Monday, July 24, 2017

Ready to Rumble?

I get the impression that China is ready to to battle with India over the confrontation at the Doka La Pass which is now a war waiting a spark to set it off.

The Chinese seem eager to demonstrate resolve:

"Shaking a mountain is easy but shaking the People's Liberation Army is hard," ministry spokesman Wu Qian told a briefing, adding that its ability to defend China's territory and sovereignty had "constantly strengthened".

Early in June, according to the Chinese interpretation of events, Indian guards crossed into China's Donglang region and obstructed work on a road on the plateau.

Seven years ago I wrote that India had decided to redress the imbalance in their northeast.

My guess is that the work is far from done.

I guess this because India's defense bureaucracy is awful and because the Chinese seem awfully confident.

And consider that China has experienced several losses lately:

--Myanmar doesn't act like the proper tributary state it once was.

--Taiwan is buying arms from America and shows no sign of succumbing to China's charm offensive to accept voluntary reunification.

--Hong Kong residents continue to embarrass China by refusing to be happy to have Peking as the landlord.

--America has resumed true freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea to reject Chinese claims to control the region.

--The Philippines flirted but ultimately spurned Chinese diplomatic advances.

--And that after China lost an international court ruling on a dispute with Manila in the South China Sea.

--Japan is rearming to defend its islands (that China claims) in the East China Sea.

--South Korea put in place THAAD missile defenses.

--North Korea has thumbed its nose at China, showing China to be powerless to influence Kim Jong-Un.

And now India is giving China grief neat Tibet?

India may find that China giving in to India over this border issue is one setback too many for China's leaders to bear right now. Bad luck, that.

I don't expect full-scale war. But I would not be surprised if China gives Indian forces a bloody nose in the area and then pulls into a defensive posture in full control of the disputed border area and road.

Does India then attempt to escalate with more ground troops when I bet China has superior ability to reinforce the region and supply the forces?

Or does India attempt to strike back elsewhere on the border to get a bargaining chip?

Does India block Chinese ships traveling the Indian Ocean?

Does India focus on the Doka La area but attempt to use air power to hurt China's logistics capacity in the region?

What does China do if there is that kind of escalation? Try out their ship-killing ballistic missiles on Indian navy vessels in the Bay of Bengal?

By the way, India and China are nuclear-armed powers.

Have a super sparkly day.

UPDATE: From Strategypage:

China and India had signed an agreement in 2012 to respect the existing Bhutan border. But like most Chinese territorial claims revived recently incidents like this serve to make the Chinese government look like it is “serving the people” and are carried out at little cost in lives or money. So thousands of Chinese and Indian troops have been moved to this inhospitable part of the world because the Chinese government wants some good publicity inside China.

That's a dangerous way to get good publicity.

UPDATE: More here and here. You wouldn't think it is worth it to fight over that small piece of land. But it may happen yet because each side considers a Chinese advance the first small step to gain much more, and it could escalate.

India doesn't want to retreat and encourage the Chinese to take far more by setting this precedent.

China may want a victory somewhere. And even if they aren't that ambitious, at this point they may not want another setback. Which gets to the same point.

We may be at the point of "if you want war, let it start here and now."