Parallels are rife between the India-China border war of 1962 and the current border standoff in eastern Ladakh. The border war was preceded by a rash of statements not backed by military capabilities on the ground. As Indian troops were overrun in what is now Arunachal Pradesh, the government kept the Indian Air Force, then among the most effective in Asia, out of the conflict.
The IAF could’ve bought the beleaguered Army time if its jets had struck the PLA’s supply lines (the PLA did not bring aircraft to the conflict). The IAF was kept out because of a misplaced fear of Chinese bombers attacking Calcutta. The situation on the ground today is different. Two infantry divisions and special forces were pushed into the frontier to block off adventurism. IAF warplanes and gunships appeared in the skies over eastern Ladakh when the national security establishment realised the Chinese gameplan of a brazen alteration of the LAC. Some of this was signalling as the fighters would be more effective flying off the plains from bases like Ambala rather than high-altitude runways at Leh which degrade their performance.
Two US carrier battle groups manoeuvred in the South China Sea in a show of support. New Delhi has to ensure that China’s disengagement in eastern Ladakh doesn’t solidify into a ‘two-step forward, one step back’ high altitude salami slicing. The 2020 standoff will not lead to an Indo-US military alliance but it will deepen the existing strategic partnership between the two countries. New Delhi will want to plug holes in its intelligence analysis capabilities. The intelligence sharing between the two countries that have so far remained confined to the maritime realm could likely extend to the continental sphere where the US has formidable remote sensing capabilities, platforms and skillsets.
After the 1962 war, India worked hard to build military muscle and improve intelligence capabilities. One agency – the Directorate General of Security (DGS) with a covert paramilitary unit, technical intelligence assets and guerrilla force — was set up with assistance from the CIA and found rare acknowledgement recently. In a foreword to Nitin Gokhale’s biography of R&AW founder RN Kao Gentleman Spymaster last December, Doval hailed Rao as “one of the founding fathers of the DGS in the aftermath of the disastrous Sino-Indian conflict in 1962.”
(Courtesy of Mail Today)