|India is far more vulnerable than is generally accepted
India’s main feeder road from the Assam plains into Arunachal
Pradesh’s Kameng district. This is the only road available for troops’ movement towards the LAC
In December 2009, the then chief of army staff (COAS), General Deepak Kapoor informed the nation that
China too, is a military threat. In response to a question by the media, he reportedly said that the
army was “preparing for a two-front war”. While this created a furore both inside and outside the country,
his statement had been mis-interpreted; he spoke about building capabilities, which was his responsibility.
He did not say that India intended to fight a two-front war, which is the political leadership’s prerogative.
To repeat a cliché: intentions can change any moment, but it takes long to build capabilities.
To be fair to General Kapoor, his were no idle words. He was the first Chief of the Army Staff (COAS)
in 25 years, who gave a plan for force accretion to cater to the Chinese threat, to the government.
More importantly, 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, the month General Kapoor retired. He put up a requirement for ultra-light howitzers for these divisions, which are expected to be procured soon, under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route from the United States. He travelled more times to the eastern theatre, reviewing operational plans and defence preparedness, than any COAS in recent times. General Kapoor was building ‘threat-based’ capabilities; something that defence minister, A.K. Antony concurred with in his 2009 classified directive to the Chiefs of Staff Committee: prepare for a ‘two-front’ war.
General Kapoor understood the realities of India’s Higher Defence Management (HDM). Considering that
the defence ministry has no services’ representation for decision making (the Integrated Defence Headquarters
does mere staff work for the ministry), the service chiefs must necessarily have cordial relations with
defence ministry civilian bureaucracy to expedite
| services’ procurements. Both the air and naval headquarters excel in this. (His successor,
General V.K. Singh sought to dilute the ‘threat-based’ acquisitions plan by his call for ‘Transformation’
or ‘capability-based’ acquisitions. 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, (COSC) for the other two defence services to add their needs as well. Hopefully, the present
COAS, General Bikram Singh by his remarks to the media that modernization will be ‘more focussed’ has
reverted to the sensible ‘threat-based’ acquisitions plan).
A year into his retirement, I had a long interaction with General Kapoor. Since he did not give out
any classified information, I will take the liberty here to disclose a bit of what he told me. (I have
two purposes. One, is to see that he gets due acknowledgement for being the first COAS after years of
nationwide slumber, to wake up to the China threat. And two, to buttress my arguments on HDM).
| His assessment was: “India has a non-confrontational attitude towards China. China is more powerful.”
His war appreciation: “The boundary dispute could result in a crisis or war with China. The Dalai Lama
and the Tibet issue will not lead to conflict as India will not up the ante on these matters.” His thinking
on COSC (He was Chairman, COSC for six months from 31 August 2009 to 31 March 2010): “There is no combined
services’ thinking on the China threat. No paper has been prepared. The threat matters more to the Army
because of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and the lack of infrastructure. After all, the gains and
losses show most on the ground. Like the army, the other two services have their own concerns. The navy
is concerned about the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN or PLA Navy) growing capabilities. The
air force is focussed on strategic reach.” On preparedness: “We are about 10 years behind China in preparedness
on the disputed border. We have started work in a focussed way but the gap is not likely to be overcome.”
On acquisitions: “We have to have good personal rapport with the defence ministry for timely acquisitions.
A confrontationist attitude does not help the service. Unfortunately, the need is for better politico-military
In 2010, as the army was busy building and restoring its defences on the LAC and seeking acquisitions,
the air force was doing much the same. 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. Though both headquarters agreed on the need for capability and infrastructure development,
they differed on the nature and immediacy of the threat. Probably being close to the seat of central
government, the air headquarters’ views were more tempered. The man in-charge at the Air Headquarters
told me that, “There is no Chinese threat in the near future.” Near-future was explained as 10 years.
“Moreover, 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,” I was told. 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 enemy airfields. In any case, given the flexibility of air power,
the Indian Air Force (IAF) will be able to hold the Chinese air force (PLAAF) in a limited war, was
the concluding thought.
China’s well gravelled track upto the LAC at Bum La. China has such proper tracks all along the LAC
|| While the IAF harps on a limited war, the army has assessed four levels of military threat from China:
non-contact war (coercion and intimidation), low, medium and high level threats. In the low-level threat,
the PLA has been assessed to field five to six divisions on the LAC against India. The medium level
threat envisages eight to 12 divisions facing us. The high level threat could be 18 to 20 divisions
staring us in the face. Army Headquarters acknowledges that the PLA is capable of mobilising up to 32
divisions on the LAC against us in one season; the saving grace is that given the terrain limitations,
it will be difficult for the PLA to bring more than 20 divisions on us together.
Probably, the only issue on which the army and the air force agree completely is that the next war,
should it happen, will not be a repeat of the 1962 rout. The humiliation of the 1962 war is so much
ingrained in our services’ psyche that even the Chinese are aware of this. During my interaction at
the Chinese Ministry of National Defence, I was surprised to hear Major General Yao Yunzhu of the People’s
Liberation Army (PLA) say: “The 1962 memory should be forgotten.”
| While I agree with her completely, my reasons are different. The need is not to
forget the 1962 war completely, like the PLA officer suggested. But to ensure
that we are not preparing for the last war. To my mind, the starting point for
the Indian armed forces should not be modernization for a likely border war with
China. But to appreciate the nature of war itself. Will
Former Chief of Army Staff, General Deepak Kapoor has been an operationally under-rated commander
|| the next war be a repeat of the 1962 war, or the 1986 Sumdorong Chu crisis, or will it be something
entirely different? This question, which is at the heart of the India-China conflict, can only be answered
by the political and military leadership putting their heads together. The political leader’s task —
unlike what defence minister Antony repeatedly says — is not to help the defence services with modernization
plans alone. But to work with them to figure out what kind of confrontation is most likely, with China.
The Higher Defence Management (HDM) is all about this. Before we get on with this subject, a review
of the 1986 Sumdorong Chu crisis would be in order. The Indian Army’s present operational stance and
nature of war with China is based upon this little understood event.
After the 1962 rout of India’s 7th brigade, the 1986 Sumdorong Chu crisis was an extraordinary muscle-flexing
by India. An Indian Intelligence Bureau post, close to the Thag La ridge on the Line of Actual Control
(LAC), the scene of the massacre of the 7th brigade, was occupied by PLA
| soldiers, when they found it
temporarily vacated. Once the PLA refused to vacate the post, India under the team of Prime Minister
Rajiv Gandhi and General K. Sundarji, decided to build up troops (Operation Trident), with China following
likewise. In one year, by the spring of 1987, PLA’s 63rd army from Chengdu was facing India’s two
mountain divisions in Tawang. General
SKETCH OF Sumdorong Chu and surrounding areas
|| Sundarji ordered airlifting of artillery ammunition worth
crores to be stocked in the forward areas. Reserves from 3 and 4 corps were moved forward, with Tawang
being designated as the corps vital area, to be defended at all costs.
Unknown to the PLA, the Indian Army’s nightmare had begun. First, General Sundarji asked the nearby
Indian 77th brigade to forcibly evict the Chinese from the supposed IB post. But Eastern Army Commander
Lt. General V.N. Sharma (later COAS), asked how he was to respond to the PLA’s tactical nuclear weapons
(known to be in Tibet) if they were used. Second, the crisis was compounded by operational problems.
The Indian Army was already committed heavily in Operation Brass-Tacks against Pakistan, with all signs
of further escalation. The two-front war scenario stared India in the face. It was a panic situation
and India had placed itself in an unenviable position. Somehow, sense prevailed in Delhi, Beijing and
Islamabad and the twin crises were diffused.
While China learnt the right lesson, India did the opposite.
| Beijing, under Deng Xiaoping decided to develop infrastructure and good border management along the disputed border with India. The latter, in
a good-will gesture after the supposedly ‘successful’ China visit by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in
1988, abandoned the step-by-step infrastructure development plan it had adopted in 1980. The development
till then had been a great help during the Indian troop build-up in 1986. After diplomatic relations
were restored between India and China in 1976, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had approved COAS General
K.V. Krishna Rao’s plan presented to her in 1980. It aimed to overcome the deficiencies of the 1962
war, when forward posts were occupied without adequate logistics support. Called Operation Falcon, the
plan was to develop over a 15-year period, infrastructure and viable lines of communication along the
entire border with China. General Sundarji was to make use of this planned infrastructural development,
which was in its sixth year, for Operation Trident.
Main building,headquarters 1 armour regiment (brigade),
|| He also made use of the operational stance General Krishna Rao had first suggested. Since 1958, operational
commanders had favoured holding the Se La or Bomdi La line in strength. This was also the stance during
the 1962 war. But during Operation Trident, General Sundarji pushed the whole mass forward, with Tawang
as the centre for Kameng district and Walong for Lohit district. This left Subansari and Siang with
a minimalist posture. This, at present, continues to be our operational stance. But with a difference
— in Tawang, troops now hold the line much ahead of where they were during Operation Trident.
Against this operational stance, let us compare the strategic and operational levels for the two sides.
The PLA has three major advantages at the strategic level. The most important in all probability, is
excellent border management. They have good roads (and overall infrastructure) right up to the LAC.
There is unity of command between the PLAA and the border guards (Militia) — the latter is commanded
by regular PLAA officers. Unlike the Indian Army which is holding the
| LAC in strength, the PLAA is nowhere to be seen. The Chinese border guards hold positions sparingly in penny pockets. PLA officer Colonel Yang Yujun whom I met in Beijing, told me that “The Militia performs combat readiness support and defensive operations.” I knew how it does this, as the FORCE team had travelled to Tawang and beyond in August 2010. We met with senior officers of the 190 mountain brigade, responsible for the sensitive sector. Standing at Bum La, ahead of Tawang, at a height of 15,000 ft — one gets a good sense of road
communications. One also gets an idea of the so-called ‘defensive operations’. Unlike Indian troops,
the Chinese militia seem to be under no pressure to maintain round the clock vigil; they instead rely
on technology. The entire sector has been strewn with a plethora of tactically networked surveillance
devices, which are monitored regularly. The Chinese Militia brigade (2 border guard regiment) facing
Tawang, is 40km inside in depth at Tsona Dzong. The regular forces, trained in mobile operations, are
invisible. The road that leads to Tsona Dzong is a well-tarred gravel road, which allows better water
drainage during monsoons. The Chinese have deliberately avoided making ‘black-top’ roads, as that puts
pressure on the Indian side not to made ‘black-top’ roads. In any case, the tracks on our sides, if
they exist at all, are pathetic to say the least. Tawang, the corps defended area, has over 200 posts.
Many of them do not have tracks. Troops have to lug loads — walking from five hours to two days from
the last track-head. A second road axis leading to Tawang (which is crucial for speedy troop build-up)
was approved by the Vajpayee government in 2001. But work has not yet commenced — it awaits clearance
from the environment ministry. (North Sikkim is another area of great sensitivity. Here also, work on
roads sanctioned in 2001 is stuck for similar reasons).
Senior Colonel (brigadier)Su Rong. (The regiment has 1,800 combatants including 167 officers. One-third of the troops are on two
years compulsory service. Rong is 42 years old and has been in command since two years. The regiment
has three tank battalions with 40 tanks in each battalion. 1 armour regiment is under 6 armour division,
which has three armour regiments, one self-propelled gun regiment and an air defence regiment with a
total of 8,000 combatants. All equipment is mechanised for mobile operations and simulation is important
part of training)
|| Given the decrepit state of Tawang’s road and tracks, the state of overall infrastructure along the
LAC needs no elaboration. The roads are extremely narrow and precarious. Plus they have what the army
calls ‘friction of terrain’ — massive and regular landslides are a norm during the rains. With so many
additional troops being pumped into Arunachal Pradesh, it is not difficult to understand how the PLA
will benefit from a monsoon campaign against India. During peacetime, PLA’s good border management helps
them in incremental encroachments. Their physical absence also keeps the Indian troops under enormous
China’s second strategic advantage lies in good and quick decision making, with enormous flexibility
before and during a war. This is made possible by close politico-military interaction, excellent strategic
sustenance (through the General Logistics Department (GLD) and the General Armaments Department (GAD)),
unity of command and joint operations concept. 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.
If the PLA does not get a quick breakthrough against a determined Indian Army deployed with defences
in depth, what stops the PLA from threatening to use TNW in the high altitude terrain with little collateral
At the operational level, the PLA’s advantages mock the Indian Army’s war preparedness. The biggest
is the theatre itself. The Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), 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. PLA officer Colonel Yujun confirmed to me that “the Chengdu Military
Area Command is responsible for TAR.” Pitted against this are the Indian Army’s Northern, Western, Central
and Eastern Army Commands, plus the Western and Eastern Air Commands. Given the comparable command profiles,
the PLA will elicit much better responses and flexibility; in short, China’s overall forces commander
will retain initiative throughout the conflict escalation ladder. No amount of operational coordination
that the six senior Indian commanders will do, can equal a single theatre commander’s firm grip over
war with direct access to the nation’s political-military leadership (Central Military Commission).
Chief of staff, 24th air division, 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. (The air division has two
air regiments each with 40 aircraft. The division has 100 pilots with the pilot to aircraft ratio being
1.2:1. The average age of pilots is 30 years. The aircraft are fully networked with night fighting capabilities.
The pilots do an average of 120 hours flying per year with emphasis on imulation. Training includes
both tactical and combined arms.) __________________________________________________
|| 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. The PLA’s
vertical envelopment prowess was demonstrated during exercise Stride-2009, which has the IAF brass worried.
What if the PLA was to 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, the Indian
Army and the IAF need to allot high priority to an integrated air defence, as has been the case in the
west against Pakistan. This is the defensive part. Regarding offensive capability, the Indian military
is undecided. The IAF has procured American C-130J aircraft for special operations. But how skilled
and trained the air force and army’s Special Forces are, remains a question. 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.
Yet another operational advantage with the PLA, is its operational logistics (discussed in the previous
article). Reportedly, there are enough logistics, ammunition and missile storage arrangements in the
Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), to support a fast battle fought by the PLA’s mobile forces. This is not
all. The PLA has concentrated on acquiring force multipliers: electronic support measures, battlefield
command and control systems, increased surveillance capabilities and precision-guided munitions.
| Next on its priority have been innovative fire application means with electronic control and observation
systems. India lags behind in all these aspects because equipment for the western sector against Pakistan,
continues to have a much higher priority over mountain formations. In any case COAS General V.K. Singh’s
inglorious tenure, when he shifted from threat-based to capability-based procurements, did not help
the case for acquisitions against China.
Chief of staff, Shanghai naval garrison, captain Wei Xiaodong. (Housed in a new magnificent building,
the garrison, under command of the East Sea Fleet, came into being in March 2012. Under the PLAN restructuring,
the garrison has replaced the earlier Shanghai naval base, with three tasks at hand: operational, surveillance
and countermine measures. The main difference between the garrison is its’ less focus on logistics than
the earlier naval base; logistics is being handled separately by another unit) __________________________________________________
|| This is not all. Even the terrain favours the PLA. The Indian troops have to undergo an excruciatingly
long three-stage acclimatisation process over 14 days (six days for stage one at 10,000 feet, and four
days each for the remaining two stages at 12,000 feet and 15,000 feet); the PLA, being already on the
plateau, have no such requirement. Probably, the only advantage talked about for India has been the
high-altitude of PLAAF airfields in TAR. Taking off from such heights, PLAAF aircraft will not be able
carry full weapon loads. This is no longer true. 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, using which the less load-carrying disadvantage has been eliminated.
In summation, it can be said that the PLA has overwhelming advantages over the Indian military for a
border war in the Himalayas. The needed military balance between the western sector against Pakistan
and the eastern sector against China is not there. 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.
Consider the following four tactical concepts the PLA could employ.
The first is the long-range raid. This is somewhat similar to the Indian Army’s concept of reconnaissance
in depth. It is a
| punitive theatre level action using Special Forces and heli-borne troops designed to mess up the enemy’s
rear, rather than capture and hold ground. Another tactical concept could be advance on several fronts.
Yet another could be breakthrough by means of ballistic missiles or even a threat of tactical nuclear
weapons. And last not least, forced local landings: amphibious operation landings using land forces
and marine infantry component of PLAN.
While we have discussed various aspects of a conventional war (kinetic war) that India may be faced
with against China, to my mind we have been very presumptuous in concluding that the PLA will play by
the rules. Just as we neglected the Chinese front from 1986 onwards till finally waking up in 2009,
we seem to be at sea in understanding our adversary, his concept of war and battlefield and how he may
fight it. If true, this would be a disaster of unimaginable proportions. The need is to dwell on PLA’s
present thinking in two areas: Cyber and space.
I recommend three extraordinary books written by eminent Americans on what the PLA is up to. These are
‘The Future of Power,’ by Joseph S. Nye; ‘Cyber War’ by Richard A. Clarke; and ‘America the Vulnerable,’
by Joel Brenner. The subject is cyber-security: the biggest challenge in the information age this century.
Nye writes that: ‘Chinese strategists, realising that a conventional confrontation with the United States
would be a folly, developed a strategy of unrestricted warfare that combines electronic, diplomatic,
cyber, terrorist proxy, economic and propaganda tools to deceive and exhaust the American system. The
first rule of unrestricted warfare is that there are no rules.’
Brenner informs us that the PLA pamphlet on ‘unrestricted warfare’ was published in 1999 by two senior
PLA colonels, Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui who had studied the American prowess displayed during the
first Gulf War (1991) closely. 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, corrupted,
or brought down altogether.’ Colonels Qiao and Wang wrote: ‘From now on, it would be difficult for the
military sphere to serve as the automatic dominant sphere in every war. War will be conducted in non-war
spheres. All the prevailing concepts about the breadth, depth and height of the operational space already
appear to be old-fashioned and obsolete. Strategists everywhere have therefore stopped talking about
battle-fields. They now talk about battle-space which has created confusion about who’s in that space
and where the space is. In our view, the battle-space is now everywhere. Henceforth, there would be
no decisive battles’.
Interestingly, 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.’ He further writes that, ‘As for
the US military, Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence (C3I), might be its greatest strength.
But the Chinese saw that C3I was fragile, 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.’
Armed with a bit of understanding about cyber, I asked the PLA officers’ panel that I met on June 19
at the Chinese ministry of national defence, how important cyber security was to them. Senior Colonel
Xu Weidi, from the strategic teaching and research department of the PLA University of National Defence,
who was quiet till then, was asked to answer. “No one will win the battle in the cyber-space and hence
no one should engage in cyber-war. We should focus on security in cyber,” was his response. Later at
a formal dinner, the articulate senior colonel (he has done the Royal College of Defence Studies course
in London with Lt. General Ata Hasnain, the present Military Secretary), was luckily seated next to
me. He dwelled at length on the subject. He told me that he was part of the Chinese team which was in
talks with the US. He was just back from Washington where the two sides had deliberated on cyber aspects.
I must admit that his knowledge on cyber was exceptional and few officers in the Indian military would
| The advantage that the colonel and the PLA have, is that they have been mulling over cyber issues since
1988. According to Brenner, Shen Weiguang, now regarded as the founding sage of Chinese information
warfare, told his perplexed PLA audience at the National Defence University, that, ‘If we could destroy
the enemy’s political, economic, and military infrastructure by putting virus-infected microchips into
their systems, we could achieve the greatest of all strategic objectives. This could destroy the enemy’s
will to launch a war or wage a war.’ This was in 1988. ‘Since 2002, the PLA has been actively creating
Information Warfare militias, recruiting from universities, research institutes, and commercial IT companies,
especially telecom firms. 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. In some
cases they undergo light military indoctrination,’ Brenner writes.
Against this backdrop, we need to cast our minds to around 2009 when reports of various Indian government
military and civilian website getting hacked started emerging. The needle of suspicion in all cases
pointed to China. I remember learning from the Times of India newspaper in Delhi sometime in March 2010,
that FORCE newsmagazine’s website was amongst important sites purportedly hacked by Chinese. A quick
recall informed me that we did face trouble with the FORCE online edition and our e-mails, all of which,
ignorantly, we blamed on the server. Alarmed by this development, FORCE met with concerned government
people to understand how well India was prepared against the new threat. 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. Considering
that all three defence services, the navy, air force and the army (in the same order) are networking
(the Chinese call this information-ization) themselves, they are proportionately making themselves vulnerable
to the cyber-threat.
The other issue is space. China demonstrated its anti-satellite (ASAT) capability in 2007 by destroying
its own legacy satellite, with a land-based interceptor. This set alarm bells in the US. Grasping the
import of Chinese space capability, the US directed its defence major, Raytheon to launch the Space-Fence
programme. Explaining the programme, Raytheon’s senior executive, Tom Kennedy told me recently at the
Farnborough International Air Show on July 8 that: “The Space-Fence programme, at present, has the capability
to track up to 20,000 pieces of debris in space; once the programme reaches initial operating capability
in 2017, we will be able to track up to 200,000 pieces of debris in space. 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.” Considering that the US has hundreds
of military and commercial satellites in space, it desires good space situation awareness. China’s ASAT
capability would smash legacy satellites into smithereens, leaving clouds of debris which would adversely
affect much needed situational awareness. Such an act cannot be construed an act of war. But it would
play havoc with space supported C3I systems.
Surprisingly, India’s reaction given by the director general, Defence Research and Development Organisation
(DRDO), Dr V.K. Saraswat was incredible. In an interview to FORCE in February 2010, he said, “Demonstrating
satellite interception is not something that is necessary to acquiring this capability. Satellite, as
you know, has a predictable path, whether it is in the polar, low earth or any other orbit. To check
my interception capability, I can always simulate the satellite path electronically. 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. Then, I can launch an interceptor. Since
the path is known, I will know if I have accurately hit the target or not. Unlike in ballistic missiles,
where the path can be unpredictable, thanks to aero-dynamic and other reasons. So technically, we have
concluded that we do not need to check our building blocks to ascertain whether we have satellite interception
When I asked him, why the Chinese thought it necessary to demonstrate anti-satellite capability, he
replied, “I do not know. Only they can answer this question.” Probably the answer lies in cold statistics.
Satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) are at heights of 300 km above earth — any lower and they will not
be stable. The Polar orbit is at a height of 843 km. The demonstrated capability of DRDO’s Exo-interceptor
is only 80 km above earth. 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 28,000 kilometres per hour. Thus, to demonstrate
assurance, there is a need to do a successful ASAT. India has enough commercial satellites in space.
We also have plans to launch dedicated military (navy, air force and then army) satellites for communications
and targeting needs. 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, it becomes
evident that the Indian armed forces can do little to deter the new threat. There is a need for three-pronged
action: at the national level, none less than the Prime Minister’s office (PMO) should prepare a holistic
plan, straddling different ministries. The Higher Defence Management (HDM) requires a complete shake-up
and border management should get a boost — the last issue is the most urgent. Trying to modernize the
armed forces, without action on the three above mentioned issues will be like putting the horse before
the cart. The armed forces cannot be allowed to prepare for the last war.
© 2012 FORCE ARROWHEAD MEDIA PVT. LTD. All Rights Reserved.