Monday, November 14, 2011


By Chitranjan Sawant
Chinese PLA and Indian Army are likely to hold joint military exercises towards the end of 2012. Fine. China is holding joint military exercises with Pakistan near Islamabad close to the Indian borders this year in 2011. The scale of the latter is fairly big and that of the former may pale into insignificance unless the Dragon takes corrective measures to offer flowers of friendship to the Elephant. The Chinese troops are already stationed in the Pakistan occupied Kashmir in appreciable numbers. The pretext is to provide relief to the quake-hit region but in reality it is to augment the Pakistan's defences and make a quick deployment of Chinese land forces across Pakistan up to the Gwadar port in Baluchistan province. The large size port where some of the biggest ships and tankers may berth, unload and load fresh cargoes is being built by China. There is no such long term cooperation between the two armies favouring India. The Chinese monopoly of building many big ports in different countries like Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka besides Pakistan is seen by strategists as a master military plan of China to encircle India and paralyse her sea power at a short notice
Let us not be trapped by the Dragon and be taken in for its exhibition of skin-deep acquaintance and lower our guards. A word of caution to the Indian diplomats and politicians will be in order at this point of time. Please do not be carried away by the Chinese smiles and take it as a prelude to a kiss of friendship. It will be a fatal mistake like that of Nehru in 1962 when he was lured by sweet talks of Chou Enlai and lost both troops and territory besides facing ignominy of a humiliating defeat in NEFA, present Arunachal Pradesh.
The Chinese diplomacy at a higher plane is just placating India with a minor military exercise to offset the hurt caused by a major military handshake between Beijing and Islamabad. Both China and Pakistan are on record to say that there all-weather friendship is time tested. They have stood by each other through thick and thin. However, it would be pertinent to recall that in the 1971 India-Pakistan war, Pakistan kept on looking across the Himalayas towards China hoping that the Dragon would breathe fire to browbeat the Elephant but was deeply disappointed when the Dragon kept itself within its international borders. At the same time it would be an ostrich-like thinking that India faces no danger from China when the latter has gifted some military hardware, including fighter jets to Pakistan. Further the whole world knows that detonating an atomic device close on the heels of Indi was beyond the capabilities of Pakistan if China had not helped her beyond limits of proliferation of atomic power for making bombs and instruments of aggression.
On the other hand India neither asked for nor received any military hardware from China. The military parade of China on the occasion of 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China proved to the world that China is no more a sleeping giant as was predicted by Napoleon Bonaparte who had cautioned the global population that the day China wakes up, the world would be sorry. Who knows it better than India, a country with a bad taste in the mouth after suffering a major defeat at the hands of the Chinese in 1962. In the Chinese scheme of global diplomacy and show of military power, India is on the periphery as a nation divided against its own people. By the way, in the said debate that ensued in New Delhi after the Henderson-Brooks report was submitted that Indian troops were ill trained, ill clothed and ill armed when they went into battle.
China and Pakistan never fought a war against each other. The only hitch in developing a strong friendship between China and Pakistan is: Chinese love to eat pork and Pakistanis detest the sight of it. Can a pork eater and a pork hater embrace each other after a sumptuous pork meal consumed with relish by the Chinese guests? One wonders what the outcome would be. And yet the Chinese and Pakistanis are friends because they have a common enemy-India.
How strange but how true that India and China did not hold joint military exercises during Nehru-Chou days of Hindi-Cheeni Bhai-Bhai. The emphasis was on the Panchsheel or Peaceful Co-existence. It was in 2004 that the first bilateral military exercise was held in Kunming, China. The Chinese govt hosted the Indian Army contingents on its soil for the first time that year. India reciprocated in 2008 by holding the Hand-in-Hand exercise, as the war game was named, at Belgaum in 2008. Now in late 2012, perhaps in December it should be held in China. The exact date and place will be decided later. In the intervening years the military contact was frozen after China vetoed grant of Visa to Lt Gen BS Jaswal, the then Army Commander Northern Command for flimsy reason that the General was commanding forces in the so called disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir. There was a thaw in the cold relationship after a delegation of the People’s Liberation Army paid an official visit to India.
Perhaps it would be a little premature to say what the level of the 2012 joint exercises would be. Nevertheless, we should hope that holding a military to military contact between the two countries would be a step forward that would spell peace and tranquillity on the borders and among the troops of both countries standing eye ball to eyeball at many places and mountain passes. The previous two joint military exercises, one at Kunming and the other at Belgaum were just to assure each other that our intentions were pious. That is all; because there was no strategy worth debating or large scale logistics involved to pose a challenge of Himalayan dimensions.
It would be appropriate to hold the joint exercises at a higher level and on a larger scale so that the general officers are set thinking about each other’s strategy and the larger question of maintenance at high altitude and means of transportation as well as effectiveness of personal weapons of Jawans and booming of big guns come into play. The taste of pudding lies in eating it and unless the spirit of friendship of higher command is time-tested, small war games would just be like offering lollipops to future adversaries.
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