by Sourabh Joshi

What Should Be India’s Response?

After 50 years of relatively harmless pushing and prodding at regular intervals at LAC there is sudden rise in Chinese aggression, not only for the first time in five decades there is a huge build-up of PLA warranting mirror deployment by Indian side but the bloodshed has also resumed with unfortunate pitched battle took place on fateful night of 15th June claimed more than 60 casualties. What is behind this development and what lies ahead in future?


In late spring of 5th century BC great Chinese strategist Sun Tzu created a military treatise which is one of the greatest military text in Chinese history known as “Art of war” over the next two and half millenniums it has not only been an important document for most of the 24 dynasties china has seen, but has influenced modern eastern and western military strategists alike. Mao Zedong had also based his Cultural Revolution style on the principles of the same book. India has always been unsuccessful to understand Chinese actions due to lack of understanding of Chinese military strategy, the same can be definitely understood by careful exploration of following principles from this widely followed masterpiece.

Here the first and most important principle which stands out is “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle”.

Here China has no confusion at all with respect to who is the enemy, “any adversary which can stop you from your strategic intended position or goal has to be your enemy”, china is only country which has long term strategic plans and government continuity due to one party communist rule with complete control over all aspects of Governance, administration, judiciary, media and even lives of people. There is clear laid down goal of regional superiority by 2035 and challenge for global supremacy by 2049 thus it’s clear that who stands in the way of intended hegemony of Asia is also the largest and most potent future adversary “India” a country of over billion young people, Till 1990s it enjoyed an equal humble economic status with china, now barely has one fifth size of its economy but has very high potential to sustain high growth rates in near future and is expected to catch up in coming decades. The second and final adversary for global superiority is “USA” but it can wait as china is not looking at global leadership in haste.

After being clear about the goals and enemy the second most important principle to note is “All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near”

Thus looking at the situation at LAC we can easily explain the Chinese Modus operandi, Chinese took big advantage of cancelled annual summer exercise which Indian army conducts along with ITBP on forward areas of LAC due COVID situation. Knowing fully well that their movements will be tracked by India and US on their sophisticated satellites they planned the entire operation well under garb of military exercise in “Tibet” and before could India comprehend their real intentions they quickly acquired forward positions on LAC with unprecedented huge military buildup, though after understanding quickly the intention of adversary India also surprised them with mirror deployment in no time owing to recent work on border infrastructures ,decades of efforts in creating china centric defence infrastructure, one of the best mountain strike units deployed for specific purpose of countering china and partly due to Indian air force’s envious lift capability, India is the only country which operates two most capable heavy lift aircrafts in the world IL 76MD and C-17 together.

However all what transpired after the build-up is a living example of the deception, the talks, good will and pacts are also tools of war and meant to be broken as per Chinese strategy, almost a month of talks and posture of calm and inaction and is an effective cover for strengthening build up, understanding of mutual withdrawal from acquired forward position was a ploy to create situation to surprise and attack adversary and also try and secure higher ground to dominate the key areas of Galwan valley, Hot Springs area and most crucial area of Daulat beg oldie. Thus looking at build-up and action it is clear laid down trap to first ensure Indian forces withdraw back and they can only pretend to withdraw only to come back with full force.

Thus it is clear that Chinese intention is not to withdraw looking at their actions and what is being published in their mouthpiece “Global Times”. What should be India’s response to this situation in immediate, medium and long term future? The actions needed need to be extremely calibrated and strategic in nature some of the key elements recommended are:-

• India should first realize its own strength and also identify its enemies as without realizing both its own strength and weakness and realizing the same for the opponent it’s doomed to fail even if it win any number of wars.

• India should also look to surprise the adversary with quick manoeuvres not only on tactical military front and also on economic, political and diplomatic fronts.

• India should also carefully plan for future engagement with china knowing well its adversarial position with respect to it and while it should create a deception of peace and cooperation but should work on long term goal to create capacities, alliances to isolate the adversary. COVID present a great opportunity to start working on this plan.

• While India should be ready to face war on military front but it should realize the war in 21st century will not be fought only with weapons, it will be fought on Diplomatic, economic, technology, political and most important is on psychological front. Here we should be clear that china will try to use opposition voices and left parties/organizations in India to discredit its leadership to affect morale of its armed forces and its people. Citizens should take all opposition voices with clear filters to ensure while opposition is necessary but it should not start hitting morale of government and Defense machinery. There will be huge cacophony of paid journalists to malign government of the day as CCP invests big time on international media and even large media houses in west are also sold to Chinese Munificence. So India should also make large investment in creating its own propaganda machinery by creating its own state news channel with strategic messaging, also influencing key foreign media houses to plant regular stories to attack its enemy.

• Government should be firm to deal and faster to detect future paid “Pseudo Khilafat movements” as these actions from left secessionists/Islamists are bound to increase with investment from the adversary. State need to penetrate all such groups and should try to emulate Chinese methods to weaken the opponents of the state.

• India should immediately end all understandings/pacts reached with china specially one china policy as they do not serve any purpose now, it should realize that today’s India is in a situation where it is dealing with an authoritarian Regime who doesn’t value good intentions, it’s like US facing Soviet Union in 1950s , however the challenge is much bigger as china has asymmetric financial clout with respect to India and it also shares a land border with India, which was not the case with US-Soviet Union rivalry. Nevertheless India should also respond by making military organization of all affected states including Vietnam, Australia, Philippines, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia and even Taiwan, a small Asian NATO equivalent supported by US and EU.

• India should invest and create offensive and defensive IT capability to thwart cyber-attacks on Indian companies/entities/institutions and also create abilities to respond such actions with equal intensity assaults.

All the above responses and more are medium and long term in nature but in immediate term, India should indeed need to show aggressive surprises to PLA by either launching a surprise limited attack at a location they suspect the least , it can also transgress in areas where Indian army is in dominant position like in Arunachal and Sikkim sectors, it should be ready for quick localized military conflict but also should prepare for a possibility of an all-out war, before coming to table of negotiation India should ensure that it should be in position of relative strength.

Saurab Joshi tracks military and aerospace issues closely. Views expressed are his own