Dealing with the Darned Dragon: Preface

Chinese incursion into the Galwan Valley earlier this year was but a-matter-of-routine. Nothing new, that’s something China had been doing for decades––entering Indian territory; sometimes withdrawing, but occasionally occupying pockets, and presenting them as ‘disputed areas’ at subsequent talks.

Salami slicing!

India’s response to that provocation surprised the world to no end. Among other options, a tough stance was the least expected, because until then people had judged India on the basis of its meek response to similar incidents in the past. The response dazed even the Indian public who had been in some kind of unspoken or grudgingly spoken awe of the dragon ever since the 1962 debacle.

India’s reaction was a Black Swan Event––unprecedented in its nature, spectacular in its impact. Now, military pundits and strategists are scratching their heads analysing, explaining and justifying the behaviour. The outcomes and the spinoffs of the transaction have been meaningful, and many. Importantly, it has raised the bar on the quality of India’s retaliation to Chinese military adventurism. That India will be even more assertive in such situations in the future is the new ‘expected’ norm. China will do well to take this change into account in its future calculations.

The talks at the diplomatic and the military levels to de-escalate tensions and to restore peace in the region have not made much headway. There is a definite dearth of points of convergence and trust has been conspicuously absent from the scene. A word about the complexity of the Sino-Indian border issue would be in order. Decades of diplomatic foot-dragging have complicated the already complex matter. Now, to resolve the issue appears to be as difficult as untangling a plateful of spaghetti or unscrambling an egg. Both, China and India have taken rigid stances and are unwilling to relent. It is anybody’s guess that the prevailing uneasy calm will end either in peace or will escalate into greater hostility. There’s however, an ominous tilt towards the possibility of the latter. Presently, both sides are trying hard to be in a situation wherein they can negotiate from a position of greater strength.

Meanwhile, General Bipin Rawat, the Chief of Defence Staff of India has declared that India is prepared for a military option, if the talks fail. In making such a provocative statement, the General might have only carried out the orders of the political leadership, because ‘good’ Indian generals do not normally air provocative views against a neighbour unless we are already at war. So, let the General roar and let the countrymen rest assured that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will give a clarion call through his ‘Man ki Baat‘ when the time is ripe. Period.

In a recently recorded video message, Mr Pravin Sawhney, Editor, Force Magazine dissects General Rawat’s words and iterates that unless backed by military power, warnings mean little; he’s so right on that count. He goes on to project India’s extreme vulnerabilities and concludes that it would take at least six months to prove the General’s claim of preparedness. After eulogising China for its varied capabilities––conventional warfare, cyber warfare, anti satellite (ASAT) capabilities, artificial intelligence capability, the capability to disrupt communication networks of India, its nexus with Pakistan et al.––he concludes that a war between China and India, if it were to take place, would be like the First Gulf War between the US and Iraq respectively, implying that India would be routed technologically even before the troops engage in land battle. At the end of a 20 plus-minute video in which he paints a dismal picture of India’s war preparedness and petrifies Indian viewers, he urges that the clip be circulated. For me, a replay of the video led to the distillation of the man’s suggestion, which to my mind conditioned by years of rigorous military life sounded somewhat like this:


Echo of that implied suggestion so ‘F-O-R-C-E-fully’ made by Mr Pravin Sawhney rings menacingly in the mind until long after one turns off the video. Another look exposes the sense of insecurity of the presenter and the shallowness of his arguments. The naysayer and the pessimist in him, finds India’s faults and deficiencies well nigh infinite. If only he could realise, China is not the US; India, not Iraq. Unwarranted anxieties of the timid will only prove to be countervailing factors in India’s efforts to deal with that country. That said, there is good reason to listen carefully to the meaningful signals, if any, in the cacophony of deafening alarm bells that the paranoid Mr Sawhney rings.


Today, when India and China are at daggers drawn, the chunks of information on military capabilities of the two countries that are available in the open domain, rather ‘fed’ to the public, could be quite inaccurate. Under the circumstances, a SWOT analysis could go awry; it could be an exercise in futility. Therefore, more prudent and fruitful approach to deal with the darned dragon at this moment would be to focus on exploiting all available means and resources to bolster the existing military capacity and capabilities. Therein is the genesis of this five-part blog post––this part being the Preface. The posts that follow will discuss issues related to boosting military manpower, bolstering border infrastructure and military capability, refining military thinking on the use of nuclear weapons and the idea of mustering external influence to bear on the adversary and more.

Following posts in this series are now available:

Dealing with the Darned Dragon-I: Border Infrastructure

Dealing with the Darned Dragon-II: Escape Hatch

Dealing with the Darned Dragon-III: A Lesson from Pearl Harbour

Dealing with the Darned Dragon-IV: Exercising (with) the Nuclear Option

Dealing with the Darned Dragon-V: Time to Kowtow!?

18 thoughts on “Dealing with the Darned Dragon: Preface

  1. I never saw this Shawney piece. Such demotivating voices must be shunned and shredded.
    If we cannot be proud of our own country, especially after 70 years,
    Then when can we?
    And nice article Chordia Sir.


  2. With due respect, Gen Rawat’s statement served to alert the other side. They are in occupation of our territory. There is no point attacking them where they are strongly entrenched. We should occupy some territory elsewhere — at a time and place of our choosing to achieve maximum surprise. That territory can then be used to get our territory back.

    Surprise is the most important principle of war.

    Also please note that in 1962 we successfully defended Ladakh.


    1. You are so right. Gen Rawat’s statement served to alert the the other side. But should it have been done (alerting the enemy)? Did it serve any useful purpose? Are Chinese naïve? Does rhetoric serve a purpose, particularly when we generally know the inherent asymmetries against a formidable adversary? I guess there should be no warning or rhetoric; only preparedness (preferably without ado) and action when need arises. A General’s silence can be more damaging (to the adversary) than his utterance in these matters.
      As regards importance, all principles of war are important. They are mere guidelines and must be treated that way. One must not use them as a checklist when going in to fight. At a given point in time, WHAT WORKS IS THE BEST’.


  3. Dear Ashok, Thanks for the lovely post. Looking forward to more posts on the subject. My view is that both countries should try to avoid war and try to resolve the matter. However India should be ready for the war and be ready to take appropriate action if required. On the diplomatic side, the maps of both countries define the boundaries as perceived by them. The next aspect comes regarding the line of actual control. There will be perceived differences between the two countries. The aim should be to earmark the areas of differences by each side sharing the maps and satellite images of their posts as of March 2020. Both sides should move the troops back to the occupied positions as of Mar 2020 and than try to demarcate the line of actual control by the process of give and take. I however realise that it is easier said than done but I am sure that leadership of both countries is mature enough to realise the advantage for both the nations.

    On Wed, 2 Sep 2020 at 22:52, Road Much Travelled wrote:

    > Group Captain Ashok K Chordia (Re-attired) posted: ” Chinese incursion > into the Galwan Valley earlier this year was but a-matter-of-routine. > Nothing new, that’s something China had been doing for decades––entering > Indian territory; sometimes withdrawing, but occasionally occupying > pockets, and presenting t” >


    1. Dear Sandy,
      War avoidance is an exercise to be performed by the political leadership and the diplomatic corps––it is tightrope-walk between skyscrapers. In my perception, the duo are doing a decent job; it would be unfair to doubt their capabilities. Hoping and praying for the best is a good idea but preparing for the worst is a better policy. If and when the baton is passed on to the military, there will be practically no time to prepare. I guess, in the scheme of things, each element of the team must perform its role to the best of its ability. As veteran Air Warriors we’d do well to stay focussed on what would be expected of the armed forces ‘when’ the balloon goes up.


  4. Sir, excellent post on the hot topic but carried over for a long time without finalising the LOC and giving up country’s land. Now, change in response will certainly compel China to resolve border issues with India. In present global situation, India looks at better position than ever. Hope, events do happen in India,s favour and I continue to read more posts written by AK Sir. Thanks.


  5. This conflict will prove to be a defining moment for both countries and shall determine the roles they are going to play in the geopolitics of this rigion.

    Had India not stood up to the Chinese bully this time, its relevance in the region and its reputation in the world would have been washed out for ever.

    There may be an overall military assimtry but india can match its deployments at par with china in specific theaters and our two frontline mountain divisions are a formidable force in the region to reckon with. Airforce is also well equipped and poised to give a tough time to China if things escalate further.

    Picture is not entirely as grim as being painted by some pessimists.


  6. The author neatly defends the popular narrative of the recent actions in the Ladakhian heights.Clearly,his first of a five part serial assuages bruised egos and sagging hearts of his readers.India First and Always he seems to be saying in his natural understated style.He has done enough in the prelude to sound promising and need I say,brave!
    In a sense his position got me thinking .A comparitive balance sheet drawn on the Indo-Chinese response,behaviour,attitudes,arguments, and their counters,media management,relative strengths and weaknesses,past histories,et all in the past half a year reveals certain surprising similarities,known contrasts and their re-calibrations to highlight consistency,continuity and departures.

    The Indo-Chinese border disputes are a continuing post-colonial legacy and unfortunately has only been tinkered with ever since leaving contentious gaps by design sometimes or quite simply an acquiesing to technical limitations or zeal in sophisticated cartography.The Chinese seem to be less certain,of late,and grudgingly concede differing perceptions at best.The Chinese and Indian pronouncements,leaks or motivated disinformation by the media on either side seem to be echoing each other in a weird game of catch-up. Assertion of sovereignty,inalineability of the borders and defence of it at all costs,making up for domestic inadequacies of a failing economy,poor handling of the pandemic,naked authoritarianism of the leadership,drumbeats of jingoistic nationalism and the awkward re-adjustments necessitated by shifting locus of power following the retreat of America and counterpoint ed by the phenomenal rise of China and fast growing India.

    Admittedly,India seems to have managed the media better with an entire American led mechanism,only too eager to help.China,since has been struggling to cope with this new and dangerous instrument of propaganda worldwide.It appears further,there is a certain hesitation from China for now to its hitherto stated certainties on border management,dominance in the neighbourhood,international positivism,support on global rules of good behaviour and in particular the annoying defiance of India to its unfettered presence.

    Human losses on either side so far,contested territorial gains and losses,hectic diplomatic moves and bilateral engagements,eye – rolling military chess moves are being traded on the international stage.The existing balance of power and the tenuous peace lies exposed and dangerously threatened.

    With this on the flashing foreground it would not be foolish to examine the repeated emphasis made by Major. Pravin Sahni’s of the supremely effective Chinese strategy of deception – of relative quiet followed by an unsuspecting significant strike.1962 was the final climax of a patient and relentless attempt since 1959 drawing the attention of India by the Chinese to re-order the confusing borders as independent,sovereign nations.Nehru and his team were flushed then,with their own sense of hubris.Perilously,the Chinese seem to be stating similar account – keeping of Indian transgressions in recent times.Sahni warns the extended 2 and a half front exposes Indian vulnerability as never before -what with an economy in recession,over 70,000 deaths thru COVID19 and an unprepared,under – prepared conventional Army.Modern military strategists seem to be toying clandestine initiatives in the space between a regular war under the nuclearised umbrella. Sahni feels Chinese with its advanced systems of disruptive technologies is in all likelihood to seize the initiative in such a scenario.Therefore,he appeals for intervening peace initiatives with China and Pakistan until the economy and the military of India grows in strength.

    Be that as it may- will India stand level after an initial loss of face to Chinese “acts of altering the status quo” by provocative and aggressive intrusions in having violated predicated norms of behaviour through peace arrangements in force since 1993 or in turn India doing an encore?All seem to agree – it is just a beginning .

    In the meanwhile China stands bewildered at the Modi government riding the nationalist imagination,his major prop,despite the attendant domestic troubles.Modi to that extent is dangerous and unpredictable capable of the unthinkable.More than India,China has larger international stakes.Enough,to restrain it from any unthought out costs or retaliatory moves.Perhaps, the Indian think tank seems to be fishing in troubled waters only with the gamblers sense of certitude- on the inherent limits of escalation thereof.

    The very uncertainties intertwined in this robust but cheeky Indian engagement reminds me what the British socialist theoritician had so cryptically remarked once” History is to Nationalism what Poppy is to Opium addicts.”
    ☘️zindabad @sunilkbanerje


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