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LAC: Avoiding Club and Fist Fight

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Image: BMN Network /flickr

Though ensured that the differences will not escalate into disputes, inconclusive but unprecedented Lieutenant General-level talks were held at Chushal on June 6, 2020, between India and China, declaring the disengagement of their troops and infantry combat vehicles in the Eastern Ladakh area, started from early June. Both moved back their forces to 2.5 km, with China’s People’s Liberation Army restraining itself in Galwan area, Patrolling Point 14, 15 and 17 (Hot Springs) north bank of Pang Tso and Chushul area out of the five areas of conflict. Chushul still has to be declared in the public domain. While keeping all the hotlines open, it was also decided to continue with the lower commanders meetings more frequently. The Chinese foreign Minister’s spokesperson, Mr. Hu Chunying has also declared that “the diplomatic and military channels of China and India held effective communication on the situation along the border and reached positive consensus.”

With the Chinese having a deployment of fighter bombers, Rocket forces, air defence radars, jammers etc at a few km from the Line of Actual Control( LAC), where does the actual issue lie? Will both be able to halt any major build up or maintain the status quo ante April 2020 and continue to seize the tactical gains in piecemeal? After all, Doklam Pateau is in control of China. China, India and Bhutan do not agree where their borders meet. Similarly, the standoff continues in the contested Fingers area on the north bank of Pangong Tso where Chinese troops are not allowing Indian patrols beyond Finger 4 — it is 8 km west of Finger 8 which India says denotes LAC.

These recurrences of episodic conflicts; Depsang 2013, Chumar 2014 and Doklam 2017, are however, all peddled by the differing perceptions on strategic and political interests of both China and India. Launched in 1991, a marked strategic shift in India’s foreign policy; the Look East Policy extends India’s economic and strategic linkages in Southeast Asia to solidify its regional influence. It is undoubtedly aimed at counterweighing China in the region with the aligned support of  US. Similarly, a competitive defence force in the border areas by both India and China is keeping the paradox in peace alive. The Indian Army has moved its battalions of three Infantry Divisions, based in Leh, forward but the country is also looking for a quick diplomatic resolution. Significantly, Chinese President Xi Jinping also asked the People’s Liberation Army to scale up battle preparedness during the parliamentary session being held in Beijing. The region of South Asia, hosting the flagship project of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is particularly destabilized in this atmosphere of “fist and club fight.”

Nonetheless, the question remains if it would step up into a full-fledged armed conflict in these difficult times of COVID 19. Any dissection and understanding of the consequential implications of the current standoff in view of the historical, political and the geographical configuration of the border between India and China is mandatory. Unlike mutually agreed Line of Control (LoC) between Pakistan and India, the LAC is neither clarified nor confirmed by the two countries. Except for the middle sector, even the mutual exchange of maps about their respective perceptions has not taken place between India and China. This has led to different perceptions of the LAC for the two sides, and soldiers from either side try to patrol the area up to their perception of the LAC. Essentially, what Indians believe to be ‘their side’ is not the same as what the Chinese believe to be ‘their side.

Divided in three sectors, the LAC falls in the western sector and falls in the union territory of Ladakh. It is 1597 km long. India tried to launch itself in the region by constructing 225 km long Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie (DSDBO) all weather road. It is less than 10 km west of the LAC at Aksai Chin with a significant strategic importance. It connects Leh to DBO, virtually at the base of the Karakoram Pass that separates China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region from Ladakh.DBO is the northernmost corner of Indian Territory in Ladakh, with the world’s highest airstrip.  The Indian Air Force (IAF) revived it in 2008, as one of its many Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs) along the LAC, with the landing of an Antonov An-32.

In August 2013, the IAF once again landed its newly acquired Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 transport aircraft at the DBO ALG, doing away thereafter with the need to send helicopters to paratroop supplies to Army formations deployed along the disputed frontier.

On the other hand, the Chinese build-up along the Galwan River valley region overlooks, and hence poses a direct threat to the DSDBO road. It is to the West of DSDBO where China enjoins the Gilgit-Baltistan area of Pakistan. This is very critical for the flagship project of

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), to which India is unjustifiably objecting persistently.

The unprecedented high levels of tension at multiple locations in eastern Ladakh on the disputed India-China border owes also much to India’s increasing infrastructural developments in the border areas of Ladakh as well. China is particularly sensitive about the Indian activity around Galwan as well. This leads us to dig into the comparative force posture of both the countries.

Hence, an eyeball to eyeball situation at two places in Ladakh, with strong statements coming from both sides, can’t be interpreted as an auspicious situation. During his comments in Mandarin Tuesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has once again reiterated that “Chinese border troops are committed to upholding peace and tranquility in China-India border areas. At the same time, we will resolutely defend the sovereignty and security of our homeland.” 

Both China and India are nuclear states sharing a 2,167 mile long border. Together their populations are about 2.7 billion, more than a third of the world’s total population live in the two countries. Both have achieved speedy economic development in recent decades. India has significantly expressed its territorial ambitions not only in the border areas but is also denying the long standing rights to its own people such as, by revocation of Article 370 of its own constitution which provided independent status to the Indian Occupied Kashmir. Ending of inconclusive dialogue between the two states in the throes of aggressive presence, statements and ambitions by India is particularly destabilizing for the South Asian region. More so, the premise of bilateral issues of the two countries is now multi-pronged.  The anti-China institutionalization for competitive national interest of US in the region is further worsening the situation.  Emboldening one against other can cause immense damage not only to the region, but to the entire world.

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Defense

The US military is operating in more countries than we think

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“Irregular warfare” is defined by Pentagon as “competition… short of traditional armed conflict” or “all-out war.” A new report finds that Pentagon uses ‘security cooperation’ programs for ‘secret wars,’ recommends that Congress rein them in.

U.S. military forces have been engaged in unauthorized hostilities in many more countries than the Pentagon has disclosed to Congress, let alone the public, according to a major new report released by New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice.

“Afghanistan, Iraq, maybe Libya. If you asked the average American where the United States has been at war in the past two decades, you would likely get this short list,” according to the report, Secret War: How the U.S. Uses Partnerships and Proxy Forces to Wage War Under the Radar.

“But this list is wrong – ‘off’ by at least 17 countries in which the United States has engaged in armed conflict through ground forces, proxy forces, or air strikes.”

“This proliferation of secret war is a relatively recent phenomenon, and it is undemocratic and dangerous,” the report’s author, Katherine Yon Ebright, wrote in the introduction. “The conduct of undisclosed hostilities in unreported countries contravenes our constitutional design. It invites military escalation that is unforeseeable to the public, to Congress, and even to the diplomats charged with managing U.S. foreign relations.”

One such program authorized the Defense Department to “provide support to foreign forces, irregular forces, groups or individuals engaged in supporting or facilitating authorized ongoing military operations by United States special operations forces to combat terrorism.”

According to the report, that “support” has been broadly — or, more accurately, too broadly — interpreted by the Pentagon. In practice, it has enabled the U.S. military to “develop and control proxy forces that fight on behalf of and sometimes alongside U.S. forces” and to use armed force to defend its local partners against adversaries (in what the Pentagon calls “collective self-defense”) regardless of whether those adversaries pose any threat to U.S. territory or persons.

“I’ve got guys in Kenya, Chad, Cameroon, Niger [and] Tunisia who are doing the same kind of things as the guys in Somalia, exposing themselves to the same kind of danger,” bragged Brigadier Gen. Donald Bolduc (ret.), who commanded U.S. special forces in Africa until 2017 and is currently running as a Republican for the U.S. Senate in New Hampshire. “We’ve had guys wounded in all the types of missions that we do.”

The report, which relies on published work by investigative reporters, interviews with knowledgeable officials and congressional staff, official documents and records, as well as the author’s legal analysis, identifies such countries as: Somalia, Cameroon, Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Niger, Nigeria, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen.

But it stressed that the list is almost certainly not exhaustive.

Fifty countries, from Mexico to Peru in the west to Indonesia and the Philippines (where U.S. forces are known to have taken part in combat operation) in the east, and covering 22 countries in North and sub-Saharan Africa alone (not to mention Ukraine) had programs in place as of mid-2018, according to the report.

“Broadly speaking, the purpose of the authority is to take the Pentagon’s approach of creating and controlling partner forces and wield it against countries like China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea,” – according to the report.

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Gung-ho statements by India’s jingoist military and civil leaders

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Cross fire between Indian and Pakistan forces was a recurrent phenomenon. It usually hurt the unarmed civilians rather than the troops. Realising futility of intermittent exchange of fire across the border, India and Pakistan, always at daggers drawn, agreed to ceasefire that is still being upheld. However, an agreement on no-firearms use between the two countries, akin to Sino-Indian agreement, is nowhere in the offing. Despite the accord, India and China still engaged in fisticuffs at Galwan.

As if in deliriums tremens, India’s Northern Army Commander Lt General Upendra Dwivedi shouted, “As far as the Indian Army is concerned, it will carry out any order given by the Government of India [to annex Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan “(Whenever such orders are given, we will always be ready for it, The News International, November 22, 2022).

His statement is a sycophantic follow-up to a similar statement by India’s defence minister Rajnath Singh “of taking back PoK”. Besides Rajnath many other Indian leaders including Bipen Rawat, Ajit Doval and Narendra Modi have made provocative statements about AK and GB. Pakistan’s army chief has replied to Dwivedi’s statement in befitting words. In 1994, India’s lok Sabha (house of people) passed aresolution under the then prime minister Narasimha Rao. The resolution stated that AJK and GB are an integral part of India by virtue of Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to India.

India’s claim to accession of the Jammu and Kashmir is unfounded. India never showed the so-called Instrument of accession to the United Nations. The UNO passed two resolutions to outlaw probable accession by the puppet JK assembly to India. The UN resolutions recognise that the dispute could be resolved only through a plebiscite. Till about 1954, India continued to owe allegiance to the UN resolutions. Then in a volte face, Nehru declared that the UN resolutions are mediatory, not mandatory in nature. India’s unilateral renunciation of the UN resolutions eminently qualified it as a rogue state subject to international sanctions.

India treacherously annexed over 500 other princely state by hook or by crook. For instance, Junagadh annexation is still an unresolved item on UN agenda.

Dwivedi means ‘one who knows two vedas’. In Sanskrit, Dvi means ‘two’ and Vedi means ‘to see’. Therefore, a Dwivedi is one with ‘two-fold vision’, or someone who is able to distinguish between right and wrong. The general’s statement reflects that he has purblind vision, not seeing consequences of a war between two nuclear armed neighbours. Victory in case of a nuclear confrontation will, at best, be pyrrhic.

Dwivedi appears to have been infatuated by provision of K9-Vajra self-propelled howitzer (50 mile range) is being manufactured by Larsen and Toubro in Gujarat. China has already provided Pakistan similar howitzers to neutralize India’s fire power (China supplies mounted howitzers to Pak to maintain arms parity with India, Hindustan Times Jan 27, 2022).

Dwivedi appears to be oblivious of facts about Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan.

Gilgit Baltistan

On November 1, 1947, the governor of Gilgit, Brig Ghansara Singh surrendered to the Gilgit Scouts and signed an instrument of surrender on November 3, 1947. The people of the region proclaimed Gilgit as part of Pakistan and hoisted Pakistan’s flag. Skardu was liberated after about a year on August 14, 1948, when Lt Col Thapa of 6th Jammu and Kashmir infantry along with 250 soldiers surrendered to liberation forces.

Historian Yousaf Saraf if of the view that Gilgit –Baltistan is a part of Azad Kashmir as is evident from Accord signed between AK and Pakistan government. Sartaj Aziz committee recommended to the federal government to make Gilgit-Baltistan a full-fledged province with representation in both the houses of parliament.

A psycho-analytic view” Indian leaders “frogs”

Indian civil military leaders suffer from a fight-and-flight complex. The human beings, particularly the macho typos, like Indian military leaders, think they are independent decision makers. But, subconsciously they are slaves to the subconscious to the scripts they have learned to live with. In his book, Scripts People Live, Claude Steiner analyses “life scripts” which we choose at an early age and which rule every detail of our lives until our death. Steiner postulates that people are innately healthy but develop a pattern early in life based upon negative or positive influences of those around them. Thus children decide, however unconsciously, whether they will be happy or depressed, winners or failures, STRONG or dependent, and having decided, they spend the rest of their lives making the decision come true. For those who choose a negative script, the consequences can be disastrous unless they make a conscious decision to change.

The tragedy is that the person who needs to rewrite his or her life script most is unwilling to admit that he needs to revamp his life script.

Narendra Modi is such a person who by his conduct and political statements reflects that he suffers from a negative life script. He wants to pose as a “prince”, though he is actually a “frog”. Modi’s recent statements provide a clue how he is neurologically programmed.

Concluding reflections

Modi is convinced that his electoral achievements are due to his Macho (strongman) image. Lest his image should be shattered he delayed withdrawing anti-farmer laws for about a year since the farmers began protesting. He trumpets his “surgical strikes”, celebrates “Kargil victory”, and anti-Muslim citizenship laws.

Modi is still fettered to his teen-age memory of being a waiter at a tea-stall. The Modi government should turn a new leaf in India’s relations with its neighbours by shunning the strong-man image. He could do better by attending to the economic welfare of the masses and promoting social harmony.

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Ukraine recruits fighters from Africa

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“If Ukraine decides to pay me a very good amount of money, which I know I cannot earn here, I will definitely go there and fight,” Kimanzi Nashon, a student in the Kenyan capital Nairobi said. “When we go there, and then the war ends before anything happens, I will come back to Kenya and be a millionaire.”

And Nashon isn’t alone in harboring such naive thoughts of being a hired fighter in Ukraine.

“If an opportunity presented itself for me to fight in Ukraine as a mercenary, I would be on my heels running there,” Beatrice Kaluki, who is unemployed in Kenya, told ‘Deutsche Welle’. “I would rather die on the front line in Ukraine knowing that my family would be compensated even after my death, rather than die from depression because of the insane unemployment rate!”

However, African countries have come out strongly to condemn Ukraine’s call for African fighters to join the “international legion” against the Russians.

Now Nigeria, Senegal and Algeria have criticized Ukraine’s efforts to enlist international fighters as it resists a Russians. Analysts say those who have responded to the call need to reconsider.

According to Ryan Cummings, director of ‘Signal Risk’, a South African-based security risk management consultancy, ‘President Zelenskyy might be capitalizing on Africa’s challenging socio-economic conditions to lure African fighters to Ukraine.’ According to the Nigerian daily, ‘The Guardian’, more than 100 young men registered their interest in fighting for Ukraine at the country’s embassy in Abuja.

A spokesperson for Nigeria’s foreign affairs minister, Francisca Omayuli, said Nigeria would not allow its nationals to volunteer as mercenaries.

Senegal has also expressed its displeasure with Ukraine’s government, saying that at least 36 people in Senegal were ready to confront Russian forces. Senegal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it was astonished to learn that the embassy of Ukraine in Dakar had posted an appeal on its Facebook page for foreign citizens to come to Ukraine’s military forces.

In a statement, the Senegalese government criticized the initiative and warned its citizens that recruiting volunteers, mercenaries, or foreign fighters on Senegalese soil is illegal.

“These young people who want to get involved [in Ukraine] have not fully considered political or religious implications,” said Serigne Bamba Gaye, a researcher on peace, security and governance at the US-based Peace Operations Training Institute (POTI).

“They are only interested in answering a call without perhaps understanding the issues surrounding the Ukrainian conflict,” Gaye said.

For security and risk analyst Ryan Cummings, African countries need to consider the implications of allowing their citizens to travel to Ukraine as hired guns. “Russia has stated any country that is actively assisting Ukraine in this war, or as Russia calls it: ‘A special military operation to demilitarize and de-nazify Ukraine,’ will be considered at war with Russia,” he said.

He warned that the Kremlin could also retaliate by ending diplomatic relations with African countries that support Ukraine in this way.

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