China’s confrontation with India is not all about the boundary issue, but a POLITICAL act to offset its present challenges, and demonstrate China’s rising comprehensive national power. The Communist Party of China (CPC) leadership that increasingly relies on nationalism for its legitimacy will not find it easy to make the compromises necessary for a boundary settlement. India’s armed forces are more than capable of handling whatever the Chinese PLA (People’s Liberation Army) throws at us in the traditional ground, sea and sky domains (envisaged maximum threat) in East Ladakh.
We have planned, prepared, trained and have the combat experience, professionalism, will and resolve to ensure that the Chinese strategy of hegemonistic creeping will be defeated by causing much more attrition than China is ready to accept. China’s geopolitical, strategic and national loss will far outweigh any gains that the country makes, if at all, during the conflict. The Communist Party of China’s offensive manoeuvres will come with grave consequences of setting the world and hopefully China’s own people against it, and could start the beginning of the end of the CPC.
If China chooses to continue its belligerent actions, I would not to be wrong to predict that the Communist Party of China (CPC) will be fighting an existential battle. For this our nation and the armed forces will have to credibly demonstrate our intent, will, resolve and act to ensure that the PLA returns to the status quo ante before this crisis started, and this being NON NEGOTIABLE. Let us be clear, this is a defining moment in the history of India and our actions could well dictate our standing in the world, and this is the time, when against a stronger adversary we have to stand firm and unyielding, stand tall without brinkmanship, expect some pain but tell China by our actions that this time the red lines have been crossed. WE MUST BE PREPARED TO GO ALONE, however, assistance except in the physical/kinetic domain, from other nations could well be forthcoming, such as diplomatic, material, information and intelligence, and moral support, which will weigh heavily on President Xi Xinping, CCP and his military commanders.
Escalation would lead to a Multi-Domain War
In case China expands the present localised crisis to other sectors, and the escalatory ladder of conflict is exercised which will naturally be reciprocated, then India must be prepared to fight a Multi-Domain War (MDW). A Multi-Domain War calls for a change of thought process, ‘a transformation and not just modernisation’. Simply put, MDW envisions the military and non-military; everything from political to diplomatic, fighters to destroyers, space shuttle to submarine, cyber to satellites, tanks to attack helicopters, electromagnetic to electronic, media to information influence operations, economists to MNCs, para-military forces to think tanks, intelligence agencies to ISRO, munition factory worker to hacks— working together intrinsically as ONE, to overwhelm the enemy with attacks from all domains: Land, Sea (including sub surface), Air, Space, Cyberspace, Network, Big Data, Information including Media and Social Media, electronic and even legal. The span of operations addressed simultaneously is from the political, national, strategic and operational to the tactical domain.
Visualization of Multi-Domain War
Here’s an illustration of how China will wage Multi-Domain War during the confrontation stage mainly using non-kinetic/cognitive domains.
1.Conduct information influence operations including psychological operations on our polity, public and Armed Forces (fake news, rumours- vast scope) to spread the bogie of the invincible Chinese dragon and fracture the social structure and political will of the country.
2. Wide ranging economic operations to further weaken our economy; for instance, during the COVID crisis hold onto pharmaceutical and other critical products like ventilators and products (the base chemicals)
3. Sudden and broad based cyber-attacks from the strategic to the border troops (tactical) to include our national media, logistics chains, air and rail communication systems.
4. Degradation of our active C5ISTAR (Command, Control, Communication, Computer, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) systems.
5. Attack our electro-magnetic spectrum and even satellite systems with an attempt to blind us.
6. Network and data-centric operations which paralyse our data bases, intelligence, financial and logistic networks.
All or some of these actions before, during and post-conflict (mobilization and reinforcements including strategic lift would be hampered) to just name a few effects.
The above scenario may appear like Sci-Fi, but numerous countries like USA and her allies are now preparing to wage such a war and they visualise that China, their peer/ competitor/adversary (USA has officially named China as her adversary) has the capacity and capability for Multi-Domain War. In fact USA has officially stated that actions like cyber and space attacks will be constituted as an ‘act of war’. Probability of Pakistan jumping into the fray must be factored in as it could very well be part of the strategic plan. Similarly using land and maritime routes through other immediate neighbouring states cannot be ruled out.
China is waging such a war, and trying to impose its will with increasing tempo, focus and lethality just prior to the conflict to try and achieve political and military aims, without fighting. We have one of the most battle-hardened troops in the world, but the intangible effect of psychological operations and internal political and social dynamics, isolation, lack of situational awareness, operating in a degraded environment coupled with a 360-degree conflict with no front, rear and flanks will certainly impact them; we need to create better capabilities and capacities to counter and negate China’s design of conflict at the national and military level. However, just as a stalemate for India is considered a defeat if we launch pro-active operations against Pakistan, China too will aim to achieve its political and military objectives swiftly. This is where as I already stated that our political will, resolve of the people and professionalism of our Armed Forces must prevail.
While we hope that the current impasse will be resolved using all elements of DIME (Diplomatic, Informational, Military and Economic), we must concurrently start preparing for future confrontations and conflicts (two and a half front war) to wage an MDW (Multi-Domain War). War is a national effort involving all dimensions of comprehensive national power, and it is imperative that we build capability and capacity to fight and win the future confrontation/war.
India’s armed forces will remain the ultimate weapon to impose the will of a state. Capacity building across multiple domains takes commitment, time, dedication, finances, synergy, integrity and will. I wish to paraphrase Robert Palazzo from his book ‘On The Ethics of Future War’ where he wrote ‘In a world in which the effective division between the domains of war is increasingly blurred, there is less utility or need to maintain sharp distinctions between the levels of war and the organs of government. War must be undertaken as a holistic, unitary undertaking by the government, the military, and the people’. The good news is that we know how our adversaries could wage an MDW (Multi-Domain War), but we need to urgently create better structures, create synergies and train at the national, strategic and armed forces level.
Before concluding, one can’t resist observing that the conventional soldier, his section and platoon, squadron of armour or artillery battery, a fighter squadron or naval frigate will always continue to remain the final arbiter in conflict, and we must empower the ‘Soldier and Armed Forces ’ to fight a multi domain war. We have no choice but to be ready for a Multi-Domain war. Adopting and implementing the MDW concept will improve our deterrence capability and prevent wars.