Archive for the ‘China vs India’ category

Why an Obscure Strip of Land in the Himalayas is Important for the Free World

September 7, 2017

Why an Obscure Strip of Land in the Himalayas is Important for the Free World, Gatestone InstituteLawrence A. Franklin, September 7, 2017

India’s withdrawal already has served China’s interest: to pressure Bhutan and Nepal to resist seeking help from New Delhi to defend their sovereignty. China wants these small Himalayan countries to view India as an unreliable ally, and probably hopes they will begin looking to Beijing for protection and leadership.

Where the wider region is concerned, China most likely considers India’s capitulation as a signal to other countries engaged in territorial disputes with it — such as Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Japan — to succumb to bilateral negotiations with Beijing, rather than solicit international or multilateral organizations to negotiate for them. All of these states, which are either U.S. allies or have friendly relations with America, are keenly aware of their vulnerability in the face of China’s growing military power.

The United States must not allow China to intimidate India and other friendly regional states. Rather, it must support the banding together of those countries to defy Beijing and contain Chinese expansionism. American influence in the Pacific is at stake.

A months-long confrontation between China and India over an obscure piece of land — the Doklam plateau in the Himalayas — has serious implications that should not be minimized or ignored.

China’s decision to pick a fight with India near their mutual border with the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan is not just a local issue: the regional altercation could have global repercussions.

The crisis was sparked early in the summer of 2017, when China constructed a road inside Bhutan, an ally of India’s. (Bhutan’s border is internationally recognized, but China rejects its legitimacy, claiming that the area is really part of southern Tibet.) In response, Indian troops entered the disputed territory on June 12 and faced off with Chinese soldiers and road construction crews. No shots were fired, however brawling ensued.

(Image source: Nilesh shukla/Wikimedia Commons)

China’s behavior, which reflects its ultimate objective of achieving hegemony in the Pacific, runs counter to the U.S. policy imperative to protect freedom of navigation on the high seas, through which one-third of the world’s commerce passes. To this end, the U.S. Pacific Fleet conducts regular and frequent multilateral naval exercises to keep these waters free of Chinese control. One such exercise was conducted jointly with the Indian Navy during the recent standoff with China.

The upshot of the standoff was that India backed down. On August 28, New Delhi withdrew its troops from Doklam, a move that China has touted as a victory and deployed as a warning. As a Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman triumphantly announced, “We remind the Indian side to learn the lesson from this incident.”

India portrayed the temporary resolution to the conflict differently, claiming the crisis was defused as a result of a mutually agreed-upon diplomatic decision, which it called an “expeditious disengagement of border personnel.” In any event, as no territorial issues were resolved along the 3,500-kilometer China-India border, future incidents are likely to erupt.

In the meantime, India’s withdrawal already has served China’s interest: to pressure Bhutan and Nepal to resist seeking help from New Delhi to defend their sovereignty. China wants these Himalayan countries to view India as an unreliable ally, and probably hopes they will begin looking to Beijing for protection and leadership.

Where the wider region is concerned, China most likely considers India’s capitulation as a signal to other countries engaged in territorial disputes with it — such as Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Japan — to succumb to bilateral negotiations with Beijing, rather than solicit international or multilateral organizations to negotiate for them. All of these states, which are either U.S. allies or have friendly relations with America, are keenly aware of their vulnerability in the face of China’s growing military power. If they become disillusioned and weaken their resistance to Beijing’s ambitions, the United States’ standing in the Pacific will be damaged irrevocably.

This is precisely the indirect message that China has been conveying to the powers-that-be in Washington, while warning India not to participate in any possible U.S. strategy to contain Chinese influence. Speaking on August 1 at an event to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army, Chinese President Xi Jinping hinted at this when he said, “We will never permit anybody, any organization, any political party to split off any piece of Chinese territory from China at any time in any form.”

The United States must not allow China to intimidate India and other friendly regional states. Rather, it must support the banding together of those countries to defy Beijing and contain Chinese expansionism. American influence in the Pacific is at stake, which should be of great concern to the rest of the free world.

Dr. Lawrence A. Franklin was the Iran Desk Officer for Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. He also served on active duty with the U.S. Army and as a Colonel in the Air Force Reserve, where he was a Military Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Israel.

World View: China and India Prepare for Border War at Doklam Plateau

August 13, 2017

 

World View: China and India Prepare for Border War at Doklam Plateau, BreitbartJohn J. Xenakis, August 12, 2017

(Please see also, China and India on brink of armed conflict as hopes of resolution to border dispute fade. — DM)

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • India reinforces its military in preparation for war
  • Bhutan makes it clear to China that its ally is India
  • SCMP: China and India on brink of war that could spread to the Indian Ocean

India reinforces its military in preparation for war

Chinese soldier stands guard on the Chinese side of the border crossing between India and China. (AFP)

India’s military have raised the alert level in the region surrounding the Doklam Plateau, along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) the forms the border between India and China.

For almost two months, China and India have each had 300 soldiers just 100 meters apart on the plateau, 3,000 meters above sea level. India is not increasing its troop strength on the plateau itself, but is bringing troops into bases nearby, and is raising the alert level in preparation for war.

The border dispute involving China, India, and Bhutan over the Doklam Plateau continues to be unresolved and, in fact, appears to be escalating. As we have been reporting, a standoff between India’s army and China’s army on Doklam plateau in the tiny country of Bhutan. China is attempting to annex the region, and on June 16 sent Chinese troops and construction workers to begin road construction. Bhutan troops tried to prevent the Chinese troop incursion, but they were overrun. India sent in its own troops, saying that it did so when Bhutan invoked a treaty with India and asked for help, resulting in a standoff.

No bullets have been fired yet but, as we recently reported, China appears to have set an August 19 deadline for India to withdraw its troops from the Doklam Plateau.

Even if August 19 passes with no military action, there’s another hard deadline: The Communist People’s Congress in Beijing in November. If the standoff has not been resolved in time for that meeting, it could be a major humiliation for China’s president Xi Jinping.

In addition to setting deadlines, China has been using every possible form of psychological warfare on India to try to force them to withdraw their soldiers, and allow the Chinese military to invade and annex Doklam Plateau. Some of the techniques used by China include the following:

  • Claim that India has invaded Chinese territory, even though India’s troops are on the Doklam Plateau, which belongs to Bhutan.
  • Warn India to avoid a repeat of their loss in a 1962 border war, without mentioning China’s loss in a 1967 border war.
  • Warn India that if it doesn’t back down, then China will invade Jammu and Kashmir.

India has moved its army to a state of “no war, no peace,” which is an alert state where soldiers take up positions that are earmarked for them in the event of a war. Reuters and Indian Express and India Times and Financial Express and International Business Times (India).

Bhutan makes it clear to China that its ally is India

From the beginning of this crisis, China’s media have insisted that Bhutan and China have no dispute, implying that the two countries agree that the Doklam Plateau belongs to China, not Bhutan.

Furthermore, China’s media have insisted that Bhutan did not want India’s intervention and that Indian troops had entered the region in order to gain control of Bhutan.

Bhutan has, in fact, tried to avoid inflaming the situation, and has said little, hoping that India and China find a peaceful resolution.

However, on Thursday, the government of Bhutan issued a statement made its position very clear:

Our position on the border issue of Doklam is very clear. Please refer to our statement which has been published on the web site of Bhutan’s Foreign Ministry on June 29, 2017.

The referenced June 29 statement is as follows:

Press Release June 29, 2017

In view of the many queries raised recently in the media regarding the Bhutan – China boundary in the Doklam area the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would like to convey the following:

On 16th June 2017, the Chinese Army started constructing a motorable road from Dokola in the Doklam area towards the Bhutan Army camp at Zompelri. Boundary talks are ongoing between Bhutan and China and we have written agreements of 1988 and 1998 stating that the two sides agree to maintain peace and tranquility in their border areas pending a final settlement on the boundary question, and to maintain status quo on the boundary as before March 1959. The agreements also state that the two sides will refrain from taking unilateral action, or use of force, to change the status quo of the boundary.

Bhutan has conveyed to the Chinese side, both on the ground and through the diplomatic channel, that the construction of the road inside Bhutanese territory is a direct violation of the agreements and affects the process of demarcating the boundary between our two countries. Bhutan hopes that the status quo in the Doklam area will be maintained as before 16 June 2017.

Once again, we have a situation where China’s claims are simply lies. As usual, we have to point out that China has lied repeatedly and continuously about its claims and criminal activities in the South China Sea, and so there is no reason to believe any claims they make about Bhutan’s territory on the Doklam Plateau.

As we have said before, China is a highly militarized international criminal state, but at some point, they will go one step too far, and bring an enormous catastrophe on themselves and the world. India Times (8-Aug) and Kashmir Monitor and Bhutan Foreign Ministry

SCMP: China and India on brink of war that could spread to the Indian Ocean

Among Chinese media publications, we often quote China Daily and Global Times. Both are strictly controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, though Global Times is far more nationalistic.

The Hong-Kong based South China Morning Post (SCMP) is a bit more independent than the other two. That is not to say that they would directly confront and contradict Beijing policy – if they did, Beijing would probably have the editors abducted, thrown into a pit and tortured. But they are able to print analyses that are a bit more balanced than the pure propaganda of the other two.

According to an SCMP analysis, both China and India are preparing for an armed conflict in the event that negotiations fail.

The article quotes a Chinese military source:

The PLA [People’s Liberation Army] will not seek to fight a ground war with Indian troops early on. Instead it will deploy aircraft and strategic missiles to paralyse Indian mountain divisions stationed in the Himalayas on the border with China. [Indian troops will probably hold out for] no more than a week.

Chinese military sources believe that any conflict will be controlled, and not spill over into other disputed areas, of which there are currently three along the 2,000 km border.

However, an Indian defense expert, says that a conflict will not be limited, and could extend into the Indian Ocean.

China is vulnerable in the maritime area, because China is heavily reliant on imported fuel and, according to figures published by state media, more than 80 per cent of its oil imports travel via the Indian Ocean or Strait of Malacca.

Dr Rajeev Ranjan Chaturvedy of the National University of Singapore says:

Any Chinese military adventurism will get a fitting reply from the Indian military.

Certainly, it will be detrimental for both, but if Beijing escalates [the conflict], it will not be limited. Perhaps, it may extend to the maritime domain as well.

If China engages in a military offensive against India, New Delhi will take all necessary measures … [and will] respond to Chinese actions in its own way. Why only a border war? It could escalate to a full-scale India-China war. South China Morning Post (Hong Kong)

China and India on brink of armed conflict as hopes of resolution to border dispute fade

August 13, 2017

China and India on brink of armed conflict as hopes of resolution to border dispute fade, South China Morning Post, Minnie Chan, August 11, 2017

(Due to China’s apparently increasing problems with India, might China be less aggressive in its support of the Kim regime in North Korea? — DM)

In July, India, the United States and Japan completed their 10-day Malabar 2017 naval exercise in the Bay of Bengal, while around the same time the US approved the US$365-million sale of military transport aircraft to India and a US$2-billion deal for surveillance drones.

As a result, the Indian navy now has eight Boeing P-8A Poseidon submarine hunters patrolling in the Indian Ocean.

******************************************

Chinese and Indian troops are readying themselves for a possible armed conflict in the event they fail in their efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution to their border dispute on the Doklam plateau in the Himalayas, observers said.

On Friday, India’s defence minister Arun Jaitley told parliament that the country’s armed forces are “prepared to take on any eventuality” of the stand-off, Indian Express reported the same day.

Sources close to the Chinese military, meanwhile, said that the People’s Liberation Army is increasingly aware of the possibility of war, but will aim to limit any conflict to the level of skirmishes, such as those contested by India and Pakistan in Kashmir.

“The PLA will not seek to fight a ground war with Indian troops early on. Instead it will deploy aircraft and strategic missiles to paralyse Indian mountain divisions stationed in the Himalayas on the border with China,” a military insider told the South China Morning Post on condition of anonymity, adding that he believes Indian troops will probably hold out for “no more than a week”.

Another military source said that officers and troops from the Western Theatre Command have already been told to prepare for war with India over the Doklam crisis.

“There is a voice within the army telling it to fight because it was Indian troops that intruded into Chinese territory in Donglang [Doklam],” the second source said. “Such a voice is supported by the public.”

Both sources said that China’s military believes any conflict will be controlled, and not spill over into other disputed areas, of which there are currently three along the 2,000km border between the two Asian giants.

However, Indian defence experts warned that once the first shot is fired, the conflict may escalate into full-scale war. That in turn could result in New Delhi blockading China’s maritime lifeline in the Indian Ocean.

“Any Chinese military adventurism will get a fitting reply from the Indian military,” Dr Rajeev Ranjan Chaturvedy, a research associate at the Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore, told the Post.

“Certainly, it will be detrimental for both, but if Beijing escalates [the conflict], it will not be limited. Perhaps, it may extend to the maritime domain as well,” he said.

“If China engages in a military offensive against India, New Delhi will take all necessary measures … [and will] respond to Chinese actions in its own way. Why only a border war? It could escalate to a full-scale India-China war,” he said.

Rajeswari Rajagopalan, a defence analyst from the Observer Research Foundation think tank in New Delhi, said that “in the event of a full-scale war, definitely India’s navy will prevent the Chinese navy from moving into the Bay of Bengal or the Indian Ocean.”

China is heavily reliant on imported fuel and, according to figures published by state media, more than 80 per cent of its oil imports travel via the Indian Ocean or Strait of Malacca.

Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie said that India in 2010 established a naval base in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, close to the Strait of Malacca, where the narrowest sea channel is just 1.7km wide.

“Since 2010, India has also upgraded two airstrips on the islands to serve fighters and reconnaissance aircraft,” he said.

“All these moves pave the way for India to be able to blockade Chinese military and commercial ships from entering the Indian Ocean in the event of a naval conflict between the two countries.”

In July, India, the United States and Japan completed their 10-day Malabar 2017 naval exercise in the Bay of Bengal, while around the same time the US approved the US$365-million sale of military transport aircraft to India and a US$2-billion deal for surveillance drones.

As a result, the Indian navy now has eight Boeing P-8A Poseidon submarine hunters patrolling in the Indian Ocean.

Chinese and Indian troops fought a war in 1962 after a series of skirmishes heightened tensions on the border. That conflict ended largely in a stalemate, despite China’s large military advantage.

However, Chaturvedy said that India has learnt lessons from its past mistakes and is now better prepared to defend itself against China.

Macau-based military expert Antony Wong Dong said that both sides have underestimated each other.

“If the border conflict expands to the sea, it will be very difficult for the PLA to defeat the Indian navy, whose capabilities are much stronger after the purchase of the P-8A Poseidon submarine hunters,” he said.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as:

Dispatch from Doklam: Indians Dig in for the Long Haul in Standoff with China

July 24, 2017

Dispatch from Doklam: Indians Dig in for the Long Haul in Standoff with China, Subir Bhaumik,  July 24, 2017

China live fire drill

As I travel up from eastern India’s Bagdogra airport to Gangtok and then to Indian army’s Nathang base near the fraught Doklam area, I count at least six military convoys heading in the direction of Sikkim’s border with China.

At Nathang, a few kilometres from Doklam in the now-famous “tri-junction” of Tibet, Bhutan’s Doklam plateau and Sikkim’s Chumbi valley, the theatre of the ongoing stand-off between Indian and Chinese forces , the build-up is even more palpable, even though vehicles carrying artillery pieces and light tanks slither through the night to avoid public attention.

New bunkers are being built, the ground is being mined to pre-empt Chinese attack, machine-gun nests are being placed at strategic points, and soldiers are performing battle drills at least twice a day. But restraint is still the buzzword.

India soldier stands guard at border crossing

“We are under clear orders not to exacerbate the tensions, so we won’t provoke a scuffle, certainly not a firefight, but we are ready for a suitable response if the Chinese get aggressive,” says a young captain of India’s famous “Black Cats” division at Nathang. The cheerful-looking captain, in his late 20s, can’t be named as he is not authorised to speak to the media. The media isn’t even supposed to be here. The Indian Army isn’t embedding reporters as yet.

Nathang serves as a base to reinforce India’s forward outpost of Lalten in the tri-junction. Lalten is located in higher ground that gives the Indians a clear view of the Chinese movements in Tibet’s Yadong zone that is part of the Chumbi Valley between Indian and Bhutanese hill territory. This part of the Chumbi Valley, at a height of 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) is likened to a broad dagger aimed at the so-called “Chicken’s Neck”, a narrow corridor that connects Indian mainland to its remote Northeast.

Chinese soldiers holding banner in Ladakh, India asking India to withdraw troops.

India is paranoid about the Chicken’s Neck for its potential vulnerability. But this is also where the Indian army has terrain and tactical advantages of higher ground and a clear vantage point in the event of a border clash. “It’s important for us to stop the Chinese here because if we fail, they will roll on to the Chicken’s Neck and can cut off our northeast,” says the captain.

At Lalten, says a lieutenant colonel, the Chinese troops crossed into Indian-held ground in June and smashed two bunkers built by the Black Cats. “We restrained our troops with some difficulty, we ensured nobody fired but we finally pushed back the Chinese physically.”

Chinese and Indian flags at Great Hall of the People in Beijing

The captain says the Indian army is determined to stop construction of the C40 road (capable of carrying a 40-tonne load) that the Chinese have been trying to build through Bhutan’s Doklam plateau from Yadong to connect to the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) forward post opposite Lalten.

Under its treaty obligations to Bhutan, India must come to the Buddhist kingdom’s aid in times of military need, and the Chinese efforts to build the road in this undemarcated region was seen as such a provocation. Bhutan joined India in boycotting May’s Belt and Road Summit in Beijing, which is said to have provoked China. Indian analysts believe the Chinese decided to start building the C40 road through Doklam after the summit to test India’s special relations with Bhutan.

“They are trying to show Bhutan who calls the shots in the Himalayas. So we have to ensure we are capable of defending Bhutan’s territorial integrity,” says Maj-Gen Gaganjit Singh, who commanded a division in India’s Northeast before retiring as the deputy chief of the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA). “We have to prove we can defend Bhutan and we are determined not to lose the current terrain and tactical advantage we have in Chumbi Valley.”

Chumbi Valley is among the few areas in India’s Sikkim state – adjoining the theatre of conflict – in the 3,500km-long disputed border between India and China.

After jettisoning its traditional, defensive “just-hold-the-border” strategy, India has spent the last four years raising a mountain strike corps of about 80,000 for a new limited offensive doctrine in the event of a war.

Young Buddhist monks in region of India near border with China.

“That worries the Chinese PLA, now that we have better infrastructure and a much better strategic airlift capability, with many advance landing grounds in the Himalayas for the newly inducted giant US-built transport aircrafts to operate from,” says Maj-General Apurba Bardalai, who has commanded the Indian Military Training Team in Bhutan and brigade formations in India’s northeast. “With every passing day, we are closing the gap with the Chinese in terms of capabilities.”

And that is exactly what may be fueling the hostilities. “Failing to build the road will undermine the PLA’s domination strategy in the disputed Himalayan border. It will pour water over Chinese attempts to draw Bhutan into its fold by undermining its special relations with India,” says Subir Dutta, a former Intelligence Bureau officer specialising in China.

India has called for resolving the issue through dialogue, but China insists the Indian army must pull back first. “But the moment we vacate our forward posts, the Chinese will build the road through Bhutanese territory. We can’t allow that,” says a brigadier at the Black Cats headquarters.

Mountain pass between India and China.

With so much at stake on both sides, a resolution is unlikely anytime soon. At least that’s what the Black Cats think. “We would love peace to return. We want normal relations with the Chinese in maintaining tranquillity on the border. But we are digging in for a long haul because there’s no let-up in the aggression on the other side,” says the brigadier, who also cannot be identified.

As I am speaking with the brigadier in a tent, the buzz of activity seems to be picking up outside. Soldiers constructing bunkers and building other fortifications try to complete their assignment, racing against time as the sun sets on a cloudy day. “Speed up guys,” barks an officer supervising the construction.

“We don’t want war, but we are prepared for it and this is not 1962. Diplomacy should work and normal relations should be restored, but we are not going to be cowed down by threats,” the brigadier says.

China conducted military exercises in Tibet just after the Doklam stand-off began and its official media has threatened teaching a lesson to the Indian army if it doesn’t pull back from Bhutanese territory.

“But those are routine exercises, so we are not perturbed,” says the brigadier. “We are not leaving Bhutan to its fate, come what may.”

Bhutanese graziers at Jigme Kesar nature reserve just behind the Doklam plateau, however, don’t seem to mind being left alone. “We don’t want war between two large armies like India and China. That won’t be good for Bhutan,” says grazier Pema Namgyal.

Fellow graziers nodded furiously in agreement.

Chinese Army Mobilizes Military Assets to Tibet Following Live Fire Drills

July 20, 2017

Chinese Army Mobilizes Military Assets to Tibet Following Live Fire DrillsSputnik News via Global Security org, July 20, 2017

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) mobilized thousands of ground vehicles and other military equipment as the standoff between Chinese and Indian troops near the disputed area of Sikkim continues, according to a report from the PLA Daily.

PLA Daily is widely considered the main outlet the Chinese army uses for external communications, LiveMint notes.

The report did not specify the exact date the military assets were relocated to Tibet but said it occurred at the end of June. The unspecified military “hardware” was transported via rail and conventional roads.

It’s not entirely clear where in Tibet the chess pieces have been placed. The report also failed to indicate whether the military equipment would be used in tandem with a Chinese battalion that recently completed drills in Tibet, China’s second-largest province.

Last weekend, the PLA conducted live fire exercises in the province. Video footage of the drills was broadcast over CCTV. Analysts said the move would show the people of China the government is ready to protect them in the event that the standoff becomes more heated and violent.

Reinforcing the western front with personnel and hardware makes it much easier for commanders to defend Chinese borders, Wang Dehua of the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies told LiveMint on Wednesday. Offensive and defensive maneuvers are “all about logistics,” Wang said, and “now there is much better logistics support to the Tibet region.”

The dispute in Sikkim originated in mid-June when Indian troops stopped Chinese workers from building a road that Beijing said was on its territory. Bhutan claimed that the particular area where construction took place was actually its territory, and India sided with Bhutan.

The area where the road was being built is of significant strategic importance to New Delhi. A finished road could provide Chinese troops with an avenue to sever India’s access to its northeastern states.

A recent article in the Indian Defense Review argued that further espionage between India and China might actually be key to resolving the crisis. “The two countries are ignorant of each other’s strategies,” Nicolas Groffman wrote. As a result, suspicion is “taking the place of intelligence just when understanding is critical.”

Vasily Kashin told Sputnik China, however, that such activities ought to have strict limits if stabilizing effects are to be achieved. Intelligence operations would cross a critical threshold if “active intervention in the internal affairs or acts of sabotage” were used, Kashin emphasized.

While Nobody’s Looking, China And India Are Carrying Out A Real-Life ‘Game Of Thrones’

July 20, 2017

While Nobody’s Looking, China And India Are Carrying Out A Real-Life ‘Game Of Thrones’, The Federalist, July 20, 2017

(The article, dated July 20th, states, “Starting this week, India is holding naval exercises with the United States and Japan, a move viewed by observers as a show of force against China’s rising naval power.” However, the link provided, dated July 10th, states that “The Malabar exercises involving Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force and the US and Indian navies are taking place in the Bay of Bengal and will last until July 17.” Please see also, Malabar Exercise: India, US and Japan deploy its biggest carriers in show of force against China’s growing naval power at Warsclerotic. — DM)

The Asian version of the conflict between House Lannister and House Stark is playing out over a patch of remote land high in the Himalayas, bordered by China, India, and Bhutan. The Chinese dragon and the Indian tiger, the two most populous nations with nuclear weapons, are engaging in their worst border dispute in 40 years, which has turned this spit of land into the most dangerous place in Asia.

You haven’t heard anything about it until now because the U.S. media is so focused on who talked to whom during the 2016 presidential campaign that they can’t spare any resources to report on truly consequential events taking place around the world.

China and India share a very long border of more than 2,000 miles. The two countries have engaged in various border disputes since the nineteenth century. They even fought a war in 1962 over border issues. China claimed it won the war but India only admitted that the war resulted in a stalemate and left many border issues unresolved.

The most recent border dispute started in June, when Indian soldiers stopped a Chinese army construction crew from building a road in a pocket of land in the Dokalam region. Since this land lies between Bhutan, China, and the Indian state of Sikkim, all three countries claim ownership of it. China calls this region Donglang and treats it as part of Chinese-controlled Tibet. Thus, China firmly believes that it has every right to build the road within its sovereign territory. China let India know that “trespass into Chinese territory is a blatant infringement on China’s sovereignty, which should be immediately and unconditionally rectified.” However, Bhutan and India disagree.

This Land Is My Land

Bhutan is a tiny country wedged between two nuclear-armed superpowers. It doesn’t have an official diplomatic relationship with China. The government of Bhutan issued a demarche to China over the road construction, asking China to stop. Since Bhutan has a close relationship with India and relies on India for security protection, it also asked India for help. China has tried unsuccessfully to break the Bhutan-India alliance by engaging Bhutan directly. Bhutan, however, follows India’s lead on this matter.

From India’s perspective, it intervenes on behalf of both India and Bhutan because both have historical claims to the disputed land. Since Beijing and New Delhi agreed back in 2012 to solve their particular border dispute in this tri-junction area through consultations with all countries involved, New Delhi regards China’s recent road construction as a unilateral violation of the 2012 understanding.

Furthermore, India’s military is concerned that the road China intends to build will give China easier access to a strategically important area in India, which is known as the “chicken’s neck,” “a 20km (12-mile) wide corridor that links the seven north-eastern states to the Indian mainland.” If China’s road project succeeds, India military believes it would diminish their own “terrain and tactical advantage” over the Chinese army in this area.

India is also suspicious of the road project’s timing. The construction began right around the same time that India’s Prime Minister Modi was giving U.S. President Trump bear hugs and President Trump proclaimed that the U.S.-India relationship was “never better.” Did China try to warn India not to get too close to the United States by starting a road construction in the disputed area at this particular time? Many in India seem to think so.

Soldiers Face Off ‘Eyeball to Eyeball’

The border standoff continues with no obvious solution in sight. Both China and India increased their troop levels at the border. Online video shows soldiers from both countries facing off “eyeball to eyeball.” So far no one has fired the first shot yet, but the war of words has been heating up, not just at the border, but through both countries’ government officials and media.

China’s ambassador to India said “the first priority is that the Indian troops unconditionally pull back to the Indian side of the boundary. That is the precondition for any meaningful dialogue between China and India.” Chinese media used the 1962 Sino-India border war as an example to forewarn India that if the two sides get into a military conflict again, India will have the most to lose. Chinese media also warned Tibetan exiles in India not to take advantage of the situation because “sovereignty over Tibet is nonnegotiable.”

Indian Defense and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley fired back at China’s rhetoric by reminding China that the India of 2017 is not the India of 1962. He further pointed out that China’s intended construction site was on “Bhutan’s land, close to the Indian border, and Bhutan and India have an arrangement to provide security…To say we will come there and grab the land of some other country is what China is doing and it is absolutely wrong.”

Any Misstep Can Be Fatal

This dispute is a reflection of a deeper problem: the underlying, deep-rooted mistrust and hostility between China and India. Each feels insecure of the other nation’s growing economic and military power. These two countries, with a combined population of more than 2 billion people, both have nuclear weapons and strong nationalistic leaders, and are elbowing each other for the iron throne—ultimate dominance in the region. No one is willing to back down at this point.

Besides border disputes, both nations have breathed plenty of fires to irritate the other side. China’s pipeline project with Myanmar not only allows China to have easier access to cheap oil, but also enables Chinese ships to be present in India’s eastern backyard. India snubbed China’s “One Belt and One Road”(OBOR) economic summit in May by not sending a high-level delegation. India media even called the OBOR initiative “a new kind of colonization.” Starting this week, India is holding naval exercises with the United States and Japan, a move viewed by observers as a show of force against China’s rising naval power.

If there’s a lesson to be learned from the 1962 war, it’s this: any miscalculation or any missteps by either nation could lead to a war with devastating consequences not just for the region, but for the rest of the world. Therefore, it’s absolutely essential that the two nations find a peaceful resolution to their border dispute as soon as possible.

The United States probably will need support from both China and India to deal with the rising threat from North Korea. Therefore, it’s in the United States’ best interest to serve as a mediator to help both nations reach a diplomatic solution, before the “Game of Thrones” Asian edition moves from a fantasy to a bloody reality.

Helen Raleigh owns Red Meadow Advisors, LLC, and is an immigration policy fellow at the Centennial Institute in Colorado. She is the author of several books, including “Confucius Never Said” and “The Broken Welcome Mat.

Malabar Exercise: India, US and Japan deploy its biggest carriers in show of force against China’s growing naval power

July 10, 2017

Malabar Exercise: India, US and Japan deploy its biggest carriers in show of force against China’s growing naval power, South China Morning Post, July 10, 2017

(Please see also, Commentary: India must understand borderline is bottom line from Chinese official paper Xinhua. “India should rectify its mistakes and show sincerity to avoid an even more serious situation creating more significant consequences.” — DM)

Troops from the two nuclear-armed neighbours have for weeks been engaged in a stand-off on a disputed section of land high near what is known as the trijunction, where Tibet, India and Bhutan meet.

China has alleged that the Indian troops are on its soil, but both Bhutan and India say the area in question is Bhutanese territory.

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India began holding naval exercises with the United States and Japan off its south coast on Monday, seeking to forge closer military ties to counter growing Chinese influence in the region.

India has a longstanding territorial dispute with its northern neighbour, which is also expanding its naval presence in the region.

It is the fourth consecutive year Japan’s Maritime Self-Defence Force (MSDF) has taken part in the Malabar Exercise, conducted annually by the US and India in the Bay of Bengal since 1992.

In a statement, the US said the exercises had “grown in scope and complexity over the years to address the variety of shared threats to maritime security in the Indo-Asia Pacific”.

About 20 vessels including the world’s largest aircraft carrier, USS Nimitz, are participating in drills which will last until July 17.

Helicopter carrier Izumo, the biggest Japanese warship since the second world war, and India’s aircraft carrier Vikramaditya are also participating in the exercises.

China has stepped up its activities in the Indian Ocean in recent years, building ports in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The area also features heavily in Beijing’s new One Belt One Road initiative to revive ancient trade routes from Asia, which has caused concerns in New Delhi.

Troops from the two nuclear-armed neighbours have for weeks been engaged in a stand-off on a disputed section of land high near what is known as the trijunction, where Tibet, India and Bhutan meet.

China has alleged that the Indian troops are on its soil, but both Bhutan and India say the area in question is Bhutanese territory.

The maritime exercises come weeks after US President Donald Trump declared that ties between Washington and New Delhi had “never been stronger” as he held his first talks with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Beijing already claims large swathes of the resource-rich South China Sea and East China Sea, putting it in competition with Japan and other countries in the region.

China claims India is stirring up trouble in Doklam

July 7, 2017

China claims India is stirring up trouble in Doklam, Xinhuanet, July 7, 2017

(Please see also, China’s Creeping Invasion of India. — DM)

BEIJING, July 7 (Xinhua) — A Foreign Ministry spokesman on Friday objected to India’s attempts to stir up disputes over the Doklam region.

The Indian sides claims that, according to a 2012 India-China agreement, the tri-junction point of China, India and Bhutan will be decided by consulting with the Bhutan side, which means China and India have recognized their divergence on the issue.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the so-called tri-junction point, just as its name implies, is a point, rather than a line or an area.

He said, on the tri-junction, the Convention Between Great Britain and China Relating to Sikkim and Tibet (1890) stipulates that the Sikkim section of the China-India boundary commences at Mount Gipmochi in the east.

However, the trespass by the Indian troops took place at the Sikkim section of the China-India boundary over 2,000 meters away from Mount Gipmochi and has nothing to do with the tri-junction, said Geng.

The Indian side, by disregarding of the boundary convention, assumes the whole Doklam region as part of the tri-junction. This is obviously an attempt to confuse the public, he added.

Some opinions hold that the 1890 convention has ceased to have any significance, because the situation changed after the Sino-Indian Border Conflict in 1962.

In response to a question on whether India has recognized the delimitation of the Sikkim section of the China-India boundary since 1962, Geng said successive Indian governments had repeatedly confirmed the 1890 convention in written form, with no disagreement on the boundary alignment at the Sikkim section.

Once the border treaty was signed, its legitimacy and effectiveness was not affected by changes of governments or state systems, said Geng.

China’s Creeping Invasion of India

July 6, 2017

China’s Creeping Invasion of India, The Diplomat, Saurav Jha, July 6, 2017

(Please see also, Modi’s visit: Strategic leap in Indian-Israeli ties. India seems to be augmenting its ability to defend against an increasingly aggressive China. — DM)

New recruits of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) patrol the border area at Ngari, Tibet Autonomous Region, China (April 26, 2017). Image Credit: Reuters

In late May, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose to commemorate three years of his administration by opening the country’s longest ever bridge over the Lohit river, Called the Bhupen Hazarika Setu (BP), the bridge will significantly cut down travel time to the easternmost parts of Arunachal Pradesh (AP), an Indian state that has been publicly claimed in its entirety by Beijing since 2006 as “Southern Tibet.” The high-profile opening was also intended to convey a message to the Chinese that India was moving forward with its current strategy of developing infrastructure in regions bordering Chinese-controlled territory in order to facilitate the defense of every inch of territory it considers its own. Overall, at a time of heightened India-China tensions and fears about Sino-Pak military collusion potentially culminating in a two-front situation, India is now working to upgrade its military posture vis-a-vis China from one of dissuasion to one of deterrence.

A conventional deterrence posture toward China requires the creation of appropriate last mile connectivity to facilitate axes of advance for counterstrike forces in addition to being able to reinforce “in sector” defensive formations. After years of deliberately keeping its frontier with China devoid of much infrastructure under the premise that the absence of such connectivity would lead to invading forces getting bogged down, India is now scrambling to match China’s extensive infrastructure in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).

China’s Military Build-up 

That infrastructure now allows People’s Liberation Army Ground Force (PLAGF) units to mount patrols right into Indian territory along the 4,057 kilometer long Line of Actual Control (LAC). The LAC currently represents the de facto border between India and China and is divided into three sectors: the western, middle, and eastern. In the absence of timely Indian Army (IA) patrols to counter such intrusions, there would be concession of small bits of territory to China over time. In some places, particularly lacking in connectivity, Chinese-built helipads and short tracks inside Indian territory have been discovered by Indian forces in the past.

The Chinese can now also build up forces along the LAC at various points much more quickly than before and in more significant numbers if so desired. In any case, the Chinese have built motorable tactical roads to all 31 passes that are of military significance along the LAC. Various border “laterals” of low classification also exist just south of subsidiary axes to the main tactical roads and can be used for switching forces between sectors. Clearly, the IA no longer has the luxury of hanging back as the Chinese move in at a time or place of their choosing. While current defensive formations ensure that the Chinese cannot advance deep into Indian territory or, as IA insiders put it, “capture targets of value,” the need of the hour from the Indian perspective is to extend road infrastructure right up to various points along the LAC.

Post re-organization, the total area of responsibility (AOR) under the former Lanzhou and Chengdu military regions in China has been merged by the PLA into the newly created Western Theater Command, which now controls the 76th and 77th  “Combined Corps-Level” group armies (GAs) that are not merely integrated arms units of PLAGF but will also progressively include inter-service elements from the PLA Air Fore (PLAAF) and the PLA Rocket Force (PLARF) in furtherance of the integrated joint operations that are supposed to be a key facilitator of China’s doctrine of “winning local wars under conditions of informatization.” In addition to the 76th and 77th GAs, the Xinjiang Military Division (MD) and Tibet Military Division (MD), which are also part of the Western Theater Command have some additional eight infantry divisions/brigades and two special operations brigades at their disposal.

Indian military sources believe that the 77th and the 76th could concentrate the equivalent of up to seven division-sized formations (indicative figures, since the PLAGF is currently reorganizing itself into a brigade-based structure) in TAR within a week’s time with one “rapid reaction division” being inducted into Lhasa in as little as 24-36 hours. Using the 1,142 km long Qinghai-Tibet Railway, the three main highways that converge on Lhasa, as well as aviation infrastructure, the PLAGF could also bring 12 divisions into TAR in around a month’s time. For a much larger campaign that would see multiple fronts opened against India on the LAC, the PLAGF could mobilize up to 32 divisions in a single campaigning season and these could be sustained in TAR for a month (although it is debatable whether the PLAGF would really want to send deploy so many troops in TAR).

China can now not only mobilize such forces against India in a relatively short period of time but can also sustain them for relatively long periods of time. The significant number of camps that have come up in TAR simply plug into existing civilian water and power utility infrastructure. Incidentally, the Chinese have built hyperbaric chambers with storehouses in some of these camps to facilitate the rapid acclimatization of some troops inducted from lower altitudes in the event of a contingency. Apart from specialized storage (many underground), massive dual-use logistics centers, such as the one at Nagqu, have been constructed which also host command and control facilities.

Indeed, with its hub based around Lhasa-Nagqu, an optical fiber cable network radiates to Ngari in the West and Nyingchi in the east while also connecting with successive higher headquarters all the way up to Beijing. Together with the optical fiber cable mesh, 58 VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) satellite stations have been built to provide the backbone for a C4ISR network necessary to prosecute a “local war under conditions of informatization.”

As far as airpower is concerned, besides the six fully operational dual-use airbases facing India at Lhasa Gonggar, Nyingchi, Qamdo, Hoping, Ngari Gunsa, and Shigatse, PLAAF has built another nine for its use in TAR. TAR also has some 27 additional airstrips that the PLAAF can utilize. Unlike in the past, the PLAAF now operates year-round from TAR, with reportedly some 24 combat aircraft, a mix of J-10s and J-11s, being based there on a near-permanent basis with other frontline combat aircraft being deployed to airfields in the region as detachments for durations of up to three months. Several airfields dedicated to helicopter and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operations are also being constructed in TAR. In May 2017, the PLAAF took the lid off a base in TAR that hosts a GJ-1 armed UAV unit.

The PLAAF can also look forward to integrated joint operations with PLARF, which controls China’s missiles, in TAR. Opposite India, the PLARF currently deploys various versions of the DF-21 medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) family, DF-15 short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) variants, and possibly the new DF-16 SRBM as well. The PLARF is likely to use conventionally armed missiles in the opening stages of any conflict to attack Indian Air Force (IAF) airbases in addition to other targets, thereby making it a key enabler of air operations for the PLAAF.

Overall, China’s ability to mobilize troops into TAR in addition to growing PLAAF activities backed by the PLARF has given it the confidence to engage in a game of brinkmanship along the LAC with numerous intrusions, despite the fact that the Tibet Military Division has only three regular and one special operations brigade permanently stationed there. And in May 2016, China raised the status of Tibet Military Command (TMC), by putting it directly under the jurisdiction of the PLAGF.

India’s Response

Despite the muscle flexing, the PLAGF is going to find it rather difficult to conquer any target of value along the LAC. Take Tawang, for instance. An entire IA mountain division, the 5th under IV Corps, has its headquarters in neighboring West Kameng district. Indian forces deployed in Tawang have the best firepower the IA has at its disposal and have essentially fortified Tawang. An advanced landing ground has also been approved for construction in Tawang, with surveys underway for a high-altitude rail link.

In addition to the 5th Division, India has eight more mountain divisions along with one dual-tasked formation under the III, IV, and XXXIII Corps of its Eastern Command, which are all defensively oriented against the Chinese. To support these formations, the IA has also built numerous logistics nodes, troop habitats and underground storage facilities. In recent times, India is also desperately trying to complete the India-China Border Roads (ICBR) Project, which envisages the construction of 73 strategic roads along the LAC of which 27 roads are currently operational. Each of these roads will be capable of conveying 155 mm howitzers and multi-barrel rocket launchers such as the 300 mm Smerch and the 220 mm Pinaka.

India is also progressively improving its aviation facilities in India’s northeast with composite aviation bases and dedicated UAV bases such as the one at Lilabari, Assam. Numerous other forward area refueling and arming points as well as forward operating bases are meant for helicopter aviation, including the soon to be acquired AH-64E Apaches as well as the indigenous Rudra armed helicopter, which is being deployed to the NE.

Even as India hastens military infrastructure in the northeast, the critical Depsang Plains at the northernmost part of the LAC in Eastern Ladakh has emerged as a flashpoint since it abuts the Siachen Glacier. In 2013, the area witnessed a major incursion by the PLAGF that led to a standoff, which was defused only after the IA managed to deploy sizable forces with the help of the IAF. Nevertheless, the area continued to be perceived by the PLAGF as vulnerable given its road network and its deployment of armor in the vicinity. However, India has reinforced this area, which falls under the area of responsibility of the IA’s XIV Corps, with a brigade in addition to deployment of T-72 tanks. Importantly, India is in the process of deploying an entire armored brigade in Eastern Ladakh, with two T-72 regiments already operational. Incidentally, the armored brigade in Eastern Ladakh could also be used to spearhead an attack toward the Western Highway passing through Aksai Chin via the Chushul-Demchok axis and this has the Chinese worried.

Perhaps the PLA is now thinking that the least disputed middle sector of the LAC is the one to eye, given that they have vastly superior accessibility to all five passes of military significance in this sector. Of late, Chinese helicopters have been violating Indian airspace this area and the PLAAF has flown its synthetic radar aperture equipped Tu-154s over this sector recently. Preemptive occupation of some features here would be difficult for the Indians to dislodge later. However, the Chinese would in turn find it rather difficult to sustain their ingressing forces in this sector since the passes remain closed for six to eight months in a year. As such, the lines of communication for Chinese forces would be rather vulnerable to interdiction by the IAF, which has several major airbases in the vicinity.

In fact, the IAF, with 31 airfields (nine in the western and 22 in the eastern sector) located much closer to the LAC, has an edge over the PLAAF in any air war over Tibet. IAF aircraft, with their bases in the plains, will be able to take off without any payload penalties and will require considerably less fuel to reach their targets. Even with extra lengthened runways, PLAAF aircraft flying out of TAR airfields, whose average elevation is 4,000 meters, will continue to suffer from payload restrictions. And the PLAAF currently does not have enough refueling capability to really sustain aircraft that can fly in from distant airbases located at lower altitudes. Moreover, most PLAAF airbases in TAR do not have hardened shelters and have only poor support facilities. PLAAF aircraft could well be caught out in the open during early stages of any conflict by the IAF, which has already deployed frontline aircraft like the Su-30 MKI to airbases near TAR. The IAF also intends to base a squadron each of Rafales at Hashimara and Ambala, both located very close to the LAC. The IAF has also activated seven advanced landing grounds (ALGs) in Arunachal Pradesh in recent times (besides three in Ladakh), whose efficacy was demonstrated with operations such as the landing of a Su-30 MKI in Pasighat ALG in August 2016 and then a C-17 in Menchuka ALG two months later.

To mitigate the threat posed by a PLARF missile attack, the IAF is introducing proper “rehabilitation” capabilities in its LAC facing airbases to ensure that it stays in the game. India is also deploying the Brahmos Block III cruise missile with steep dive capability in the northeast as a “symmetric counter” to the PLARF.

Indeed, rather than opt for a major campaign that isn’t going to end quickly, given that there would be no element of surprise, the PLAGF could use its ability to mobilize modest-sized forces much more quickly to make a grab at tactical features and a pass or two at certain places along the LAC where such opportunities exist. In the process, the PLAGF could create more encroachment possibilities for itself while possibly foreclosing axes that might be used by counter-attacking Indian forces. China would try to gain the initiative by striking first, very much in consonance with its philosophy of “active defense,” and then offer a negotiated settlement to India.

It is precisely to cater to this kind of a scenario that the IA has created the Mountain Strike Corps (XVII Corps) under its Eastern Command, which is designed to launch a quick counter-offensive to make a similar quid-pro-quo shallow grab of territory inside TAR to strengthen India’s hand in the ensuing negotiations. XVII Corps could also be launched in a “stabilization” role in the event of the Chinese opening a major front along the LAC at, say, the Doka La Pass in the Sikkim-Tibet-Bhutan tri-junction, which lies near the all-important Siliguri Corridor that is India’s link to its northeast (the site of a current stand-off).

The first division of the MSC, the 59th, headquartered at Panagarh in West Bengal, is set to be operationalized this year and is meant for the eastern sector of the LAC. The MSC’s second division, the 72nd, headquartered at Pathankot in Punjab, is currently being raised and is expected to be operational by 2020. The location of the 72nd Division indicates that it is a dual-tasked formation whose area of responsibility lies in the western sector of the LAC but could be used to reinforce Indian formations in the east once its task in the west is done.

However, if the MSC has to create tactical surprise, some of its elements must acquire serious air mobility (at least a brigade) in order to be deposited close to possible axes of advance in a much shorter timeframe. The number of such axes of advance must also be increased especially in the eastern sector, which will be the center of gravity for any Indian war effort against China. In the years ahead, India will seek to further extend its border roads network under a “General Staff Long-Term Perspective Plans” project, introduce hover barges in order to optimally use the Brahmaputra for riverine movement, and build strategic mountain railways. All this will be in aid of moving division sized forces (including dual-tasked formations) to their frontline stations in a very short period of time besides allowing for rapid switching of brigade and battalion sized forces between sectors.

Meanwhile, China is also busy extending the line from Lhasa to Nyngchi and then all the way to Dali in Yunnan province. Once the connection to Dali is ready, the PLAGF will be able to bring in sizeable forces even more quickly to the southeastern TAR opposite Arunachal Pradesh. The Chinese are extending a rail link to Yatong in the Chumbi Valley right next to the Doka La pass, which heads into Bhutan’s Doklam Plateau. While this is intended to reduce their vulnerability in the Chumbi Valley, since Indian forces sit atop its eastern shoulders, it also means that this area will emerge as more of a flashpoint in the near future, with the current standoff being only the beginning. Last year, Unit 77656 which sits at Khamba Dzong at the gates of the Chumbi Valley was honored as a “model plateau battalion” by President Xi Jinping and China has been trying to acquire the Doklam Plateau from Bhutan by offering greater amounts of territory in exchange elsewhere.

Clearly for the foreseeable future, the India-China border dispute will be contingent on the balance of “mutually assured construction” as each side tries to gain a tactical advantage.

Saurav Jha is a commentator on energy and security issues. He is currently writing a book on the India-China military balance. Follow him on twitter @SJha1618