As the dust settles in Galwan River valley and Indian media chatter disclosed the loss of tens of square kilometres of area in Ladakh and even Sikkim, there is a need to evaluate the Ladakh blunder being dubbed ‘Kargil 2’.

Before discussing the Indo-China standoff and its strategic implications, it is important to have an overview of Indian foreign policy and how it creates anxiety in all of South Asia.

India is a hostile neighbour and its current border disputes with China and Nepal have exposed her hegemonic designs. India has a historical and consistent record of bad behaviour and creating border disputes with all its neighbours. As we have previously highlighted, India absorbed Hyderabad Deccan, Sikkim, Goa and Junagarh. It illegally occupies part of Jammu and Kashmir and Nagaland. It has fought wars with Pakistan and China and militarily intervened in Sri Lanka and Maldives. India has also stationed permanent forces in Bhutan, and has water disputes with Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan.

It is interesting to find out that the current tension between India and China comes at the heels of the Indo-Nepal border dispute. After the Indian government inaugurated a link road to connect India with Kailash Mansarovar of China via Lipulekh region, a Nepali territory, various youth organisations in Kathmandu staged protests to mount pressure on their government to take necessary steps to make India return the territory. The Nepalese government and netizens started objecting to Indian infringement on their territory – the internet was abuzz with trends like #HandsOffNepal and #IndiaGoBack.

The Indian ministry of External Affairs was quick in responding and claiming that the road follows an existing route over which pilgrims travel to perform Yatra in Kailash Mansarovar (in China) and thus it was an Indian territory. The latest is that Nepalese parliament has already tabled a motion to include the disputed territory into official Nepalese maps.

India has violated a number of treaties with its neighbours and has always deflected attention away from the opposing point of view through jugglery and Chanakyan tactics. The recent absurd policy of including Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Kashmir in weather bulletins is a case in point. The Indian attempt to nibble Nepalese territory may have far reaching consequences for Indo-Nepal bilateral relations as well as Indian diplomatic credibility in South Asia as a peaceful neighbour.

The Indo-China conflict has a history since early Sixties. China badly thrashed India in 1962 in both the North Eastern and North Western line of Actual Control. The Indo-China border does not exist, it’s the longest un-demarcated border (3500 kms) in the world. As reported by Indian media, Chinese troops (5000 to 7000) have crossed the LAC in Indian Occupied Ladakh.

Indian military and political leadership is very quiet and looks to have been paralysed. Indian defence analysts like Ajay Shukla, Brahma Chellaney and Pravin Sawhney are criticising Indian leadership for the loss of face. While India was boasting about attacking GB and AK, it got a slap on the face from the Chinese Dragon.

The Indian media is doing a cover up and telling the public that some Indian troops were briefly detained by Chinese Army; they must know that Abhinandan was also briefly detained by Pakistan and was released. Can Indian troops becoming POW for 48 hours be said to have been briefly detained?

As Pravin Sawhney puts it, India is neither prepared for current standoff nor ready to address the six dimensions of wars that Chinese doctrine suggests. Indians only see a linear battlefield whereas the Chinese war doctrine has six dimensions; three is physical domain, i.e. land, air and sea and three in other domains i.e. cyber, space and the electromagnetic spectrum. Already 80 percent of hardware and software deployed in Indian private and state-run institutions are of Chinese origin and the Chinese ability to disrupt Indian civil aviation, power grids, major industries and even some of the military installations like IAF air bases is something India cannot respond in short or midterm.

Operationally, Chinese bridge heads across the LAC have the following implications:

Chinese strategic advantage in Galvan Valley and Pangong Lake sectors gives them a capability to advance into Shyok River Valley and in turn cut off forces in Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) and Occupied Siachen. This position also provides a unique opportunity to Pakistan and China for a classic pincer move to trap any concentration of Indian forces in the Triangle of LAC formed by Gilgit Baltistan, Aksai Chin and Indian Occupied Ladakh.

Although India has moved armour and artillery into Shyok Valley to prevent any further advance by Chinese forces (to satisfy public consumption) there is no major infrastructure available to these forces in the snowy desert of Ladakh, nearest logistics base is 24 hours away from the front line.

The Indian Army is demoralised and there is a growing call for Raksha Mantri, Rajnath Singh, Ajit Doval, Army Chief, Commander Northern Command and Commander 14 Corps to step down, as they not only slept on the Chinese incursions but also failed to appreciate Chinese intent and prepare a contingency plan.

RAW has suffered reverses in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal, but this strategic surprise by China is the biggest failure of RAW as an agency entrusted with providing realistic threat estimate to Prime Minister Modi’s office. Since Doval controls RAW directly, he has to answer many questions regarding the Ladakh blunder.

Why China made such advances and what could be its intent; this is a million dollar question.

In our assessment there could be couple of reasons:

One, India joining the Quad (US, Australia, Japan, India) and the Indo-Pacific alliance to become the US pivot in South Asia is considered a direct threat to China.

Two, Modi’s abrogation of Article 35A and 370 has created suspicion in Chinese mind, about Indian intentions in Aksai Chin.

Three, India directly threatened to attack Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan, thus threatening CPEC and Chinese vital interests in Pakistan.

Four, the Chinese may have tested Indian nuclear deterrence and exposed to the world that India was a paper tiger who could not defend its own territory; how can it become a global player?

It may be interesting to analyse that India has been seriously impacted by exogenous shocks in past four months; COVID-19, Cyclone Amphan, the loss of territory in Laddakh, the locust attack and even Cyclone Nisarga are serious strategic shocks to Modi and his RSS Cabal; is karma biting India?