Former Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Shankar Roy Chowdhury on Wednesday (June 17) said that it is not 1962 anymore and the country should be prepared for a conflict not turning into a full-scale war with China.
“In this situation, it should be remembered that India is not in 1962, and it should be prepared for a conflict not amounting to a full-scale war with China,” General Roy Chowdhury, who was COAS from November 22, 1994 to September 30, 1997, said.
General Roy Chowdhury, who later became a member of the Rajya Sabha, made the statement two days after 20 Indian Army soldiers were killed in a violent clash with Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh on Monday night.
The face-off was said to be the biggest military confrontation in over five decades between the two neighbours. The Chinese Army is also reported to have suffered several casualties in the face-off.
The General said building the country’s economic capabilities was quite important.
“Apart from being prepared militarily, we must upgrade ourselves economically,” he said, adding that India should reconsider awarding contracts to Chinese companies for various projects.
What should be India’s response?
Regarding India’s response in situations like this, General Roy Chowdhury said the strength of both sides had multiplied immensely since 1962, when the two neighbours fought a brief war.
“India is not in 1962, (and) we must remember that neither China is in 1962,” he told PTI.
In order to respond to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)’s aggression, the General said, “India should be prepared for an outbreak of conflict below war, but above (the scale of) incidents of border skirmishes.”
India should also handle issues diplomatically at the same time, he said.
General Roy Chowdhury said India must be prepared since China was militarily much stronger than Pakistan, whom India had handled successfully.
Strained bilateral ties
He said that China’s sudden aggression can be linked to India not being with it on various international issues for which the world community is blaming China.
Apart from several other issues, China is facing international flak, mostly from the United States of America over the spread of coronavirus across the world.
“China thinks it is not to blame and Galwan is an adjunct to that,” the former COAS said.
India is building roads in its own territory to connect with Daulat Beg Oldie, which is a major airstrip of the Indian Air Force, he said.
“There is a bridge being built which I think the Chinese don’t want, so they have taken this unilateral position trying to block the bridge, leading to this clash,” he said.
There have been no major clashes with China in the northern frontiers except for Chusul in 1962, after which it was quiet, he said adding that it has now disrupted.
“India has multiplied its potential, unfortunately not so much economically. Militarily we can match China (but) that will take a lot of money,” he said.
India’s closeness with the US a problem?
Lt. General J.R. Mukherjee (retired), who has vast experience along the Indo-China frontiers spanning over 40 years, said what China had done was due to India closing up more towards the US and other countries and for condemning China for the coronavirus pandemic, which he said is “correct”.
“All these are reasons for what they have done. They have come in (at Galwan) and refused to honour the agreement for pulling back, leading to the present situation,” Mukherjee told PTI.
“I would have responded militarily, but that is a political decision to be made,” the former General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (GOC-in-C) of the Army’s Eastern Command, said.
Losing in information war
In an interview with the NDTV, former COAS General Ved Prakash Malik, who helmed the force during the Kargil war of 1999, said that the silence of the Indian government in the presence of real-time data could cost the country.
He also took note of the statements being issued by the Chinese government at various levels, including the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian solemnly asking the Indian side to follow their consensus and strictly regulate its front-line troops.
“Indian side is losing out as far as information war is concerned and I wish there were some statements made since the Chinese officials have been doing it at different levels. I hope soon we get some statements but it looks like people are waiting for political authorities to make up their mind.” he said.
“But with real-time information available these days to the prime minister and other authorities as far as information war is concerned we need to react faster and the delay doesn’t do any good to us,” he added.
Time to take political stand
Taking note of rising tension along the Sino-India border, Gen Malik said that the time for military talks was now long gone and the matter needed to be taken up at a political or diplomatic level.
“Army level talks have their own limitations. For the Army the pre-defined Line of Actual Control is what they have to secure and they cannot change anything even during negotiations or for that matter amid action. However, the current situation cannot be resolved at Army level, now it needs political or diplomatic level,” he said.
With the People’s Liberation Army Western Theatre Command Spokesperson Colonel Zhang Shuili constantly saying that “China always owned sovereignty over the Galwan Valley region,” Gen Malik believes that the talks held till now went in vain and the statement worsens the situation.
“The time has come for the matter to be handled at a political or diplomatic level since the Chinese side passing such statements could be bad for us,” he said.
General Malik, who served as the Army chief during the Kargil war, further said that the violent face-off reminded him of 1967 Nathu La and Cho La clashes.
(With inputs from agencies)