New Delhi: Memories of Sino-Indian War of 1962 are still afresh. There had been considerable debate on the aspect as who was responsible for the outbreak of a war. Different authorities at different times tried to produce their own versions but in the entire history we could not find a single version agreed by both parties. The very first reason of the dispute was that these borders were drawn only on Maps & no efforts were made until 1956 to physically occupy these territories by any of the country. Secondly none of the country agreed to each other’s territorial maps. Also Read - Amid India-China Border Dispute, Army Rushes Tanks, Heavy Weaponry, Ammunition to LAC | WATCH
This resulted in the situation in Eastern Ladakh today. Also Read - With no Respite at India-China Border, Indian Army Gets Combat Ready For Long Winters in Ladakh
1962 and Now
Lot of water has flown in the Ganges & Huang-Ho since 1962. Things have changed & India has become a formidable power in South Asia in terms of Economy as well as Military Might. This can be brought out by a simple fact that while during 1962 war, there were just an Infantry Brigade plus a field Artillery Battery holding the entire eastern Ladakh area , today we have a formidable “Fire & Fury Corps” guarding the frontiers in this area in addition to a sector of Indo-Tibetan Border Police.
I would like to bring out ten aspects that give Indian Army an upper hand to the Chinese Forces in this area: –
- Terrain- With an average altitude ranging from 14000 feet to 17000 feet terrain causes major limitations to any force. Air operations become difficult & movement in restricted. It puts the onus of victory on the soldier himself. Indian Troops have been operating in such terrain for over six decades. Out of all infantry soldiers in the Indian Army, everyone gets minimum 1-2 chances to serve in Ladakh area as well as Siachen Glacier.
- Weather- Temperatures going below -20 degree centigrade, Oxygen levels falling below critical, unpredictable weather, snow blizzards, landslides, Flash floods & hard ice makes the life of man & equipment’s miserable here. Indian Forces have derived unique ways & means to survive in such terrain. If you go to any high-altitude post, you will find different versions of improvised equipment’s. Some of them will surprise you. Same is not with China.
- Well-developed communication network- In last two decades- especially in last six years, India has developed a vast network of all-weather roads, tracks & communication channels to connect its border outposts in this area. On the contrary- Chinese all weather connectivity is limited to its China National Highway 219 and most of the lateral roads connecting NH 219 to its border outposts are fair weather only. Its interesting to note that since most of the Chinese helicopters do not permit high altitude flying, hence air maintenance becomes difficult for them.
- Training in mountain warfare- Surprisingly, China does not have even a single specialised training centre for training in Mountain Warfare. India, on the contrary has three major institutions- High Altitude Warfare School- Gulmarg (HAWS), Parvat Ghatak School- Tawang & Siachen Battle School – Partapur. Every Indian Soldier attends at least one of them in his lifetime.
- Doctrine & processes- After Operation Vijay of 1999, Indian Army learnt valuable lessons related to Mountain Warfare. Today, we have a well-defined doctrine to mountain warfare which we have been practicing for over three decades. We have created a dedicated Mountain Strike Corps. China till date does not have any doctrine or even experience to operate in high altitude zones.
- Equipment- Most of the equipment of Indian Army is tried & tested in alpine warfare. Tanks, Armoured Personal Carriers, Artillery Guns, Rockets, Missiles & communication equipment’s are all fit to be operated in up to -50-degree Celsius temperature. We do manufacture most of the equipment like ECC Clothing, Mountaineering kit & specialised devices right here in India. Most of the Chinese equipment are reverse engineered copy of Russian equipment & never tested under such extreme environmental conditions.
- Troops- India predominantly has mountain troops which constitute a large part of Indian Army. These are Ladakhi, Gurkha, Dogra, Kashmiri, Garhwali, Kumaoni, Assamese, Naga & Manipuri soldiers who are born & bought up in mountains & extremely fit to operate in such harsh conditions. On the other hand- Chinese troops are primarily from Han community which is settled in plains.
- Special Frontier Force– SFF or Vikas is a game changer. While most of the information about these ghost warriors is secret, we know that these are Tibetan warriors mostly from Kham region trained to the tunes of Special Forces. They are expert mountaineers & guerrilla warfare specialist. I recall that during Operation Vijay, these legendary warriors were called to fix ropes while climbing several hundred meters tall ice walls. They did it in no time and that too in the pitch-dark night. No one can match their skill levels.
- Taste of Victory- This is an important aspect. Leaving apart 1962 skirmishes, Indian Army has been victorious in every War was it fought since independence. Such things keep the morale of the troops high which leads to a decisive victory.
- Significance of the area- Last but not the least, the region has different significance for India & China. While for China, it’s just a matter of territorial expansion & ego, India takes it as a matter of territorial as well as cultural integrity & national Pride.
Going through these aspects once again, any military strategist will be able to derive the fact that coming winters are going to be difficult for occupying Chinese soldiers. Time will tell how they are going to sustain in such terrain for next six months. India has an upper hand and an opportunity window. Now or never. Political leadership must take a call.
(Amit Bansal is is a Defence Strategist with keen interests in International Relations and Internal Security. He is also an author, blogger and poet.)
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of India.com. The writer is solely responsible for any claims arising out of the contents of this article.