Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Lt Gen Harbhajan Singh

The Chinese set up a tent with a platoon strength very close to DBO (Daulat Beg Oldi), about 18 km inside the LAC (Line of Actual Control) on Apr 15. In spite of three flag meetings and diplomatic efforts, the Chinese have refused to go back to original positions, in consonance with the joint Border Management Protocol.

The questions to be examined about this intrusion are-

a)     why intrusion in DBO area!!
b)    why now; and
c)     what should be the Indian response!!

                        WHY THE INTRUSION IN DBO AREA

For more than a year now, the Chinese have been aggressive in the South and East China Sea, while claiming a chain of islands. However, till mid April, situation along the Indo-Tibet Border was almost normal.

China could have created DBO intrusion like situation any where from Arunachal Westwards. Why DBO area!! DBO is close to the strategic Karakoram Pass thru which a road linking Pakistan and China exists. An axis can be developed thru DBO towards Siachin Base Camp. China has changed its stance on Jammu and Kashmir and instead of remaining neutral, it has started to espouse the cause of Pakistan. The latest intrusion in DBO area seems to have some link with the security of this road and Pakistan.

China is highly concerned about it’s energy security. China imports 60 % of its oil, mostly by sea. Most of the tankers have to pass thru the Indian Ocean, the choke area of Malacca Straits and then South China Sea. China is apprehensive that these sea lanes are vulnerable and can be easily blocked.

To obviate this, China is planning for alternate routes for oil imports over land. Oil imports from Russia are likely to be doubled after Mr. Xi Jinping’s recent visit to Russia.

China has taken over the control of Pakistan’s Gawadar port about 460 km West of Karachi. Plans are afoot to lay an oil pipeline from Gawadar to China thru Baluchistan-Sind-Punjab, Northern Areas of Pakistan and on to Xinjiang over the Karakoram Pass.

China would want to provide depth to the planned oil pipeline as also the existing road and proposed railway line along the same alignment. The intrusion in DBO area can be a part of a plan to initially contain Indian presence and at a later date push forward to the Base Camp of Siachin 
while Pakistan attacks from the West.

The road to DBO on the Indian side has made hardly any progress and therefore inducting and maintaining large forces in DBO Sector is difficult. The Chinese have done their homework and selected a soft spot.

                                              WHY NOW!!

The timing of the intrusion seems to be linked with the visit of the Chinese Prime Minister Mr. Li Kegiang to India and Pakistan towards end May.

China is not happy with India over some issues. First, India joining Japan, Australia, US in a strategic understanding and carrying out joint military exercises. Second, the statement by the India Naval Chief some months back that Indian Navy was prepared to safeguard India’s interests in South China Sea, if need arose.

Third, there is also political unrest in Tibet. Chinese are highly concerned about India fishing in troubled waters.

The timing of the intrusion in DBO could have been synchronized to put pressure on the Indian Government from an advantageous position when the visit of the Chinese PM takes place.

                                       INDIA’S RESPONSE

India’s response to the intrusion so far has rightly been diplomatic. Our Foreign Minister is due to visit China next week. We should therefore withhold any military action till then. However, it is quite on the cards that action to reinforce this sector is already in progress. There is a need to show military preparedness and reinforcing the Sector along with the diplomatic moves.

India putting up a tent or two behind the tents put up by the Chinese could be the next step, after strengthening our forces in the Sector. However, the Chinese have the advantage of much flatter terrain on their side enabling them to bring in reinforcements speedily. If the Chinese bring in a few armoured vehicles, Indian Forces will be out gunned and outmaneuvered!!

It may therefore be prudent to carry out own intrusion across the LAC in another sub sector, where Indian Forces are at an advantage. The selection of the area and timing are best left to GOC 14 Corps located at Leh. However, Indian Army must ensure that in case there is an armed skirmish, we have the upper hand. Required troops, artillery guns, missiles, armed helicopters and surveillance where with all must be positioned well in time, plans and contingencies war-gamed in advance. Indian Forces should not be hustled in to any such action.

There is a need to have joint planning with the Air Force. To put pressure on China, may be a fighter squadron is moved to Leh, in the garb of exercises. Let this not be only Army’s battle, as it happened in 1962.

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