It stands long established that the entire gamut of warcraft lies within the confines of wit and mind reading, played inside a vista of unstable and belligerent politico-diplomatic-military dynamics. He who can momentarily outwit his opponent’s mind amidst all the din, noise and cerebral chaos carries the day!
Based upon such overriding cardinals Sun Tzu the ancient Chinese military thinker chronicled his Art of War, emphasising the predominance of ‘deceit’ some two and a half millennia ago that has been ardently followed by the Chinese ever since, using warfare as an instrument of statecraft.
Deceit lying in the DNA palate of PLA, it becomes imperative for us to keep our mind open and formulate a counter strategy from within the pages of Sun Tzu’s philosophy to successfully ‘outwit’ it in its game, by first demolishing our own self-created myth of their invincibility that we seem to wrongly harbour ever since the 1962 debacle. And thereafter, by picking a leaf out of Sun Tzu’s bible,
“Move swift as the Wind and closely-formed as the Wood. Be extremely subtle even to the point of formlessness. Appear in a form and place he does not expect you. You would have then, won the battle without fighting!”
This is precisely what Gen Sagat Singh did in 1967 in Nathu La albeit casualties, when PLA was not only beaten back, but also forced to withdraw from Cho La. However, a classic Chanakya act of outwitting PLA came about during Operation Falcon, post Sumdrong Chu incident in 1986, when not a single shot was fired, yet PLA got momentarily checkmated!
A peep into authentic politico diplomatic chronicling by Manoj Joshi, records that until the early eighties, Chinese were willing to resolve the Sino-Indian border dispute by swapping claims, meaning, India to surrender its claim to Aksai Chin, in exchange for them giving up claims to North East Frontier Agency (later Arunachal Pradesh). An offer that was repeatedly shelved by India.
But, during border talks of 1985, the Chinese surreptitiously took a 180 degree turn to indicate their sudden newfound interest in our eastern region, demanding concessions there in lieu of concessions in Ladakh, where they had always evinced greater territorial claims since the early fifties culminating into 1962. This switch of interest left the Indian political Leadership baffled, unable to gauge the real reasons for this sudden shift.
Around 1983 having sensed mischief that there was a likelihood of covertly taking Tawang, the Indian Army, in order to defend the monastery town, took up positions South of Namka Chu River, with an IB patrol making rounds up to Sumdurong Chu that was well within our side of Mc Mahon Line. In 1986 PLA true to its genes, slyly occupied Samdurong Chu, claiming it to be Tibetan territory.
This treachery was taken as godsend by India to unleash its own (mind) game plan. Army Chief Gen Sundarji, set rolling Operation Falcon, by airlifting a Brigade to take up positions along Hathung La Ridge overlooking Samdurong Chu, besides reinforcing the entire North East sector, rendering local PLA troops utterly outwitted. One quick move had reversed the posture. The heights that were with the Chinese in 1962, were now with us in 1986.
Incidentally a very similar plan was executed by our SSF Vikas battalion to outmaneuver and pre-empt the Chinese through rapid occupation of heights along the South bank of Pangong Tso in Chusul sector on the night of 29 august last.
While, the Chinese were still recovering from the shock, Rajiv Gandhi’s cabinet went ahead and granted full statehood to NEFA, which became Arunachal Pradesh. So baffled was China, that their then CPC supreme leader Deng Xiaoping furiously announced that it was time for China to teach India another 1962 lesson. India undeterred, not only stood firm, but pulled out yet another surprise.
Sunderji ordered Exercise Checker Board that envisaged adopting an aggressive forward posture in North Sikkim, with the military aim of choking PLA in the narrow Chumbi Valley. (Any loss of ground here would serve as a major political slap on emerging China!) Once again troops were rapidly airlifted and new mission oriented military groupings were operationalized by creating Reinforced Army Mountain Infantry Divisions (RAMIDS) poised to launch into Chumbi Valley.
The Northern tip of Sikkim that had hitherto not seen an Indian Jeep, now had tanks and ICVs burning gas at the base of Naku La, in full view of PLA. Axes were widened, bridges were upgraded, variety ammunition was dumped and air defense grid established, sending out swift and clear overtures that India meant business. We held on to our newly occupied battle stations throughout extreme winters, with some air-maintained posts even higher than Siachen.
PLA had never anticipated such rapid build-up of a massive force, on account of Indian Army’s heavy deployment already underway against Pakistan for Operation Brasstacks and Meghdoot (Siachen) besides the undesirable and overarching military commitment in Operation Pawan in Sri Lanka.
The Chinese supreme leadership was completely beaten by this superior mind play and were apparently rendered ‘hors de combat’, when ND Tiwari our Foreign Affairs Minister while on his way to Pyongyang, stopped over at Beijing much to the relief of Deng Xiaoping, who immediately conceded to de-escalate and resume dialogue.
We had won without firing a shot!
-- Col Fasih Ahmed/Lucknow
(The writer participated in Operation Falcon as Principal Staff Officer Operational Logistics of a field formation)