Red Wall
Chinese presence in POK further limits India’s options in Kashmir
By Pravin Sawhney

The biggest external threat to India, it appears is neither from Pakistan nor China, but from the government itself in New Delhi, which appears intent to take its non-confrontationist China policy to a suicidal end. Both the Indian Army, with an excellent human-intelligence network in Pakistan, and United States intelligence have independently confirmed the presence of Chinese troops in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). According to the New York Times, there are about 11,000 Chinese troops in POK. The GOC-in-C, Northern Command, Lt General K.T. Parnaik (who would know his beans) while expressing anxiety on the physical collusion between the strategic partners, has, during a recent seminar held in Jammu, urged the strategic community to ponder over the implications of Chinese presence close to the Line of Control (LC). Following this, the army chief, General V.K. Singh (an old Kashmir and China hand, he was chief of staff in 15 Corps in Srinagar, and GOC-in-C, Eastern Command) flew to Leh (14 corps responsible for Ladakh) to get first-hand assessment from field commanders. It is obvious that he would have tried to give the army’s assessment on the Chinese presence in POK to whoever would listen to him in the government. But, who is listening to the army is the crux of the matter.

FORCE has since 2008 followed the position of various national security stakeholders on this subject. The three defence services that publicly swear by ‘jointness’, have different perspectives on the Chinese military threat.

The Indian Navy is focussed on the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) growing footprints in the Indian Ocean. The Indian Air Force reflects on the People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s (PLAAF) strategic capabilities.
   OTHER COLUMNS Neither has mulled over the truism that themilitary threat from China comes from the disputed land border and now the increased blurring of the military held lines (the Line of Actual Control with China and the Line of Control with Pakistan) in POK by the two adversaries. The Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) has never written a combined document on the Chinese threat for consideration

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of the Union defence minister; each service has given its individual written threat assessment. This subject has holistically not been presented by the defence services to any higher ups including the National Security Advisor, and the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) chaired by the Prime Minister. Interestingly, they have never been asked to do so. After the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met the three services chiefs on 29 November 2008 on the need for punitive action and a possible war between India and Pakistan, two intertwined subjects were not discussed: use of nuclear weapons, and Chinese role in the confrontation. The Prime Minister was reluctant to militarily engage Pakistan as this would jeopardise India’s upward economic trajectory.

It was the army’s regular badgering on the Chinese land threat that led to the defence ministry viewing the issue seriously. Consequently, A.K. Antony issued his five-yearly operational directive in 2010 stating that the defence services should be prepared for a two-front war. This was a stark departure from all earlier operational directives where the military was told to handle the Pakistani threat; the unsaid directive was that the Chinese threat would be taken care of by diplomacy. Thus, on the one hand, on Antony’s urging, the CCS cleared new army raisings (first accretions since the raising of 29 Infantry Division in 1983), a total of four divisions (50,000 troops) over 11th and 12th defence plans (till 2017). On the other hand, no inter-ministerial review of imperatives leading to the need for the two-front war has been done between the defence and external affairs ministries.
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