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Indian Army top brass discuss threats from China, Pakistan

New Delhi: Amid border standoff with China, the Indian Army held a commanders’ conference led by General Manoj Mukund Naravane on Thursday to review the operational situation at the border with China and Pakistan. Indian Army Commanders’ Conference is an apex level biannual event, which formulates important policy decisions through collegiate deliberations.

The conference was attended by senior officers of the Army including the vice chief of the army staff, all commanders, principal staff officers (PSOs) of the Army Headquarters and other senior officers.

In the two-day conference, the Army top brass discussed the current position of Chinese People’s Liberation Army positions in disputed areas at Gogra, Hot Springs, Demchok and Depsang at Line of Actual Control in Eastern Ladakh.

China has enhanced troops, artillery and armour deployment in three sectors of Line of Actual Control — western (Ladakh), middle (Uttarakhand, Himachal) and eastern (Sikkim, Arunachal) sectors.

A year after the Galwan valley clash in Eastern Ladakh, China is still sitting at the Line of Actual Control and India has geared up for a long grind. Indian and Chinese military delegates had 11 rounds of talks to resolve border disputes at friction points.

During the commanders’ conference meeting, Army top brass discussed how to be better prepared to face Chinese belligerence in Ladakh over the last year as a final resolution seems far off. India has enhanced military infrastructure, increased troop deployment to 50,000 to 60,000, and constructed better roads connectivity for quick mobilisation.

Last month, General Naravane said that the troops are on high alert at Line of Actual Control and are keeping watch on Chinese People’s Liberation Army activities.

The Indian Army chief stated that India wants the status quo ante of April 2020 to be restored. He also stated that India has made it clear to China that de-escalation will only be considered once disengagement is completed to the mutual satisfaction of both the sides.

He had said that Indian troops are on high alert and deployments have not thinned after the disengagement in Pangong River.

General Naravane said that India is currently concentrating on resolving outstanding problems at other friction points like Hot Springs, Gogra and Depsang at Line of Actual Control.

The army chief also stated that trust levels between two countries are low but pointed out that the trust deficit should not hinder the negotiation process.

At Galwan valley, the clash took place on June 15 last year sparking a war like situation. Later by the end of August last year there was a further build up across and Pangong Lake at 14,000 feet turning it into a battle zone as India occupied key mountain tops at the Kailash Range overlooking the southern bank of the lake.

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India Latest News

How India can meet the China challenge

By Gautam Bambawale and Ajay Shah

China’s military aggression in Ladakh, which continues to date, led many of us to ask: How does India respond to and meet the China challenge? 

Our armed forces have responded magnificently in the immediate and near term. However, the India-China relationship is a long-term game, which is not merely about military affairs but also about economics, science, technology and innovation. One of the reasons for Chinese aggression toward India is the huge discrepancy in economic, military and national power, which has emerged between the two over the past decade.

In the short-run, India will have to build balancing coalitions with like-minded countries. Quad is one example. There are three groups of countries we can contemplate for such coalitions: Major democracies of the world; countries bordering China; and India’s neighbours. The United States (US), Japan, France, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Russia spring to mind. There are roughly 20 such countries. 

India needs to build deep partnerships with these coalitions of nation-States, going beyond treaties and agreements to forge linkages between peoples and institutions. Education, travel and tourism, cooperation among scientists and innovators need to be nurtured. Good partnerships are grounded in give-and-take, where each country reshapes its domestic policy in ways that are favourable to the other. 

India will have to rise to this challenge, and go beyond being wedded to a narrow vision of strategic autonomy.

Strategic planners in Indian firms need to rethink business plans in the light of these complexities. In some areas, where China-centric sourcing and technological dependence can elevate business risk, a selective retreat from economic engagement with China, and increased emphasis upon the global market, is optimal. 

A critical element of the journey lies in innovation policy. India needs to match and improve upon China’s achievements in fostering research institutions and intellectuals that inhabit them. 

By 2047, if we can maintain 8% GDP growth per annum, then India will be a $64-trillion-dollar economy in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) terms. In the same period, if China grows at 5% per annum, it will be a $86-trillion economy in PPP terms. In other words, the current mismatch will reduce significantly.

The judicious use of self-reliance (atmanirbhar), grounded in self-confidence (atmavishwas), where a confident India engages with the world without insecurity, forms alliances with like-minded countries, and leverages democracy and a skilled workforce to good effect, is the path through which the China challenge can be addressed.

(The opinion piece appeared in The Hindustan Times)

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India Latest News

India warns Twitter over location settings showing Leh in China

In a letter to Twitter Inc CEO Jack Dorsey, the government expressed its disapproval of the “misrepresentation of the map of India” and asked the company to “respect sensitivities of Indian citizens” sources said.

The geo-location of Leh, which is the headquarters of the union territory of Ladakh, was shown on Twitter as part of China. Leh is the largest town in Ladakh.

Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir are “integral and inalienable parts of India governed by the Constitution of India” the Indian government told Twitter after the social media platform’s location settings showed Leh as part of China, government sources said.

The government, sources added, conveyed to Twitter that any attempt by the social media giant to “disrespect sovereignty and integrity of India, which is also reflected by the maps, is totally unacceptable” and “unlawful.”

The government’s warning to Twitter comes amid the tense standoff with China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Tension peaked in June when 20 Indian soldiers were killed in the line of duty in a clash with the Chinese at Galwan Valley.

There have been several rounds of military and diplomatic talks between the two sides to resolve the standoff but the Chinese have refused to adhere to agreements on restoring the status quo.

Ladakh was carved out from Jammu and Kashmir and granted the union territory status on August 5 last year when the center scrapped the special status and split it into two union territories – Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

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Chinese Chequers at LAC: Is India making the right moves?

BY Maj Gen (Retd) SB Asthana

The current China-India standoff in Eastern Ladakh has seen multiple rounds of talks failing to ease tensions, with continued troop build-up under the shadow of talks.

The Chinese political aim in the Asian context has always been to have a China-centric Asia, for which forcing Indian subordination has been its goal. The Chinese strategic aim to pick Eastern Ladakh is to provide depth to its highway NH G-219, Karakoram Pass and CPEC, redraw LAC as per its perception and negotiate the border thereafter. China does feel threatened by Indian dispositions in India’s Sub Sector North (SSN) including DBO, infrastructure development including DSDBO road, and the Indian resolve to reclaim its territory of Jammu and Kashmir, posing a threat to the crucial Tibet-Xinjiang-Pakistan connectivity and BRI prospects. The PLA’s centre of gravity of military operations is Eastern Ladakh and the build-up/intended gains in the rest of the LAC are efforts to pick up bargaining chips.

The PLA’s tactical aim is to launch probing actions to gain some tactically significant features sensitive to Indian defense before heavy snowfall, which can collectively improve its strategic posture or bargaining position. The Indian military is well aware of these intentions; hence the reluctance of Chinese verifiable withdrawal could lead to probing actions/reactions to improve tactical posture.

Strategically, President Xi Jinping miscalculated global anger against himself while trying to make the best of Chinese early recovery from COVID-19. Having made an unwarranted aggressive move in Ladakh, along with similar activities in South and East China Sea, President Xi Jinping now faces major democracies standing up against China’s overambitious aggressive design, with few bankrupt countries standing by its side to handle multiple engagement points.

The gross violation of confidence-building measures (CBMs) in Ladakh by China has opened all military options for India, besides responses in economic, diplomatic and other domains, with international opinion in its favor. A pullback has a heavy domestic political cost for Xi Jinping, besides the threat of occupation of vacated areas by India. Pushing the PLA to make some quick gains before the winters and engaging in talks to freeze the situation thereafter to retain its gains is the Chinese game plan.

Talks alone are unlikely to make the PLA recoil. India will have to raise the cost of PLA’s presence in unauthorised areas like Depsang even if it amounts to a long haul on LAC and some military options besides what is being done.

India needs to avoid any quick fix diplomatic solutions like five-point agreement, seeking fresh CBMs, mutual disengagement and ideas like buffer zones which help the Chinese agenda like many other historic errors in the past. Pulling back from freshly occupied heights south of Pangong Tso will be a strategic disaster for India.

This requires political, diplomatic and military decision makers to be on the same page. The Indian strategic aim should be to insist on proper delimitation and demarcation of the LAC (which is difficult but doable), pending settlement of the border issue.

Chinese aggression on multiple fronts has necessitated the need for an Indo-Pacific alliance of democratic countries which can be built up by strengthening Quad, by converting it to a military alliance on the lines of NATO.

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India Latest News

Indian Army stocks up for long haul in eastern Ladakh

By The SATimes News Service

New Delhi: As the border remains tense in eastern Ladakh, the Indian Army has stocked up on special clothing, diet and shelter for the long haul to battle the harsh winter at heights exceeding 12,000 feet and temperature as extreme as minus 50 degrees Celsius.

The enhanced troop deployment is likely to continue for months, media reports said quoting sources, as there are enough supplies of high altitude equipment and gear that can last a year at least.

The force has stocked up these items for around 35,000 extra troops deployed at the forward locations. Most of the friction points in Ladakh like Pangong Lake and Galwan Valley where the face-offs have happened are located 14,000 feet above sea level.

Further, local residents in Ladakh have volunteered to help the Indian Army to provide logistic support at the forward areas when and where required.

The force has incurred an estimated expenditure of around Rs 400 crore for providing special winter clothing to cater to the enhanced deployment. The cost per soldier for special clothing equipment to brave the harsh winter is around Rs 1 lakh.

To meet clothing and sheltering requirements for operations in these areas, Special Clothing and Mountaineering Equipment (SCME) at a cost of around Rs 1 lakh per set is provided to each soldier.

The winter clothing and gear includes special three-layered jackets and trousers, boots, snow goggles, facemasks, rucksacks and others.

The SCME set also comprises snow clothing and equipment for survival, resuscitation, rescue, mountaineering equipment and tents.

Temperature-controlled special tents and pre-fabricated huts are also provided. These can maintain the optimum temperature at the freezing heights where oxygen levels are also low, as in Ladakh.

Rations scaled to soldiers have been scientifically designed and evolved to provide adequate nutrients and to cater for the daily routine, training and for operating in different terrain conditions.

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India Latest News

India, China military talks on LAC tension still inconclusive

By The SATimes News Service

New Delhi: Indian and Chinese military representatives met on Wednesday to amicably de-escalate tension on the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh but the talks were “inconclusive”. The militaries of both countries will again meet for further deliberations.

The talks happened after Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops had made a provocative military effort to dislodge Indian soldiers from their positions on the LAC on September 7 and also fired warning shots.

“Talks took place between Brigade commanders of both the countries today,” said a source, adding that they remained inconclusive.

Sources further said that India has clearly stated during the meeting that if Chinese troops would carry out provocative military movements, Indian soldiers will retaliate.

Earlier in the day, it was found that China had started a fresh build up at Finger area north of Pangong Lake.

The deployment of PLA troops has increased since Tuesday evening. They are also bringing in more material and logistic items.

The troops from both sides are in a short range from each other. “They are within clear visible range and Indian troops are keeping a close watch on their activities,” said a government source.

Also on Tuesday, around 40 to 50 Chinese troops armed with spears, guns and sharp-edged weapons had reached a few metres from the Indian Army positions at heights north of Rezang La in eastern Ladakh.

PLA troops were trying to make a fresh attempt to dislodge the Indian Army from its positions.

It started soon after a skirmish on the southern bank of the lake took place on September 7 where the Indian Army dominated positions.

The Indian Army has occupied crucial heights in areas around the south bank of Pangong Lake and the Chinese have made several attempts to take over Indian positions here.

It has become the new friction point as the Indian Army seems to be in an advantageous position.

The Indian Army has occupied heights that allow it to dominate the Chinese Moldo garrison and the Spangur Gap under Chinese control. Both India and China lay claim to some of these heights.

One of the most critical heights the Indian Army is manning is the Rechin La, which the Chinese are protesting against.

India and China are currently engaged in a four-month-long standoff on the LAC in eastern Ladakh. Despite several rounds of dialogue, there has not been any breakthrough and the deadlock continues.

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US hopes for peaceful resolution of India-China tension: Pompeo

New York: While accusing Beijing of bullying its neighbors, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that Washington hopes there would be a peaceful settlement of the escalating tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China.

“We are hoping for a peaceful resolution of the situation on the India-China border,” he said at a news conference in Washington.

“From the Taiwan Strait to the Himalayas and beyond, the Chinese Communist Party is engaged in a clear and intensifying pattern of bullying its neighbors,” he said.

In the latest confrontation, New Delhi has said that China carried out “provocative military movements” on the southern bank of Pangong Tso lake between Sunday and Monday but Indian troops stopped them from moving into its territory.

This followed clashes between the troops of the two countries in June in which 20 Indian soldiers and some Chinese troops were killed.

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, David Stillwell, who spoke to reporters after Pompeo, attributed China’s intensifying aggressiveness from the Himalayas to Taiwan to Beijing’s attempts to take advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“What we’ve seen since the corona outbreak from Wuhan is it seems the PRC (People’s Republic of China) is trying to take advantage of the situation, and India, I think, is one of those examples of that,” he said.

He declined to say how the US would help India if the tensions worsened, indicative of Washington’s limitations in stepping into the conflict.

Pompeo said that he would be holding virtual meetings next week with his Indo-Pacific and ASEAN counterparts.

Pompeo also asked China to hold talks with the Dalai Lama and criticized Beijing’s actions in Tibet.

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Over 72% trust Modi on matters of national security

New Delhi: Amid border tensions between India and China, a survey revealed that more than 70 per cent of people across the country trust Prime Minister Narendra Modi on matters of national security.

According to the latest IANS CVoter Snap Poll, 72.6 per cent have faith in handling of the situation by the Prime Minister to a “great extent”, 16.2 per cent have confidence to “some extent”, while 11.2 per cent people have no trust at all.

Trust in Modi was visible across geographies, income and education levels as well as caste and ethnic identities.

The survey comes amid border tensions between India and China which took a violent turn last week when the troops of the two nations clashed in Galwan Valley in Ladakh, leading to the death of 20 Indian soldiers, including a commanding officer.

Pursuant to that, the Prime Minister asserted that the issue of India’s sovereignty is supreme. Modi also said that the soldiers “taught a lesson” to those eyeing Indian territory.

In the survey, a question — “How much trust do you have on PM Narendra Modi on the matter of national security” — was asked to the respondents.

The survey revealed that people above the age of 60, those with lower education, higher income and male population have massive trust on the Prime Minister on the matter of the country’s security.

It further brought to the fore that 82.6 per cent of National Democratic Alliance (NDA) voters have faith in their elected leader. On the flip side, an astounding 51.1 per cent of opposition voters believe in the leader.

Those who have no faith in Modi’s ability to handle the incumbent situation include people with higher education, Muslims, Sikhs and young population between the ages of 25 and 45 years. A mere 5.3 per cent of NDA voters have no confidence in the Prime Minister.

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India has closed military gap with China along border

By Pramit Pal Chaudhuri

India has the upper hand in military deployments along its border with China, says a recent Harvard University assessment. If the Chinese attacked, co-author Frank O’Donnell of the US Naval War College told HT, “due to the larger permanent military presence of Indian forces vis-a-vis Chinese forces along the border areas, India would eventually be able to force China back across the LAC, although casualties would be extremely high on both sides.” One unknown in such a conflict would be China’s ability to use cyberattacks to disable Indian communications and logistics.

Over the past dozen years India has not only closed the gap with China in this military theatre, it may now have a slender superiority. Indian officials largely concur with this view though prefer to stress India does not enjoy a position of complete dominance. Chinese military assessments began recognizing this problem from the mid-2000s and this may have contributed to its border belligerence.

India and China have a similar number of soldiers along the border, a little over 200,000 each, but a portion of Chinese troops are reserved for the Russian border and handling insurgents in Tibet and Xinjiang.

India holds a slight edge in fighter aircraft numbers but, more importantly, its Su-30s are superior to any Chinese fighters in the area and its base network allows it to better survive the missile exchanges that would follow. “India has more and better aircraft along the border, more experienced air crews, as well as a resilient basing position,” says O’Donnell.

“China is regularly operating with a permanent Indian conventional force advantage along its border areas,” says the report. It notes this is not “typically acknowledged” in Indian debates and optimists regarding the military balance against China were “a minority” in India.

For decades, going by the People’s Liberation Army’s journal, Science of Military Strategy, India was rated only as China’s number four external security concern. This has begun to change.

The China National Defence Daily by 2013 spoke of India’s “surge of forces” along the border. A 2017 Nanfang Daily survey of Chinese strategic thinkers said some were worrying that “the defensive strategy of the Indian Army has shifted . . . toward the offensive.”

Two Chinese experts on territorial issues warned in 2014 that “keeping our military’s advantage in the Sino-Indian border area is not only a national defense requirement, but also to prevent China from being disadvantaged in border negotiations.” There is more literature in the Chinese language about India catching up in terms of military infrastructure and force deployment after the Doklam crisis, says General G. L. Narasimhan Rao, head of the Centre for the Study of Contemporary China.

India is far from being in a position of military preponderance. Indian defense officials point to the “touch and go nature” of the mountain environment means a numerical advantage in men and aircraft can be wiped out by inclement weather.

China keeps most of its military firepower along its Pacific coast and would almost certainly redeploy to go for a “round two,” warns O’Donnell. M. Taylor Fravel, an MIT professor who has written on China’s border policies, says that “China has just over 10 percent of its ground forces [in its western theatre], a very large part of the country, and not even all these troops are focused on India.”

But because China does not want to deploy a large fraction of its forces in Tibet or Xinjiang, he added, “I think this disparity in the local balance makes China especially sensitive to changes that improve India’s position.” Did India’s steady military improvement trigger Beijing is harder to ascertain. O’Donnell thinks China’s greater border aggression is a general trend evident in its behavior with all its neighbors and not just about India.

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