This is the month of anniversaries—Indian independence, the Kargil conflict, FORCE and revocation of articles 370 and 35A. However, present times call for sober reflection rather than exultation.
The Ladakh crisis has entered its fourth month. With military and diplomatic talks stalled, it is believed that the additional army inducted into the theatre will need to stay there into the winter. Reports suggest that high altitude clothing for soldiers is being procured from abroad and order have been placed with indigenous private industry too. Moreover, used and worn out clothing from Siachen sector instead of being disposed off is being refurbished and recycled for troops in the theatre. The situation with war materiel is similar; most are being imported.
We believe that the newly-inducted forces will remain there permanently since the PLA, with over 200,000 soldiers in Tibetan Autonomous Region, is a threat that will not go away in a hurry. The story will not end with the resolution of the present impasse. The PLA’s Western Theatre Command, created in December 2015 has a defined purposed. While being the biggest PLA command, it is the only formation with identified threat and war theatre. India and its military should understand that not only has the threat on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) risen substantially; two more things have happened: The quantum of threat foretells that China’s eventual military objectives would be more than border skirmishes, limited or border war. After all, a risen military power would not go to war unless it is convinced that the land it desires cannot be grabbed by means short of total conventional war.
The other worrying issue is the probability of a reinforced single front war in north Ladakh. This would entail Pakistan military fighting with total operational support of the PLA. Of course, these are the worst-case scenarios. But professional militaries have to base their plans on worst-case scenarios. And India must keep these in mind.
Given this, China will now be a recurring subject at FORCE. We will focus on some element of its growing military power in each issue. As is obvious now, China’s transgression in Ladakh is the cover story this month. Lending weight to it are three perspective from the neighbourhood—China, Pakistan and Moscow.
In other stories, there is an article looking at one year of Kashmir union territory, a special report on the state of police as well as the future of defence & aerospace trade shows in the view of the Pandemic that refuses to abate.
On that note, stay safe. Stay hopeful.