New Delhi: In his speech at the diamond jubilee celebration of the National Defence College Friday, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat made several important points with regards to India’s stand-off with China and military reforms.
In episode 612 of Cut The Clutter, ThePrint Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta discussed Rawat’s speech and the key takeaways from it.
Gen Rawat first and foremost predicted a return of closed borders and hypernationalism. He said the decoupling of the US and China was inevitable and would be “messy”. With such forces working in contradiction with globalisation, and accompanied by the pandemic, more and more nations will try to protect themselves, Rawat said.
The other important argument the general raised, according to Gupta, was how China is now repressive at home due to the economic setback of the pandemic but aggressive overseas. This shows that Beijing is going to be aggressive in its pursuit of its hegemonic interests.
Gen Rawat also pointed out that China has realised it is facing unanticipated consequences of their “misadventures” in Ladakh. According to him, India’s status quo in Ladakh has been restored and there was no question of shifting the Line of Actual Control.
At the same event, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh also spoke, making one important political statement — that India is a peaceful country but will not stand unilateralism or aggression from any other country.
Always cautious, the cabinet minister never talks in specifics, but it is clear that this reference to unilateralism was a reference to China.
India’s response to China
The important question that arises now is whether India gave the Chinese troops a befitting reply in the last few months.
“While the Chinese may have sent their troops further into the area of the Pangong Tso lake, Indian troops too have climbed the mountains higher in the southern side of the region. The Depsang plains is a region where Indian troops have increased their presence and the Chinese are not happy with it,” Gupta said.
Gupta also referred to his talk with Ashley J. Tellis, a senior fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, on ThePrint’s digital Off the Cuff held Friday.
When asked if Indian troops had given a strong response to the Chinese, Tellis said, “India’s response has been more than resolute. It’s not just been resolute, it’s been quite firm.”
Tellis also indicated that the Chinese are upset about India’s response, which came only after the PLA troops violated what India consider the Line of Actual Control.
Gen Rawat had also talked in great detail about military reform, synergies, new integrated theatre commands, an integrated Air Defense Command and an integrated management of airspace.
These, Gupta said, will help prevent mishaps such as the friendly fire in Budgam, in which an Indian chopper was shot down by accident. The Chinese escalation, he said, has resulted in a debate in India over bringing in reforms for the military forces, “which is a move towards a positive direction”.
Referring to the eighth round of military talks between India and China, held Friday, Gupta said the strength of India’s troops is visible at Depsang plains, which is why the Chinese are interested in negotiating.
The two countries are focussed on finalising the exact locations of buffer zones along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as they work towards disengagement of troops before heavy winter sets in.