The loss of nearly 20 Indian Army personnel in the savage attack by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on the night of June 15 is a turning point in India–China relations. As the facts of what transpired at Patrol Point 14 in the Galwan Valley emerged, it became clear that the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) perennial revisionist agenda was squarely to blame for this incident.
Before attempting to analyse the motivations of the PLA, it is necessary to understand its ethos. PLA is an oxymoron, since it does not either belong to or represent the people of China. Rather, it is the politico-military wing of the CCP. The PLA also does not represent Liberation, since it has been used to suppress and incarcerate its own citizens for the last 70 years.
Terming the PLA as an Army is also a misnomer, since it is a largely conscript force. The recent miscalculations of the PLA along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) therefore need to be contextualised in light of these facts.
The events of June 15 are still being analysed; however, what has clearly emerged is that the PLA has crossed a Rubicon of civilised behaviour, breaching not only a code of professionalism, but also exposing itself as an uncouth cabal of misguided conscripts.
Using iron-rods and sticks laced with concertina wire to attack unarmed professional soldiers under the guise of negotiations is symptomatic of the rotten ethic of the PLA.
While the Indian armed forces have to select their personnel from a massive pool of eager and patriotic volunteers, the PLA’s unpopularity among its citizens forces it to conscript unwilling citizens.
Further, China’s ‘One Child’ policy, a social engineering disaster, has bred a crop of youth raised as spoilt brats with no stomach for a fight or willingness to lay down their lives for the Party.
The CCP has also emerged from this clash as a two-faced hegemon, guided only by its inherent survival instincts at a time when China’s economy and global reputation are on a slippery slope.
The Indian Army, an all-volunteer force, has more personnel on active duty than the populations of 80 of the world’s countries. More importantly, the Indian soldier is toughened by years of fighting terrorists in difficult terrain and hardened by the experience of the 1999 Kargil War, which was comprehensively won on the peaks of the daunting Himalayas.
The Indian soldier is, therefore, more than capable of handling the conscript army of the CCP, which has not faced combat for over 50 years. The magnanimity and professionalism of the Indian Army should also not be lost on the PLA — personnel of 16 Bihar Battalion, who were involved in the clashes did not target the PLA helicopters that arrived on the scene to evacuate PLA casualties.
The lily-liveried CCP now has a problem on its hands. A serious miscalculation by Beijing’s armchair strategists has opened up another front and internationalised Chinese aggression along the LAC.
The combat-hardened Indian Army would now also be recalibrating its strategy moving ahead — this fact is not lost on the CPP or the PLA. With an ability to defend in depth along the LAC, the Indian Army is more than a formidable opponent for the PLA.
The Indian Air Force also has a distinct geographical advantage over the PLA Air Force in that sector, while the Indian Navy can keep the PLA Navy out of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) while throttling the Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOCs).
The CCP’s mouthpiece Global Times (GT) betrayed the confusion within the Chinese establishment in a series of articles immediately after the clashes. While acknowledging that there were Chinese casualties, GT stated that the PLA did not release these figures out of ‘goodwill’.
GT’s brazen mendacity is also apparent in statements such as “we would like to handle the conflict peacefully”, “it will benefit both sides if the situation cools down” and “China does not want to turn border issues with India into a confrontation.” All this while, the CCP’s Army craves territories of its neighbours!
The PLA’s current state of panic is also betrayed by statements such as “while escalation to a large scale military conflict is very unlikely…”, “likelihood of larger military conflict remains low”, “India may face great pressure from its nationalists, but at this time both sides should keep restraint” and “benefit both sides if situation cools down, which needs efforts of both Indian and Chinese troops.”
Further, GT has also uncharacteristically indicated that there is an increasing disconnect between the CCP, the PLA and the citizens of China. In a very atypical editorial, GT directly addresses the common Chinese citizen regarding the clashes stating “the Chinese public should trust the Government and the People’s Liberation Army”, indicating that the CCP may be on shaky ground internally.
Spilling blood over desolate and inhospitable terrain is unacceptable behaviour in today’s inter-connected global comity. As the world galvanises opinion against the CCP, it is the common Chinese citizens who would have to bear the cost. The CCP’s miscalculations at the Galwan Valley are likely to affect their hold over power in the coming months.