New Delhi: China is still showing the 1962 syndrome, has misread India’s resolve to challenge its land-grabbing tactics and is now in need of an exit strategy as a military confrontation is looking very probable, former 14 Corps commander Lt Gen P.J.S. Pannu (retd) has said.
The Leh-headquartered 14 Corps looks after the borders with China and Pakistan, and also guards the Siachen Glacier.
Describing the situation at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh as “not only serious but extremely sensitive”, the retired lieutenant general, who also commanded a division at the McMohan line in the northeast, said that while the standoff is still on, India is in a much better position now in both banks of the Pangong Tso, following the military manoeuvres at the end of August.
“I think the Chinese always felt and I think they sold it to themselves that Indians would be weak and they can be pushed around. Now they have realised that Indians are not a pushover,” Lt Gen Pannu told ThePrint. “They should have made these calculations earlier before they started this operation in the month of May itself. They should have known that India is not a pushover, but I think they are still living with the 1962 syndrome.”
Knowing what they believe in, what they have done on the ground, I think the Chinese are surprised by this kind of a reaction from the Indian Army, he added.
He said that there is no doubt it was a surprise when the Chinese came in large numbers while the Indian Army stuck to existing protocols to defuse the situation.
“Indians realised that despite five rounds of Corps commander-level talks, China was not relenting and showed no interest in moving back,” he said, adding that when Chinese movement to grab more territory was noticed in the southern banks of the Pangong Tso, the Indian Army carried out a preemptive operation.
“They (Indian Army) have occupied most significant and dominating heights along the Spanggur Gap, leaving India at a much more advantageous position,” Pannu said. “Today, India is at a dominating position if spoken in the realm of bargaining. Should push come to shove or military confrontation take place, India would be in a much better position. There has been a paradigm shift from the time it started and now.”
Asked if India has upped its game, the former 14 Corps Commander said the game is still in play and one cannot draw a line on the score when the game is still on.
“However, currently in the running score, India is in a much better position whether you talk about the north or southern banks of Pangong Tso,” he said.
Ball in China’s court to find exit strategy
Lt Gen Pannu said the ball is in China’s court to disengage. “When I say the ball is in China’s court, it means that they are the ones who initiated the aggression and hence it is their move to disengage,” he added.
He said India’s quid pro quo, known in military circles as QPQ, under which it has occupied certain territory (southern bank), is making China “absolutely uncomfortable” and they are surprised about it.
“But still the Chinese will have to play ball … China will have to come out with an exit strategy… It should be China which should pick up the call and initiate a dialogue,” he said talking about leadership level parleys.
“If both do not back off, either you are headed into a standoff which is going to be a longish standoff or you are going to fight a war … If they (China) end up fighting a war, it goes contrary to their own strategy of winning a war without fighting,” he said.
Asked why the Chinese did what they did, he said they miscalculated everything.
The former Army officer added that Xi Jingping and his advisors felt that the whole world is already suffering from the weight of Covid and hence it is the time to push around.
“They have made a calculation to make Xi the leader in the world. Xi is obsessed about himself and his power. They clearly need to work on an exit strategy. I hope better sense will prevail and they will come with a practical strategy,” he said.
Lt Gen Pannu added that the whole world needs to rally around and “catch this bully from all sides and do not allow this bully to destroy the world”.