The key to dealing with China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is to deal with them from a position of strength, said former Northern Army Commander Lieutenant General K T Parnaik (retd).
Gen Parnaik, who commanded the Udhampur-headquartered Northern Command of the Indian Army from January 2011 till June 2013, led the formation during the Depsang valley standoff with China in April-May 2013. Speaking to The Indian Express in the backdrop of the recent face-off with China, the former Army Commander underlined the need for infrastructure development, non-kinetic and long-range weapon systems, and strategic surveillance, along with a well-planned ‘information warfare’ to achieve ‘dissuasive deterrence’ against China.
“It will obviate the bullying and intimidation by the Chinese who have treated our policy of ‘war avoidance’ as a sign of passivity and weakness. Moreover, understanding China’s likely political and military aims in a given situation will help us deliver an integrated response and seize the initiative,” he said.
Highlighting the absence of a National Security Doctrine, Lt General Parnaik said, “The prime need of the hour is a National Security Doctrine that synthesises all instruments of the state to serve our national interests. This will help in creating desired capabilities and leverages against states inimical to our security and interests. China’s growth to power has been propelled by hegemonic assertions, therefore India needs to create strategic partnerships and align with forces like US, Japan, Australia and South East Asian countries to dominate the Indo-Pacific region and thwart Chinese designs. At tactical levels, we need to blunt their deceitful and treacherous form of unrestricted warfare with tact and guile, imposing heavy costs on them.”
Lt Gen Parnaik said China had deliberately kept the boundaries “unsettled” as it gave them a cold start to needle India. “Therefore, we need to shed all inhibitions and urgently get our infrastructure in place, so that we can also raise the issues of our claims along the LAC with some degree of assertion. The key to dealing with the China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is to deal with them from a position of strength. China has been weaning away our neighbouring states and treating Pakistan as a surrogate to keep India engaged on various fronts. China’s main concern has been the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, which passes through Gilgit-Baltistan and has dynamically changed the settlement of Kashmir issue. China has virtually become a third party to the settlement of J&K. India has to be weary, as East Ladakh forms the bridge between Aksai Chin (Tibet) and Gilgit Baltistan in PoK. Hence, East Ladakh has to be strengthened, held pro-actively at all costs. CPEC, being Xi Jinping’s key strategic project, brings the China-Pak collusion to our doorstep. At the same time, there is a considerable vulnerability to it, which must be exploited.”
Speaking about China’s belligerence, Lt Gen Parnik said there was wanton disregard of treaties and protocols in the recent face-off along the LAC. “It reflects their irritation as well as desperation to arm-twist India. The aggression was staged to divert attention from internal and external issues being faced by the Communist Party of China. The troops have got physical in PTSO, Chumar and Doklam. Galwan dealt them a blow they will not forget in a hurry…”.
He added, “Early warning facilitated by strategic surveillance should enable us to deploy at our perceived LAC to check ingress, while we simultaneously resort to a quid pro quo, as we did during the Depsang intrusion in 2013. Early response creates leverage and that matters. Along with infrastructure development, there is a need to deploy non-kinetic and long-range weapon systems, coupled with strategic surveillance and communication, which will act as force multiplier. This has to be accompanied by a planned ‘information warfare’ to achieve ‘dissuasive deterrence’ against China.”
On the diplomatic front, Lt General Parnaik said, “We have moved ahead from our non-alignment and hedging strategies of the past and are dealing with China on our strength, which remains a few notches below that of China. Strategic partnerships, defence cooperations and acquisition of vital bases in the IOR region creates a balance with China. India should not hesitate to speak out on China’ excesses in Xinjiang province, Taiwan, South China Sea, their internal misgivings about protests, unemployment, and human rights violations. A sound ‘perception management strategy’ will help neutralise their propaganda and psy-war. The world stands united on Covid-19 and the aggressive economic exploitation by China, which must be exposed. While cordial diplomatic relations must be maintained, we must not be seen to appease the Chinese. A message — that any interference in our internal/ bilateral matter will invoke an equal rebuke — must be delivered”.
Lt Gen Parnaik concluded, “You need to defeat the Chinese in their minds. They are programmed and primed, if that is disturbed, you win. Galwan was a case in point.”
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