Saturday, June 28, 2008

Greater China

I didn't realize that China was quite so active on the Indian border, which saw India and China fight a war in 1962 that India lost rather decisively:

India claims some 38,000 square kilometers of territory in Aksai Chin in the northeastern corner of Jammu and Kashmir, an area which China occupied and continues to control. Beijing is also holding 5,180 sq km of land in Kashmir ceded to it by Pakistan in 1963.

China lays claim to around 90,000 sq km of territory in India's northeast, roughly approximating the India state of Arunachal Pradesh. China refers to it as "Southern Tibet".

What is worrying about the incursions over the past year, say intelligence officials, is not just "the increasing frequency" but also "the fact that the Chinese are making deeper forays into Indian territory".

What has irked India about the incursions into Sikkim is that China, after virtually acknowledging Sikkim to be a part of India, is bringing this part of the boundary back into the border dispute. Over 65 incursions have taken place in Sikkim this year.

China's reopening of the Sikkim front and its increased military pressure on India along all sectors of the disputed border appears to be aimed at pushing India to concede to its demands in Arunachal Pradesh, more specifically Tawang. And its claims over Tawang are linked to its bid to cement control over Tibet.

Tawang is situated in the southwestern extremity of Arunachal Pradesh. Its shares borders with Bhutan to its west and Tibet to its north. Nestling in the eastern Himalayas at an altitude of 3,400 meters, Tawang is known for its stunning view of the mountains, alpine weather and Buddhist monasteries.

However, it is not its dramatic landscape and tourism potential that makes Arunachal Pradesh or Tawang a coveted piece of real estate in China's eyes.

Indian army officers say that control over Arunachal, and Tawang in particular, will enable China to militarily overrun the Brahmaputra Valley and the rest of northeastern India. Tawang is a critical corridor between Lhasa and the Brahmaputra Valley.

Should any of these incidents expand, China plans a short and sharp war that thumps India and attempts to end the fight immediatley, the article states.

India seems to have a similar idea in regard to Pakistan with their Cold Start Doctrine. Although some read the doctrine as an attempt to overrun Pakistan, that makes little sense. Nuclear weapons limit wars out of fear of somebody getting antsy and lighting up a nuke; and so conventional wars must be brought swiftly to a victorious end before escalation rears its ugly head. There is no way the Pakistanis would accept major losses to their territory without using nukes to save themselves.

The question is, how does India respond to a Chinese version of their own strategy against Pakistan?

First, even if China wins that first round, the strategy says that China halts their offensive without exploiting the success. So India will have a chance to build up forces for a counter-attack. Of course, India will have to do this in the face of Chinese efforts to "diffuse" the crisis and end it with a Chinese win.

Then India will have to mount a counter-attack into prepared Chinese positions to retake what they lost.

Or, India could expand the war to strike a less defended Chinese position in order to barter the land back to the status quo ante.

Much depends on the value of the land that China grabs. If India loses Tawang, given that this could be used as a springboard for a further decisive attack, India needs to regain that land directly by force rather than try to bargain for it.

Or ultimately, India may need to redeploy armored forces and supporting arms from facing Pakistan to facing China for a decisive counter-attack early in the fight before China can halt and declare victory.

India may be able to accept that sitting on defense in the west will not affect low-intensity warfare against terrorists from Pakistan and nuclear weapons will deter a major Pakistani attack into India. Conventional Indian forces without major armored elements should be able to defend their border with Pakistan without giving up too much if the Indians move their limited mobile forces east to face China. What India will give up is a near-term offensive option against Pakistan.

I'm amazed that so many people insist that China's soft power is making friends and influencing people at our expense. China is just accelerating India's movement to alliance with the West with threats like this to India.

Which is as it should be. The world's largest democracy never belonged on the other side of the old Cold War alliance system.