Blunder in the Himalayas

Spearhead Analysis-19.06.2020

A big blunder is called a blunder of Himalayan proportions. What do you call a blunder of Himalayan proportions at 16000 feet right in the Himalayas? Probably a folly of gargantuan proportions. This is what has transpired in the latest Sino-Indian clash in the disputed Ladakh region. So much for India trying to resolve border disputes unilaterally and blatantly to its advantage, ignoring all international norms and dispute resolution protocols. Nepal has acted promptly to draw up a map that has been duly approved by its parliament—a move triggered by India’s “good neighbor policy”.

By now analysts have brought out all the facts. Behind the incident is India’s drooling tail-wagging relationship with the US and anti-China statements on many issues especially CPEC. In the CPEC context India has talked of its ambitions in Azad Kashmir (the part with Pakistan) and Pakistan’s northern Gilgit-Baltistan area. India has also steadily stepped up its cease fire violations along the Line of Control between India and Pakistan. No doubt China took note of India’s attitude as it has a Line of Actual Control with India and its own claim line with an agreement not to change status quo in the area. There is also the matter of the Indian brigade sized base in the Daulatbad area and the stealthy infrastructure build-up for logistic support. China has a well- developed base in Tibet –another irritant because of India’s support of the Dalai Lama. China thought that India needed a lesson before its conduct created a serious conflict situation. The result is 20 Indian soldiers—including a Colonel– bludgeoned to death and another 17 dead during evacuation. Neither side fired a shot because neither wanted an escalation.

The geographic and spatial aspects of the conflict area are important only from the point of view that this area was selected by the Chinese to signal a message to India—and more specifically to the Indian political government that is the architect of the anti-China stance to please the US and the decision to change the status of Indian Occupied Kashmir and Ladakh. Far more important is the fact that the Indian soldiers were unarmed and apparently without ready access to weapons and ammunition in the event of an emergency. It is obvious that they were rushed there at short notice to make a show of strength to the Chinese and pre-empt any Chinese action. It is also important to note that on the Indian side logistics were not in place and medical support was inadequate. The Chinese on the other hand were well prepared, equipped and above all determined to do what they had resolved to do. Therein is a lesson for all militaries.

Also pertinent is the lesson that political demands on the military should not lead to immediate compliance. Strategic and tactical intelligence must be obtained if it is not available and military options carefully weighed before troops are committed to action. The senior military leadership has an enormous responsibility— to the men they command, the country that depends on them for security and the Constitution that they are sworn to defend.

(Spearhead Analyses are collaborative efforts and not attributable to an individual)