Defence Minister Rajnath Singh addresses troops at the Pangong Tso in Ladakh Friday | Photo: ANI
File photo | Defence Minister Rajnath Singh addresses troops at the Pangong Tso in Ladakh, 17 July | Photo: ANI
Text Size:

The disengagement process between the Indian Army and China’s People’s Liberation Army at the face-off points in Eastern Ladakh has reached an impasse. The sources that were feeding a structured narrative to the media have now gone silent. News reports from the front have got relegated to the inside pages of national dailies. This seems to be the result of the rigid and uncompromising stand taken by PLA’s South Xinjiang Military Region Commander Major General Liu Lin, refusing to carry out any disengagement at Depsang and Pangong Tso, and claiming it to be Chinese territory, during the meeting held on 14 July.


Also read: In Rahul Gandhi, Jaishankar picks an easy target. Modi govt’s real task is to push China back


Chinese not living up to the promise

North of Hot Springs, in the area of Kugrang River and Changlung Nala, the PLA seems to have carried out only limited disengagement, and not as per the agreement. The Chinese are extremely sensitive to this area because from here, routes lead to the upper reaches of the Galwan river. Similar situation prevails in the area of Gogra-Kongka La. Thus, disengagement with buffer zones as agreed to in the Corps Commander-level meetings seems to have taken place only in the Galwan Valley.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on 17 July, while addressing the troops in Ladakh candidly, confirmed the above situation on the LAC. “Talks are underway to resolve the border dispute, but to what extent it can be resolved I cannot guarantee. I can assure you, not one inch of our land can be taken by any power in the world.” For the first time, ever since the intrusions were reported in the beginning of May, this is official confirmation of the dangerous reality on the ground — the Chinese are seeking permanence to their territorial gains. However, in the broader context, the government continues to be in denial about any intrusion having taken place.

The opposition has directly attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, alleging that he is relying upon denial and obfuscation with respect to loss of territory to protect his “strongman image”, which has been exploited by the Chinese to force acquiescence.

Be that as it may, if the Chinese do not allow India even to achieve its compromised political aim — status quo ante April 2020 with buffer zones in the areas of Chinese intrusions — then what are India’s military options? There are two possible scenarios in which the conflict may unfold — the Chinese-initiated conflict scenario or the Indian-initiated conflict scenario.


Also read: Galwan lesson for Indian soldiers: Don’t wait for orders, just assume them


Chinainitiated conflict scenario

Let there be no doubt that like in India-Pakistan conflict, the China-India conflict too will be fought with a nuclear backdrop. Ironically, it will be India that will have to resort to nuclear brinkmanship to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

With India not accepting the fait accompli that China is trying to impose through preemption, the PLA, rather than opting for an indefinite face-off, may decide to inflict a decisive defeat to impose its will. The possible Chinese military aim and objectives have been highlighted by me in an earlier column.

India’s main defences are on the formidable heights, at varying distances, ranging between 10 and 80 km from the LAC. The alignment of the LAC further allows the PLA to cut off and isolate our forward deployment. However, the battle, if it may come, is likely to be fought in the forward zone ahead of India’s main defences.

I have no doubt that the Indian armed forces have utilised the last three months to prepare formidable defences at the face-off points, and in areas from where the PLA can cut off our forward deployment.

In such a scenario, our military aim should be to stalemate the PLA with minimum loss of territory, and simultaneously launch a counter-offensive to capture equivalent Chinese territory, if not more, for bargaining. We have enough troops for holding ground and for a counter-offensive at the tactical level to force a recoil.

On the face of it, this is relatively an advantageous scenario for India because the PLA will be attacking Indian troops that hold dominating ground. However, it is contingent upon the degree of defence preparedness we have managed to achieve in the past three months.


Also read: Balancing LAC tension with economic strategy — How India can walk the tightrope against China


India-initiated conflict scenario

In case China is content to limit its gains up to the 1959 claim line, then the onus is on us to force it to withdraw by military action. The inelegant option is to directly attack the intrusion points to evict the Chinese. The advantage is that it can possibly restrict the scale of the conflict, and can be done at a time and weather of our own choosing. However, there is a disadvantage too — it will be relatively difficult for the Indian forces to achieve surprise and that they would be attacking prepared enemy defences.

The second option is that we attack the vulnerable areas anywhere along the LAC for a quid pro quo with the Chinese — asking the PLA to withdraw from Indian territory in exchange of the areas captured by the Indian Army. Since the initiative will be with us, we can choose the time, place and weather for the operation. Our degree of preparedness and chances of achieving tactical surprise should dictate the timing of the operation. Interestingly, “denial and obfuscation”, and military/diplomatic engagement will fit well into the strategic deception plan. Logically, this should be the preferred option.

In either of the scenarios, the force level that we require for inflicting defeat on the PLA in Eastern Ladakh is 3-4 divisions with 3-4 armoured brigades, each having a minimum of two armed regiments and two mechanised infantry battalions, backed by requisite air power, combat support arms and logistics.

We must not take counsel of our fears and worry unduly about the political consequences of a setback. If diplomacy fails, national honour demands that we take the battle to the enemy. The whole world is watching us.

Lt Gen H S Panag PVSM, AVSM (R) served in the Indian Army for 40 years. He was GOC in C Northern Command and Central Command. Post-retirement, he was Member of Armed Forces Tribunal. Views are personal.

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it

You are reading this because you value good, intelligent and objective journalism. We thank you for your time and your trust.

You also know that the news media is facing an unprecedented crisis. It is likely that you are also hearing of the brutal layoffs and pay-cuts hitting the industry. There are many reasons why the media’s economics is broken. But a big one is that good people are not yet paying enough for good journalism.

We have a newsroom filled with talented young reporters. We also have the country’s most robust editing and fact-checking team, finest news photographers and video professionals. We are building India’s most ambitious and energetic news platform. And have just turned three.

At ThePrint, we invest in quality journalists. We pay them fairly. As you may have noticed, we do not flinch from spending whatever it takes to make sure our reporters reach where the story is.

This comes with a sizable cost. For us to continue bringing quality journalism, we need readers like you to pay for it.

If you think we deserve your support, do join us in this endeavour to strengthen fair, free, courageous and questioning journalism. Please click on the link below. Your support will define ThePrint’s future.

Support Our Journalism

46 Comments Share Your Views

46 COMMENTS

  1. India should bolster its defences and any major indiscretion henceforth by China and Pakistan must be effectively countered come what may. That leaves about a hundred square km in Chinese hands for now. I suspect the army HQ isn’t as professional as we want them to be. They were caught with their pants down in Kargil in the nineties and had to lose a large number of soldiers to recover occupied territory. No lessons learnt it seems. They have no dynamic real-time monitoring setup of LAC as exists in LOC. Also they lack rapid response mechanisms in place with command delegated peripherally to deal with incursions. Can u believe the incursions are 1st reported by shepherds in Kargil and now. No roving patrols!! Army is using a major chunk of defence outlay to reduce poor brother IAF to a pitiable condition with 20 or so effective squadrons. IAF must be bold enough to retire all MIG21, Jaguars, older Mirages as well as obsolete navy aircrafts immediately. They must plan for next 20-25 years developing 2-3 core lines. Rafale will be good enough for multirole fighter and another air superiority fighter with stealth tech is need of the hour. The best bet is F22 Raptor but whether USA will agree is another matter. F 35 Lightning may be an effective replacement. I am not proUSA but soviet fighter planes aren’t as effective in real situation. 14 squadrons of these 2 alongside SU30MKii is barely enough to form a credible counter to a vastly improved PAF(built around JF17 Thunder) and PLA AF(superior in numbers and tech but experience?). And develop Naval force. Future wars will be faught with aircrafts, navy and electronics.

  2. It is easier said than done . The viewed of ex lt general would be correct in regards to Pakistan but I doubt with China. The reason being the Chinese have been prepared for quite long time militarily, economically, etc, and we have just started our preparness physically , emotionally but not mentally or militarily, economically ,etc . These can be seen from our comments that our fighters planes are obsolete, gandhis and congress party were obsolete, sleepy etc. Moreover, our experienced of victory in war is only to weaker country like Pakistan. That is, even if Pakistan prepares for another ten or more years , they can hardly inflict pain to India. However, when dealing with prepared and unpredictable country like China ,our egostic, emotional would work less , and we can not simply try our assumptions in to practice upon the Chinese. But with logistics preparness , I meant preparness in economy diplomatic military etc, we can do it. When we compare our preparness with China, Chinese are much more except our narrative assertion that we have experienced and our fews equipment are better Than the Chinese.
    Our greatest enemy is ourselves, we always criticize irrationally to our leaders .Let’s remember we got independent in 1947 and tested nuclear bomb in 1974 out of nowhere by the Congress government and by their hard worked the world can see us as today but not by sudden rise of political will or able leaders. Let us also be grateful, appreciative but not always cry against others . We have changed our leaderships knowing that previous govt have not done enough works but it doesn’t mean that they din’t do it. We knew our history where we were in 1947 and where we in 1974 and today. Human wants are unlimited
    So also needs. We need decisive proactive leaderships as of today .
    Between us.

  3. Firat we have to acknowledge that this war will be fought by CCP and not chinese people.

    There is no alternative to a just and good administration that needs to be provided to the people of china. Since china has started the clashes therefire anyone can guess that it wants to test the waters before waging a full blown fight and protect its interests in POK.

    India on the other hand would like to win the war and in changed times would like to take POK from china and Pakistan. It won’t go beyond that.

    So a war will keep continuing.

    Seeing at how china is behaving with all of world, to ensure safety of civilisation from pandemics it is necessary to divide china into regions and different chinese regions be annexed by its neighbouring countries leaving a small part of china say 30% which CCP can keep administering. This can be achieved by first theoretically dividing china and promising it’s people and army freedom from CCP and then attacking the regions from all sides. Immediately these regions will fall down and chinese military will also be divided.
    Only the above solution can bring lasting peace in this region.

  4. I agree in general with hypothesis proffered by Gen Panag. But strategically this is not the right time to act. In fact deliberate planning is necessary and we should bide our time to prepare for taking action to neutralise the loss. Politically and diplomatically we must maintain sustained effort to marginalise and expose China . Place our troops appropriately and strike maintaining surprise.
    Also we need to orientate our thinking away from CI ops and think of conventional wayfare.

  5. Fact is Indian airforce is operating with 40 years old MiG-21. This is not 1971. We have 60% operational squadrons with mostly Mig21s. Sukhoi, Mirage, Jaguar have never been deployed in Military operations. Only Migs are tested and they proved their worth. Tejas is a all but fancy toy with just 500 km combat radius. It is just an experimental jet for self appreciation whose heart is an American GE engine. Pakistan has rapidly modernized their Air Force with most of their squadrons having 4th Generation fighter jets. Gandhi’s and Congress were busy looting the country. Never focussed on the modernization of Air Force. Rafael are coming but it takes time to get combat experience for pilots. You cannot send them on operation at the word go. They will be for emergency use only for worst case scenario.
    China has a capacity to take on USA. Americans are the most foolish lot. Every year China earns around 500 Billion dollars from exporting goods to USA. I live in US and trust me, US markets are dump yard for Chinese goods. Without USA, China’s trade will collapse in next 5 years. Australia, Canada, UK, India, New Zealand are main trading partners for China. All of them are now turning their back on China. Like USSR, China needs too be crippled financially. EU is a little problem as they are all pro China. Remaining countries are poor and do not contribute to China’s growth.

  6. Modi and BJP Govt. disappointed me. They never utter a word about war but talk about diplomatic solution. But China is flexing its muscles wby not India shows her muscles too! Why the Modi Govt. is showing a weak response against China even after 50 years of the great China war. Don’t go to war but verbal threatening some times work too.

  7. Respected Sir,

    You are advocating “armed actions” now, to regain the occupied areas of the LAC stretches from China?!

    Tactically possible, but timing is wrong! These are uninhabited high altitude terrain. We can gain more by showing more patience and being “stubborn” in negotiations. We have deployed equally well as the Chinese. Now draw them into the “OP WOLF-TRAP” scenario, by forcing them into a ‘Winter Deployment’ in these areas. It would turn out to be China’s ‘Siachen’. In two years time, the Chinese would have waited for our Attacks to take place, and lost their patience. Then we can exercise our Options, and take them by surprise.

    Patience and firmness is essential while dealing with the Chinese. No appeasements whatsoever. You must review your recommendations, as they do not make strategic sense. Wars are fought to be won, and not for ‘chivalry’ or transient honour considerations.

  8. Right now, the perception is that Indian political leadership is unwilling to, or reluctant to or afraid to militarily engage China. If the bully has to be stopped in track, it is necessary for India also to occupy some chinese territory. Otherwise, India has nothing to bargain with. China engages in map-based, ancient rights based land grabbing. If India does not show that it is willing to act decisively, Chinese will continue to negotiate interminably – Mao’s policy, “fight fight, talk talk”. These talks with chinese mean nothing.

  9. India MUST carry the battle to China AND Pakistan instead of wasting money on a static build up and display. There is adequate casus belli and it is time for India to stop fighting all its battles within the borders forced on it by these encroaching enemies.

  10. Pakistan is ready to take on India, 27 Feb was one example, Pakistan reacted in broad day light unlike india during night, India should better think hundred time to mess with Pakistan, its US which has adopted india and is providing full support against Pakistan, otherwise india dare not utter a word. Pakistan has enough means to teach a lesson to India, to be remembered in the history, as Japanese remember it till now.

    • Pakistan lost half its country fighting India. Accept and move on. Skirmishes are no bench marks. Fight a devisive war and win, if you can.

    • what a pity … such sweet dreams … stay happy kid … unfortunately what u stated above is not the reality … go back and read up on unbiased Indo-Pak conflict history, not the one taught in ur madrasaas… good luck.

    • Nice dream buddy!! This is the attitude of some Pakistani’s like yourself is detrimental for the progress of your country!

  11. Take teeitori in j&k which belongs to us from paki, this way it should block cpec. And then let China enjoy looking at blocked road…and it can come to discuss about it

  12. Nice informative reading.

    The capacity or incapacity of any country in objective terms is a matter of evaluation. But people within India who ridicule India’s prowess belong to no land of their own. Unfortunately, China has successfully manufactured, distributed on large scale the chips of anti-nationalism with this kind of susceptible marginal citizens.

  13. If this is the attitude and thought of a retired Gen. I must say the higher level management of our military sucks too like any other organizations.
    I am astonished by the fact that a high rank official of Indian army is not realistic and pragmatic.
    You bastards don’t prepare and make strategy for the war. Your intelligence sucks and never deliver key information and when adversaries attack you hastily move our soldiers and put their lives in risk and then try to gain sympathy on their sacrifices. With our crippling economy, poor military infrastructure and ammunition we stand no chance against Chinese PLA. Stop sparing our jawans for your drunken mismanagement. Stop hiding your failure with the dead bodies of those braves that fight for an inch in the border. Stop licking Modi’s ballsack.

    • Rasogolla seem to be bitter mood n also have a religion n political party affiliation in this n probably many threads. How much you get paid per comment per category? E.g. putting down the country, attacking Hindus, attacking Modi….

    • The General is realistic, pragmatic, Brilliant daring Soldier General. It is foolish to question his attitude. I agree with Das we have a media, with almost zero creditability, which broadcast manufactured Govt stories. Both Lt General Pnaag Brothers are well informed, brilliant stratigists. Let Govt benifit from his realistic reviews on Present Indo China stand off. Ghus ke maarenge drama won’t work with PLA. Situation demand precisionally careful handling.

  14. I think India’s basic problem today is that our equipment preparedness is very low. I get this impression because even the most government-friendly TV channels are talking in future tense – – we WILL get such and such stuff from this country, and that fighter jet from… Etc
    If this indeed is the case, then India is like a sitting duck at the moment. Will China allow India time to collect all the fancy equipment and become militarily a difficult target, or will it try to shoot at the sitting duck? My guess is only as good as yours.

  15. The present dispensation does appear to be quite calculative in decisions. The reported option of air action post 9/11 was not taken possibly because we were not ready to face the escalation. The surgical strikes and Balakote could be done only after a escalation preparedness and seems to have sent Pakistan in search of new methods.
    It was in the nuclear backdrop with a lot of talk to that effect from Pakistan. A talk about it with reference to Indo-China conflict is like importing the Qureshis and Rehmans from across the border. The deterrence is well established in that a nuclear armed state cannot be pushed beyond a point without the risk of heavy mutual destruction, a set-back nobody can afford.
    The great have beens know this well. So when the criticism comes in a kind of you do not know your ass from elbow, the hate is more obvious than the concern for the nation and sharing of opinions with the help of experience.
    Today the skill lies in averting both the India-initiated conflict scenario or a China-initiated conflict scenario. China will and has been bullying us, over years we have allowed our-selves to come into that situation today. So the least one expects is not running down yourself, because that is what the Chinese want.

  16. I guess the author is suffering from memory loss. China inflicted s crushing defeat on Indies in 1962. Please march on to your next crushing defeat.

    • Tony I think you are suffering from memory loss…😂😂1n 1967 Indian army captured Sikkim ..natula pass from Chinese and many more important points..last was doklam where Chinese run away..wait for few days u will see again Chinese running away also . Indian army preparation are going high we will do what we did withPwith in 1971 and 1999..to Chinese.

      • Yes , Its right time , All Indians are against china , buying China products, Irrespective of results it is time to attack china

    • India already flexed it’s muscle which sort you are looking for man for a man weapon for weapons and hitted Chinese soldiers in response of their attacks don’t understand which sort you are looking for

  17. Taking Territory currently under China, whether Indian or not, may not be so easy. But taking some Territory of Pakistan may be easier.
    India should prepare and wait for an excuse from Pakistan to actually recover land from POK permanently so that we have around 30km of buffer from our Srinagar Leh road.
    It seems ridiculous that you are talking about China and I am talking about Pakistan. But off course they work in collusion. In the Future they will definitely pose a threat to us. km by km we must work on a long term strategy to get upto Pak Highway N35 which is cuurently 80-100 km from LOC.
    We must make it clear that every time there is flare up we will inch towards N35. This will be the biggest threat to China also.
    In a simple, single front Indian war, none of the country would interfere, but if meticulously planned 2 front war is there, we may get Direct support from several countries.
    Forces currently in the region may have been deployed for China, but who says it cant be diverted somewhere else.

    • The views are exactly in accord with what the National Conscience of India wants. Shah was representing the National Conscience when he said that blood would be shed to regain Aksai Chin. The vast majority of voters who voted to bring BJP in power with an unrivalled majority will applaud the view and support every effort to attain this end. Xi of course fully understands what was stated in parliament by the Home Minister notwithstanding the ritual welcome given to him at Mahaballipuram. Both India and China are mature countries and fully understand each others intentions and ideologies and are not swayed by any outward show of welcome which is only for public consumption. To think that India has misunderstood China’s intentions or China has misunderstood India’s intention would be a mistake.

  18. With all due respect, none of these scenarios will happen. India does not have the strength and Modi has put India’s economy in a parlous state. Anyway, he is too busy with Hindu-Muslim to care if some land is lost to China. His media will be telling India has upper hand and Hindus will believe. It is best for Hindus to lie low and not make provocative noises. Indeed, Modi, Shah and Bhagwat understand this now, that is why they have gone quiet and become meek. Fighting against minorities in India is not the same as fighting China. Quad Alliance is a forlorn hope some Hindus hold now.

  19. Churchill immortal words:

    War is too serious a business to be left with Generals….(In this case an ex General) !!!

  20. News reports appearing in July 2020 on two key aspects – India-China Ladakh worrisome tensions in 2020 and the other , Covid-19 – suggest to meaningfulness of this Vedic astrology writer’s predictions published last year 2019 on 10 October at theindiapost.com , which have now been reproduced at http://www.nirpakhawaaz.com/2020/07/20/planetary-configuration-in-august-september-2020-suggest-something-historic-something-rare/ on 20 July 2020. Thrust of interpretation of ongoing planetary impacts on India in particular and world in general is that August-September 2020 can amount to or imply “ dukhbhanjan” for India to a larger extent. In particular , the period from 11 August to 10 September in 2020 has been read to be rare , phenomenal and exceptional for India and to some extent , to countries supporting it. US President Donald Trump looks to be set to experience a boost to his political fortunes during the said period.

    • A comet has suddenly appeared and is bright enough to be seen with the naked eye. A similar very big comet was visible before the 1971 war. This comet at present coincides with the COVID-19 . There was a solar eclipse which made the sun look like the new moon. A probe has been sent to Mars by China at just the exact time when the comet is nearest to earth.It coincides with the period which saw Covid-19 , Galwan attack and Solar eclipse in a triangular fashion. These all things when the “Dukhbanjan” period has just a Paksha to start. Working out the consequences would be tough but it can be easily predicted that Donald Trump will surely have to face an election though the results of the same are not fully apparent yet.

  21. National honour for those who democratically elect a butcher of non Hindu citizens of India and his party of rapists and atankhwadis. The whole world has far better work to do than to worry about slumdogs own created mess in the region by messing not only with all neighbours but also with non Hindu and secular Hindu citizens of India.

    • I agree entirely. Hindus voted for jahils and they have created a mess. A beating from China exposed their incompetence, but still Hindutva Hindus cling to such people. Some of these fellows now imagine an alliance with US, Quad etc. will save India.

  22. This type of retired Indian military officers prove how aggressive and warmongering India’s rogue military is… world’s military work out how to stop aggression but this warmongering country’s rogue military is all about killing non Hindus in the militarized zones and with neighbors.

    • Non-Hindus, if you mean mooslums, then yes….we hv killed Muslim terrorist in pak and Kashmir and will do it again and again….Low life low breed terrorist from porkistan should dealt with iron fist

  23. If the Chinese initiate a conflict, we should fight. However, we should not initiate one. We should not become prisoners of an image created in TV studios and social media.

  24. Yes, so Modi falls in same bracket as Nehru? No thanks. Country is in no mood to fight a war with pandemic on. National honor and all can be taken back after 20 years also, like China is doing. Let’s focus on first getting through the pandemic. All this war talk by congress and anti modi people is just to force him into giving them a stick to beat him with. Better that we let china hold few kms for a while than hand over country to them by giving these congress people the opportunity to attack modi and win elections

    • Interesting new line from a Hindutva Hindu ! You were bullying minorities relentlessly, but you got a beating from a bigger external bully. Discretion suddenly became the better part of valour – but only after getting a beating,

  25. General Panag has not indicated the type of territory that India can capture. China has occupied strategic territory that prevents India from threatening Aksai Chin. If the territory that India captures is just barren land of no strategic importance then China might just ignore it and allow General Snow and Colonel Ice to do the job. If it really threatens China then there will be a long drawn out conflict . The AK-47 in the hands of militants today could be replaced by Chinese drones and we have seen what they did in Saudi Arabia. In India the industrial base is extremely narrow with 0.5% of the industries yielding 95% of the corporate revenue. With such a narrow industrial base the consequences of a prolonged unrest actively directed and funded by China are unpredictable and unimaginable.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here