The popular perception in India among the people is that Chinalaunched an unprovoked attack on India in 1962. Two books one by Brigadier Dalvi titled ‘Himalayan Blunder’ and the other by Neville Maxwell ‘India’s China war ‘however belie this claim. From these accounts one can gauge that the immediate provocation for the Chinese attack was the ‘forward policy’ enunciated by Nehru on the advice of two people namely his distant cousin Lieutenant General BM Kaul and BN Mullick, the then chief of the Intelligence Bureau.
Nehru and BM Kaul
Lieutenant General BM Kaul had won the confidence of the Prime Minister Nehru and though he was a Sandhurst graduate, he had passed through the Second World War without battle action and mainly as a PRO (public relations officer). This man could inveigle into the inner circle of Nehru and became the main advisor on all military matters. The forward policy as defined by Nehru was to set up border posts in areas which India claimed as their own, in close proximity to Chinese troops who were in over whelming strength The posts manned by 8-10 soldiers were unsustainable in a conflict, yet Nehru and Kaul insisted on their inception. This obviously alarmed the Chinese who began a massive build up against India. The result was a border war that tarnished the reputation of general Kaul and Nehru and the Indian Army cut a sorry face.
The Present Face Off
What is the situation now? I am afraid the political leadership does again appear to be naïve. However last timethe poster boy of Nehru General Kaul and the Army Chief general Thapar had failed in giving a correct appreciation to the government, but this time the army headquarters has apprised the Prime Minister and the Raksha mantra of a serious mismatch between Indian and Chinese forces even now. The presentation given to the political and defense leadership has focused on the fact that China can deploy 500,000 troops for over a month on the LOC (line of actual control).
The concerns of the Indian military are well founded as China is believed to be carrying out a major infrastructure up gradation in Xinxiang and Tibet. It is also asserting its claim over Arunachal Pradesh and taking a pro-active role in Ladakh. Their grip on Tibet is also strong and the Dalai Lama for all practical purposes is a zero.
The presentation to Man Mohan Singh has emphasized that the PLA (people’s liberation army) with a budget of $ 150 billion can easily deploy 34 divisions along the LOC. This deployment can be easily carried out by pulling troops from Chengdu and Lanshou area of China, which are adjacent to Tibet. Thus the two basic principles of war, mobility and concentration of force are satisfied.
Infrastructure Buildup By China
In comparison the Indian Army due to constraints of man power and infrastructure can only deploy 9 divisions. A division generally consists of 20,000-23,000 troops. India is lagging in the development of road and rail communication in Ladakh and the NE frontier (Arunachal Pradesh). In contrast the Chinese are building 11 new rail lines in Tibet and Xinxiang. They already have a pressurized train that runs right up to Lhasa. In contrast India is a big zero in rail development in this region. The Chinese are also extending the rail line to Shiqatse close to the Indian state of Sikkim. This rail line will give a tremendous impetus to movement of Chinese troops in this region.
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China has also announced a rail line to Kathmandu and Burma and of all places to Bhutan as well. This has again caught the Indian political leadership in a cold sweat like in 1962.
The Chinese have also constructed nearly 58,000 km of all-weather roads in Tibet while India has just a fraction of this on the border. The Indian BRO (Border Road Organization) is toiling manfully, but there is a paucity of funds and more important the political will to counter China seems to be absent.
The Air Situation
In terms of air power, China now has many air bases in Tibet and Xinjiang. These bases are an asset for the Chinese Air Force which has Indian targets well within the range. Unfortunately the IAF has no means to strike at China. There is an urgent need for a long-range heavy strategic bomber for the IAF, but none is available. The Russians have also backed out of giving the TU 22( Backfire) and Indian technology cannot manufacture a plane with that sort of long-range capability.
India thus has a difficult task ahead. To compound matters India has a hostile Pakistan on one end and Nepal is not the old Nepal. The political leadership this time is fully apprised by the military. They have to bite the bullet now. The PM has failed on the economic front where corruption is rampant; will he at least redeem himself here?