More Galwans to come? India doesn’t need to panic, yet
IIndia could face more Galwans to come. Last year was the bloodiest showdown with China since 1967, but the previous seven years were marked by a series of troubling clashes: Depsang in 2013, Chumar in 2014, Burtse in 2015, and Doklam in 2017. Always in 2017, the Indian army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army fell out in Pangong Tso amid the Doklam crisis.
The frequency of serious clashes is worrying. Yet India shouldn’t panic. Geography and strategy can work in our favor. In addition, the Indian army is sufficiently matched to that of China.
Let us first look at the military capability. India and China have almost the same number of people under arms, in fact India is slightly ahead of the ground forces (1.24 million against 975,000 soldiers) [according to the International Institute of Strategic Studies and The Military Balance 2020]. The two countries are also equivalent in terms of artillery pieces (around 9,000 each, with India having a slight advantage).
China has 2,285 more tanks than India, but the raw numbers are misleading. First, Chinese tanks must be deployed against India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Vietnam, North Korea and Russia. Even with its closest friends Pakistan and North Korea, China cannot do without armored defense (i.e. tanks). Second, it will also need tanks if it ever invades Taiwan. Third, India, on the other hand, only has to worry about two great armies (China and Pakistan). Finally, the Himalayan terrain works against major tank battles.
The real military imbalance is in the planes capable of fighting tactically, where India has 776 and China 2,517. The picture here is complicated. On the one hand, Chinese forces must be distributed against several powerful neighbors, including Taiwan and Japan, and against American air power, while India’s only worries are now China and Pakistan.
On the other hand, planes can be moved quickly, so that the gap cannot be completely closed. To close the gap, India is acquiring anti-aircraft missiles (and cannons) including the very powerful S-400 Triumf missile system from Russia, which will arrive by October / December 2021. It also has several other Russian systems including the S-125 Pechoras, the Israeli Spyders and various Indian systems such as the Akash.
Read also : What does the future of Indo-Chinese relations look like? 8 experts speak
Geography hurts and helps India, but overall it helps. On the negative side, India’s Himalayan roads twist and twist and soar forward, slowing military movements. On the positive side, India’s defenses are bolstered by the stopping power of the mountains. Any attempt by Chinese forces to invade beyond a shallow advance would involve crossing those same difficult roads, making the attack vulnerable to Indian aerial and artillery fire.
Geography also hinders China’s military logistics. The more the PLA encroaches on India, the longer its supply lines will become and the more vulnerable they will be to Indian counterattacks. The Indian supply lines, on the other hand, will be shortened as in retreat, its forces will be closer to their supply centers. Moreover, while China has good infrastructure right up to the front, because Tibet is a plateau, its forces and installations in the rear are sensitive to aerial and missile fire: it is difficult to hide on a surface. plane.
Read also : Take the Indian army out of the counterinsurgency. It must tackle a lighter and more modern PLA
Strategy matters most
India cannot rely solely on the size of the military and geography for its defense. Strategy matters too. Stopping the PLA all along the enormous Real Line of Control (LAC) is next to impossible, so being able to mount a counteroffensive in selected areas is vital.
Here, India’s mountain response corps, trained and equipped for high altitude combat, is a key asset. Originally India was to have two such strike corps, but this was not financially viable. There is only one left, which is being modified to accommodate the new Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs). The IBGs combine infantry, artillery, tanks and armored vehicles designed for rapid mobilization and use, including offensive operations to relieve pressures in other areas.
The use of air power will also be crucial for India’s strategy. In 1962, the Indian Air Force was used for transportation purposes, not for tactical strikes to aid ground forces. Retaining the Air Force is simply not an option in a future war. The air force was used in the wars of 1965, 1971 and 1999 with Pakistan and at Balakot in 2019. It is to be used in any major conflict with China to aid the ground war and prohibit the transport of supplies. and Chinese reinforcements across Tibet. .
While India should not panic, there is no room for complacency. China’s ability to wage “computer war” using a combination of computers, the Internet, artificial intelligence, precision guided missiles (offensive and defensive), and airborne and satellite imagery is advancing rapidly. India will have to catch up in the years to come. In the meantime, we can deploy a geography and a sensible military strategy to limit the Chinese threat in the high Himalayas.
Kanti Bajpai is the author of ‘India vs. China: why they’re not friends‘(Juggernaut Books) published in June 2021, and Wilmar Professor of Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore. Opinions are personal.
(Edited by Neera Majumdar)
Subscribe to our channels on YouTube and Telegram
Why the news media is in crisis and how to fix it
India is all the more in need of free, fair, non-hyphenated and interrogative journalism as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media are in a crisis of their own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, giving in to crass spectacle in prime time.
ThePrint has the best young reporters, columnists and editors working there. To maintain journalism of this quality, it takes smart, thoughtful people like you to pay the price. Whether you live in India or abroad, you can do it here.
Support our journalism