The year 2020 will always be remembered as a defining year in the 21st century for Indian military affairs. It was when India finally opened its doors to historic military reform by appointing a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and integrating the services into the ministry of defence (MoD).
The year 2020 was also when another set of doors—the possibility of a trans-Himalayan conflict—were kicked open by an old adversary: China. Both events had been in the making for decades. In 2000, the Kargil Review Committee (KRC) recommended the appointment of a CDS. In 2001, four Groups of Ministers (GoMs) undertook independent India’s first comprehensive national security overhaul.
The crux of the KRC and GoMs’ suggestions—the appointment of a CDS and the integration of the three services—were implemented two decades later with the appointment of the first CDS, General Bipin Rawat, on January 1. Five months later, the formidable, coercive threat of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China appeared across the Himalayas. Two motorised PLA infantry divisions moved in suddenly to occupy positions across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh in May 2020.
This threat, too, had been brewing for decades. The PLA tanks, trucks and military vehicles cruised along infrastructure that they had carefully been building on the Tibetan plateau since the mid-1990s.