For decades, the strategic planners of India have been boosting offensive capability along western borders for credible deterrence and remained contented with limited offensive capability with reactive mindset along northern and eastern borders, against the basic military strategy which says “Offense is the best form of defence” and a defender can at best respond to offensive as he doesn’t have the initiative. The number of Strike Corps earmarked for western borders versus northern/eastern borders bears testimony to this observation.
Was Our Strategy Against China Reactive?
One of the reasons for adopting reactive/dissuasive strategy against China by various decision-makers was unwarranted faith in the Confidence Building Measures (CBM) between China and India, in the form of various Border Peace and Tranquillity Agreements (BPTA), although the basis of the faith was unrealistic, in light of Chinese repeated misadventures like 1962, Sumdurong Chu, Doklam, to name a few.
The fact that Chinese have been dragging their feet on demarcation of LAC/Border settlement also proves the fragility of any agreement with them. Except for few proactive actions at tactical/operational level like Pangong Tso heights, Nathu La and Doklam, by and large, the Indian strategy against China has been reactive at strategic plane.
Voices for “China being enemy No 1” and proposals to have mountain strike corps have been on the tables of South Block since long, but the delay in complete raising of Mountain Strike Corps apparently has been due to economic and bureaucratic reasons, together with the idea of not disturbing peace and tranquillity on borders, due to over-reliance on CBMs, BPTA and other agreements, despite China violating them repeatedly. The fact is that incidences of patrol clashes and soldiers pushing each other, having different perception of LAC have been quite frequent, which remains an unsatisfactory arrangement for any professional force to guard borders/LAC without firing.
Hasn’t The Need of Having Mountain Strike Corps Become Inescapable?
After China junked all the CBM’s in Eastern Ladakh, and now reluctant to disengage in ‘other areas’ after disengaging North and South of Pangong Tso, it’s evident that de-escalation is nowhere in sight.