NEW DELHI: Despite the troop disengagement at a ‘friction point’ in eastern Ladakh earlier this month, the overall threat from China has not receded in any way and it is fast extending to other domains in addition to the land borders, the country’s military brass warned on Tuesday.
Army chief General Manoj Pande said the lessons learnt from the over 28-month military face-off with China in eastern Ladakh included the need to maintain “high levels of operational preparedness at all times”, further enhance infrastructure development along the northern borders, especially in Arunachal Pradesh, and induct “niche or disruptive” technologies in a major way.
“We also need to develop our ‘grey zone’ capabilities,” Gen Pande said at the India Defence Conclave here.
Grey zone warfare basically revolves around exploiting the operational space between peace and war to change the status quo or coerce an adversary, which China has mastered over the years with its salami-slicing and other tactics.
“China remains a formidable challenge and has increased its presence not only along our land borders but also in the maritime domain by leveraging anti-piracy operations to normalise its naval presence in the Indian Ocean region,” Navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar said at another convention. Wars of tomorrow will straddle multiple domains. “The battlefield will transcend physical boundaries. It will be fought over the seas, on land, in the air, in the information domain, in the digital world, and even in our minds,” he added.
Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari, in turn, said India is faced with a variety of threats, including hybrid warfare, with the security environment in the neighbourhood remaining far from ideal. He stressed the need to complement India’s economic progress with a ‘mirroring’ trajectory of homegrown military capabilities. “As we speak, new technologies, platforms, weapons, systems, and forms of warfare are being conceptualised that have the potential of making the existing inventory less relevant or even redundant. Our adversaries have developed full spectrum capabilities across multiple domains, which can be brought to bear upon us in case of any escalation, or even in a ‘no war, no peace’ situation,” he said.
Gen Manoj Pande said while progress has been made in troop disengagement in some areas of eastern Ladakh, including Patrolling Point-15 in the Gogra-Hot Springs area earlier this month, two more “friction points” remained to be defused through diplomatic-military dialogue for overall de-escalation to follow.
This was a reference to the much more crucial face-offs at the strategically-located Depsang Plains as well as the Charding Ninglung Nallah track junction at Demchok. De-escalation, when and if it takes place, will involve the two countries moving back their over 50,000 troops each that have been forward deployed with heavy weapon systems along the eastern Ladakh frontier.