Military action will open Pandora’s box, but highest level of preparedness required: Lt Gen (retd) Syed Ata Hasnain

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Written by Deeptiman Tiwary | New Delhi | Published: June 20, 2020 4:00:58 am

Lt Gen (retd) Syed Ata Hasnain Lt Gen (retd) Syed Ata Hasnain. (Source: Twitter/@atahasnain53)

The killing of 20 Indian soldiers by the Chinese PLA in eastern Ladakh this week has led to a serious trust deficit between the two countries at the political, diplomatic and military level, Lt Gen (retd) Syed Ata Hasnain told The Indian Express on Friday.

India now needs to ensure its military preparedness is of the highest order even if immediate military action to restore status quo ante may not necessarily be an option at the moment, he added.

Lt Gen Hasnain, who retired in 2013, has earlier commanded the Army’s 15 Corps in Jammu and Kashmir. He is currently a member of the National Disaster Management Authority.

“Now there is a complete trust deficit at the political, diplomatic or military level as far as China is concerned. We have to be mindful of the fact that the Chinese are looking for much more, some kind of permanent posturing in eastern Ladakh, to create a tactical advantage at places. We have to ensure that our military preparedness is of the highest order. That is already happening. Our Air Force is on alert. Our reserve formations of the Army have already moved or in the process of moving. It does not mean we are going to war but when trust is so low we cannot afford to take chances,” Hasnain said.

Asked about the road ahead and if military action was an option for restoring status quo ante in eastern Ladakh, Hasnain said, “One thing is certain, if we take unilateral military action now then we open a Pandora’s box of expanded military activity all along the Himalayan front. So one has to assess whether one is ready to take that risk, especially under the circumstances of an economic downturn.”

Batting for a more calibrated approach, he said, “I would say at this time examine all options. Keep the door for diplomatic parleys open, continue with military-level talks and possibly raise it at the level of political leadership if necessary. Internationally no one is comfortable with what is happening. There will be a lot of pressure on China. So have a strong military posture, examine other options, garner international support and don’t rule out anything.”

Read | Gen V P Malik: ‘Be ready for a long haul if talks don’t yield results’

According to Hasnain, China’s actions are informed both by its “wish to create opportunities for China’s strategic domination in the Post Covid 19 period” and its tactical pursuit of changing the status quo where it feels India’s claims on LAC are disadvantageous to it operationally.

“Certain areas of eastern Ladakh, particularly in Pangong Tso and Galwan, there are operational and tactical reasons for creating a standoff. They do not want LAC to stay as per Indian perception, because they feel it has operational disadvantage for them, particularly in the Pangong Tso area. In the Galwan area, the road from Darbuk to Daulat Beg Oldie is apparently a new thorn in their side although they have seen it develop over the last ten years. It significantly enhances India’s defence potential of the Karakoram-Siachen tract of Ladakh,” Hasnain said.

The growth in India’s military prowess and confidence over the years and its recent declaration of Ladakh as a Union Territory may have also played a part in China resorting to belligerence, according to Hasnain.

“Certain situations which have emerged in the recent past such as declaring Ladakh a Union Territory last year and our various claims are among the reasons. India has gained more confidence in the last six-seven years in terms of its border management. We have acquired more military muscle, better infrastructure and much more confidence. China probably considers it an appropriate time to message India to puncture that emerging strategic confidence,” Hasnain said.

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China may also be trying to shake off the setback at Doklam in 2017 when India successfully pushed it back, Hasnain feels. “It’s a combination of different factors which have all come together to precipitate this crisis. The No. 1 reason is the severe image deficit the Chinese PLA suffered in Doklam in 2017. Their premature calling off of the standoff with India under pressure of the upcoming BRICS conference and the 19th Congress of the Communist Party of China at that time. That left the PLA red in the face. The impression that the world got was the PLA had withdrawn and India had stood its ground. They now want to redeem their image,” Hasnain said.

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