Excerpts from article By Maj Gen Dhruv C Katoch (Retd)
By Arrangement with INDIA STRATEGIC
There will be costs to be paid, but if that is not done now, it is merely postponing the inevitable, as China is unlikely to desist from its chosen course of action.
The face off at Galwan on June 15, which led to the loss of 20 precious lives of the Indian Army, including that of Col B. Santosh Babu, the Commanding Officer of 16 Bihar, is an inflexion point in the relationship between the two countries which has dramatically altered the status quo and which is perhaps the lowest point in the relationship after the 1962 war and the violent clashes which took place at Nathu La in 1967. The number of Chinese casualties is not known, though some press reports state that about 43 Chinese soldiers were also killed in the violent face-off that occurred.
Chinese actions do not stem from a need to guard its road linking Tibet to East Turkestan or of the need to dominate the DSDBO Road. The larger intent will remain taking over the entire Himalayan Range from Arunachal to Ladakh, to gain control over the waters emanating from them. China will keep nibbling away at Indian territory till it is militarily challenged and the time to throw that challenge is now. There will be costs to be paid, but if that is not done now, it is merely postponing the inevitable, as China is unlikely to desist from its chosen course of action.
India’s options remain limited as of now. Chinese incursions cannot be countenanced, but other than the use of force, there seems to be little likelihood of the Chinese vacating the areas that they have transgressed into, in violation of the border protocols. There is of course, the possibility of diplomatic or political initiatives leading to a change in the Chinese stance, but that appears remote as of now.
The key to a successful defensive battle in the Himalayas lies in dominating the skies over Tibet. It would require effective surveillance to gauge Chinese intentions and matching space and Network Centric Warfare capabilities. The time for procrastination is perhaps over. The nation needs to stand united as never before to face the challenges that lie ahead.
The author is an army veteran. A former Director of the Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), he is presently Director, India Foundation.