Chinese spy balloon: A humiliating defeat in the Galwan valley clash and the Tawang skirmish has underscored the fact that China struggles to fulfil its nefarious geopolitical interests through conventional warfare. Several reports indicate that the feeble Chinese soldiers have struggled to combat stress amid intense training and deployment on LAC.
These Chinese soldiers experience nervousness, anxiety and fear due to increased military activity at the LAC.
Evidently, the PLA’s publication, PLA Daily, had reported the same. A few months back, the publication stated that PLA officers and soldiers were becoming anxious during intense combat training. It added that the troops need to develop the ability to handle that pressure in order to be effective in actual combat situations.
Having failed to achieve its goals through conventional and hybrid means, the Chinese regime has increased its use of non-conventional warfare tactics. These include information warfare, mass surveillance and use of unconventional equipment. The recent sightings of Chinese spy balloons over South Asia, including India and the US, are part of this sinister strategy.
New Chinese ‘Eyes in the sky’
Before the issue surrounding the Chinese Spy balloon in US airspace could subside, news reports suggested that a similar incident occurred in South Asia including India prior to this incident. It was reported that a mysterious and suspicious balloon was spotted hovering over the Andaman & Nicobar Islands at a time when the Indian tri-services were conducting military drills on the eastern island.
Andaman’s local newspaper, ANDAMAN SHEEKHA, highlighted the issue way back in the first week of January. The newspaper highlighted several differences between a weather balloon and the unidentified object sighted over the sky of Port Blair. It also hinted that it was not a weather balloon and was not released by IMD or by the Andaman Nicobar Command.
The newspaper gave details about the UFO, later found to be a Chinese Spy balloon. Andaman Sheekha highlighted that unlike weather balloons, the Chinese Spy balloon was round and it maintained height and drifted in almost the same altitude. It further stated that the zoomed photograph showed eight dark panel shaped equipment or objects attached to the balloon.
Chinese Espionage: The Shadow Lurking Over Security
The timing of this Chinese spy balloon raises significant alarm for our national security. Rather than a routine misadventure and espionage attempt, its timing coincided with India’s tri-service military exercise.
The Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) holds a geopolitical significance as it can play a crucial role in choking Chinese transit routes in the Malacca strait region. Previously, India significantly upped the ante in the region during the Dokhlam stand-off.
Furthermore, In December 2021, India’s only tri-service command conducted a multi-domain exercise. The aim of it was to test the rapid response capability of our joint services in the face of perceived threats to the strategically important eastern islands.
After the conclusion of the joint drills, the ANC released footage showing the participation of elite assets from the four service components: the Army, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard in a network-centric environment.
This tri-service military drill was followed by the sighting of the Chinese spying balloon. Reportedly, the Chinese did this specifically to closely monitor India’s military preparedness and technical know-how of the Indian army among others.
It’s crucial to keep in mind that China has not carried out individual espionage efforts against India. The images of Chinese spy balloons seen in the Andaman and Nicobar area show striking similarities to the Chinese spy balloon that was spotted floating above nuclear silos in the United States.
A few of the noticeable similarities include their dimensions, form, utilisation of non-transparent materials and presence of panel like objects.
Another balloon similar to the one reported by the media is currently flying over the region between Colombia and Costa Rica in Latin America.
In fact, a senior U.S. defence official earlier confirmed the sighting of similar Chinese spy balloons over South Asia, but declined to name the country or countries whose airspace or sovereignty was violated by the Chinese spy balloon.
At a press briefing, a US defence official said, “These kinds of activities are often undertaken at the direction of the People’s Liberation Army, or PLA. Over the past several years, Chinese balloons have previously been spotted over countries across five continents, including in East Asia, South Asia, and Europe.”
According to reports, the Chinese spy balloon was 200 feet tall, which is comparable to a staggering 20-storey building. It was also 22 metres wide, nearly the size of three buses put together.
Despite this, the Chinese government continued its farce that the overflight of the balloons over the US and Canada was solely for civilian purposes and was an unintentional event. Additionally, they have also accepted the fact that balloons flying over Latin America also belongs to China.
However, the menace of Chinese spy balloons seems to be an old persisting problem. Apparently, In June 2000, there was yet another one over Japan.
Lessons for India from the US
According to US defence officials, the Chinese surveillance balloon entered US airspace on January 28th and travelled mostly over land in Alaska before entering Canadian airspace on January 30th. It then re-entered US airspace on January 31st.
The initial response from the US administration regarding the Chinese spy balloon issue was a combination of denying the issue, defending China, deflecting the matter, downplaying its importance and absolving China of any wrongdoing.
For example – First, it claimed that China has a more sophisticated advanced satellite system to achieve the same goals. So, why would a spy balloon be a matter of great concern?
Second, it used the argument that shooting down the balloon may cause destruction in civilian areas.
However, faced with strong public pressure to hold China accountable for its violation of the sovereignty of the US through its spy balloon, the Biden administration issued a firm response to the communist regime.
Later, an F-22 Raptor took down the Chinese balloon over the Atlantic Ocean by launching a single AIM-9X supersonic, heat-seeking, air-to-air missile. It is pertinent to note that the US could have used other ways to shoot down the Chinese spy balloon. But using F-22 Raptor and a supersonic missile clearly hint that the US administration wanted to send a bone chilling message to the Chinese regime.
After further analysis, the US administration stated that the Chinese surveillance balloon potentially carried explosives “to detonate and destroy” itself. This clearly highlights that China had prepared for further escalation. In future such armed balloons can be used for Kamikaze attacks just like Japanese used their oil-strapped planes during the World War 2.
This strong response by the United States can be a good learning curve for India as India faces multiple sinister attempts of espionage by the Chinese regime.
The Chinese espionage network focused on India
In August 2022, the Chinese satellite tracking vessel ‘Yuan Wang 5’ docked at Hambantota port for 6 days. Previously, India had vehemently opposed the Chinese regime’s attempt at espionage. But Sri Lanka permitted China to proceed despite India’s objections due to China’s deep pockets. Later, in December 2022, India’s firm resolve to go ahead for the test fire of Agni V missile threw the Chinese off guard. Seeing India’s tough stance, it was forced to change the course of its Yuan Wang 5 spy ship.
Similarly, reports suggest that China has not refrained from using animals for spying purposes against India. During the border disputes, Indian Army has caught several yaks that were allegedly mounted with surveillance equipment by the Chinese in the smokescreen of animal grazing. In the naval domain, China has furthered the same goals of espionage through Dolphins.
There is no greater danger to humanity than a tyrannical madman on the loose. As stated above, Xi Jinping is the evident example of this. Facing unprecedented protests inside China, he is forced to take these frantic steps. The heightened stress on Chinese healthcare infrastructure and banking system has stirred the slumbering society. It has forced them to rise up and protest for their rights snatched by the CCP in lieu of economic prosperity. This has badly rattled Xi Jinping, forcing him make frantic manoeuvres. He has become desperate to one-up other nations on international front through territorial grabbing.
The Chinese efforts of coercion, mass surveillance and non-conventional warfare will only escalate. It is imperative for democratic nations, including India, to impose significant consequences on China for its evil advances and violation of national sovereignty. Facing intense public pressure, the US finally took decisive action to address the increasing threat posed by Chinese espionage. We have seen in the past that China paid a heavy price for its Galwan misadventure. Now, it remains to be seen how the Modi government will hold the Chinese accountable for violating our sovereign air space and spying on our crucial assets.
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