Q. Can India wage a limited war at LAC to regain the lost territories in Ladakh (upto Finger 8 maybe)? What are the possible non-military means by which we can coerce China to status-quo-ante in the near term? Why China is not mounting additional military pressure along LAC in the Eastern Sector where it has clear strategic advantages?
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Replied by Lt Gen Gautam Banerjee

India can engage in battles at the tactical level to evict the recent intrusions in Ladakh. Beyond that, and in a prolonged military conflict which will certainly ensue into a full-fledged reaction, China will eventually have the upper hand, so as to be able to show her prowess, even if that comes with heavy political and military losses.

Her intense sense of superiority and innately hegemonic ambitions, both matched by resources and autarkic political will, would not allow China to concede, whatever be the cost. Chairman of the Communist Party and his Politburo are not answerable to the people, and therefore human, social and economic losses do not matter to them as long as their face is saved. The autarkic regime has built-up China’s military strength accordingly during the first thirty years of the Communist rule at great sacrifices to her people - that is a path we have shunned. Therefore, China will not settle for what could be construed as status quo ante.

It is certain that in any war, limited or otherwise, we will not be able to defeat China, not in the near future. A stalemate in a short war may be possible, but its escalation will still be in the hands of a frustrated, outragedand powerful China.The rule being: ‘You do not go for military options unless you are certain of success and achievement of your desired end state’, India will not adopt military action to evict the Chinese from their newly occupied positions.Besides, there are contradictoryopinions amongst our polity whereasin Chinathere is only the ever-uncontested Politburo todictate.

Non-military means to coerce China into status quo ante point to diplomacy of give-and-take. Even here, China will make it a India’s ‘give’ and China’s ‘take’ transaction,as proved in other instances in the neighbourhood; beside ‘granting’token ‘concessions’, China is not a power to be accommodative of her diffident quarry’s sovereign rights. Economic pinch or incitement of internal disturbances in China’s restive regions may be resorted to, but as stated,that will not deter China from continuing military operations regardless till her inflated self-image is vindicated.

Forging effective alliances of the victims of China’s highhandedness could be a possible way to thwart her aggressive conduct. But when each victim nation is ready to make backyard compromises to seekeven partial self-relief, that kind of China weary alliance would require the Communists to go the demonic Nazi way. That is most unlikely because the Chinese culture professes satisfaction with the opponent’s kow-towing, and does not promote violence beyond a point.

Lastly, China is not mounting additional military pressure along the LAC in the EasternLadakh Sector because for an underdog India even to checkmatean aggressive China will be internationally rejoiced as a bully’sfall, as was the case with Vietnam War of 1979.That might scuttle the Communist Party’s expansive ‘China Dream’. To reiterate, China too subscribes to the dictum that ‘You do not go for military options unless you are certain of success and achievement of yourdesirable end state’.

By the way, mention has been made of China’s ‘clear strategic advantages’ in Eastern Ladakh. To clarify, strategic advantages do not fall from heaven, these have to created. China has created similar advantages all along the Indo-Tibet Border, while India has not been able to do so - due to valid reason of course.

Therefore, forget status quo ante; the term itself is contested. Our best bet is to deter China from grabbing any further territory, bear the high costs of escalated military deployment, be prepared for skirmish actions and tactical level engagements and wait for growth of own military power, own political consensus, when it comes.

Date : 28/10/2020
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