How Will Chinese Use of Force In Doklam Manifest?
Monday, August 21, 2017 by Indiandefense News
In competitive conflict among nations, when faced with the threat of use of force by an adversary and if you set out to confront him and call his bluff, Plan A is generally based on the premise that the adversary will not actually use force due to political, economic and military compulsions. However, Plan B is also prepared to actually deal with the threat if it manifests itself. The handling of the two month long standoff in Doklam and recurring Chinese incursions elsewhere are still based on Plan A.
This, of course, is based on post 1962 War and 1967 Nathu La experience, notably the standoffs at Sumdrong Chu 1986-87, Depsang 2013 and Chumar 2014. Thus, on the ground, we see Indian and Chinese soldiers are physically confronting each other below Doka La with neither side using “force” except for the “jostling” in the initial stages. There is no let-up in Chinese jingoistic rhetoric and threats. Diplomacy does not seem to have made much headway. The mood in Delhi is “Jung Nahin Hogi”. Except for the Indian Army moving for the annual summer “operational alert” there are no reports of any large scale mobilisation by either side. Is the current standoff going the way of the previous prolonged “peaceful” standoffs?
In this backdrop, let us look at Plan B on both sides. Before this, an obvious point must be made. Nations armed with nuclear weapons do not, and I dare say, cannot fight a full scale conventional war that causes major loss of territory, large scale casualties and destruction of economic infrastructure. The probability of even a limited war in multiple sectors along the LAC is relatively low. The probability of a limited war in the area of confrontation is much higher. The moot question is what form will it take?
The Indian Army’s Plan B is that all along the LAC and particularly in Sikkim, we hold dominating heights in high altitude terrain. Our defences are “hardened” and are backed by adequate fire power, including missiles carrying Precision Guided Munitions (PGM). We have adequate reserve for counter attack and we also have tactical counter offensive capability in each theatre. Along the LAC and in Tibet the IAF has an edge. It can carry out a strategic air campaign to target the PLA centres of gravity in Tibet, namely, command and control centres, military infrastructure and troop concentrations. Indian Navy is capable of strategic interdiction of sea lanes through the Indian Ocean. We also have the option of preempting the PLA with an operational level preemptive offensive, before it mobilises in Ladakh, Chumbi Valley and North Sikkim.
In a nutshell, we are looking to fight a low end third generation war to give the PLA a bloody nose. My take is that if the limited war whether in multiple sectors or in the Sikkim Sector, takes this form, we will stalemate the Chinese which is defeat for them.
The question that arises is why would China initiate a war where its defeat is ordained? Or does it have a more imaginative Plan B that teaches India a lesson? The PLA has adopted and adapted to the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) for the last two decades, particularly in the field of cyber warfare and PGM technology. It is now only second to the USA in high-end military technology. My assessment is that the Chinese will neutralise our strategy by not getting involved in “close infantry combat” over unfavourable terrain. If at all it chooses to use force, its strategy will be based on technological warfare with overwhelming use of PGM and cyber warfare. It will restrict its initial offensive to the Doklam and Sikkim Sector, but would be prepared for escalation to other sectors.
Such an attack will come in the winter, when conventional ground operations are severely restricted. PLA will carry out minimal mobilisation to cater to the unlikely tactical offensive by India in the winter. A massive PGM attack will be launched on our troops at Doklam and Doka La using cruise missiles and artillery after pulling out its own troops to safety.
Simultaneously, a massive cyber attack will be launched to neutralise our command and control systems and our fire power means. The strike will be with a declared limited aim of evicting us from Doklam. Depending upon our strategic and operational response, the PLA will escalate with similar attacks on more defensive positions in Sikkim and other sectors.
Are we prepared for such an attack? Are our defences sufficiently “hardened” and “tunnelled” to withstand a massive PGM attack? What is our progress in implementing the RMA? Do we have missile interception means? Are we trained and prepared for a winter offensive to make territorial gains? Do we have adequate counter attack capabilities using cyber warfare and PGMs?