Galwan Anniversary: India needs Comprehensive National Power
by Jaibans Singh on 19 Jun 2021 0 Comment

One year ago, on 15 June 2020, there was a clash between Indian and Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley that was both heroic and unprecedented in nature. Its unique place in military history is derived from a number of factors. Firstly, it involved hand-to-hand fighting with primitive hand-made weapons such as spiked clubs, staffs, kirpans (short daggers carried by Sikhs) etc., between armies that had deployed the most sophisticated weapons in the region. Secondly, the clash took place in the area of responsibility of 16 Bihar, yet troops from an Artillery regiment, Mahar, and the Punjab battalions fought side by side in a spirit only the Indian Army can boast of. Finally, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was told in no uncertain terms that the Indian Army would no longer tolerate its intransigence and expansionist tactics. 


India lost 20 brave hearts in the clash. Against our 20, the Chinese (who had come completely prepared for the clash) lost more than double, including a number of officers. Reports suggest that the Chinese troops on ground became psychological wrecks due to the ferocity of the Indian soldiers and they had to be evacuated post the operation. 


Today, we remember the epic clash and pay tribute to the mighty soldiers who fought bravely and fell in the cause of their nation. One remembers Col. Santos Babu, the courageous Commanding Officer of 16 Bihar who led from the front and was killed due to Chinese treachery. One remembers Sepoy Gurtej Singh, the 23-year-old soldier from Ghatak (Commando) Platoon of 3 Punjab who had less than two years of service but the heart of a lion; he took 12 Chinese soldiers down single-handed before embracing a hero’s death. All who fought in Galwan that fateful evening are heroes whose courage and audacity is now the stuff of folklore. 


One year later, it is important to see how things stand in eastern Ladakh, and between India and China. During the course of the long drawn face-off in eastern Ladakh, there was universal consensus regarding the righteousness of the Indian posture while the Chinese came across as self-serving, egoistic and petulant. Despite the setback in Galwan, Beijing continued with the time-tested policy of long drawn negotiations. The Indian Army then struck another blow in end-August by occupying Kailash Range and exposing Chinese defences in the Spanngur Gap. China also got a taste to Indian nationalism when a call for boycott of all Chinese goods gained momentum and people started adhering to the norm.


The writing on the wall was clear: India would protect her sovereignty at all costs and never cow down to belligerence from any quarter, let alone China. Under the circumstances, China finally agreed to a negotiated disengagement. The same, however, is a long drawn process in which Chinese continue to be hard-nosed.


All, however, is not well with the “wolf warrior” strategy of President Xi Jinping. On June 13, 2021, the G-7 offered to developing nations an infrastructure scheme that could rival China’s multi-trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). An angry and disconcerted China has issued a caution to the G-7 nations.


President Xi Jinping is realising, much to his chagrin, that US President Joe Biden is a very different kettle of fish than his predecessor Donald Trump. The era of Twitter warfare with the US is over and matters will be taken head-on. “Addressing the China challenge will require a comprehensive strategy and more systematic approach than the piecemeal approach of the recent past,” said Kurt Campbell, who looks after Indo-Pacific affairs in the US National Security Council.


Another big setback for China was the successful conduct of QUAD 3.0 on March 12, 2021. India played a pivotal role in the conference which is seen as a major step in consolidating the group. QUAD is now being referred to as the NATO of Asia.


An obviously disconcerted Xi Jinping is now downplaying the wolf warrior strategy. Talk of “the East is rising and the West is declining,” is being replaced with directives to create a “trustworthy, lovable and respectable” image for the country and “make friends extensively.”


India, in the course of the Eastern Ladakh face-off, has shown how the dragon’s hegemonic tendencies can be dealt with through firmness, maturity and patience. India has also shown that eastern Ladakh is not as far away from the Indo-Pacific as the Chinese leadership would like to believe.


However, the time to sound the victory bugle has not arrived. The stand-off in eastern Ladakh is far from over. De-escalation of tensions has not been achieved to a degree that can be called comfortable. There are reports of feverish Chinese build up in Tibet, which includes setting up of additional military camps and activation of high altitude airstrips. Training and acclimatisation of troops for warfare under conditions obtainable in the region is continuing.


India needs to remain conscious of the fact that notwithstanding alliances and treaties, she will be on her own when push comes to shove against China. Military preparations must go on regardless of the internal situation created by COVID and other pressing issues. Build-up of Comprehensive National Power must continue till the Chinese threat is properly neutralised. Thankfully, efforts in this direction have been relentless. The armed forces have a clear-cut mandate to ensure sanctity of the LAC and respond effectively to Chinese adventurism.


China should adopt a policy of positive engagement with the rest of the world. It should use its massive resources to fight COVID and challenges facing the environment, rather than show belligerence to feed the massive ego of its leadership.


(Jaibans Singh is a geo-strategic analyst and columnist)

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