From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not much
Mains level : Paper 3-Northern border security issue
Two issues have been discussed in this article:change in strategy on northern border and the role of political leaders. Leveraging LAC for premeditated aggression has been part of China’s policy. This makes the change in our policy an imperative.
LAC as leverage against India
- India and China have had parleys since 1981, meetings of Joint Working Groups from 1988 to 2005 and 22 rounds of Special Representatives talks, in addition to many summit-level meetings.
- Despite nearly four decades of discussions delineation and demarcation of the boundary has not been possible.
- Throughout this period CMC/PLA had been at the helm of the defence and foreign policy decision-making,
- The intrusion at Finger 4/5 of Pangong Tso and the transgression up to LAC in Galwan are instructive.
- Out of the blue, most inexplicably and without any historical basis, the official Chinese statement came out seeking the “estuary” of Shyok and Galwan rivers.
- The Chinese have deliberately ensured that the nebulous nature of the LAC is retained as leverage against India.
Modernisation of PLA: So, was Galwan a testbed?
- The PLA is at the threshold of achieving its interim modernisation goals of informatised, integrated joint operations by 2021.
- It is well likely that the events of Eastern Ladakh of May-June 2020 are part of a larger testbed.
- Over the years, the face-offs have witnessed PLA’s jostling and pushing, posse of horses intruding, and scant disregard for the treaties with India.
- Pangong Tso and Galwan showed a new picture.
Need to strategise and revisit the rules of engagement
- For the Indian Army units and formations in Eastern Ladakh or elsewhere facing the PLA, there are limits to adherence to good faith and honour.
- The Indian Army has to strategise and should revisit its rules of engagement on the Northern Borders.
- It has to be mindful that troops in tactical situations cannot be shackled by past treaties, which the PLA deals with disdain.
- The Indian Army has to remain prepared to militarily handle the situations that will arise.
- PLA has always shown extraordinary interest in Eastern Ladakh, especially Daulat-Beg-Oldi, the Chip-Chap river, Track Junction and Karakoram Pass.
- The management practices for the Northern Borders have to be revisited, like placing the nearly division-sized force of ITBP in Eastern Ladakh under the army operationally.
- Real-time intelligence, surveillance equipment and satellite imageries must be available to field formations that need to act on it.
- This should not be delayed by the bureaucratic maze.
Role of political leadership
- At political level, there are representative forums like Parliament, the committees and regular briefings to seek clarifications, which is the right of politicians.
- On national security issues, there must be national unity.
- There ought to be faith in those at the helm that the issues of national security will not be sacrificed for political gains.
- Similarly, within the norms and constraints of national security, the establishment must keep the nation informed, to avoid an information vacuum.
We need to strategise for the future, including the modern manifestations of non-contact, non-kinetic warfare. We must avoid unnecessary nitpicking on semantics of statements made in a particular context.