The Indian Cold Start Doctrine was promulgated at the start of 21st century to punish Pakistan through a proactive military strategy of hit and mobilise. This warranted creation of a military echo system in frontier zones and re-orientation of the military to be able to initiate operations within 48 hours of the “go” given by political leadership. In the case of Pakistan, it was also linked to any major terror attack in India with an intention of military generating an automated response after a presumed terror attack.

Pakistan’s response was through a new concept of warfighting and a quid pro quo strategy; something the world witnessed on February 28 through Operation Swift Retort.

Looking at the Chinese reclaiming their perceived Line of Actual Control (LAC) in April-May; it does resemble something like Cold Start.

The Chinese were able to create a military ecosystem in the inhospitable terrain and weather of Ladakh sector, ensure a quick assembly of forces by using rail, road and air transportation systems and unnerving the opponent. Chinese military has virtually paralysed the Indian political and military leadership and the third largest military spender of the world seems to have no utility of its military in defending the border of so-called Asia Pivot.

Failing to respond in time and shy of contact, Indian military is now digging in for a big haul, relying on tiring the Chinese through hybrid warfare, with diplomacy and information warfare as the main effort. Although Chinese media has started airing its own version of the military situation, Indian media with more English channels and newspapers and digital warriors seems to be creating an impact albeit mostly domestic.

China has to further develop capability in hybrid warfare; Chinese English media like CGTN and Global Times needs a biting narrative as softness does not pay dividends in crisis, but it needs to be done in a subtle way. Comparing it with Indian media, which is almost jumpy and absurd, China needs to learn some lessons. It should build up a cabal of sophisticated hybrid warriors who can forcefully project Chinese narrative and may take help from trusted friends. The post-truth media environment needs a 24/7 media blitz from multiple platforms.

Some of the anti-China scenarios being projected by Indian and Western media are sugar-coated Cold War themes applied against the erstwhile Soviet Union.

There is talk of shutting down Chinese trade and oil supply. For that, the US and her allies have to establish a sea blockade in the entire Indo Pacific and Gulf, which may not be possible. These are acts of war and one should expect a military response from China. Presently, the US is pulling out of Afghanistan and Iraq after 19 years of fruitless wars and virtually no results other than chaos. Even dealing with Iranian Navy in the Gulf region has become problematic. Iran is using second generation technology combined with swarm attacks of drones and missiles, what could the mighty US and her 46 allies do against Iran so far? Chinese strategy will not be defensive only: can China target the Continental US(CONUS) through swarm warfare, in multiple domains? That is a big question. Already John Bolton is exposing Trump on asking China for help in elections.

US executive, legislature and Intelligence community are daggers drawn against each other and are not able to manage protests by BLM and the left. The west, led by the US, is embroiled in domestic issues and needs to put her own house in order before attempting to destabilise China. The Chinese demographic, economic and military profile is too strong to be rubbished by few research papers written in the cosy classrooms of American universities or discussed in talk shows in India.

When the US-led coalition of 46 countries entered West Asia after 9/11 in the shadow of Bush-Rice-Rumsfeld’s shock and awe doctrine, did anyone imagine that war will linger on till 2020? What was the technology and economy of Afghan resistance? Comparatively, it was a military ratio of 1:1000 in favour of NATO. As the Chinese defence analysts, Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, projected in “Unrestricted Warfare” in the 1990s, the corn cob gobbling Afghan was pitched against the high-tech McDonalds. Finally, it is Afghan will and tenacity which has brought the mighty Uncle Sam to the negotiating table in Doha.

For those building scenarios against China, there are great lessons in Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran.

India is also trying to raise the bogey of Tibet, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Of these three, the question of Taiwan is important to understand. Take the cue from what happened in Ukraine and Crimea, how the Russians checkmated NATO’s expansion in their backyard. What did NATO do? It actually allowed Ukraine to split along a line east of the Dnieper River. Will the Chinese response on Taiwan take a similar shape?

Looking at the Ladakh standoff between India and China, China has not overrun the Himalayas or Karakoram but forced India into a strategic dilemma where her politico-military leadership seems to have run out of options. The post-truth world is different and a slight change of position on ground can challenge the so-called chaotic democracies and build immense pressure on the leadership thereby creating a snowball through social media and paralysing strategic response. Indo Pacific and Quad has not come to rescue India as you cannot play submarines and aircraft carriers in the Himalayas. NATO got bogged down in Afghan mountains, despite its might.

Wars and confrontations are costly. As per Statista.com, since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the global war on terror cost the United States government just over 5.4 trillion U.S. dollars. This figure includes estimates of all budgetary spending related to the war on terror between FY 2001 and FY 2020. This figure of 5.4 trillion does not include the ongoing medical and disability expenditure for veterans beyond FY 2020, which is estimated to cost an additional one trillion U.S. dollars by FY 2059. What are the results? US debt is 21.29 trillion dollars and growing at a rate of 5000 dollars per second, so as you read this article, the US debt will add another million dollars. Cutting trees and printing currency does not make one financially viable. The US has already outsourced the manufacturing and technical expertise overseas. Trump’s desire for America first is a dream. One cannot build technical expertise in five years; it requires a lifetime. These are some of additional factors that armchair strategists in Delhi and the Western capitals must keep in mind before drawing conclusions on what can be done against China.

It is also important to look at Russia in this crisis and the place of India in the SCO and Eurasian arrangement: Our Russian friend Andrew Korybko stated in a comment that he didn’t see Russia getting rid of India, but the reverse, and even then, not right away. Russia relies heavily on India for important military-technical contracts that contribute greatly to its state budget. It’s been doing all that it can to strengthen and diversify relations, not weaken and eliminate them. Moreover, while a lot has been made about Russia not taking India’s side in this dispute, it shouldn’t be forgotten that it hasn’t sided with China either. It doesn’t want to get involved, but even if it did want to, there isn’t much space for it to do so. The US is rapidly replacing Russia’s former role in South Asia, and there isn’t much that Moscow can, or wants, to do about it.

Looking at how Modi showed his cards by engaging Australians during the crises and how Pompeo is inciting India for Tibet, things may move swiftly than previous strategic estimates. China has billions of dollars of trade with India, but it acted to prevent any threat to her interests in South Asia, especially CPEC. It is likely that in the long run, India will become the odd man out in Eurasia and SCO members will have something to think about.