- Pakistan must be wary of Indian hostility to the CPEC
By: Muhammad Sohail Ahmed
The Indian move to annex Kashmir in August 2019 was a big leap to prepare to disconnect the land link between China and Pakistan. The obvious outcome of such a move would result in cutting the ChinaPakistan Economic Corridor and dumping the initiative of china for regional peace, stability and the economic well-being of the region, particularly Pakistan. After being a target of security challenges one after the other for the last 70 years in the form of three wars and limited action in Kargil, Pakistan has been a turf for foreign powers’ tussle such as the wars in Afghanistan, with post-9/11 operations followed by US defeat and pull-out agreement with Taliban leaders. The new US Cold War doctrine calls for a significant role for India to counter China and retain US influence in the region after its forces leave Afghanistan under agreement with the Taliban.
It is now the desire of the USA to destabilize the region afresh for which it emboldened India to initiate the annexation of Kashmir. Since Pakistan did not initiate any military action against India, it further emboldened it to prepare for an attack on the CPEC route. The area that it selected was the Galwan region linked to Daulat Baig region in Ladakh, Kashmir. Previously, the area had no airport which was prepared soon after the August 5 annexation and completed on war footing. Similarly, a wide road has been constructed to link Ladakh for troops transportation.
India has also annexed Ladakh as a Union territory and delinked its previous status as part of Kashmir. The indifference of the world community to the violation of UN security council resolution can be judged from the fact that India has been elected as a temporary member of the Security Council. This situation has further emboldened the Indian establishment. Therefore, after changing the map of India displaying the region as union territory, the Army build-up started to take place, transforming it from a battalion-size unit to a brigade-size entity. The objective of all this preparation was to launch strike on China Pakistan link road passing a few kilometres from this position. The region of Ladakh has a strategic point where the presence of three countries combine as Line of Control and as Line of Actual Control/Contact. With this threat emanating, full preparations in swing and build-up of air and land forces, it was necessary to control the heights in the region which overlook the Indian road moving towards the CPEC. Any aggression could be countered from Galwan valley. In a brilliant move the Chinese military managed to occupy this position to avert an attack on the CPEC. Indian forces tried to take over a camp from the Chinese Army through a surprise attack. This was spearheaded by a colonel. As the night fell, the Chinese Army launched a counter attack using batons mounted with iron spikes. This resulted in 22 Indian casualties. The response from the Chinese was innovative, forceful, and controlled, blended with an inbuilt demoralizing effect on the Indian Army. The nature of injuries will keep them from mounting such assaults in future. The world media as usual is searching for a crispy story of escalation but to no avail as China has introduced controlled aggression or the negative conventional rung, a reverse of the escalation ladder, and yet it has obtained its objectives.
The harsh climate makes the maintenance of road infrastructure expensive, labor intensive and tiring for both the state administration and the Army. Since the terrain is mountainous, there are numerous bridges that get washed away by flash floods. Old bridges can’t take the weight of heavy machinery moving for military purposes. In a recent accident a bridge collapsed along with heavy machinery
Pakistan needs to keep a watchful eye on any build-up of forces on the Indian side on the Line of Control. The Chinese concept of arming troops need to be studied. CPEC defense brigades should be trained to fight hand to hand, using manual tools like batons, samurai gear or even incapacitating agents. The lessons from the Kargil campaign call for having rations like dates and manual weapons like bayonets and batons, besides pushing tools to dislodge enemy from the mountains into oblivion.
Due to casualties in the Galwan valley, Indian morale at tactical level will further dwindle due to corona casualties at national level which stands at over 20,000, while its political leadership continues to alienate minorities. One recent step by the Indian government is to open 270 shops in Kashmir for liquor sale. The local population has taken strong exception to this decision. These challenges for the Indian troops will further worsen the situation as they would not find motivation to fight in a region whose population is alienated politically and religiously. The basic question any soldier deployed in the region is going to ask is why he should fight.
Another challenge for India is very long logistic lines. This is a penalty which the nature has imposed as historically Kashmir was always linked to those areas which constitute Pakistan. The state of Kashmir was spread up to Jhelum in Pakistan. The Pir Punjal range is a natural boundary between the Indian mainland and Kashmir. in the recent years India has tried to overcome this problem through erecting railway infrastructure and wider roads. The problem of funds was solved through World Bank funding for the Indian Railways to upgrade its mainland infrastructure. The profits earned from Indian Railways was spent on Kashmir occupied territory and for own railway infrastructure the loan was used. Therefore, illegal occupation has been making India bleed economically. This episode also highlights the indirect cooperation of the World Bank.
The harsh climate makes the maintenance of road infrastructure expensive, labor intensive and tiring for both the state administration and the Army. Since the terrain is mountainous, there are numerous bridges that get washed away by flash floods. Old bridges can’t take the weight of heavy machinery moving for military purposes. In a recent accident a bridge collapsed along with heavy machinery.
Air assets have been used to mobilize troops but it has always weight limitation, is weather dependent and expensive.
History of conflicts are replete with the situations where long logistic lines, aggressive weather, hegemonic deployments, absence of public/local support and continuous stressful environment have resulted in defeat of the occupation forces and humiliating withdrawal. The world has recently witnessed an example in Afghanistan. Similar environment in Kashmir, for an army pitched on two fronts in addition to the internal front, hints at the situation of a sinking ship that ultimately sinks under its own weight. Pakistan must remain well prepared both militarily and diplomatically to counter any aggressive moves to safeguard its interests such as CPEC and the Muslims of Kashmir.
The writer retired as a Commodore from the Pakistan Navy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org