Analysis of Military standoff at LAC by Home Ministry based on Civil police report : what’s cooking ?
India and Tibet share a 3,500 km LAC that has been disputed since the 1950s. The two sides went to war over it in 1962, a serious skirmish in 1967 and unarmed clashes at various times, the most recent being the Galwan in 2020 and the Tawang Sector in Dec 2022.
A security assessment Research Paper has now been prepared by Civil Police of Union Territory of Ladakh on the military stand off on the LAC in the Himalayan region of Ladakh. This report was based on intelligence gathered by local police in the border areas.
The report emphasized that India has been slowly losing ground to China in Ladakh as the border has been pushed inside Indian territory through the creation of buffer zones.
The report goes on to say that India has lost its presence in 26 out of 65 Patrol Points in Eastern Ladhak. From Karakoram Pass to Chumur, we have lost presence (patrolling rights ) from PP5 to PP17, PP24 to PP32 and PP37. Indian military cannot patrol in these areas. As per the above report India has been slowly losing ground to China in Ladakh as the border has been pushed inside Indian territory through the creation of buffer zones.
Other points highlighted are that due to tough terrain, inclement weather conditions and lack of infrastructure development, Indian forces failed to dominate the area, whereas China continued to build up forces along the LAC.
Therefore China was able to occupy areas which had no Indian presence, leading to shift of the LAC under Indian control towards the Indian side. Creation of buffer zones in all such pockets resulting in further loss of Indian control in these areas.
As per the report the PLA took advantage of buffer areas during de-escalation talks by placing cameras on highest peaks and is monitoring movement of Indian forces. This has taken place at Black Top and Helmet Top in Chushul, at Demchok, at Kakjung, at Gogra Hills in Hot Springs and at Despang plains near Chip Chap River.
In December 2021, restrictions were placed on movement of Indian forces beyond Daulet Beg Oldi (DBO) towards KK Pass; it was feared that Chinese cameras would capture the movement leading to a confrontation with Chinese forces (sic).
The disengagement at PP-15 and 16 resulted in loss of pasture lands at Gogra Hills while pasture lands have also been lost in the north bank of Kakjung. This has resulted in loss of livelihood and changes in lifestyle of the locals, which has led to migration of civil population from these areas towards Leh.
Surprisingly the report predicts there could be more frequent clashes between Indian and Chinese troops along their contested frontier, as Beijing given its domestic compulsions and their economic interest in the region, ramps up military infrastructure in Tibet and occupied parts of Ladakh. It also recommends use of technology, better coordination among forces and development of border villages along the LAC was cited as a way forward.
The Confidential Police Research Report adds “If we analyse the pattern of skirmishes and tensions, the intensity has increased since 2013-2014 with an interval of every 2-3 years. With the massive infrastructure build up by PLA on Chinese side both the armies are testing each other’s reaction, strength of artillery and infantry mobilization time”.
WHY THE REPORT
Now whatever has been said in the above Report was already fully known to the existing Higher Defence Organization in India, the Department of Military Affairs in the MoD, the CISC in HQ IDS, the Directorate of Military Operations in the Army HQ and the concerned Directorate in the External Affairs Ministry.
So the intriguing part is as to why such a report has been prepared and presented of all the places at the Conference of Home Ministry for DGPs / IGPs of all States and Union Territories. The Conference was also attended by the PM, the Home Minister, the National Security Advisor and senior officers of the Home Ministry. So the presentation must have been cleared at a level not below that of Home Secretary.
Next comes who has prepared this report. The report has been prepared by one Ms PD Nitya, the Superintendent of Police of Leh. This place is more than 200km from the nearest point on the LAC and the state Police have no role in LAC patrolling. Even the ITBP patrols only a few selected areas. So likely reasons for such a report surfacing during a major conference of the Home Ministry may be as under :
*The Home Ministry may be thinking of creating villages / hamlets as close as possible to the grazing areas near the LAC and to have Police outposts there. For this there has to be a considerable raising of the strength of the UT Police. This also has its UT level political angle.
* To ensure further increase in the strength of the ITBP and to wrangle a greater role for them in LAC management.
* Through such reports, ensure as much independent Command and Control of the ITBP by the Home Ministry as possible and avoid placing them under Command of the Armed Forces.
Now Police officers are hardly known for their awareness of things military. Our Central Police Forces have been turned into paramilitary not through changes in organization, equipment, training, leadership, ethos and discipline but by the great Indian Media. The above report does show the Indian Army in poor light in a oblique way. Then media like NDTV has jumped with this report to hit at the Government of the day and the permanent Indian Army.
Even a retired Lt General has used this report to make a scathing attack on the Govt in general and the PM, Raksha Mantri, the NSA and the current military leadership in particular. He writes “ The government’s official narrative now stands exposed with the disclosures reportedly made by the CAPF officers. The Military remains gagged from speaking the truth and the Army kept busy with rounds of talks with the PLA despite knowing that China would not budge from intrusions made deliberately and now consolidated. Our political class and, to an extent, the mainstream media and intelligentsia have tried to show that everything is hunky dory which is hardly the case.
The resultant lack of trust by the Ladakhis in the Centre may not be visible but it would be naïve to ignore it. Similarly, what would our neighbours like Bhutan, Nepal and Myanmar be thinking of our inability to stand up to China? “
“NSA is controlling the show notwithstanding the fact that we require a host of domain specialists, like psychologists, theme generators, mis-information handlers, social media specialists, evaluators in addition to technical hands – he seems to be all rolled into one. No wonder our effort is a ‘knee-jerk response’ and disjointed.”
“In addition to losing control of some 1000 sq km territory, we also vacated the Kailash Range in our own territory apparently because of a Chinese threat conveyed through politico-diplomatic channels. To top this, stopping all movement from DBO towards KK Pass is pure “cowardice” – crow-flight distance between DBO and KK Pass is 17 km, road distance being 18 km. If we had the political will, we should have not only refused to vacate Kailash Range but also occupied KK Pass telling China to vacate the 20-km deep intrusion at Y-Junction in Depsang, as well as withdraw from the Indian side of Demchok.”
“China’s infrastructure including the two bridges over Pangong Tso are clearly for offensive purposes. In addition, Beijing has announced a second highway through Aksai Chin to be completed by 2035 which would touch Galwan and Gogra-Hot Spring. Our government has chosen to ignore the Chinese intrusions and is appeasing China by giving it much more benefit in bilateral trade than it was before 2020.”
The retired General thinks that Xi is in a hurry, hungry for territory-water-minerals and faces an ageing population, which implies that a clash is inevitable Though the General hopes that China will not aggravate the situation before or during India’s general elections in the summer of 2024. ( is the hope coming to save a particular political party because any Chinese action will ensure that Congress will get erased in 2024 General Elections ).
What the retired General, the Media and the MoH itself have remained silent on are the following points :
Has the Leh SP ever patrolled the areas during her service or was indirect charge of policing of the area or even visited these areas before finalizing the report.?
Ms Nitya says in her report that keeping these areas barren and out of reach of the civilians, affects the Morale of the soldiers…..how she has come to such a dramatic conclusion ? By quoting unnamed officers / sources( a very old trick used by the media to show Army in poor light ).
The PPs where we have now stopped patrolling, does it mean that Chinese now have permanent camps there. Are they permitted to patrol these areas or we have now a mutual agreement not to physically patrol these areas ?
Not mentioning areas which have been restricted for patrolling for both IA and PLA till dispute is resolved diplomatically.
Not giving out in detail the mutually agreed positions in 2013 and the post Galwan Talks.
Naming the exact areas where pastures have been lost after 2013 / post Galwan
Not talking about the fact that even the Indian Army has electronics / technical means / manned surveillance sashes in as many areas as the Chinese have.
Chinese ifra development has been emphasized. However comparative table of our own road / other infrastructure in place in 2014 and available now in 2023 including those under progress has not been given.
In 1962 a policeman had become the military advisor to PM Nehru and the results was the 1962 debacle. The 3 Infantry Division looked after the entire area with less than 15000 men. Even in 1995 one could drive all the way from Leh to Chusul hardly meeting anyone enroute.
Now with Theaterisation becoming inevitable, there is certainly a need for a proper institutionalized Higher Defence Organization too. Such Reports even if prepared should have been sent to the National Security Secretariat and vetted thoroughly. Then with various courses off Action and proper recommendations presented to the National Security Council.
Then if required, such a report finally reaches the Cabinet Committee Security through the CDS and NSA. We cannot permit turf warfare between Defence / Home / External Affairs Ministries. In a given Theatre all Forces operating on IB / LAC have to be under the Theatre Commander.
He will decide the degree of separation between Military / PMF / CAPF / State Police and the methodologies. Gone are the days of Check Posts / BOPs getting reorganized and situation getting handed over slowly to the military.