Keeping in view the differential in technological military capabilities between the Indian Army and China’s People’s Liberation Army, and the positional terrain advantage secured by the latter through its preemptive manoeuvre, it is a prudent strategy for India to persist with military and diplomatic engagement through an indefinite face-off to achieve the political aim — restoration of status quo ante April 2020. Even a strategy to achieve a compromised political aim — status quo ante with buffer zones where no patrolling, deployment or development of infrastructure will be carried out — would be pragmatic.
The logic of this strategy is simple — tire the Chinese out because it is difficult to sustain an indefinite large-scale deployment in this difficult terrain with extreme weather in winter. However, the danger is that if the Chinese come to sense India’s strategy, they may raise the ante and attempt to seize Daulat Beg Oldi Sector and areas to the north-east and east of Pangong Tso.
Coercive military pressure
This strategy can only succeed by maintaining coercive military pressure, and not without “exerting any military pressure” as spelt out by the de facto official spokesperson quoted in a recent report in The Indian Express. I am sure this relatively junior government/military official has let his imagination run wild. This is almost signalling defeat and accepting fait accompli. I sincerely hope that this is not the view of the Narendra Modi government and the military hierarchy.
As per The Indian Express report on the situation at LAC, a government official was quoted as saying, “New Delhi has decided to stick to its strategy of ‘incremental change despite slow progress’ while pressing for the end-goal, the restoration of status quo ante as of April. It has also ruled out application of any kind of military pressure against China as an option, so as to avoid any inadvertent escalation.”