|By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd)
Former Director General of Information Systems, Indian Army
The Communist Party of China (CPC) has anointed President Xi Jinping as the ‘Core Leader’ of China, which places him on par with Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. Xi Jinping is expected to take China to the next level of becoming a ‘Great Power’. On assuming power, it was Mao Zedong who had famously said, “Tibet is the palm of China and Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and NEFA (now Arunachal Pradesh) are its fingers”. So much for the so-called “historical” claims of China to the state of Arunachal Pradesh! It also explains why China invaded and annexed Tibet. China annexed Tibet, Xinjiang and Aksai Chin for not only territorial gains but also because of the minerals and oil wealth in these regions. Deng Xiaoping reiterated Mao’s ‘fingers’ quote and passed it on to Xi Jinping. Significantly, Xi Jinping was Secretary Defence when China under Deng Xiaoping invaded Vietnam in 1979 to “teach Vietnam a lesson”.
It may also be recalled that while China had been laying illegal claim to Tawang plateau, in year 2005 she suddenly enlarged her claim to entire 90,000 sq km of Arunachal Pradesh. The Central Military Commission (CMC) of China till last year had only one civilian member – President Xi Jinping, Chairman of CMC. But concurrent to China’s military reforms this year, Xi Jinping donned military uniform and became the Commander-in-Chief of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The military reforms established five Theatre Commands, the Rocket Force and the Strategic Support Force, latter combining the functions of intelligence, technical reconnaissance, electronic warfare, cyber warfare and space warfare. The CPC is supreme and all militias too have been brought under the CMC making Xi Jinping the most powerful man in China. He has now become the strongest ever having been anointed ‘Core Leader’.
Xi Jinping’s policy towards India has been that of combative engagement. Some 350 transgressions across the line of actual control (LAC) in 2015 alone and the China-Pakistan nexus with PLA deployed in Gilgit-Baltistan, CPEC and Chinese soldiers making appearance at Pakistani posts across the line of control (LoC) certainly bodes ill will for India. PLA has tested several new class and variants of offensive platforms like missiles, hypersonic glide vehicles and has developed ballistic missile defence. In September last year, China unveiled the DF-26 IRBM for precision strike against theatre level ground targets and her nuclear ICBM force is being modernised to include the road and rail mobile CSS-X-20 (DF-41) capable of carrying MIRVs.
China’s Western Theatre Command is responsible for her border with Myanmar, India, Bhutan, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Afghanistan. China, individually and in concert Pakistan, has been engaged in war at the subconventional level against India. Not only is China providing support to Indian Maoists and North East insurgents, Chinese intelligence established the United Liberation Front of Western South East Asia (UNLFWSEA) in Myanmar last May, combining nine major North East insurgent groups including the NSCN (K) and ULFA under a common umbrella. So, future conflicts / skirmishes will likely be hybrid in multiple domains. China’s sudden claim to entire Arunachal Pradesh ensured the Sino-Indian border resolution remains unresolved in perpetuity. Though Myanmar refused to barter its sovereignty in exchange of PLA presence on her territory, like Pakistan but China has lethally armed the United Wa State Army (UWSA) in Shan state of Myanmar, even with missile fitted helicopters.
China has developed advanced border infrastructure, strategic roads-rail, dual use airfields, logistics, lethal weapon systems and strategic communications within the Western Theatre Command, which gives the PLA terrific mobilisation speed. We need to take cognisance and move faster in developing own border infrastructure. Also noteworthy are China’s joint military exercises especially in high altitude areas involving rapid mobilisation, capture of passes and use of PGMs, which are certainly aimed at us, not Taiwan or anyone else. Not only the areas of Eastern Ladakh and Arunachal need additional troop deployment, we must create adequate sectoral reserves to respond to Chinese adventurism. At the strategic level, we must be able to respond to mainland China, conventionally and asymmetrically in all domains of war, especially in the SEZs along her eastern seaboard. This is the paradigm which India needs to focus on that requires revamping of our national security infrastructure, down to how we would optimally employ components of our national power at the strategic, operational and tactical level. There is every possibility that the new Core Leader of China may have the ambitions of Hitler.
The views expressed herein are the personal views of the author.