The Chinese intimidation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) keeps growing and now 10-12 Chinese fighter jets have started flying close to the LAC at a distance of 30-35 kilometres. Sources told ANI, “The Chinese have kept a fleet of around 10-12 fighter aircraft stationed there at the moment and they are also carrying out flying activity close to the Indian territory. We are keeping a close eye on the movement of these J-11 and J-7 fighter aircraft.”
At the same time, CCP mouthpiece, Global Times has also threatened India. It tweeted, “PLA’s newly commissioned weapons like the Type 15 tank, Z-20 helicopter & GJ-2 drone can devastate enemies with technical superiority should armed conflict arise in high-altitude regions such as areas along China-India border, Chinese military analysts.” But a barking dog never bites. A number of factors including India’s maritime advantage and the Indian Army’s enhanced presence at the LAC ensure that matters don’t go beyond a stand-off like situation in Ladakh.
PLA's newly commissioned weapons like the Type 15 tank, Z-20 helicopter & GJ-2 drone can devastate enemies with technical superiority should armed conflict arise in high-altitude regions such as areas along China-India border, Chinese military analysts say.https://t.co/djiIgK1E1a pic.twitter.com/QSNmZcg7fS
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) May 31, 2020
Chinese threats aren’t really a product of bilateral tensions or provocations. The sudden troop-build-up and show of airpower has a US angle to it. Beijing is drawing flak from countries around the world, led by the United States. Geopolitical equations are getting altered in the COVID context and the Dragon fears that India will tilt towards Washington for obvious reasons.
The Chinese threat too is aimed at warning India against aligning with the US.
In fact, CCP-owned and controlled, Global Times also wrote, “With nationalist sentiment on the rise in India, there have been some voices calling for the Indian government to join the new Cold War and exploit its position for more gains… Fundamentally speaking, India has little to gain from engaging in a US-China conflict over any topic, with more to lose than gain, which is why the Modi government needs to face the new geopolitical development objectively and rationally.”
It is important to know that Global Times writes for the Chinese Foreign Ministry what the latter cannot say itself in official capacity. Thus, Beijing’s simple strategy is to make empty threats to New Delhi in order to avert an Indo-US alliance.
Meanwhile, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops and the PLA Air Force keep mobilising around the LAC in Eastern Ladakh. In this sense, the ongoing situation in Ladakh, though slightly more provocative than the 2017 stand-off situation in Doklam, is more or less a similar display of Chinese aggression that tends to fizzle out after a point.
Even during the Doklam stand-off, Beijing had instructed the Chinese Foreign Ministry outlet, Global Times to issue threats to New Delhi.
Global Times had then stated that India should be taught a “bitter lesson” and that India would suffer “greater losses” than in 1962 if it “incites” border clashes with China.
What happened in Doklam though? India stood its ground for 73 days, and the Chinese retreated with a bloody nose.
India’s maritime advantage played a crucial role in not letting the situation go beyond a stand-off between the two armies. Within China, Military Strategists and think tanks warned China against going to war with India. They even prophesied about a possible Chinese loss owing to India’s strategic naval advantage.
They said that China is playing psychological warfare but it should realise that even if it defeats India in a war on land, it would be impossible for the PLA navy to break India’s maritime containment.
The Chinese import over 80% of its fuel consumption that travels through the Strait of Malacca and the Indian Ocean. The location of India is such that it lies in the heart of China’s energy lifeline and in case of a military conflict, there’s every chance that India will look to block China’s energy lifeline by using its location in a bid to cripple China.
Moreover, Beijing has maritime disputes to handle in the South China Sea, and therefore it cannot afford to escalate matters in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
Stakes are higher in Eastern Ladakh than they were in Doklam, but the strategic position hasn’t changed either. In fact, China’s disputes have only escalated in the South China Sea, and if Beijing steps up the heat in Ladakh, India’s navy can poke it in the seas.
Moreover, the Indian Army too has started catching up and China no longer enjoys a huge advantage even in the barren hills on the LAC. India has built solid road infrastructure along the LAC which is also one of the factors behind the Sino-India build up in the region.
Moreover, the Indian Army has raised Mountain Strike Corps along the effective Sino-India border. There have also been reports about India deciding to rebuild the Special Frontier Force (SFF)- a Special Force that China fears.
Last year, the Indian Army carried out rare a rare integrated military exercise combining its various arms in Eastern Ladakh. India’s war games are a game-changer in terms of India’s posturing and preparedness along the LAC.
2020 is no 1962, and even on land, India sits in a better position than it did during the 1962 war or even the Doklam stand-off. China can only issue threats but it will have to ultimately back-off and retreat with a bloody nose, perhaps after the US-China tensions come to an end or when the PLA loses its steam.