The recent Agni V test has rattled China to such an extent that the hostile neighbour is ratcheting up Doklam once again. Chinese treachery and intrigue are well known to the world. India is no stranger to this.
The Doklam challenge
The Centre’s stand is puzzling in this regard as it says a status quo is being maintained. The Stratfor Report (Stratfor is an American geopolitical intelligence platform and publisher) categorically reveals that a build-up of ground forces in this inhospitable terrain is continuing.
The report also points out to the fact that India too is building its infrastructure. However, India’s poor commitment to this cause is well known. None of our three wings, Army, Air Force or Navy, are fully equipped to deal with the eventualities. Shortage of war machinery is appalling; and credit should go to the forces which are safeguarding our borders more through their valour than with weaponry.
Stratfor images show the accompanying build-up in air power to support Chinese units. The difference in the build-up is quite stark in fact. Indian side has moved to reinforce its air power close to the Doklam plateau. India’s Siliguri-Bagdogra airbase normally hosts a transport helicopter unit while Hasimara was the base for Mig-27 ML ground attack aircraft until they were retired at the end of 2017.
Since the Doklam crisis in mid-2017, however, the Indian Air Force has greatly increased the deployment of Su-30MKI warplanes to these airbases as can be seen from the satellite imagery. But, this build-up which is the closest to Doklam is not really that close to the border compared to the Chinese who have built an observation tower as close as 10 meters of the Indian border.
The report points to a more advanced facility at these bases. Furthermore, unlike India, China’s lack of airbases close to the LAC forces it to concentrate more of its power at these airports, the report analyses. Deployment of HQ-9 long range surface-to-air missile system and Soar Dragon unmanned aerial vehicles at Shigaste airfield immediately after the end of the Doklam crisis reveals the Chinese mind.
While the August 28 disengagement was handled carefully so as not to project one as a loser, the world did not perceive it as such. China was the definite loser there and respect for India in the world’s view had gone up by several notches.
The Chinese are still smarting from the set-back. With the 19th party congress of the Chinese Communist Party behind him, Xi is no longer held back by domestic compulsions or constraints.
The Chinese leadership seems to have concluded that amends must be made for the shortfalls, which led to the Doklam setback. Chinese activity in PoK too is increasing. India handled the Doklam crisis well. However, there is not much time left for India to modernize its defence machinery and it has to be on its toes.