Friday, October 27, 2017

Chinese Armor Bde digs in near Doklam Plateau

(painfully rubbing my forehead).

At the height of the Doklam crises earlier this year, we began to see photos appear in various social media of a PLAGF military exercise [1] in outer Tibet. The exercise sought to examine the ability of a PLAGF formation to operate at >5000 m ASL. As you can see in the video, the PLAGF troops are practicing ways to attack bunkers on adverse slopes using infantry assaults and stand-off weapons.

Not long afterwards, images and videos surfaced on Twitter of a PLAGF armored squadron moving south of Damxung towards Lhasa - right beside Tibetan railway line. If you looked at that movie, it becomes pretty clear that unit was driving to a fight. The soldiers looked alert and the APCs were moving under their own power. Given how long of a drive it is, you wonder why PLAGF would want to put so many miles on their APCs. If it was just routine - they would  have arranged for rail transport or used trucks. The fact they were driving in the APCs meant that there was no time to go through the usual process. This suggested that the PLAGF felt the threat was emergent.

At around the same time, a lot of loose talk began to emerge on Indian social media of the IA seizing the Chumbi valley. Given that IA lines of communication in the Doklam area are short, this kind of threat was highly credible. At the time, I had become highly alarmed by this talk and where I saw it, I tried to stop it. I felt that even if the IA was only joking, the PLAGF would have no choice but to take that threat seriously.

Given how the Doklam standoff dragged on, the Bhakts pushed ever more aggressive positions vis-a-vis China and that led to a difficult situation. Chinese analysts could have been forgiven for thinking that the Modi regime was keen on picking a fight. In a bid to douse the runaway perception that a Chinese threat was imminent, someone in the Indian national security community gave an interview to the Indian press. In this interview, the anonymous source stated that the bridges on the Tsang Po river were being watched and that no movement south of the Lhasa bowl had been detected. This piece of information helped calm frayed nerves (of people like me). It told me that the situation was not as escalatory as I had originally thought and the IAF still had the option of taking out the bridges.

Using this piece of information and the Chinese posture reversal, the Modi Bhakts were able to project the entire Doklam situation as a glorious victory for Modi. AND (this is where it hurts the most) - I actually believed that was *essentially* true.

Even though it looked like the possibility of an escalation had waned, I worried about the fate of India friendly Tibetans in the Lhasa area. With an armor brigade parked in the Lhasa bowl, there would be tremendous pressure on those guys. I felt it would become difficult for them to operate freely and radiate information about PLAGF posture in the region as security would become tightened. With all the assurances emanating from Delhi, I felt I must be wrong, perhaps more advanced multi-spectral imaging would reduce the dependence on such sources.

Now out of the blue - a PLAGF brigade has materialized and dug in just north of Doklam[2]. And what is more important is that neither the IAF nor the NTRO nor the DIA nor the RAW raised an alarm when this unit moved across the Tsang Po! or made it's way so far south.

We have an entire PLAGF armor bde sitting with support elements including AD assets far south of Xigaze.

I am left confronting extremely uncomfortable questions - clearly I was stupid to believe that the situation was contained and that escalation had capped off but
  1. Was the initial assurance about surveillance deliberately crafted to make Modi look good? or
  2. Was information about this Bde crossing the Tsang Po suppressed for Modi's political benefit?
I have generally (and publicly) felt that Modi was at best mediocre when it came to national security issues. In his speeches he demonstrates a clear lack of understanding of the fundamentals of the complex issues India faces. In Gujarat - his "Hindu Hitman" image building (which was critical for him overcoming the local caste divide in Gujarati politics),  actually made physical security and counter-subversion extremely challenging. I was deeply unhappy about the manner in which SIB resources and double-cross operations had been subverted by Amit Shah to make it look like Modi was some kind of Security-God. It smacked of the stuff that Ariel Sharon would pull form time to time. And quite frankly killing random Muslims for the amusement of Bhakts and other fools is really disgusting.

But like most people I have held on to the hope that the machinery of the government was strong enough to make up for Modi's personal deficiencies. I - like - so many others put faith in the idea of NSA Ajit Doval.

My confidence in Sri. Doval has taken a hit over the years

1) I was stunned by his inability to speak truth to power on the demonetization issue.
2) I was disturbed by the Paras being unable to provide proof-of-kill during the "cross border raids". That just smacked of an operation focused on optics and not on substantial threat reduction.
3) I was shocked when Gen(r) Syed Ata Hasnain had to keep reminding people about the patriotism of Muslims. If an officer of his standing has to do this, what can an ordinary Muslim expect?

And now I am searching for answers about this Doklam fiasco.

So - why was an alert not sounded *before* the PLAGF unit positioned itself?

Inte door aane kyon diya unko? Vitasta paar aaye kaise yeh log? 

(Why did you let them come so far? How did they cross the Vitasta?*)

*The Vitasta is a psychological barrier in the Indian strategic mindset. Crossing the Vitasta is akin to the Roman phrase "Crossing the Rubicon".


At 4:17 PM, Blogger Ralphy said...

it's because the barfites are so smart and everyone else is just so damn dumb, you see? called believing your own propaganda. chinese can't hold a candle to modi's determination, etc, ad nauseum.

I still don't think the chinese are planning on attacking. however I don't see them backing off either. far from it.

word of advice. they do fear trade sanctions and banking restrictions. duh.

At 4:21 PM, Blogger Ralphy said...

At 5:48 AM, Blogger maverick said...

The Bhakts today are mirroring the behavior of Nehruvian cultists in 1962. The sun must shine out of Modi's posterior because where else could it rise from?

Rather than take a nuanced and informed position on key national security issues, they are resorting to the worship of a human being.

Worshiping a human being is impossible on account of their real frailties. So a legend of an uber-mensch has substituted the man himself.

In their rush to condemn Jawarharlal Nehru and all things Gandhi Family - they have fallen at the feet of another another false God.

This is madness, and I fail to understand how seasoned intelligence and military professionals in India in this day and age are going along with this.

It is extremely lucky that the entire episode at Doklam was resolved with a serious loss of life. Now things are going to be much harder to cap off. The next round will be written in blood.


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