Friday, October 26, 2007

FACING THE CHALLENGE OF CHINA'S MILITARY MODERNISATION

‘They Shall Not Pass’. This was, till recently, the slogan, the motto of 2 Mountain Division of the Indian Army, the division deployed against the Chinese in almost the entire state of Arunachal Pradesh.

This defeatist, passive slogan sums up the approach of not only the military but the country to the threat posed by China ever since it inflicted a humiliating defeat on us in 1962. As a nation, for over 45 years, we have meekly accepted, almost surrendered, to the superiority, almost invincibility of the Red Army, and have psyched ourselves into believing that the best we can do, should China get militarily aggressive again, is to not allow them to go past our soldiers deployed in the remotest of places.

The thought of giving an effective, deterrent counter punch to the Chinese in their territory appears to simply frighten us, as we believe that the Chinese will then react with such force and ferocity that we will not know what hit us. So, we continue to do what befits ostriches, not great nations.

We also continue to not learn from history the disastrous consequences of allowing aggressors to fight us repeatedly on our territory, not theirs; not even once. Why that basic understanding still eludes us is a mystery that needs to be solved quickly.

The absence of a tradition of national strategic thought does, to some extent, explain the almost total lack of strategic appreciation shown by the society and the government. What is baffling is the almost identical attitude of resignation manifestly shown by our military leadership for decades.

Military commanders seem happy conducting exercises and war games against Pakistan. It is comforting to fight against ‘yourself’, as it were. After all Pakistani Army is no more than the break away portion of the Indian Army, with the same ethos, organization, traditions and tactical doctrines inherited from the British. Above all, with a shared and common past and ethnicity, even the thought processes of opposing Generals are almost similar, and relatively easy to mutually read.

The Chinese present a completely unfamiliar tactical and civilisational challenge, that too in very difficult terrain. Our military commanders are used to fighting yesterday's wars and pretending to be 'Rommels' and 'Guderians', in the relative comfort of the plains of Punjab and the deserts of Rajasthan! So, it is convenient even practically for them to imagine that the Chinese don’t exist!

No wonder then that while China pro actively constructed nuclear-proof shelters for its troops manning the border with India years before the 1998 Pokhran nuclear blasts, the Indian Army is still happy to provide primitive protection and facilities to its own troops facing a China which has been nuclear for 43 years. Not surprising, considering that our troops are expected to do no more than lay down their lives to the last man, recalling that slogan ‘They Shall Not Pass’.

In this context, as reported by Times Now news channel on October 25, 2007, it not surprising that it has taken Defence Minister AK Anthony to warn the Army "to take note of China’s military modernization…and formulate flexible response options to emerging situations".

That it was not the other way round is a clear reflection of the Pakistan centric mindset that the Army has got itself into, just as the Chinese had hoped when they took the strategic decision to help Pakistan pit itself against India on almost equal military terms.

If ever a rapid shake out of what appears to be deep slumber was needed by the Army, to meet the challenge of China's ever growing military might, it is now. Later might be too late, like it was in 1962.


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