India-China standoff: Use Dogra Maps and Game Theory

Delhi Jul 07, 2020, 03.20 PM(IST) Written By: Gautam Mukherjee

India China clash Photograph:( Reuters )

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China has been playing the same game for long. Its earlier annexation of Indian Akshai Chin and part of the Siachen glacier needs consolidation.

The fresh news is that China has agreed to pull back to its side of the LAC from the positions inside Indian territory. That is, if it doesn’t renege, or interminably drag its feet or play victim cum fresh aggressor. India is ordering winter tents and cold weather clothes for its troops in any case. It will never again leave the LAC demilitarised with a few soldiers on patrol duties. 

But what about all the encroachment through the decades? During the Khalistan agitation, for example. And the building of a road to the Pangong Tso, and black-topping it, taking advantage of the distractions of the Kargil War.   

The Chinese don’t accept the McMahon Line. They don’t accept other British era maps either. Instead, they talk of ancient claims. They have refused to settle the border since 1949. There are wide variations between the Indian and Chinese positions. They claim the entire state of Arunachal Pradesh. Our LAC stretches to nearly 4,000 km. The Chinese LAC is only 2,200 km. long.  

The bullying and arrogance has been immense, but India in 2020, may have finally reached its tipping point in offering a military challenge. The all-weather tunnels, roads, bridges and rail have almost caught up on our side. High altitude regiments are battle fit. 

To counter Chinese prevarication at future border talks, we must point out that two can play this game. India must have the confidence to dust off the Dogra Maps of the erstwhile Kingdom of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), to assert claims to what has long been Indian territory. This excellent negotiating point and possible war of the maps were made by prominent strategic thinker Shakti Sinha in a recent article. 

China had come to a Mexican standoff, much to its surprise. Its latest multiple but shallow intrusions have gained it nothing except the distinct possibility of imminent, no-holds-barred war. And this possibility will hover in the air from now onwards alongside economic sanctions and boycotts. 

What worked very well for Red China in the capture of thousands of kilometres of Indian territory since the 1950s, has been thwarted this time at Ladakh. Just as it was in Doklam in Bhutan, and at Nathu La at Sikkim, recently.   

A war of attrition is the inevitable next step with India unwilling to concede. And this will have to come to settle India’s territorial claims. China and satellite Pakistan will be forced to defend its mutual position or capitulate. And India has to take back the territory or lose it forever. It will also come under increasing pressure in future unless it fights for what belongs to it. Talks are not seen as sincere by either side but must go on for form’s sake. They are being used only to gain time, look for a strategic opening, and prepare the military machine.  

A war is coming, in which the Chinese are likely to suffer a large number of casualties, irrespective of what they are able to inflict on the Indians. And, this time, they cannot be sure whether they will gain or lose territory. India is going on the offensive. It will take back PoK and Gilgit Baltistan. Strategic depth in the Ladakh theatre is also desirable to protect this interconnected restoration.  

China has been playing the same game for long. Its earlier annexation of Indian Akshai Chin and part of the Siachen glacier needs consolidation. It has built roads into the adjoining province of Xinjiang. The road ranges from the Indian owned Karakoram Pass, a mere 10 km away from the Indian high altitude airport at Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO).  

It goes, via Xinjiang into the Khunjerab Pass that lets out into Gilgit-Baltistan, which is, once again occupied Indian territory. Another road leads from China to Tibet passing throughout on Indian territory.  

India has recently completed connector roads and bridges to DBO in the face of Chinese protests, and can now swiftly mobilise its armed forces. Just as China can, on its side of the LAC.  

China’s incursions and persistent land grabs have indeed been aided by the development of extensive infrastructure and roads over the years. It has become so adept at this process that it has also made bold to throw up roads and check posts on the Indian side whenever it could.  

In-Game Theory there is a situation called The Prisoner’s Dilemma. A couple has been caught by the police for a suspected robbery in a stolen car. The police are trying to extract confessions. If one of the prisoners confess to the robbery, the other one goes free. If both refuse to confess they get equal sentences. If neither confesses, they can still be convicted for stealing the car. But the sentence for stealing a car which has been recovered is much less. What should the Red Chinese do, given that it is cornered? The world is fed up with it, and is breathing down its neck at the South China Sea, in Taiwan and the Malacca Straits as well. The intimidation bluff is not working any more.     

Lao Tzu’s Art of War has animated Communist China’s military strategy. The process was vastly aided by going back on solemn treaties, subterfuge, treachery, sudden stabs in the back, as in 1962. It resulted in a bonanza of consolidation.  

Once such deeds are done, Red China uses a flurry of propaganda, misinformation, outright lies, mirroring what happened, with the culprits reversed. That China makes preposterous claims when it only grabbed Tibet in 1950, is remarkable. It is undeniable that it is Tibet that has always bordered Ladakh.  

Mao swiftly took Tibet after coming to power in 1949. India was foolish enough to agree to this without demur. But the young Dalai Lama, who lives in India still after 61 years, had to flee to save his life in 1959. He and the Tibetan people, both in-country and in exile, have been experiencing the extent of what Red Chinese protection means ever since.  

This imperialist and crafty process is in keeping with the tenets of the Art of War.  The treatise’s greatest claim to fame is its advice on how to be victorious without getting down to actual combat. But its teachings work best when the enemy is caught napping and there is no resolute and credible challenge.  

The intimidation as policy came unstuck at Galwan on the 15th of June 2020. Reports coming from China now say up to 100 Chinese soldiers were killed by Indian troops in hand-to-hand combat. What will be the consequence of a battle-hardened and well equipped Indian military, taking on a largely conscripted Peoples Liberation Army (PLA), apparently superior in equipment, but manned by soldiers who have never seen battle? We are soon going to find out. 

 (Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)