by Lt Gen J P Singh, PVSM, AVSM, former Dy Chief of Army Staff
To many, current Chinese actions appear baffling as the Dragon is giving the impression of taking on the entire world aggressively…. the world that matters anyway! Its belligerent and provocative stance in the South China sea, along the Line of Actual Control with India or its actions in the IOR, are all part of the non-subtle messaging that China is indulging in. There is no randomness in this signalling, as it is all part of a carefully crafted strategy.
Through a host of these tactical manoeuvres, China is creating a secure space, and providing depth to its Belt and Road Initiative. Trillions are being spent by China on BRI to establish global economic highways linked to China, which by 2040 will replace the dollar hegemony. Security of these economic highways is of prime importance to China.
Specific to Ladakh, India’s rapid improvement of infrastructure poses a threat to the CPEC. Chinese do not much believe in rhetoric when it comes to serious strategy, even though they can endlessly repeat a lie to gain psychological advantage over their adversary. So the moment our Home Minister made claims on Aksai Chin and POK, the Chinese construed it as a realistic threat to the CPEC. So China is now hardening the LAC into LOC. We may witness a similar Chinese military stance in the East i.e. Sikkim, Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh to give depth to its projects in Myanmar and Bangla Desh. Should this happen, it would spell trouble for India. LAC converted to LOC will bleed us in terms of manpower and revenue expenditure and eat into our capital outlays for modernisation.
One will spot a similar pattern in SCS and IOR by relating it to BRI.
China will finally dare USA only by 2040 when it makes breakthroughs in what is called second technology wave. These comprise Quantum Technology, Hypersonics, Machine Learning, AI, IOT, High Energy weapons, Robotics, Unmanned Systems, Space as a domain, Cyber and so on. In some of these fields, China has already surpassed USA, even though China is well aware that with its present overall capability, it cannot match USA. It is looking at a time frame of 2030-35 when the second RMA is unleashed with new wave technologies. By then the economic arteries under BRI would have also stabilised.
In Ladakh, we are currently focused on one of the many global tactical actions of China. While we have to, and we must, respond, an overkill in terms of an operational build up in the sector needs to be avoided. China is looking for dominance, not war. Our focus should be on building dissuasive capabilities in the short term and a strong deterrence in the mid/long term. Given the state of our economy, we need to be prudent in budget management and R&D efforts.
Unfortunately, we are still too focused on training and equipping to fight the “Gulf War” with Russian equipment….86% of our current inventory is from Russia. In the true sense of the word ATAMNIRBHATA, as applicable to the defence sector, we should be focused on R&D, design and development of second wave technology systems and platforms while simultaneously, sustaining and upgrading the present inventory. That is the way to go!
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