Thursday, December 15, 2016

Today’s India in not the India of the 1950s

Gen Zhao Zongqi with the Indian Army Chief
Gen Zhao Zongqi is a rising star of the People’s Liberation Army. He spent most of his military carrier in Tibet where he occupied different posts before being transferred as chief of staff of the Jinan Military Region (MR) in December 2007. Later he commanded the MR where he got promoted to the rank of full general. On February 1, 2016, he returned to the Indian borders, now called the Western Theater Command, regrouping the erstwhile Lanzhou and Chengdu MRs, which face India from Ladakh to Arunachal.
As Gen Zhao arrived in Delhi, it is interesting to have a look at the latest developments in the fields of defense in China …and in India.
A year ago President Xi Jinping undertook in-depth military reforms.
Beijing often speaks of the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation in which military power will play a crucial role.
On December 31, 2015, new services were created, namely, the PLA Army, the PLA Rocket Force and the PLA Strategic Support Force and a few weeks later, the seven erstwhile Military Regions were regrouped into five PLA Theater Commands.
On December 5 in Beijing, President Xi Jinping, who is also Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) attended a two-day meeting during which he called for “a smaller army with better combat capability and optimized structure.” Some 230 high-ranking military officials as well as the 11 CMC members were in attendance.
Xinhua remarked: “China has entered a key stage of transforming itself from a big country to a strong power, which calls for greater courage in advancing military reform.”
The creation of a PLA Strategic Support Force is a plunge into the future as it will deal with cyber and space warfare, probably the keys of tomorrow’s conflicts.
This reminded me ‘reforms’ undertaken by India in the 1950s. During a Defense Council meeting on July 3, 1953, Nehru decided that “the Army was to reduce its strength yearly by a minimum of 10,000 personnel for the next five years.” The Indian leadership wanted a smaller army  …without better combat capability!
The Army Headquarters had to work out a rundown programme of approximately 11,500 per year. The proposals envisaged a 5% reduction in establishments spread over the first two years and the disbandment of a certain number of units during the following three years.
According to a note prepared by by Major General J.N. Chaudhuri, the Chief of General Staff (later Army Chief) and passed by Prime Minister Nehru: “The opinion of Army Headquarters is that while the 5% cut spread over two years will not materially affect the effectiveness of the Army, there will certainly be a loss of morale if approximately 23,000 personnel are sent out and establishments reduced while aid to Pakistan is being discussed.”
The US was then actively supporting a stronger Pakistani Army.
A year later, M.K. Vellodi, the Defense Minister agreed to implement the proposal: “The budget for the next year has been framed on the basis that there will be a reduction of the order of 10,000 men next year as decided by Government already.”
It added: “this reduction should be effected not by disbanding any unit but by effecting about 2 ½ % reduction in the strength of units.”
The same month, the infamous Panchsheel Agreement was signed.
Today, things have changed; the old pacifist mindset has gone. India’s leadership has realized that the best way to bring peace is to be ready for any situation. A few examples will show the importance of preparedness as a deterrent to war.
In August 2016, Delhi decided to deploy the 4th regiment of BrahMos Missile in Arunachal Pradesh. The Cabinet Committee on Security approved the raising of a new regiment of an advanced version of the missile to be deployed in the north-eastern State at a cost of Rs. 4300 crore. The regiment is to be equipped with five autonomous missile launchers with command post and 100 BrahMos missiles. This does not amuse the Chinese who have taken note.
A month earlier, T-72 Russian-origin tanks were inducted in Eastern Ladakh facing China: “This adds a new dimension to any future war in the area that is marked by an average height of 14,000 feet, where oxygen is scarce,” says The Tribune. According to The Daily Excelsior published from Jammu, for the Indian Army “the move is part of the winter drill to validate the capability of the tanks at such heights and is not an inimical move against China.”
On November 8, for the first time, the Indian Air Force successfully carried out a test landing and take-off of C-17 Globemaster-III at Mechuka’s Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) in Arunachal Pradesh. Mechuka is strategically located just 29 km from the border.
After the upgradation of Mechuka's ALG, the giant Boeing C-17 could land. It should eventually ensure transport of men and material in the remote border village of West Siang district, which was invaded by the Chinese in 1962.
Arunachal will soon have seven ALGs in Walong, Mechuka , Vijaynagar, Tuting, Pasighat, Ziro and Aalo and later one in Tawang.
Other good news: India did not back down when confronted by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is Demchok village in South-East Ladakh. The national press reported that the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the Indian Army were caught for three days in an eyeball to eyeball situation with PLA on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Demchok. In April, the residents of Demchok had appealed to the Deputy Commissioner in Leh for their resettlement elsewhere in the district because of continuous obstructions to any developmental work in the area by the Chinese troops.
This time India did not blink.
We could multiply the examples.
These are important messages for General Zhao to take back home: today’s India is not the same as in the 1950s.

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