NEW DELHI: India must explore the option of a ‘limited’ military action in response to China’s continuing belligerence and military build-up along the unresolved border in eastern Ladakh, say some in the defence establishment, but acknowledge that it will have to be a
top political call
The military options range from forcibly evicting soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) from what India considers to be its territory and securing the heights to even a ‘calibrated conflict’ — like the 1999 Kargil one with Pakistan — in conjunction with political, diplomatic and economic measures, sources said.
There is, of course, realisation that China is no Pakistan, with the communist giant having a stark military asymmetry over India. But that did not detract from the fact that Indian armed forces were capable of delivering a “bloody nose” to China, they said.
“Nobody is talking of a full-blown war or conflict but China needs to be unequivocally told that India is not a pushover, militarily or otherwise. It cannot keep on unilaterally changing the status quo in the border areas and nibbling away at our territory,” a source said.
The sheer brutality of the PLA attack on Indian soldiers in Galwan Valley on Monday night, which left 20 dead and 18 grievously injured, is being considered a “watershed moment” that will forever change the equation on the ground between the two armies, ranged against each other along the 3,488-km Line of Actual Control (LAC) from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh.
“The PLA is now flexing its muscles in
and Arunachal also. The final decision on the limited military action has to be taken by the political leadership, keeping all geopolitical and other factors in mind,” the source said.
With Indian armed forces on a war-like alert, with activation of all Army formations and airbases facing the ‘northern borders’ with China, a close watch is being kept on the PLA build-up in areas facing
the Galwan Valley
Daulat Beg Oldi
, Depsang and Chushul in eastern Ladakh.
India has been regularly deploying surveillance platforms like satellites, drones and long-range naval aircraft like the P-8I, which are packed with radars and electro-optic sensors, to keep track of PLA deployments along the LAC. Chinese airbases in Tibet like Gargunsa, Hotan, Kashgar, Gongar and Korla are also being regularly monitored, sources said.
For credible conventional deterrence against China, India has slowly but steadily built border infrastructure in terms of roads as well as advance landing grounds (ALGs) in forward areas. It has also positioned ‘military assets’ to cater for contingencies along the LAC
These range from additional T-72 tank regiments and artillery units in Ladakh to Sukhoi-30MKI fighters, Akash surface-to-air missiles and BrahMos land-attack supersonic cruise missiles in the north-east. “It cannot be a walkover like 1962, which did not see the IAF being used. But any military action will require full political will and backing,” another source said.