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Dual front war

One has been hearing a great deal about the possibility of a two-front war as a collusive enterprise between China and Pakistan.

One needs to be clear as to why these two are colluding against India.

The intent is to make it impossible for India to reclaim the large portions of the former princely State of Jammu and Kashmir that both of them have swallowed up in a conspiracy that began with the transfer of control of the Shashgam segment in north Kashmir to China by Pakistan in 1960.
Since then the Chinese appetite for more morsels of Jammu and Kashmir is blatantly exposed by its posting of up to 9000 military personnel drawn from the People’s Liberation Army in the workforce deployed to upgrade the infrastructure in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is designed to choke India off from direct contact with Afghanistan and the Commonwealth of Independent States of the former Central Asian Republics of the Soviet Union.
To maintain their hold on PoK and CoK, Pakistan and China have been using Islamic fundamentalist jihadi groups to attack India across the Line of Control.

A more direct military invasion in Kargil in 1999 saw the Indian Armed Forces crush the invasion even under several self-imposed restrictions including a diktat not to cross the Line of Control.

Military deployment      
It is in this backdrop that one has to assess the reasons for any type of military deployment along both the Line of Control with Pakistan and the Line of Actual Control with China.

The touchstone forever will remain the resolution passed by the Indian Parliament that the whole of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India.

All that is left to be done is to secure the vacation of territory occupied illegally by Pakistan and China.

The status quo is now no longer acceptable because there is no guarantee that any settlement in Kashmir on the lines of what General Musharraf had negotiated with the then NDA government under Atal Behari Vajpayee will ensure freedom from terrorist attacks engineered by Pakistan and supported by China.
The efficacy of deployment of tanks in Ladakh depends on the military objective assigned to the commanders in this sector.

It could be holding action (massed but mobile firepower) to break up known Chinese tactics of “massed wave” attack.

In spite of an agreement to maintain peace and tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control, China has been engaged in a slow nibbling of additional territory as credited to former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran and its intrusions into Chumar and Depsang are evidence of Chinese incipient expansionism.
The deployment of tanks in Ladakh and the refurbishing of advanced landing grounds in Nyoma and Fukche to take heavy transport aircraft and fighters could be the result of a rethink in the NDA government after the fact that even while Chinese President Xi Jinping was sharing a “jhoola” with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Gujarat, Chinese troops had set up camp nearly 20 km deep across the invisible Line of Actual Control.

In this context the deployment of Indian tanks in Ladakh could be seen as an attempt to prevent any more such intrusions and show sturdy boots on the ground.
However, such tank deployment along with air cover has to have a larger purpose than just the defensive status quoist posture.  

What are the larger politico-military objectives that must be kept in mind?

China has swallowed up the whole of Aksai Chin and has built roads and other military infrastructure deep inside Indian claimline.

It would be in the fitness of things that in the event of a renewal of hostilities with China the tanks deployed in Ladakh should become the spearhead to wreak havoc on this infrastructure and cut the Aksai Chin road and China’s access of the Khunjerab Pass through which it has built the Karakoram Highway to Pakistan (and now beyond to Gwadar port in Balochistan as part of the Economic Corridor).

If executed in classic air-tank collaboration it could shock China enough to force it to draw in its fangs all along its periphery.

It is a window under the nuclear threshold worth exploiting now that India has demonstrated a capability of executing a MIRV (multiple independent re-entry vehicle) by its recent ISRO deployment of more than 100 satellites with one launch.

The more complicated MARV (maneuverable re-entry vehicle) has already been demonstrated by the terminal guidance system on board the BrahMos missile.

This is why China is squirming at India’s successful launch of a 5000 km Agni missile that would reach most parts of China.
The fact that the Indian Army has decided to deploy tanks in Ladakh gives heft to the suggestion made some years ago by STRATEGIC AFFAIRS that  the Indian public sector defence undertakings and the private sector jointly or otherwise marry the Illyushin-76 transport aircraft which is already in its fleet to the 105mm Indian field gun (which was in production at the time) to create an air mobile artillery that would be cumulatively flexible in its deployment, more accurate in the delivery of the warhead and be Indian.

Members of an Army think tank sought to make out that the aircraft would explode when the gun was fired because of the recoil, ignoring the glaring fact that these weapons have been in existence (and used extensively) since the Vietnam War.

A retired Major General who was editing a defence magazine at the time suggested that “recoil could be a problem” exhibiting abysmal ignorance for a man of his rank.

Political will

This episode underscores the pitfalls of leaving military matters to the military. If such innovations are not encouraged, the “Make in India” project will degenerate into a licenced production farce that has plagued India since Independence.  
Also, in dealing with the Sino-Pak collusion, the government of the day will have to exhibit political will to avoid being pressured into imposing restrictions on the Armed Forces in the execution of long-overdue military objectives.

It is also to be hoped that unlike in Kargil where air-land cooperation was a bitterly fought inter-Service conflict the two will have trained together to deal with whatever that could happen in Ladakh and beyond.

That is where the more appropriate role for tanks would be a blitzkrieg into enemy held territory -which is what tanks are made for.  
In the final analysis, however, the prime objective of any Indian military operation must be fixated on the recovery of Pakistan-occupied and China-occupied Kashmir.

If India can fight China to a draw in Ladakh it could be considered a victory given Beijing’s military preponderance.

It could severely degrade China’s ability to come to Pakistan’s rescue in PoK.

The Indian armour and mechanized infantry could do the rest by multiple thrusts that will bring the Pakistan military machine to its knees. That is what General Manekshaw did in Dacca to create Bangladesh.