objects at greater distances and with much more certainty than the existing system. in an interview to FoRCe in February 2010. Shanghai naval garrison. to check my interception capability. Saraswat was incredible. Thus.” Considering that the US has hundreds of military and commercial satellites in space.FORCE Visits China is necessary to acquiring this capability. Satellites in Low earth orbit (Leo) are at heights of 300 km above earth — any lower and they will not be stable. “i do not know. the garrison has replaced the earlier Shanghai naval base. Raytheon’s senior executive. has the capability to track up to 20. Defence Research and Development organisation (DRDo). we have concluded that we do not need to check our building blocks to ascertain whether we have satellite interception capability. There is a need for three-pronged action: at the national level. it becomes evident that the indian armed forces can do little to deter the new threat. has a predictable path. the US directed its defence major. without action on the three above mentioned issues will be putting the horse before the cart. The higher Defence management (hDm) requires a complete shake-up and border management should get a boost — the last issue is the most urgent. logistics is being handled separately by another unit) The other issue is space. Satellite. to demonstrate assurance. Such an act cannot be construed an act of war. China demonstrated its anti-satellite (aSat) capability in 2007 by destroying its own legacy satellite.

Fearing that this would be highlighted in a SDR and may displease China.The Way Forward India needs a strategic defence review Pravin Sawhney | NEW DELHI / BEIJING FORCE Visits China the CeLeBRateD aUthoR.’ This exactly is india’s problem. and the Defence Research and Development organisation produced (actually still struggling) inS arihant (nuclear-powered and armed.’ i cannot agree with him more especially after reading in the same book that: ‘nearly six and a half decades after independence and Partition. Shashi Tharoor. the government is hesitant to order a second SDR. external affairs ministry. Delhi conveniently complains about China’s support to Pakistan to keep india boxed in the sub-continent. in his latest book ‘Pax indica’ has written about the need for india to do a strategic defence review (SDR). Pakistan remains india’s biggest foreign policy challenge. at present. if india UNEASY HANDSHAKE Premiers Manmohan Singh and Wen Jiabao is undecided about its defence. as a nation which aspires for a strategic role beyond its geographical boundaries. the public at large and elected representatives in Parliament. india continues to keep its sights low. india’s supposed backyard. and the media are all obsessed with Pakistan. he writes that: ‘as a democracy. it is useless against China. (The first SDR written by the national Security advisory Board in 1999 was quietly buried by the then dispensation as China and Pakistan were mentioned as threats to national security. india’s biggest national security and foreign policy challenge is China.) What will a SDR do? it will help prioritise india’s defence and security. inteRnational diplomat. This was not unusual as China threat was the prime reason given by Prime minister Vajpayee to the US for india’s 1998 nuclear tests. it cannot be certain about its security. to produce a national security strategy. inform Delhi that it is important to keep the home-base secure (called defence). and not Pakistan.’ Consider this: india’s defence service chiefs dismiss Pakistan as a mere irritant while committing maximum energy and finances against it. But such an exercise has not even been attempted. or that the US by hyphenating india-Pakistan relations is insensitive to Delhi. before it aspires for a larger security role in the indian ocean Region (ioR). While China is working assiduously to build its hard FORCE | August 2012 49 . SSBn) submarine after decades of effort with Pakistan in mind. which is diametrically out. Remember Cassius in Shakespeare’s julius Caesar: ‘The fault dear Brutus is not in our stars but ourselves that we are underlings. leaving only a little time and energy to look east at the nation which the US is anxious about. the armed forces. or why did President Bill Clinton and recently President obama while commencing their terms in office tell China to play a stabilising role in South asia. correct. only a SDR can set our national template. india needs to undertake a strategic defence review that brings in all elements of the security services. india’s former minister of state for external affairs and now an elected member of Parliament. most strategic experts. its political leadership.

PLa maj. China regularly advises india to keep its media restrained. Patience is needed for stability in border areas. if one was needed. that build the great Wall. Probably the most sensitive bilateral issue for China is the question of the Dalai Lama and the future of tibetan government-in-exile in india. can india undertake the desired strategic reach all alone ( following strategic autonomy mantra). india wants to resolve the border dispute which China has ruled out. China and US. it will use its non-kinetic capabilities (space. he sounded optimist and said. india cannot treat the two major powers. have told me 50 FORCE | August 2012 . The other issue is the galloping bilateral trade towards USD 100 billion.1billion. or its needs other friendly nations? it is universally acknowledged that the western Pacific and ioR will be the global pivots this century. China or Pakistan? Should india move vertically (afghanistan and Central asia Republics) and horizontally ( from the horn of africa to malacca Straits and eastwards) at the same time. the Chinese may pressurise Delhi to banish the tibetan government-in-exile from india after the passing away of the Dalai Lama. and three. or is there a need to prioritise? and. and i am sure the joint working groups can sort out these problems. at worst. given this.” his premise was based on the fact that both sides have agreed that boosting mutual investment would be the answer to deepen trade ties. From india’s perspective this would be a serious matter. two. notably Russia and Vietnam. it has resolved its land border disputes with 10 nations. border peace talks should be conducted away from media attention. Both countries have two distinctive characteristics: the US is fond of chess game (checkmate). China is unlikely to go to war with india over the border dispute. the charismatic spiritual leader still stands like a colossus. and is expected to do so with Bhutan soon.” There are two more issues at the bilateral level. all this will find an echo in a grand strategy that india lacks and a SDR will help it formulate. he said that. The 44 tibetans self-immolation bids in a year in China are proof. at the Chinese ministry of national defence. india being the sole exception.” a more direct message was given to me by ma jisheng of the Chinese ministry of external affairs. For this reason. india’s trade deficit with China at USD 27. the worry is its independent media. and both covert and overt support in MUTUAL SUPPORT The Dalai Lama with J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah power (economic and military power) to take on the US in the western Pacific and later the ioR. while China prefers Wei qi (strategic encirclement and strategic patience). it has put enormous psychological pressure on the indian armed forces. it already stands at a whopping USD 73. by keeping india’s conventional capabilities distributed and thereby weak. it helps Pakistan to continue with its proxy war against india. top indian army officers. especially the army and air force. Delhi needs to remember that tibet is one of China’s identified core area of interest. the disputed border is China’s pressure point to keep india’s strategic reach ambitions in check. She said. While Delhi has accepted the Chinese formulation that it is enough to keep the disputed border peaceful. and none has experience or stomach for equal partnerships. india is undecided on three critical counts: which is the bigger threat. This probably explains the recent setting up of the new assam Rifles (india’s only paramilitary force headed by army officers but reporting to the ministry of home affairs) command headquarters in Silchar with jurisdiction over border states of mizoram.9 billion. tripura and southern assam. The million dollar question now is: will the Dalai Lama identify his successor during his lifetime? if he does it. “For better results.FORCE Visits China that China continues with a low level support to insurgents in the northeast. notwithstanding indian armed forces assessment. general Yao Yunzhu made this point to me. that spirituality overrides materialism for tibetans living under Beijing’s rule. through good border management. if he fails to do this. When i raised this issue with ma jiasheng at the Chinese ministry of external affairs. “You will soon see this matter resolved to mutual satisfaction. one. heavily tilted against india. China. while the border dispute is not. it is a catch-22 situation for Beijing: they can denounce him but cannot wish him away. While the Dalai Lama has been completely defanged by india in its appeasement policy towards China. the tibetan government-in-exile would get the breather. The Dalai Lama has stymied China’s move by declaring that his re-incarnation will be born outside Chinese-controlled tibet. has its land borders completely secure. who cannot be identified. cyber. terrorist proxy in northeast india. Let us dwell on these relationships starting with China. not resolving the border dispute with india helps China in three ways. “Both sides have subtle agreements on the Line of actual Control. destined to play big roles here with the board brush it uses for other bilateral relationships. For the first time in centuries. This has its own accompanying risks as evident from trends where Chinese companies are keen to enter india’s national security sensitive telecom and power sectors.

But. US’ arrogance about its technology. while the border dispute is not. ‘monsoon: The india ocean and the Future of american Power’ by Robert D. at worst. Tibet is one of China’s identified core area of interest. notwithstanding Indian armed forces assessment. Coco islands and maybe Bhutan (once the bilateral dispute is resolved). China has rebuffed US’ recent calls to quickly complete a code of conduct for the seas as the US secretary of state hillary Clinton warned clashes were likely without a region-wide deal.” Yet it can be said that China is inching (wei qi) towards expansionism. has welcomed (strategic patience) the US’ new grand strategy. these have been for the protection of other countries’ commercial vessels against piracy. land.’ Delhi may recall that Chinese officials have often been scornful of calling the india ocean by this name as it suggests affinity towards india. and to devise a road map for strategic talks by the two governments. civilian nuclear activities. tibet issue is a different ballgame which requires to be handled deftly. to technologies for anti-access and denial asymmetric capabilities being developed by the PLa. The operational concept supporting the US pivot in asia-Pacific. he said: “Remember no Chinese official has said that South China Sea is China’s core area of interest. however. When i brought up this subject with jia Xiudong. how does this square up with the recent Chinese announcements establishing a military garrison at Sansha in the Paracel islands (South China Sea). able to project force around the whole navigable eurasia rim-land. in addition. his reply was astounding. and prompted the US to announce this century as its Pacific century. PLa Colonel Yang Yujun said that: “PLan has sent 11 flotillas until now to the gulf of aden. a shift from technologies used on land for conventional wars and counter-terrorism. something it needs for its burgeoning sea-trade. and both covert and overt support in operational logistics to Pakistan) to keep India in check What does all this mean for india? The answer probably is in the brilliant must-read book. it could be argued that China has not sought military bases but only access at these countries’ ports. air. For the present. Sri Lanka. namely. stability and prosperity of the region. US defence companies are already embarked on major projects. kaplan (the book is recommended reading by US Chairman.” What he did not say is that these opportunities would have given PLan sailors a hands-on experience of long voyages and would enlist China’s future claim to the india ocean being its legitimate area of naval operations. This has been suggested in Chinese newspapers only. building on the success of the htCg.operational logistics to Pakistan) to keep india in check. cyber. The Pentagon has said that the concept affects all five domains. the high technology Cooperation group (htCg) and the next Steps in Strategic Partnership (nSSP). China is unlikely to go to war with India over the border dispute. China. bypassing global restrictive regimes to which it is committed. myanmar. to Pakistan. the results accrued can best be termed as modest with enormous unlocked potential. the two countries agreed to dialogue on ballistic missile defence (BmD). how one assesses this matter. as part of the nSSP. it is in the distant future (strategic patience). The civil nuclear deal which has not taken off. Considering that the US administration has declared no budget cuts for development of the needed aSBC capabilities. China has been making regular sea forays into the gulf of aden. terrorist proxy in northeast India. it should be noted that more than the Chinese vessels. can Chinese prominent newspapers write such sensitive commentaries without clearance from the government? moreover. the US will move 60 per cent of its naval assets in the western Pacific by 2020. The htCg established in november 2002 had two tasks: to encourage free talks between the US and indian private sector industries. Bilateral talks commenced in march 2001 coinciding with the US’ Bush administration lifting of the sanctions imposed on india after the 1998 nuclear tests.” Yet. So it is incorrect to say that PLan or China is expansionist. nine years later. also claimed by Vietnam? on the face of it. The formal talks were held at two forums. called the air Sea Battle Concept (aSBC) is meant to allow freedom of access and manoeuvre by destroying the networks and weapon platforms that might deny that freedom at the start of any conflict. this matter requires no elaboration. Well documented. at the regional level. We hope the US presence would be for peace. PLan’s Senior Captain (Commodore) Zhang Wei. The nSSP came into being in February 2003. indian DRDo’s penchant to bluff its own people on indigenous strategic capabilities espeFORCE | August 2012 51 . isn’t this a good enough reason for india to seek greater partnership with the US? Let’s look at india’s strategic relations with the US.” Well. Bangladesh. he writes that: ‘a one-ocean navy in the western Pacific makes China a regional power. Delhi should prepare to face this challenge in consultations with the Dalai Lama. to my question. The singular important thing that india has been seeking from the US since 1984 is dual-use and gradually high-end technologies. The first is China’s allout support. two instances lend support to this argument. general martin Dempsey). a senior fellow-in-residence at the state-run China institute of international Studies in Beijing. and high technology trade. Since 2010. the geo-political and geo-strategic differences. two issues deserve attention. it will use its non-kinetic capabilities (space. sea. now it depends. joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. China will be locked with the US in the western Pacific. no one is. which to the surprise of the world it suddenly declared its core area of interest in 2010? This trigger created panic amongst the aSean nations. saying that China plans to make claims over the indian ocean anytime soon. of Chinese naval military studies institute told me during an interaction in Beijing that: “PLan does not have nor intends to have military bases outside China. all these nations (except Bhutan) freely use the China card in dealings with india. The second issue is Chinese military’s string-of-pearl strategy (strategic encirclement) for the indian ocean which covers Pakistan. to expand bilateral cooperation in three areas: civilian space programmes. isn’t this what China is doing in the South China Sea. space and cyberspace. a two-ocean navy in both the western Pacific and the indian ocean makes China a great power. with enormous lessons and opportunities for india. ma jisheng told me that: “We understand the US presence in asia-Pacific due to historic reasons. lacking a military capability to take on the US.

but the US has drastically slashed down the sought numbers saying this would destabilise the region. unfortunately. india is the US’ natural partnership choice for stability and free navigation of the seas. this is after all subject to mutually acceptable border resolution. 52 FORCE | August 2012 . going beyond a seller’s relationship. Both sides must find ways to break the deadlock on deeper defence industrial partnership. it continues to treat the defence sector as strategic rather than a national industry. The good news is that both sides have not given up. like China. The US’ purpose in doing this was to familiarise the indian armed forces to its equipment to eventually develop commonality of equipment for inter-operability. is anxious about the india-US relationship. two recent examples will make this point. under the new Special Representatives talks. maintain stability amidst transparency. this could restrict China’s free naval operations in the indian ocean region. Regarding the border dispute. GREAT POSSIBILITIES Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with President Barack Obama cially BmD programme. which is poised to challenge the US with three advantages (its geography. india. which is why both never tire to describe the relationship as a strategic partnership. india. For the indian ocean Region. has a growing navy. The US has already strengthened relationships with its allies and partners in east asia and western Pacific region. is democratic and abides by international rules. This probably holds the key to a mutually beneficial relationship. with some clear and bold thinking. given this deadlock. The truth is that india and the US could and should do more. The indian army is keen to purchase large numbers of US javelin missiles. both sides. and has provided a boost to them with its new Pacific pivot. economic might and growing asymmetrical military capabilities) in asia Pacific. This will ensure that while india strengths its border management. it could still gain by advising the spiritual leader to identify his successor in his lifetime. on bilateral trade. india is hesitant to do this as it does not want to hand over its strategic sector to private ownership. Such transparency could include identification of areas of disputes as well. While Delhi appears to have exhausted the Dalai Lama card. The other issue that needs immediate attention is india’s relations with the US.FORCE Visits China amongst such geo-political realities.. should make its perception of the Line of actual Control public. and so it has repeatedly sought reforms in indian defence procurement policy in two areas of Foreign Direct investment and offsets for meaningful mutual gains. The US is also keen to enter the indian defence industry in a big way. india has had the largest number of bilateral military exercises with the US than any other friendly country. from partnership to maybe a strategic one. it keen for a deeper relationship on BmD including sales of Patriot missile. if anything. Beijing. The historical political distrust of one another has been and still remains the biggest road-block to unleashing the potential of this relationship. but the DRDo has stymied talks by offering indigenous platforms of doubtful integrity. and india’s reluctance to compromise on its strategic autonomy have all been responsible for the tardy bilateral cooperation. and ways are found to keep trade deficit minimal. on the other hand. there is and will be little progress on US giving its dual-use and maybe high-end technology to india. india straddles the ioR. must seize opportunities knocking at its doors. The US. india needs to be vigilant on two counts: Chinese investments steer clear of sensitive sectors. and this is what worries China.