Tuesday, 7 May 2013

InfoWar Lessons from PLA LAC Violation in Ladakh

The Chinese LAC violation in Ladakh has been discussed threadbare. Doves, hawks, fence sitters, all have had a go, with cliched results. The Indian media has been predictable in its herd stories, reproducing mindless official statements, when and if, they arrived, verbatim, without application of mind or intellect. Or asking inconvenient questions, the lifeblood of good strategic journalism.

India's muscular response in Sumdorong Chu was far more practiced and coherent, than the squatting by PLA in the windswept Depsang Flats, in DBO. Sumdorong Chu yielded results! This was not under the current media glare in SSN/DBO. Nor did it face social media whiplash! Yet somehow, it delivered the background desirable for Indian foreign policy goals. 

The full rollout of Operation Falcon still not sanctioned by the Indian Government must be implemented in all its facets, lessons learnt must be put to use in other such sectors, seeing such skirmishing and LAC violations by the PLA.

In direct contrast to Sumdorong Chu and the Zimithang Brigade level Airlift in response to a similar Chinese incursion, in DBO, the payload of the Chinese was not in the violation of LAC but in Information Warfare. 

The fear struck UPA from MEA, to the NSA pretender in PMO, as well as the Military hating Saint in the MoD, all sat quiet, paralysed in silent geriatric freakout, for a week into the media exposure of the PLA violation, 19Kms into the Indian side of the LAC. 

The Social Media on the other hand had a field day, keeping the generally pet print and broadcast media honest in their gravy train reporting. From Politicians, to bureaucrats in the MEA, MoD and MHA, as well as the NSA Office in the PMO, all were hauled over coals, for sins of commission or omission. 

This is the information age, and the age of information warfare, and the age of social media, where burying your head in sand, long practiced by the pigeons, both in mandarins and politicians, conditioned by a Nehruvian Socialism, and its crusty Strategic Restraint Doctrine, that simply does not work anymore, nor does it make the Chinese cat go away.

As India's strategic leadership buried their heads in sand, Beijing used the characteristic, PLA refined, Red Banner pictorial imagery to seed messaging, which was lapped up greedily by the information vacuum afflicted Indian media. 

This was classic psychological warfare fuelling India's fear psychosis against China, post 1962 a regular relapse, despite the better equipped, trained and battle tested Indian Armed Forces. 

The Indian Army Chief has lost face due a very recent statement, where he was gratuitous in proffering that China was not a threat. The PLA came in, all of a platoon, and made India dismantle its Chumar border post, used to surveil the Karakoram Highway. 

The Indian government submitted, agreed to a self-injurious moratorium on sharing movement of Indian border patrols, while seeking to spin the necessity as a virtue to the home grown and pliable Indian press. 

It grovelled for Chinese complicity in official statements on the 'deal' in DBO, and without an escalation or even firing a shot. It was Checkmate. Game Over! 

The fallout from the Indian strategic establishment's sudden death at DBO has placed an unnecessary burden on Indian border patrols in the sector meant to check such intrusions through an element of surprise, already hard to achieve in such inhospitable windswept high altitude desert border areas. 

This is especially harmful to Indian security preparedness along the LAC, and unfathomably, self defeating given the Chinese military build-up. With metalled roads and airfields, armour, logistics right at the Chinese side of the intentionally vague LAC.

India's submission at DBO, has further put under a cloud India's border infrastructure buildup effort. From roads, to airfields, bunkers to defences, supply lines and other valid military preparedness on the Indian side of the LAC has all become vulnerable to random Chinese protest, while their own border defences continue unhindered.

As a corollary, the treatment of Ladakh and Arunachal as vassal states must stop. The blacking out of bad news and hiding of border intrusions, skirmishes, under the pretext of not rocking the boat must be exposed. 

The next External Affairs Minister of India must be from Ladakh and a Buddhist, so the, 'not in my backyard', mentality of India's politico-bureaucrat complex can be cured. 

The choking of development funds by Islamist Srinagar to Buddhist, Ladakh, including Zanskar (under Kargil Administrative District), must be exposed and overturned. The road beyond Kargil, from Padum (in Zanskar) to Chilling is being built for the last 30 years! These people deserve better from the Indian Union for their loyalty and fortitude.

As a key lesson, MHA turf warfare must be curbed with an iron fist, and its proclivity for private armies must be shown a hard stop. ITBP has proven both under equipped and badly trained for a border skirmish. It must either be disbanded or placed under the Operational command of the Army. 

Other MHA funded outfits like the Assam Rifles and NSG' SAG too are integrated into the Army, so the business end of things remains within the Army ethos, and unity of command is not compromised, when push comes to shove, as it did in Depsang Flats, in DBO, Ladakh.

India was caught napping, again, and as lessons go, if anything, surveillance, by aggressive use of ELINT by Aircraft, Satellite, Drones, and Human Patrols, and border infrastructure effort must be doubled in speed and resources. This after all is not Siachen, where India has arguably done a better job, despite the adverse weather conditions and air only supply logistics.

There is no economic security without territorial security. The bluff of Nehruvian Strategic Restraint has been called yet again! It may be time to use hard power in continuation of foreign policy and territorial sovereignty goals by India, else we should disband the Indian Army and allow the balkanisation of the Indian State.

Addition on Thu 9 May:  Zanskar is a part of Ladakh region, administratively under Kargil District.

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