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Explained Ideas: Why notions of Chinese military invincibility defy reality

While India should continue the search for a peaceful solution, military odds are in no way stacked in China’s favour, argues Amit Cowshish.

India China border news, India China news, China PLA, Chinese army, Line of Actual Control, Indian Express Soldiers of China’s People’s Liberation Army are pictured at the Line of Actual Control (LAC). (Express Photo: Shuaib Masoodi)

Some analysts believe that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has a decisive edge over the Indian Army due largely to its superior numerical strength, infrastructure in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) abutting the Line of Actual Control (LAC), weaponry and recently accomplished joint service operations.

“Even so,” argues Amit Cowshish, former Financial Advisor (Acquisition), Ministry of Defence, “it does not necessarily give China a definitive edge, as the potential conflict is unlikely to remain confined to ground forces. Looked at in the wider context of mountain warfare, arduous and complex at the best of times, the odds are in no way stacked in China’s favour”.

Also read | Military strength: How India and China stack up

“Much of China’s cockiness stems from its delusion of economic and military invincibility which, looked at objectively, defies reality,” states Cowshish. “In its clash with the Indian Army at Nathu La near Sikkim in 1967, for instance, the casualties suffered by PLA were almost four times those on the Indian side. Again, 12 years later in 1979, China boasted that it had driven Vietnamese troops out of Cambodia”.

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Most recently, “after the clash between Indian Army and PLA troops in the Galwan Valley area along the LAC on the night of 15-16 June, an embarrassed China declined to reveal the casualties it suffered”.

Over decades India has negotiated an uneasy peace with China, largely through economic compromise and security concession, but this has not worked, points out Cowshish. “If anything, Beijing appears inclined to exacerbate tensions by unsubtly involving its surrogates in Nepal and Pakistan, countries it dominates through a combination of financial bullying, security, military and nuclear pacts, but, above all, by exploiting their visceral antipathy for India”.

Cowshish concludes, “Sadly, this can only mean a prolonged military impasse, which could well escalate into a conflict, at huge cost to both sides, including China”.

First published on: 04-07-2020 at 11:23:57 am
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