3 December 2012

AfPak and China


According to the Chinese science of strategy, national interest is both the starting point and destination of military strategy. As part of her military strategy, China is vigorously employing soft power in foreign countries by surreptitiously inducting People’s Liberation Army (PLA) under garb of development projects. China’s strategic footprints in Pakistan and POK may have come in recent times but she had already inducted 15,000 Chinese in Afghanistan in year 2001 before the US invasion in Afghanistan got fully underway. Presence of some three million Chinese in Myanmar is well known and so is presence of Chinese nationals in India’s neighbors including recent surge in Sri Lanka where it is believed that company strength of PLA is disguised as development workers in Hambantota. These are strategic moves that enable both enlargement of the economic agenda and a switch when required. China views Afghanistan as a challenge against the US to influence Eurasia and build energy based Eurasian Security Architecture. Chinese scholars have been talking of an Asian Collective Defence Alliance based on SCO members and the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organisation) headed by Russia. There have also been articles in Chinese media on forming the Pamir Group (China-Afghan-Pak Trilateral) with Chinese investments integrating AfPak and China through a quadrilateral freight railroad from Xinjiang through Tajikistan to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port. China may not openly commit troops in Afghanistan but can employ the Rapid Reaction Force (RRF) if and when required to defend Chinese assets. For this reason, she is developing communication infrastructure conducive to quick deployment; PLA is constructing a 75 km road extending 10 km inside Afghanistan through the Wakhan Corridor. China perceives a more active role for herself in reconstruction and development of Afghanistan and will ensure steps to secure its economic interests in Afghanistan as 2014 approaches and beyond. It is for the same reason that China developed ties with the Taliban; training Taliban in Xinjiang before the US invasion, providing training in handling IR SAMs (2010 media report) and military advisors advising Taliban how to fight the NATO led ISAF. This should be no surprise since China had provided sanctuary to ULFA post their rout from Bhutan and is currently supplying arms to Indian Maoists and PLA in Manipur through Kachen rebels in Myanmar. Post 2014, Taliban (supported by Pakistan) would likely aim to capture Kunduz and Jalalabad first in order to provide depth to the Chinese road through the Wakhan Corridor. Agha Amin, defence analyst and former Pakistan army officer writes, 

“Utopians in India are jubilant that Pakistan has made peace with India. Nothing in reality can be farther from the truth. …..The real picture of true intentions of the Pakistani military will emerge when the US withdraws from Afghanistan. This will be the time when the Russians, Iranians and Indians will have no choice but to support the Northern Alliance against Pakistan sponsored Taliban who regard all Shias, Ismailis, non-Pashtuns, moderate Pashtuns as infidels who deserve to be massacred… Pakistani politicians will remain the puppets of the military; terrorism will remain a tool of foreign policy while the Pakistani military runs the Pakistani state under a facade of PPP or PML or Tehrik-i-Insaaf. Pakistani military will be hoping to achieve all its objectives: an extremist dominated Afghanistan; a Baluchistan fully fragmented and crushed; a Pakistani political party leading Pakistan fully subservient to the Pakistani military; renewed infiltration in Kashmir; brinkman’s nuclear policy with India; a greater Chinese vassal with far greater Chinese interests in Pakistan… There is no doubt that Pakistan will be a semi autonomous Chinese province by 2030 or so… Pakistani Baluchistan by 2030 would be a completely Chinese run show… This means that Pakistan’s… ever growing reservoir of economically deprived youngsters who will fill ranks of extremists and suicide bombers will continue”. 

Taking on the Dragon

Issue Vol. 27.4 Oct-Dec 2012 | Date : 03 Dec , 2012 


A defeat in a future conflict with China will be a disaster for India. Apart from the economic ruin, it will substantially damage India’s standing in the comity of nations and degrade her status as an Asian power. Pakistan will not only be encouraged to step up its terrorist activities but may even resort to armed conflict to annex the Kashmir Valley, its pet obsession since 1947. On the other hand, even if India is able to bring about a stalemate, it will greatly enhance her prestige and put an end to Chinese domination in the Asian region. 

For some time now, leading think-tanks and strategic analysts in India have been articulating that sooner or later, there is a possibility of a short, sharp clash between China and India. Many reasons have been advanced as to why China will initiate this conflict and invite adverse reaction from the world. In this context, it needs to be remembered that China does not much care for world opinion. 

In the event of a Sino-Indian conflict, a collusive scenario with Pakistan is a distinct possibility. 

The primary reasons for China to commence hostilities could be to teach India, her only rival in Asia, a lesson for her intransigence on the settlement of the border dispute on China’s terms and disregarding her warnings against oil exploration in the South China Sea thus displaying an aggressive independent streak hitherto not seen. China feels that this may encourage other Asian nations to defy her. 

Other reasons could be the need to retard India’s economic growth and consequent military modernisation which will enable India to challenge Chinese supremacy in Asia in due course. Yet another reason could be the Chinese perception that India is trying to carry out strategic encirclement of China by improving ties with Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Vietnam and Australia encouraged by the US who are in the process of redeploying their naval forces in the region. 

Swift Offensive Against India in Ladakh 

Here the Chinese are already in occupation of the Aksai Chin Plateau giving them an excellent launch pad for an offensive. 

US Ambassador rues quality of education in India

PTI | Nov 29, 2012

US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell today said that the quality of education in India remains a "concern and major challenge" while underlining the need to address the gap in reading levels to prepare children for the future in a better way. 

NEW DELHI: US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell today said that the quality of education in India remains a "concern and major challenge" while underlining the need to address the gap in reading levels to prepare children for the future in a better way. 

Quoting reports that have pointed out that basic reading levels have shown a marked decline, she observed that it was critical to provide children with the right kind of environment to make them learn. 

Addressing a gathering after handing over All Children Reading Grand Challenge Awards to five innovators, Powell heaped praises on the Government of India for taking "several positive steps" for providing basic education to every child through the Right to Education Act. 

"According to the latest reports, today over 96.6 per cent of children in India ages 6 to 14 years old are enrolled in school. However, quality of education remains a concern and a major challenge across the entire education system," she said. 

Citing recent international assessments and national surveys that have concluded that learning levels in India are very low at the primary level, the Ambassador said if the gap in reading ability is not addressed they would continue to lag behind in all subjects as they move through the system. 

US asks India to consult IAEA on nuclear liability law

Washington, Dec 1, 2012 (PTI)


To enter the international mainstream civil nuclear commerce, a top US official has said India should consult International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on its nuclear liability law as a means to ensure the objective. 

"While we understand that India's law is currently being examined by the courts, we believe that consultations with the IAEA would be useful as a means to ensure that the liability law accomplishes our shared objective of moving India into the international mainstream of civil nuclear commerce," Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Geoffrey Pyatt has said. 

In his remarks to the Pillsbury NEI Nuclear Export Controls Seminar in Washington, Pyatt identified the nuclear liability law as a major challenge in implementing the historic India-US civilian nuclear deal. A copy of his remarks was released by the State Department yesterday. 

"India's nuclear liability law is not in line with the international nuclear liability principles reflected in the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage," he said. 

"Current liability law and regulations impose the risk of a heavy financial burden on equipment suppliers seeking to enter the Indian market and expose such companies to the risk of significant financial penalty in the event of a nuclear accident, neither of which is consistent with international standards," Pyatt observed. 

"Without a law consistent with this Convention in place, companies from the United States as well as other nations will find it difficult to participate in India's nuclear power expansion plans," he said. 

Begum Zia’s India Visit and Bangla Politics

Paper no. 5318 Dated 03-Dec-2012 

By Bhaskar Roy 

Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Chairperson Begum Khalida Zia’s India visit in October-November stirred political discourses on how alignments will be made and party position stated as the country enters election mode. Each major party in Bangladesh is still trying to decipher what Khalida Zia said in India, what she said on her return and how her party leaders are explaining the change, if any, towards India to their cadres. 

Among the Bangladesh watchers in India and the Indian media, the contrast between Begum Zia’s visit when she was Prime Minister and her recent visit was so stark that discretions and opinions were inevitable. As Prime Minister, Begum Khalida led, perhaps, the most anti-India government ever. She was not an eager visitor then. This time around, however, Begum Khalida came with an olive branch and positions on India that bemused anyone with any interest in India-Bangladesh relations. 

It was always in India’s interest to be friendly with as many Bangladesh political parties, NGOs and civil society groups as possible. Partition of the sub continent created Pakistan on the west and east wings of India. Without recollecting the bloodshed and trauma of the partition, it can be said that East Pakistan (Bangladesh since 1971) continued to enjoy closer linguistic and cultural relation with eastern India, than western India with West Pakistan. This is because in the East Hindu and Muslim religious and cultural roots grew so closely together that a symbiotic merger grew. Despite all the trials and tribulations this connectivity has become unbreakable. 

It must not be forgotten that the ‘language movement’ against West Pakistan’s Urdu domination started as early as 1948, barely a year after the birth of Pakistan. In 1952 the movement gained traction when their leaders were killed by police firing. Religion does not bind countries. But the JEI leaders in Bangladesh are blind to this cardinal truth. 

It is not in India’s interest, nor is India interested, in a politically divided Bangladesh. For India, such a situation would be a living nightmare. And India lived it during the BNP-JEI alliance rule from 2001 to 2006. The details are well known and recorded. Then Bangladeshi foreign minister had threatened that if India surrounds Bangladesh, Bangladesh also surrounds India. And they acted on the threat and moved to set India’s north-east on fire. Despite all this India reached out to Prime Minister Begum Khalida Zia at that time, only to be spurned. 

Al Qaeda 3.0: Terrorism’s Emergent New Power Bases

Dec 3, 2012

Top administration lawyers may hint at the end of the war on terror, but al Qaeda’s third generation is as deadly as ever. Bruce Riedel breaks down the group’s new power bases. 

While Pentagon lawyers claim al Qaeda’s tipping into defeat, in fact we are seeing the emergence of the third generation of the terrorist movement.

Iraqi security forces survey the scene outside the Sayidat al-Nejat Catholic Cathedral, or Syrian Catholic Church, in central Baghdad on November 1, 2010, the morning after seven security force members and 37 Christians were killed when US and Iraqi forces stormed the cathedral to free dozens of hostages in an attack claimed by an Al-Qaeda group. (Sabah Arar / Getty Images) 

Under siege by drones in Pakistan and Yemen, al Qaeda 3.0 has exploited the Arab Awakening to create its largest safe havens and operational bases in more than a decade across the Arab world. This may prove to be the most deadly al Qaeda yet. 

The first generation was the original band in Afghanistan created by Osama bin Laden in the 1990s. The second emerged after 9/11 when the group resurfaced in Pakistan and then across the Muslim world. Now a third iteration can be discerned in the wake of bin Laden’s death and the Arab Awakening. 

Taliban launch coordinated attack on coalition air base

By Jennifer Rowland 
December 3, 2012


The Rack: New America Foundation Fellow Anand Gopal, "Serious Leadership Rifts Emerge in Afghan Taliban" (CTC

Bold attack 

Early on Sunday, suicide bombers attacked the joint U.S.-Afghan air base at Jalalabad, detonating three car bombs near the entrance and sparking a firefight that lasted over two hours, resulting in the deaths of the nine attackers, four Afghan guards, and at least four civilians who were caught in the crossfire (AP, BBC, NYT). Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid quickly released a statement claiming responsibility for the attack, during which the insurgents were reportedly dressed in coalition uniforms. 

On Saturday, a suicide car bomber appearing to target police headquarters in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan detonated his explosives before he reached the gates of the facility, killing three civilians and wounding six others (AP). Pakistan's Foreign Ministry announced Friday that the country would release more Taliban prisoners, following a visit from Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmay Rasool, though no details on how many militants would be released and when (AP, AFP, Post). The Express Tribune reported Monday that Pakistani officials have set "preconditions" for the release of some top Taliban militants, including the former deputy Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, but will not do so until all players - including the United States - are on board with Baradar's release (ET). 

A novel idea: the U.S. should buy Syria’s WMDs

Afghanistan, open for business; Panetta watch continues; Cyber-missions coming for the services, and more. 
DECEMBER 3, 2012 

If Syria is moving its chemical weapons, is the U.S. closer to intervening? Unclear as of yet. But intelligence reports over the weekend indicate Assad is in fact moving them, which could change President Obama's "calculus" on intervention. The NYT this morning quoted a senior American diplomat who has been active in trying to convince the Syrian regime not to use chemical weapons on its people: "These are desperate times for Assad, and this may simply be another sign of desperation." 

Obama, in August: "We cannot have a situation in which chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people.... We have been very clear to the Assad regime but also to other players on the ground that a red line for us is, we start seeing a whole bunch of weapons moving around or being utilized.... That would change my calculus.... That would change my equation." NYT this morning: http://nyti.ms/Ub5C3C

Hillary, this morning, asked about new evidence the regime intended to use its stash of chemical weapons: "We are certainly planning to take action if that eventuality were to occur." http://cbsn.ws/11qeIkD

A novel idea to prevent WMD from causing problems in Syria: buy them up. We heard from a professor at the University of Richmond who doesn't specialize in weapons of mass destruction or even foreign policy, but who is aggressively shopping this idea around Washington. $80 million could do the trick, he argued in an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post in August. "In a bold but prudent effort to help stabilize a post-Assad government and to pre-empt the need for either the U.S. or Israel to raid and secure Syria's WMD stockpiles, the US should offer to buy those WMD now from the Syrian National Council and the Free Syrian Army. As a pre-emptive economic diplomacy carrot, the price should be at least $80 million." 

Introducing the Drezner Intelligence Explainer

Posted By Daniel W. Drezner 
December 3, 2012

David Sanger and Eric Schmitt have a story in today's New York Times about... well, as near as I can figure, the purpose of the story is that the intelligence comnunity wants to communixate with Syria. Here's the opening: 

The Syrian military’s movement of chemical weapons in recent days has prompted the United States and several allies to repeat their warning to President Bashar Al-Assad that he would be “held accountable” if his forces used the weapons against the rebels fighting his government. 

The warnings, which one European official said were “deliberately vague to keep Assad guessing,” were conveyed through Russia and other intermediaries. 

So I guess the New York Times is now one of those "other intermediaries." 

Given the expansion of the U.S. intelligence apparatus, this kind of "signaling through the press" function is not going away anytime soon. The problem, of course, is that very often these intelligence officials can't come right out and tell Sanger and Schmitt what they want Assad to know, cause, like, there are other people reading these stories. 

So, as a public service, the hardworking staff here at this blog will try to parse out exactly what is being communicated. Let's excerpt every direct quote (bolded below) and run it through the Drezner Intelligence Explainer (D.I.E.: patent pending): 

Unforgettable Battle of 1962 : 13 Kumaon at Rezang La

Col N N Bhatia (Retd)

The Battle of Chushul was a saga of unprecedented courage, valour and supreme sacrifice. Never before had so many officers and Jawans (114 out of 120) laid down their lives in one battle. "You rarely come across such example in the annals of world military history when braving such heavy odds, the men fought till the last bullet and the last man," said General T.N. Raina, paying tributes to the Heroes of Chushul, and added "Certainly the Battle of Rezang La is such a shining example." Colonel N N Bhatia recollects the battle in detail - along with some rare photographs of the aftermath


“If you know the enemy yourself, you need not fear the result of hindered battles,
If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained, you will also suffer defeat,
If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle”.

-Sun Tzu


The rivalry for the leadership of the Afro-Asian countries between India and China and disputed international border were the main pretext for China to launch 1962 War. But the other issues also played their roles. The perceived Indian role in Tibet to undermine Chinese control was not appreciated by the Chinese and granting asylum to the Dalai Lama after the uprising in Tibet annoyed them immensely. There had been a series of violent border incidents. As part of the forward policy, India had placed many outposts along the border, including several on the MacMohan Line that Chinese did not recognize as the international border. They claimed many disputed areas along the border existed and occasionally carried intrusions across the entire border for reconnaissance. In August 1959 Indian border post at Longju in NEFA was seized while in Ladakh Chinese established a camp near Spanggur and arrested Indian police patrol with in Indian territory. On 21 October 1959 in a skirmish near the Konga pass nearly 80 km inside the Indian territory, 9 policemen were killed and 7 captured by the Chinese. Since the Chinese were always interested in Chushul and Walong, not only their skirmishes increased in these areas but they also constructed good network of roads in the border region right up to Spanggur Gap in the Western sector and Indian Border Post in Walong in the eastern sector. Sadly, unlike the Sun Tzu’s quotation on top of this article, while the Chinese had enough strategic and tactical intelligence about us, we had none and fought in dark like blind men with tied hands.

The Chinese strategic aim in 1962 conflict was to ensure heights both in the Aksai Chin and the Lohit Valley across the watershed overlooking their positions were captured and India was militarily defeated so that they could overlook Indian territory across the border and assume the undisputed leadership of the Afro-Asian countries.

We cannot reverse history, but no self respecting Indian soldier or citizen would like to ever remember the ignominy of the rout of the Indian Army in 1962 Sino- Indian War. There was nothing to cheer or feel proud of total unprofessional defeat, except the sympathies for the families of fallen soldiers whose lives could perhaps be saved with adequate and appropriate modern equipment, training coupled with apt diplomacy, political will and military leadership then found missing. In that utter chaos, the two Battalions of the Kumaon Regiment namely the 6 Kumaon and the 13 Kumaon fought savagely against the Chinese hordes with indomitable spirit of their regimental officers and men. The courage of the Kumaonis, now a part of the folklore in their villages against the overwhelming disaster has been the only grace for the disgraced Indian Army. Though the country lost the war that was thrust upon the army, these two Battalions deployed at the two extremes ends of 3500 km long disputed border, won their honours respectively at Rezang La and Walong against heavy odds and huge sacrifices in an otherwise catastrophic national shame.

13 KUMAON’s ‘Battle of Rezang La’

Brief Description on Ahirs


Ahir and Yadav are synonymous and the same side of the coin residing throughout the country especially in Haryana and call themselves Somavanshi Kshatriyas. The Yadav contribution to the composite kaleidoscopic culture of India is immense especially most of all in ‘The Krishna Cult’. They form one composite group and are an important community of Haryana. Most of them live in the region around Rewari and Narnaul which is known as Ahirwal or the abode of the Ahirs. Rao Tula Ram was one of the most important Ahir leaders of the 1857 War of Independence. In the Indo-China War of 1962, almost all the Ahirs hailing from the Ahirwal region of Southern Haryana serving in 13 KUMAON set an unparallel example in the military history of India by defending their motherland at frozen windy heights of Rezang La with a missionary zeal. Many Ahirs excelled in Kargil war and insurgencies in Punjab, J&K and the Northeast. Havildar Umrao Singh of Palra village in Jhajjar (Rohtak) was the only Ahir and a gunner, who was awarded Victoria Cross in Arakans during Burma Campaign in the Second World War. Yadavs are good sportsmen and their new found passion is boxing. Besides 13 KUMAON, many brave Ahir soldiers from Haryana and other parts of the country have made their mark in the various wars fought by the Indian Army and won gallantry medals. Among them are Brig RS Yadav, MVC, Commodore BB Yadav, MVC, and Leading Seaman CS Yadav, MVC. Grenadier Yogendra Singh Yadav born in Aurangabad village in Bulandshahr (Uttar Pradesh) of 18 Grenadiers was the first Ahir and the youngest recipient of the PVC in the Kargil War. Incidentally, his father served in the Kumaon Regiment and took part in 1965 and 1971 India - Pak Wars. 13 Kumaon again created history by routing Pakistani 1 PUNJAB plus a Company of 10 PUNJAB in a multi-directional day light attack with almost no artillery support in Longewala desert in the Rajasthan sector. On 26 Sep 1994, Sub Sujjan Singh won Country’s highest peace time military gallantry award of Ashok Chakra while fighting Pakistani sponsored militants in Kupwara district posthumously. 13 KUMAON is the rarest of rare Battalion that has won the Param Vir Cakra and the Ashok Chakra in its short checkered history.

Prelude to Operation

13 Kumaon was raised on 5 August 1948 at Kanpur by Lt Col HC Taylor with class composition of 50 percent each of Ahirs and Kumaonis. During the 1956 Reunion, Lt Col NS Krishna, the then Commanding Officer accepted the proposal of the Colonel of the Regiment, General KS Thimayya that the Regiment must have a 100% Ahir Battalion.It was decided to make 13 th as the first pure Ahir Battalion by transferring its Kumaonis to 2 Kumaon and 6 Kumaon who reciprocally sent their Ahirs to 13 Kumaon. This process was completed by March 1960.

Since its raising the Battalion had seen no active operations except to serve in Jammu &Kashmir. Col Krishna volunteered to serve in Naga Hills, as Naga Land was then known. The Naga hostilities were at their prime at that time. The Battalion was put through tough regime of counter insurgency operations and did extremely well by capturing maximum weapons, many self styled senior officers and destroying the headquarters of notorious Kito Sema, the so called self styled Commander in Chief of the hostile underground Naga Army. The tenure in Naga Hills and able leadership led to the "seasoning" of all ranks and prepared them for the impending Battle of Rezang La. Incidentally, during this time only 6 Kumaon also was operating in the Naga Hills and second in command of 13 Kumaon, Major CN Madiah eventually was posted to be its commanding officer during 1962 War and the Battalion excelled in the Battle of Walong.

The ‘choras’ as Ahirs are affectionately called, excel in sports and both individual and collective training. I joined Indian Military Academy (IMA) in June 1962 and I did not know much about 13 Kumaon. I was commissioned a year later and by then from a battalion, 13 Kumaon had become ‘The well known Battalion’ of the Indian Army for its heroics that became folklores of Haryana, northern Rajasthan and western Uttar Pradesh. The one night battle on 18 Nov 1962 made 13 Kumaon one of the most hardened, die hard, battle worthy, respected ,honoured and decorated battalions of the Indian Army. This battle has been compared by many military historians with the famed battles of Thermopylae fought between Greek and Persian empires in 480 BC and the incredible Saragarhi fought on 12 September 1897 in the North-West Frontier Province Battle by the 21 men of the 36th Sikh Regiment (currently the 4th Battalion, the Sikh Regiment) who gave up their lives in devotion to their duty fighting over 10,000 tribals. Both these battles are listed ion the eight stories of collective bravery published by the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). Like wise the ill clad and ill equipped but hardy Ahirs of the Charlie Company of the 13 Kumaon led by undaunted leadership of Major Shaitan Singh ferociously fought in blood freezing minus 30 degree temperature till there was nothing left in manpower and equipment.

Strategic Importance Of Chushul

Running north to south, 40 km long and 5.6 km at its widest, Chushul is a narrow, sparsely populated, barren sandy valley across the water shed at altitude of 14,230 feet with towering mountains, high passes, where only the best of friends or worst of enemies may desire to meet. It is virtually close to the Chinese border. It is bounded in north by deep 160 km long clear salt water Pangong Tso (lake) running parallel to Indus River, the east and west by higher ranges rising over 19,000 feet and all weather airfield in the south. Pangaso changes colour with the phases of sun and moon. The Spanggur Gap is the opening in the eastern side that leads to the Spanggur Tso (lake). Like the Pangong Tso, it extends well into Chinese territory. Before the war commenced, the Chinese had built a road from Rudok in Tibet right up to the Spanggur Gap capable of carrying tanks. Chushul could be approached from Leh by going over the Chang La pass skirting the Pangkong Lake, while another route crossed the Chang La pass and took a deep turn to the east. For all Indian out posts in this sector from Daulat Beg Oldi to Damchok, Chushul was the nodal rallying point. Loss of Chushul as such would not have jeopardized defence of Ladakh region, but in those days its importance caught up with Indian psyche and pride. The terrain and climatic conditions favoured the Chinese and they made most of these in 1962 operations.

In the early sixties the Hindi- Chini Bhai Bhai and Panch Sheel era was crumbling and war clouds started gathering due to deteriorating relations between India and China, 13 Kumaon was moved from its peace location Ambala to Baramula in June 1962 and got involved it self in high altitude collective training that made it battle worthy for the unexpected impending operations. The Battalion by 2 October 1962 had moved to Leh on the orbat of 114 Infantry Brigade. The formation had then just two infantry battalions and was scheduled to move to Chushul in March 1963.There were no intelligence inputs of any Chinese build up opposite this sector. But the events moved quickly and the Chinese threat was perceived in Chushul valley that had an all weather landing ground. 3 Infantry Division was hurriedly raised under Maj Gen Budh Singh, MC. On 13 Oct B and C Companies of 13 Kumaon were quickly moved to Chushul and rushed to Mugger Hill and Rezang La feature located 30 km south –east of Chushul. The Battalion reached Chushul on 24 Oct and D Company occupied the Spanngur Gap. The Battalion Headquarters was located in High Ground with A company as Brigade reserve. On 26 Oct the Tactical Headquarters of 114 Infantry Brigade under Brig (later General and COAS) TN Raina arrived in Chushul. Tactical features known as Gurung Hill, Gun Hill and the Spanggur Gap were held by 1/8 GR with Battalion Headquarters and adhoc Company at the airfield. The flank of 13 Kumaon towards strategic un-mettled Chushul- Leh road at Tsakla was manned by Company less a platoon with section 3 inch Mortar of 5 Jat while rest of the Battalion was deployed at Lukung. 1Jat (LI) was deployed in Thakung Heights, north of Chushul. The RCL guns of the infantry battalions less 1 Jat (LI) were brigaded and located in the Spanggur Gap. Two troops ex B Squadron 20 Lancers (6 AMX-13 tanks), a battery of 13 Field Regiment, a troop of 32 Heavy Mortar Regiment, 1 Jat (LI)less a Company and a Company of 1 Mahar (MMG) joined as meager reinforcements. The AMX tanks in the mountainous terrain were not very effective and the artillery resources not only meager but mostly crested but they played a major role in destroying and destabilizing the enemy in Spanggur Gap.

 
Deployment in Chushul

Routes of Ingress (Approaches) to Chushul

To capture Chushul, the following appreciated approaches were available to the Chinese:-

(a) Khurnak Fort- Dungra Ford- Yula- Thakung-Lukung- Darbuk - Leh. It was difficult circuitous route on a mountainous track where battalion worth with support of animal transport (AT) could only move.

(b) Rudok- Shinghang- Chushul. Maintained by class 9 road that could sustain divisional strength thrust.
(c) Rudok-Rezang La-Chushul. It was comparatively shorter approach that had road developed up to Spanggur Gap that could sustain force more than (a) but less than (b) given above.

Tasks Allotted to 114 Infantry Brigade


(a) To defend Chushul for as long as possible and to withdraw only when continuation of the battle would annihilate or turn the round into rout.

(b) To inflict maximum causalities on the enemy.

(c) To save as much stores and equipment as possible.

Needless to say, the tasking of 114 Infantry Brigade was rather ambitious with the paucity of troops, fire power and wide gaps in the defended localities.

Deployment of 13 Kumaon

(a) B and D Companies less a platoon plus Section 3 inch Mortar under overall command of Major RV Jatar-Mugger Hill.

(b) C Company plus Section 3 inch Mortar under Major Shaitan Singh- Rezang La about 30 km south of Chushul.

(c) A Company plus four recoil less (RCL) guns as Brigade reserve under Major GN Sinha, poised for counter attack with Battalion Headquarters at High Ground under Commanding Officer Lt Col HS Dhingra.



A Word about Rezang La and War Preparations

Rezang La is a pass on the south-eastern approach to Chushul valley. The feature is roughly 3 km long and nearly 2 km wide at an average altitude of 16000 feet above the sea level. Digging defences in the rocky boulders, due to paucity of oxygen was extremely tiring both mentally and physically due to lack of mechanical digging equipment, oxygen and bitter cold. Walking a few paces made men breathless as they were not yet acclimatized to the high altitude. The first few nights were the most uncomfortable ones as local ponies and yaks had not fetched woolen clothing, sleeping bags and rations. It took hours to boil kettle of water and fruits and fresh rations were frozen hard like cricket balls. Rezang La had another serious flaw. The

high crests of mountain-tops interfered with the flight of artillery shells and adversely affected artillery fire, thus, denying Rezang La the much needed fire support. War preparations were being made on hectic scales by both sides. But the under strength Indian defenders had no artillery support, were equipped with poor antiquated .303 single shot bolt action rifles of the World War II vintage, paucity of woolen clothing, automated digging tools and old 62 radio sets that did not communicate due to frozen batteries, where as the Chinese had 7.62 self loading rifles (SLRs) and acclimatized troops. They had enough, ammunition, rations, heavy engineering equipment, vehicles, artillery and tanks could come right up to the Spanggur Gap as they had built a road up to their terminal post. During nights their boats were observed plying with men and war like stores in Spanggur Lake. Our observation posts regularly observed hectic Chinese build-up and their commanders spreading their maps and carrying out reconnaissance. Chinese troops also being locals from Singkiang region were hardened to the existing climatic and terrain conditions whereas many of the Ahirs hailing from the plains of the north India were deployed in high altitude environment for the very first time in their service.

Major Shaitan Singh deployed C Company over 2 km frontage on the massive 5 km long Rezang La feature as under:-

• 7 Platoon under Jemadar Surja 3 Km north of the pass on forward slopes.

• 8 Platoon under Jemadar Hari Ram in pass area.

• 9 Platoon under Jemadar Ram Chander 1 km south of 7 Platoon position.

• Company Headquarters behind 9 Platoon along with section of 3 inch Mortar under Naik Ram Kumar Yadav 150 meters west of Company Headquarters.



There was little time to stock, mines and prepare defences adequately. As per national policy, no patrolling along the international border was permitted and as per battle routine regularly during day light OPs (Observation Posts) and in the night LPs (Listening Posts) were sent to provide early warning, Due to wide frontages, there was no mutual support with in the sub-units, not many mines could be laid and as highlighted earlier, the artillery fire across Rezang La was totally crested. Thus, Rezang La had no artillery support and paucity of anti personal mines to halt the advancing enemy. In spite of all these inadequacies, the Battalion Operation Order issued on 24 October tasked all sub-units to fight to ‘the last man and the last round’. To cover the numerous gullies which were expected approaches for the enemy to attack, three additional light machine guns (LMGs) were provided to C Company. The defences were wired and stocked with six first line scales of ammunition along with 1000 bombs for the 3 inch Mortar Section.

The Battle of Rezang La

On night 17-18 November around 2200 hrs, a heavy snow storm was leashed in the battle zone for nearly two hours. After the snow storm, visibility improved to 600 meters. At 0200 hrs, LP ahead of 8 Platoon observed a large body of Chinese soldiers swarming through the gullies at a distance of about 700-800 meters moving from the pass. Lance Naik Brij Lal the LP commander ran back to Platoon Headquarters to in inform this unusual development. He, with his Section Commander Hukam Chand and one LMG were rushed as reinforcement to the post. By then the Chinese had advanced with in firing range of small arms from the post. The LP fired a pre-determined red Verey Light signal along with long bursts of LMG fire, warning the C Company to ‘stand to’ in their dug out positions. Similarly, 7 Platoon’s LP on the forward slopes also saw Chinese forming up and the entire C Company was alerted. Maj Shaitan Singh immediately contacted his sub-unit commanders on the radio communication who confirmed that all ranks were ready in their battle positions. Since the paucity of troops had caused wide gaps in 7 and 9 Platoon localities, he also ordered 9 Platoon to send a patrol to ascertain the situation. The patrol confirmed massive Chinese build up had taken place through the gullies. Though, the Chinese had brought their assaulting troops to their forward assembly areas under the cover of inclement weather, their intensions to shock the defenders with silent surprise attack had failed miserably in all aspects.

All ranks of the Charlie Company with their fingers on triggers, waited patiently for the impending major frontal attack on their positions around first light with improving visibility. Around 0500 hrs, the first wave of the Chinese were spotted through their personal weapon sights by every Ahir manning the defences and hail of LMGs, MMGs and mortars fire greeted the enemy. Scores of the enemy died, many were wounded but rest duly reinforced continued to advance. Soon all the gullies leading to Rezang La were full of Chinese corpses. Constant wave after wave of the Chinese launched four more attacks that were beaten back that dwindled defenders strength and ammunition as many Ahirs fell fighting. As the fifth attack was launched, Naik Chandgi Ram, a wrestler of repute led his comrades with bayonet charge killing 6-7 Chinese single handedly till he fell to martyrdom. There were some skirmishes with the Chinese patrols that too were beaten back but one such patrol had severed the telephone line leading to the Battalion Headquarters. By about 0545 hrs, the Chinese frontal attack was beaten back and failed.

By now, the Chinese realized Rezang La was not a cake walk and changed their operational plan. Rezang La was resorted to heavy artillery shelling and to destroy field fortifications they used concentrated fire of 75 mm recoilless (RCL) guns brought on wheel barrows from the flanks. The deep craters near the Company Command Post (CP) indicated use of 132 mm rockets. The Chinese shelling was a spectacular display of fire power against defenders who had no artillery support and no bunker on the Rezang La feature, re-visited after 3 months in February 1963, was seen could bear the preponderance of enemy’s devastating artillery fire.

The Chinese started regrouping for a long detour over 7 Platoon positions that had no survivors. A little distance away Naik Sahi Ram the only survivor detached from his platoon waited for the enemy to assemble and let them have it with accurate LMG fire. The Chinese dispersed and Sahi Ram waited for the next wave that came with RCL guns and blasted his lone firing position. Major Shaitan Singh re grouped his dwindling assets to charge the advancing Chinese. Since all the platoon positions had been over run with no survivors, the enemy was re-grouping to assault the C Company Headquarters after heavy pounding. While moving from one gun position to other, motivating his depleted command, Major Shaitan Singh was hit by the enemy LMG fire on his arm but undaunted he kept motivating, regrouping and reorganizing his handful men and weapons. His Company Havildar Major (CHM) Harphool Singh kept persuading him to move to safer place with few survivors who could walk .Ahir guns kept firing till silenced but camouflaged sniping enemy MMG covering the flank fired long bursts killing many. Maj Shaitan Singh was hit again severely in the abdomen. Grievously injured and bleeding profusely he was pulled by Phool Singh and Jai Narain to safer place behind a boulder and bandaged his wounds. Since there was no line or radio communication, he ordered Phool Singh and Jainarain to leave him and rush to the Battalion Headquarters and froze to martyrdom in the night. In the Spanggur Gap, 1/8 GR fought bravely with artillery support by Lt Goswami and troops of tanks commanded by 2 Lt Baswani firing and destroying the enemy. While the Chinese kept swarming to capture Gurung Hill, held by the company of 1/8 GR under command Capt PL Kher, Goswami to give closest support, ordered to fire on his own observation post (OP) position that killed 3 other ranks and severely wounding Goswami whose frost bitten legs had to be amputated later. He was decorated with well deserved Maha Vir Chakra (MVC) for his heroics.

Harphool Singh led 3 survivors to fight and stop enemy’s onslaught till martyred. Ram Kumar’s 3 inch Mortar Section having coughed all its ammunition was ordered to be disabled and fire plans and maps destroyed less they fell in the Chinese hands. As Ram Kumar was disabling his mortars, he was hit by rifle fire from the Chinese 20 yards away. Though wounded, he took position in his command post and as the Chinese peeped in, he pumped bullets with his bolt action .303 rifle and killed many of them. The remaining Chinese hurled hand grenades to silence him and left. After many hours profusely bleeding, he regained consciousness and painfully trekked back to Battalion Headquarters to narrate the chilling, gallant untold story of the Rezang La Battle for the posterity. Five soldiers were taken prisoners of war by the enemy and Sepoy Balbir Singh died in captivity. Silence of war engulfed Rezang La as the last round had been fired and the last soldier bled to martyrdom. Neither any help or reinforcements were asked for nor could any be provided to C Company..

The Chinese massive two-pronged advance and offensive embarked to secure Chushul succeeded with heavy causalities on both sides. The remoteness of Mugger Hill, Gurung Hill, both the Brigade and Battalion Headquarters and A Company as brigade reserve, negated the possibility of any reinforcement or counter attack at Rezang La.



An artistic view of Major Shaitan Singh controlling ‘the Battle of Rezang La’ from his Command Post

The Chinese did not attack Mugger Hill on 18 November but shelled it heavily. B Company had good observation of the Spanggur Gap and directed artillery fire on the enemy gun positions. D Company had sent patrol to Rezang La under Naik Roop Ram and was engaged by the enemy MMG that killed two and wounding another two soldiers. Enemy fired over 600 shells on Battalion Headquarters but there was mercifully not a single causality.

The Ceasefire and Aftermath

Surprisingly though the Chinese claimed area up to Chushul as theirs, on 21 November 1962, without any further offensives, they declared unilateral cease fire.

As per the War Diary of the Battalion, 13 Kumaon regrouped after the ceasefire less the C Company that had ceased to exist.

C Company after the war was re-raised from the ashes of Rezang La by milking men from the other companies and fresh recruit drafts that came as reinforcements after the war and rechristened as the Rezang La Company to honour its war heroes and deservingly in the precedence, it became the senior most company of the Battalion.

In January 1963, a local Ladakhi shepherd wandered over the Rezang La feature. He was amazed by the awesome war specticle of soldiers frozen to death but still clinging to their damaged weapons in enemy’s shelling. Their weapons were mostly with empty magazines and bulged barrels due to excessive firing. A month later in February 1963, the first Indian party under the aegis of International Red Cross visited Rezang La could find 96 bodies with multiple splinters and gun shot wounds frozen to death with weapons in their hands in the shattered trenches. Major Shaitan Singh’s body was recovered from the same spot where he was last left by the two jawans. While the other ranks were cremated with full military honours in Chushul, the body of Major Shaitan Singh draped in national flag was flown to Jodhpur and cremated in his village with state honours.


After-the-Battle : Two buddies - Two Jawans who fought side by side and died side by side at Rezang La

After-the-Battle-03

Red Cross Officials of both sides arrive to do work at Rezang La


Body of Nursing Assistant Dharam Pal Singh Dhaiya who died nursing wounded

After-the-Battle-06


Funeral Pyre - Brig TN Raina, MVC, Commander 114 Infantry Brigade lighting the mass funeral pyre.


Recovery efforts of the Bodies at Rezang La

The Honours and the Awards

Every soldier out numbered 10 to 1, who fought and died at Rezang La, was a national hero and deserved a gallantry award. But wars are never fought for personal glory or award. Major Shaitan Singh was conferred with the Param Vir Chakra-the country’s highest gallantry award posthumously. Of the others, Jemadar Hari Ram*, Jemadar Surja* Jemadar Ram Chander, Naik Hukam Singh*, Naik Gulab Singh* Naik Ram Kumar Yadav*, Lance Naik Singh Ram * Sepoy (Nursing Assistant) Dharam Pal Dhaiya* were decorated with Vir Chakra and CHM Harphool Singh*, Havildar Jai Narain, Havildar Phul Singh and Sepoy Nihal Singh were decorated with Sena Medal each, while Jemadar Jai Narain* was mentioned-in-dispatches. Brigadier TN Raina, another die hard Kumaoni and the inspiring Brigade Commander of the 114 Infantry Brigade deployed for the defence of the Chushul was awarded country’s second highest gallantry award Maha Vir Chakra while Lt Col HS Dhingra, the Commanding Officer of 13 Kumaon was warded Ati Vashisht Seva Medal for his inspiring leadership under adverse battle conditions. The Battalion was also awarded ‘The Battle Honour Rezang La’ and ‘The Theatre Honour Ladakh’

(*Awarded posthumously)


Late Major Shaitan Singh, PVC Brig (later Gen) TN Raina,MVC

It was at High Ground, the place where Battalion Headquarters had been at the time of the battle, the 96 bodies of the heroes of Rezang La were consumed to flames with full mil honours in mass cremation amidst chanting of Vedic Mantras. The Rezang La Memorial was constructed by the Battalion to honour those who gave their lives to defend our values and way of life. On the first anniversary of the epic Rezang La Battle on 18 November 1963, I stood close to the Memorial, overlooking the massive Rezang La feature, in biting chilly winds, I had the unique privilege and honour to pay my homage to Rezang La warriors with pride and tears in my eyes, as I read the inscription on the marble slab as under: -

“How Can A Man Die Better?
Than Facing Fearful Odds,
For The Ashes Of His Fathers,
And Temples Of His Gods.”

Maculay


Photographs and Article Copyright of Colonel N N Bhatia Last Updated on Friday, 02 November 2012 01:50

What China’s transition means for India

Ananth Krishnan 


The new leadership in Beijing is likely to look for stability in relations with New Delhi as it addresses more urgent issues with its neighbours in the Asia Pacific and the U.S. 

“Continuity” is a word that National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon is likely to hear often from his Chinese interlocutors during his visit to Beijing, which begins today. Mr. Menon, who is also the Special Representative on the boundary question, will meet State Councillor Dai Bingguo, his counterpart on the border talks, for what officials have described as “informal talks” on the border and strategic issues of common concern. He is expected to hold talks with one of the seven members of the newly-selected Politburo Standing Committee — likely to be second-ranked Li Keqiang, the anointed Premier, subject to his availability — marking India’s first real engagement with the fifth generation of the Chinese leadership following the November 15 transition.

The once-in-ten-year leadership change in China is likely to usher in a new chapter on how the country conducts its foreign policy, officials and strategic scholars in Beijing say. Over the next four months, both the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the government that it leads will complete a sweeping change across all levels of its leadership. At the recently concluded Party Congress, the CPC selected a new 25-member Politburo and 371-member Central Committee, which will guide policy-making in all spheres for the next five years. The Parliament session of the National People’s Congress in March will be of more relevance to China’s diplomacy. The expected retirement of Dai Bingguo — one of five State Councillors who function under the four Vice Premiers of the Cabinet, or the State Council — in March has received much attention in India, as he has served as the Special Representative (SR) on the boundary talks since the current format was initiated a decade ago.


What happened to Chittagong-Kunming road?

by A Rahman in Dailystar 
DACCA. 2/12/2012 

After a gap of three years, India and China last week concluded talks on "a proposed land corridor that would pass through Myanmar and connect Kolkata with south-western China's Kunming city in Yunnan province." Officials from the foreign ministries of India and China met in Kunming with officials from West Bengal and Yunnan to finalise the project. An action plan was approved, which also decided on the route that this road would take to establish connectivity with China. Analysts say that China has shown serious interest in building this road. So also has India as it will also connect it with South-East Asia. Curiously however, the Chinese are keen to have access to Kolkata port through this road in spite of the various bottlenecks in using the port. 

The decision by India and China to have direct road links between their countries, bypassing Bangladesh, has implications for us. Our direct connectivity with China, besides geo strateg, 0, is important from the point of view of trade and mutual development. We had proposed to Myanmar to jointly construct a road from Chittagong to connect it to their main highway that goes from Mandalay to Kunming in China. This would have meant that the Chinese could have direct access to a warm water port, Chittagong, in the Bay of Bengal. The distance from Chittagong to Kunming is only 1,700 kilometers and loaded trucks could cover it in three to four days. 

Thus, exports from China, loaded in Chittagong port, could sail to the Middle East and Europe bypassing the congested and often dangerous Strait of Malacca that straddles Malaysia and Indonesia. Today, all ships passing through the Strait are charged high insurance premiums. By using the Chittagong port China could reduce the cost of freight and its goods could be sold in Europe and the Middle East at lower prices. If India is able to build connectivity before us, then Chinese ships would use that land corridor, which has similar advantage for China, and deprive us of the revenue in port dues, low cost Chinese goods, etc. Today, China ships its exports originating from west and south-west China through its ports on the east coast, the nearest of which is Guangzou (Canton), 3,000 kilometers from Kunming. 


The difference between India and China? Attitude

 

This is the edited transcript of a talk by journalist and strategic affairs analyst Ramananda Sengupta at Jinjasa, a knowledge platform under the aegis of the Center for Educational and Social Studies, Bangalore. 

Let me begin with a confession.

I am not a China expert. I am sure there are many among you who probably have forgotten more about China than I will ever learn.

Having said that, as an individual and as a journalist, I have always been fascinated by this huge neighbour, this ancient civilization, with whom we share almost 3,500 km border.

I recall my father talking about Sikh deserters from the 1962 war who fled to Calcutta speaking in hushed fearful tones about hordes of giant nine feet tall Chinese soldiers, immune to Indian gunfire, rushing down from the Tibetan slopes.

I think all of us here know that this is the 50th anniversary of that war. It is also officially the Year of India-China Friendship and Cooperation.

The world has changed dramatically in the last half century.

But I would argue that despite, or perhaps even due to, that war, we have not given China the attention it deserves.

Of course, we do remember, and in fact refight that war, each year around this time, with reams of newspaper and television coverage, all asking the same question: Could it happen again? Have we learnt our lesson?

But on a deeper level, we have not invested in understanding and developing the empathy and learning that is required to understand the Chinese way of thinking.

Image: In this photograph taken on July 10, 2008, A Chinese soldier gestures as he stands near an Indian soldier on the Chinese side of the ancient Nathu La border crossing between India and China.

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Let me cite an example: My first official trip to China was as part of the media delegation accompanying President KR Narayanan in April 2000. In that nine-day trip, apart from Beijing, we visited Dalian in the northeast, (whose mayor at the time was Bo Xilai, who was recently was suspended from the party's Central Committee and its Politburo, pending investigation for 'serious disciplinary violations') and Kunming in the Southwest.

In Beijing, we had a brief interaction with members of some Chinese think tanks. One of them, in his introductory remarks, asserted that while China was keenly interested in India, India did not seem interested in China at all. To back it up, he noted that while there was just a solitary Indian journalist (from PTI) covering the entire People’s Republic of China, there were over 16 Chinese journalists in India, including those from a TV channel.

'All of them spies, no doubt,' murmured a colleague next to me in Hindi. 'Which only goes to prove my point,' responded our Chinese host who happened to fluent in Sanskrit and Hindi. I found out later that all the dozen Chinese scholars in that group, including two women, had studied Sanskrit, knew Hindi, and some even Bengali and Tamil.

Today, 12 years later, we have four Indian journalists in China, while China has at least a dozen or more journalists spread across India.

In a fascinating talk in Delhi earlier this year, former foreign secretary and eminent diplomat, ambassador Shyam Saran, implied that part of this disconnect was due to the fact that China had a ‘visual’ culture.

Image: A few Chinese jounalists work at the media center of 18th National Congress of CPC in Beijing on November 1, 2012.

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'The Chinese language has no alphabet. Each character is a word in itself and a decent vocabulary requires memorizing at least three thousand characters. A scholar may aspire to a vocabulary of five thousand,' he said.

Some of these words have acquired nuances which are indecipherable to an outsider. According to Ambassador Saran, 'Even to this day much of Chinese discourse is conducted through historical analogies, some of which are explicit and well known. Some are artfully coded and the language lends itself easily to innuendo and ambiguity.'

India, on the other hand, has a aural or 'oral' culture, where history is handed down orally first, and written down later.

'This difference in civilizational trajectory has its impact on how our two cultures perceive the world around us and interact with one another,' he said.

The other important point that he made was that 'deception is an integral element of Chinese strategic culture…There is no moral or ethical dimension attached to deception and the Chinese would find it odd being accused of 'betrayal', in particular, if the strategy of deception had worked…'

Image: Chinese Instructor Christine Wang (R) smiles at first graders in Potomac, Maryland 18 November, 2005 during a Chinese Emigrant Program that teaches the Chinese language to school age children.

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Face is very important for the Chinese, at least the older generation. When I was running a series recalling 40 years since 1962 for rediff.com, I was keen on getting a Chinese perspective. Among others, a senior scholar from a Chinese thinktank agreed, but cancelled at the last minute because he had to prepare for a conference in Singapore. I wrote back saying that while I understood his compulsions, I would lose face, because I had promised my editor that I would have him write for us. Within half an hour, the professor’s secretary called to say I could expect the article later in the evening, since the professor had cancelled his flight to Singapore, because he did not want me to lose face because of him!

As far as 'interest' goes, I had the fortune of spending a lot of time with the late Mr JN Dixit, former foreign secretary and National Security Adviser. As the NSA, he led the Indian side at the fourth round of high-level talks on the border issue with Dai Bingguo, the Chinese Executive Vice-Foreign Minister and Special Representative on the border issue in Beijing. On his return, I recall him saying: 'I say, these Chinese chaps have really done their homework. Why can’t we?'

But that is easier said than done. How, for instance, does one deal with the classic Chinese game of maps?

'I want Tawang. So let’s lay claim to the entire Arunachal Pradesh, and then negotiate backwards, all the while making it seem like I am one making the concessions...'

'I want a few islands in the South China Sea, so let’s stake claim to the entire sea….' Which is what Beijing has done with a map called the 9dash9 map, comprising dashes staking claim to 9 segments of the sea.

Image: Indian Army personnel light candles in memory of those soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the 1962 Indo-China war at the Tawang War Memorial in Arunachal Pradesh on October 20, 2012.

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Of course, another reason why we are struggling to understand China is the lack of information that comes out from it. Despite that great equalizer, the Internet, and the powerful influence of social media, China still remains a comparatively closed, insular society, and the world mostly hears what the Chinese government wants it to hear. And even then, you are expected to carefully read between the lines.

Speaking of lines, however, there is no ambiguity about the clear red lines China has drawn on what it describes as its core, non-negotiable issues: These include Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang, and perhaps tracts of the South China Sea. These are territorial and sovereign issues for which it is officially willing to go to war.

The Chinese insecurity over these is clear from the repeated assurances Beijing seeks from every capital that it adheres to the One China principle.

Beijing also has disputes over various island chains in the South China seas with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei, and of course, Japan. Extension of maritime boundaries, fishing and mining and oil exploration rights further compound these disputes.

Anti-Japanese riots erupted across China in September after Japan purchased a group of islands in the East China Sea, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, from their private owner. Violent mobs attacked Japanese-owned supermarkets, factories and car dealerships, while the local police and authorities watched. So far, Japan estimates losses of more than $100 million.'

Image: A Chinese policeman emerges from a closed Japanese restaurant covered with Chinese national flags and banners saying 'Protect my Diaoyu islands and I love China' as anti-Japanese protests continued outside the Japanese Embassy in Beijing over the Diaoyu islands issue, known as the Senkaku islands in Japanese, on September 17, 2012.

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Things calmed down somewhat after the US categorically made clear that the islands were covered under the US Japan mutual cooperation and security treaty. However, Japan cancelled a joint military drill with the US that was to have taken place this week. Part of the drill would have simulated the recapture of a remote Japanese island from a foreign invader.

Under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, the US provides Taiwan with 'arms of a defensive character', and pledges 'to maintain the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people on Taiwan.'

Given that Taiwan is on China’s list of core, non-negotiable issues, there is obviously much room for minor misunderstandings escalating into a full fledged confrontation between the US and China.

America’s Asia Pivot, announced last year by secretary of state Hillary Clinton, had added to Chinese concerns. The State Department, while stressing that this 'pivot' was now a significant feature of American foreign policy, insists that it wants to work with, not against China. 'We recognise that the Asia-Pacific region is big enough for both of us,' it says.

In response, outgoing Chinese president Hu Jintao stressed on the need for a more powerful Chinese Navy.

Image: Thai soldiers carry international flags of the participating nations as they parade during the opening ceremony for the annual combined military exercises coined Cobra Gold 2012 at Wing 1's Office Club in Nakorn Ratchasima province on February 7, 2012.

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The US, however, faces a dilemma here. Use of force would buttress the Chinese suspicions abouts hostile American intentions aimed at containing China. But not using it when required would imply that its threats were empty, and might actually drive several nations in the region under a Chinese security umbrella.

While Beijing will certainly not soften its position on the row with Tokyo, so far it appears to be wary about directly challenging Washington on security issues.

US policy on China is to engage and challenge. This is based on the belief that increasing engagement, where China is drawn into existing international financial, social and military forums and processes, would make it less likely to attack such systems. The challenges would be on issues like human rights and increasing access to China’s markets. And of course, territorial issues.

Many Chinese, however, believe the existing international systems are the thin edge of the democratic wedge, and need to be revisited factoring in Chinese interests and systems.

But is a rising China a threat?

A threat is usually defined as a combination of hostile intentions and credible capabilities.

Image: Chinese Military Policemen march past the Great Hall of the People beside Tiananmen Square in Beijing on May 16, 2012.

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But then the classic security dilemma kicks in: Even when a nation enhances its military capability in a defensive mode, its neighbours - and depending on the extent and nature of the capability, the rest of the world - feel threatened, and take countermeasures.

In other words, regardless of intentions, capabilities are a threat.

No one doubts China’s increasing economic might, and bar some major crisis, it is expected to become the world’s largest economy over the next couple of decades. It is also a nuclear weapons state, and allocating huge budgets for its military.

A candid discussion I had with a young Chinese scholar and journalist at an editor’s conference in Jakarta a couple of years ago, however, was informative.

After stating that China would consider a war only if its core interests were threatened, he went to argue that the United States was, and would continue to remain, the dominant military power for a long time. He also said conventional warfare, where you captured, secured and eventually administered 'enemy territory' was becoming increasingly redundant. After a brief discourse on asymmetrical warfare, he asked: Have you seen Die Hard 4?

This is a movie where a criminal group hacks into the American power and electronic systems, cutting off power and disrupting everything from traffic signals to the stock market’s network.

Image: International poster of the Die Hard 4.

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Last month the US House of Representatives’s Intelligence Committee warned that equipment made by Huwaei and ZTE, two Chinese electronics giants, posed a risk because it could be used to eavesdrop on America’s telecoms networks. China’s persistent attempts and advances in hacking activities pose a growing threat not just to information systems worldwide, but could disrupt or blind American intelligence and communications satellites, weapons targeting systems, and navigation computers, Bloomberg cited an anonymous US intelligence official as saying.

At a national seminar on Tech sovereignty in ICT in Delhi recently, Gen Dhruv Katoch, additional director of the Center for Land Warfare Studies, noted with concern that 60-70 per cent of telecom software used in India is manufactured by Huawei and ZTE.

Let’s now come back to India.

How does a rising China impact us? More importantly, how does it threaten us?

As rapidly growing economies, both India and China are competing for the same power and mineral resources, influence and goodwill. Not just in the region, but in Africa, in the Persian Gulf, Central Asia, Latin America.

Image: In this handout picture taken 30 October 2006, Indian Army Brigadier Sanjay Kulkarni (R) and Chinese Army Colonel Li Ming An (L) hold hands aloft during a Border Personnel Meeting (BPM) on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control at Bumla, on the India-China Border in the eastern Indian State of Arunachal Pradesh.

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Bilaterally, we have agreed to put contentious issues like the border on the backburner, while building on areas of convergence, like trade and commerce, and re-invigorating cultural ties. From a few billion dollars in 2000, bilateral trade between India and China reached a record $73.9 billion last year, with the imbalance widening to $27 billion in China’s favour. This is partly due to the restrictions following the mining scam in India, which impacted our iron ore exports. We mostly import Chinese machinery, power and telecom equipment.

By 2015, bilateral trade will cross the $100 billion mark, making China one of, if not the, largest trading partner.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has met outgoing Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao about 20 times over the past few years, including about 13 meetings with Wen.

Mahindra and Mahindra, The Tatas, Infosys, Mahindra Satyam, NIIT have all set up shop in China. We are even likely to revive our joint military exercises, which were cancelled in 2010 after the Chinese denied a visa for a defence delegation visit to the northern area commander, Lt.Gen. BS Jamwal, saying he was an administrator of 'disputed areas.'

Image: In this handout photograph released by India's Press Information Bureau (PIB) on March 29, 2012 shows President of the People’s Republic of China Hu Jintao (L) and prime minister of India Manmohan Singh shake hands after they lit the traditional lamp to launch the India-China year of friendship and cooperationon the sidelines of the BRICS Summit in New Delhi on March 29, 2012.

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Our strategic analysts point with increasing alarm to the Chinese missile bases in Tibet, the rapid infrastructure and even military exercises on the other side of our borders, and China’s increasing arc of influence in the Indian Ocean region, with friendly ports in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, the Seychelles, Maldives and stretching all the way to eastern Africa. China of course insists that this is not aimed at India, but at buttressing its energy security, given that most if the oil it imports is shipped along this route.

Our analysts also point to powerful Chinese ties with Pakistan, which has actually leased parts of Gilgit Baltistan,in the Northern Areas of Kashmir, to China. 'China has already occupied a part of Gilgit Baltistan, a little part of Hunza is under its control and Aksai Chin is also occupied,' Wajahat Hassan Khan, the chief of the Gilgit Baltistan National Alliance told ANI over phone recently.

On the flip side, the Chinese, while arming Pakistan with missiles and nuclear weapons, has studiously avoided getting directly involved in our wars with Pakistan. But that’s no guarantee that they won’t.

India has water sharing treaties with all its neighbours - Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar...all except China.

Image: Chinese President Hu Jintao (R) and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari listen to their national anthems during his welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on June 7, 2012.

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Almost all the major rivers of the subcontinent come down from the Tibetan mountains. The Indus, the Mahakali, Kosi, the Brahmaputra, which is known as Tsangpo in China. Ignoring protests from downstream nations and ecologists, Beijing is aggressively building dams in Tibet, capable of regulating Brahmaputra river flows according to China's needs. A project in eastern Tibet near Mt. Namcha Barwa, where the Tsangpo turns south to enter India, is expected to be the world's biggest hydroelectric dam, with double the capacity of the Three Gorges Dam. It will also be diverting water to China’s southwest. Another smaller project near Lhasa too will be able to control the water flow into India.

China is also funding and helping build several dams and water projects on the Indus - like the Diamer Bhasa Dam in Gilgit Baltistan - and rapidly building telecom and other dual use infrastructure in those areas.

In response to Indian objections to such projects, a Chinese website said: 'The Indian jealousy coupled with suspicion against China has lately become bigger. Firstly, India adopts precaution against the Chinese enterprises by all possible means. And then cooks up the story of an 'intrusion' along the border. Whenever China gets in touch with other neighbouring countries, it invariably triggers a series of anxiety from India.'

China has never really gotten around to forgiving us for giving refuge to the Dalai Lama in 1959. The existence of the Tibetan government in exile, headquartered out of Dharamshala, is seen as an affront by many Chinese.

Image: A Tibetan security guard armed with an AK-47 rifle patrols the new bridge across the Yalungtsangpo river, which is also known as the Brahmaputra river as it flows into India 21 August 2003, on the outskirts of Tsethang, a historic town in the Yarlung Tsangpo valley where the earliest Tibetan kings reigned some 1,300 years ago.

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The recent spate of self-immolations by Tibetans across China has added to Chinese concerns. More than 20 such deaths have taken place since November 1, including at least one woman and a 14 year old boy. This has raised the Chinese sensitivity towards anything that smacks of what it describes as 'splittist' tendencies in Tibet.

But China’s strategic aims are not limited to the region alone.

Let me take you to nine volcanic islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, midway between North America and Europe. About 1,500 km from Lisbon and 2,000 km from Newfoundland, Canada, these islands form the Autonomous Region of the Azores, one of the two autonomous regions of Portugal.

At 8.30 am on June 27, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s Boeing 747 landed at Air Base number 4 on the island of Terceira to refuel. He was returning to Beijing after a fairly successful official trip to Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile. After being formally received by Alamo Meneses, the regional secretary of environment of the sea, Wen went on a walkabout, having coffee with the residents of the sleepy little town, talking about bull-fighting, the European economy, and of course China. He broke into a loud laugh when an old timer, asked about his impression of China, replied 'very mysterious.'

'China’s reform and opening up 30 years, it is no longer a mystery,' said Wen, urging the gathering to visit his country.

Image: Tibetan exile Jamphel Yeshi, 27, runs as he is engulfed in flames after he set himself on fire during a protest in New Delhi on March 26, 2012.

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A geologist who worked for 14 years with a provincial geological survey, Wen also discussed the volcanic status of the islands, and ways to generate energy from the seabed.

But what was the premier of an aspiring superpower really doing in those remote islands?

Simple: Air Base number 4, also known as Lages Airbase, jointly operated by Portugal and the United States Air Force.

This is an important refueling station for aircraft that can't clear the Atlantic Ocean in a single shot, and the played a critical role during the two Gulf Wars.

Here’s what Gordon Chang, author of The Coming Collapse of China, said in an article titled Red Flag over the Atlantic: 'Peace in the North Atlantic and advances in air-to-air refueling have decreased the importance of the strategic runway, which is now rarely used by the US. Pentagon budget cutters, according to some observers, are planning to make Lajes a 'ghost base.'

This would obviously impact the local economy, which depends a lot on servicing the Americans on the base.

Image: Omae Kenichi (R), the Japanese author who stirred up a controversy by suggesting that Taiwan should unify with China in 2003, shakes hands with Gordon Chang, a Chinese American writer who made a gloomy prediction of China's fall in his book titled 'The Coming Collapse of China,' during a dialogue meet in Taipei, 02 April 2003.

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'If China controlled the base, the Atlantic would no longer be secure,' writes Chang. 'From the 10,865-foot runway on the northeast edge of the island, Chinese planes could patrol the northern and central portions of the Atlantic and thereby cut air and sea traffic between the U.S. and Europe. Beijing would also be able to deny access to the nearby Mediterranean Sea. And China could target the American homeland. Lajes is less than 2,300 miles from New York, shorter than the distance between Pearl Harbor and Los Angeles…'

Regardless of whether the Chinese eventually get a foothold in the Azores, the message going out to the Americans is clear: You mess in my backyard, we’ll mess in yours.

Compare that with the weak-kneed power projections that India has displayed so far.

Here’s what Arundhati Ghose, one of India’s finest diplomats, and the lady who bluntly told the United States what it could do with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996, once told me:

'I don't think we have a sense that we are a more powerful country today, I don't see that. Because I don't think we yet understand power. I don't think we understand power at all. Economically, today we have more power, relatively, compared to what we had 10 or 20 years ago. But we do not understand it. We do not how to use it, we don't know how to project it, we are uncomfortable with it. We are more comfortable with the powerless. If you have power, you have to be able to use it, to leverage it. Be very clear about what it is you want. Whether you are dealing with Bangladesh or with Sri Lanka. How is it that Sri Lanka, which is so closely intertwined with us because of the Tamils, it's just across the straits, and we sit here and let the Norwegians handle it?'

Image: Indian disarmament negotiator Arundhati Ghose (C) shown in photo dated 10 September 1996 watching with other delegates to the United Nations as votes on a global nuclear test-ban treaty are collected at UN headquarters.

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This was true six years ago, when she gave me this interview, and it’s probably true now.

Predictions about international affairs is a mug’s game, particularly in today’s rapidly changing situations. Over the past quarter century, we have predictions about the rise of Russia, the decline of the United States, the rise of China and the rise of India.

Over the next decade, I suspect China will increasingly start asserting itself in the region, pushing the envelope against the US. We in India are likely to see more incursions across the line of control, and increasing pressure over Arunachal and the Dalai Lama.

Here’s what we need to, not one after the other, but in parallel:

1) Invest intelligence, resources, and thought on understanding the Chinese culture, its way of thinking, the influences behind its strategic philosophy.

2) Clearly define and announce our own non-negotiable, core interests. Over which we are willing to go to war.

3) Push for a water treaty with China.

4) Invest resources and forces to ramp up our ability along all our borders.

5) Avoid being promoted as a western 'counterweight' to China

6) Keep stressing on the Pakistani links to terror in Xinjiang, and the advantages of good economic relations with India.

Because in today’s world, speaking softly while carrying a big stick is not enough. It is important to be able - and seen as being able - to wield that stick when needed.



Image: Indian army soldiers present arms at a war memorial during 'Vijay Diwas' (or victory day celebration) at a military garrison in Srinagar on July 26, 2012.