Amid deteriorating ties between India and China, former Indian Corps Commander said that the terrain on the Chinese side of the LAC gives the PLA soldiers an advantage over Indian troops as the ground is not only more open but also has thin snow levels. He added that the Chinese have built better infrastructure in the region.
At a time when Indian and Chinese military are engaged in a raging border dispute, Pannu’s statement has a greater significance. In an interview with ThePrint, he drew out the similarities between the Chinese action on the LAC in eastern Ladakh which came after a joint military exercise between the Indian and Chinese armies and the Kargil attack of 1999.
“Back then in 1999, the Pakistani Army was planning an attack on India despite multiple confidence-building measures taken in the months before it,” he said. The Leh-headquartered 14 Corps is the only corps in the Indian Army that faces both the fronts, that is, Pakistan and China. The world’s highest battlefield Siachen also falls under its purview.
“When the two armies are doing an exercise as part of the confidence-building measures and one is planning to launch an attack on the other, it is a similar story as Kargil when the Pakistani Army soldiers, in the guise of freedom fighters, were planning to occupy areas in Kargil, despite the past confidence-building measures,” he added.
Even when the disengagement talks are underway between the top military officials of both sides, there is an ongoing buildup on the LAC. According to reports, the Chinese People Liberation Army (PLA) has deployed close to 50,000 troops in Aksai Chin. India has also mirrored this by deploying a squadron (12) T-90 missile-firing tanks, armoured personnel carriers (APCs) and a full troop brigade (4,000 men).
“To go in for a force accretion is easy, but the consequences would amount to asking your adversaries to build up,” Pannu said. “So when the build-up happens on both sides, you are militarizing the area as mirror movements will happen.”
He, however, added that with two nuclear-armed nations, “it is not desirable” to militarise the borders to a point that could result in a military accident and disaster more easily.
After the violent clash at the LAC in Galwan valley in eastern Ladakh, the top officials of the military have been meeting to resolve the issue. One such meeting went on for 15 hours.
According to Pannu, if both spoke the same language, the duration would be reduced to half or even to one-third of the time. “The Chinese speak in metaphors. When you convert metaphoric language into direct language, you can miss something said or unsaid,” he said.
He further added that there is a difference of opinion on the lines drawn on the maps placed by both countries during such discussions. To start talking the same thing at the same level of understanding takes very long, therefore making the reference to the same points on the ground takes a long time,” he added.
He concluded by saying that there is a trust deficit between the two sides on the ground and a military commander on the ground would not want to leave the ground to be occupied by the opponent. “Judgements cannot be made frequently on who is winning or losing. These movements are deliberate, slow and have to be carried with a lot of caution.
Meanwhile, a defence expert talking to the EurAsian Times on the condition of anonymity, said that it is high time New Delhi moves ahead from banning mobile application to taking a firm military stance.
Even an indirect signal to China on a possible nuclear confrontation, just like Pakistan does, would send alarm bells ringing in China. The message to China should be very clear – India is prepared for any eventuality, even if that means a full-scale war. It’s time to take a leaf out of the Pakistani strategy!