India and China have been on a military standoff in the Doklam region and tri-junction area in the Sikkim Sector. The disagreement from China’s angle is that Indian troops entered undisputed Chinese territory and blocked their road construction. They also claim that the Doklam region is disputed between itself and Bhutan and India has no part to play in a bilateral dispute. India’s angle is not very clear to the public apart from defending the Siliguri corridor, also known as the Chicken’s neck. Arguments from both the sides, in my humble opinion, are foolish because both governments have strategic objectives. For China, building a road leading to no-where, is foolish and serves no other purpose than sending military equipment out to the front more quickly and effectively. India too, is giving unwarranted importance to the Doklam plateau because in the event of a full scale military confrontation, China would loose Doklam first due to clear advantages that the Indian military has in the region.
It is imperative we look at what the geography of this region looks like and what may or can happen in case of a full confrontation or a limited tactical confrontation.
The interesting bit is, that this standoff has two very distinct sides, one public, and the other private yet strategic. We will be exploring the strategic angle in this post series, because in all honesty, that is the angle government is unable to disclose publicly, yet is what it has in mind as the primary objective. Being no expert by any means on military strategy, I would still like to make a humble effort at decoding the strategic angle. Here goes the outline from India’s perspective:
- A strong protest by India (read Prime Minister Modi) against China’s dual play – play with us or play against us – pick a camp and stick to it
- We will block any attempts by Chinese at “Salami-Slicing” tactics
- If we can’t have a full scale confrontation with Pakistan due to Nuclear deterrence issues, neither can China with India – hence – the checkmate
- Force China to up the ante and explore all confrontation options – come to the realisation it can’t do much – and then get to the negotiation table to re-build the entire partnership
- Realising a full scale confrontation will destroy India and severely damage China, tame the dragon to play along bilaterally, because China isn’t a Kamikaze state but a mature world power
- Having a humungous trade deficit between the two countries, let China know it has the lions share to loose even in case of a limited conflict war-theatre
- Send a message to all countries having disputes with China specially in the South China Sea, that the dragon has met it’s match in India, regardless of Chinese rhetoric about how inferior the Indian Military is in comparison to the Chinese Military
- Exploit the negative rhetoric against China in India to push the manufacturing sector in India
- Let China be very well reminded of how upset (and terrified) India is of the CPEC/OBOR because of the easy troop movement it allows for China en-circling India
- Let the reverse of the above also be known that it is China that will have much to loose if India starts exploring pre-emptive blocking strategies against CPEC/OBOR
I hope to cover each of the strategic objectives in detail in subsequent posts and play out mock confrontation scenarios. Much of this has probably already happened and discussed behind closed doors on both sides, however it is not in the open or public domain.