INTERVIEW| ‘China will create trouble at sensitive points’, says army veteran Sudhakar Jee

India is 20-30 years behind China in terms of infrastructure and we only woke up after LAC face-off: Maj Gen S Jee (retd).
Maj Gen Sudhakar Jee, VSM (retd), is a former colonel of the Mahar Regiment. (Photo | PTI)
Maj Gen Sudhakar Jee, VSM (retd), is a former colonel of the Mahar Regiment. (Photo | PTI)

Maj Gen Sudhakar Jee, VSM (retd), is a former colonel of the Mahar Regiment. He was the Brigade Commander of Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh and commanded the 3 Division which is responsible for entire Eastern Ladakh where standoff with China persists since May 2020. He discusses the India-China stand-off after the face-off in Tawang with Mayank Singh.


What is your opinion on the Yangtse, Tawang Sector incident where, the reports say, China tried to reach the highest peak of the area and, in the process, clashed with Indian troops that it led to injuries on both sides?
The McMahon Line along Arunachal Pradesh starts from a tri-junction in Zimithang, Tawang, touching India, Bhutan and Tibet (which is now under Chinese control). It should follow the watershed principle and the Thagla ridge. It goes up to another trijunction with Burma (now Myanmar). As China applied watershed principle with Myanmar for the boundary demarcation, it was natural for India to expect the same, but it did not happen. Instead, the Chinese press us to accept Hathung La Ridge, 8-12 km towards the Indian side, as the crow flies as the Line of Actual Control. As per the watershed, the highest point of Yangtse is in India.

After 1962, Chinese moved back to Tsona Dzong and Yangtse is located at a flank from where movement of PLA from Tsona Dzong can be observed as Chinese are at lower platform. Keeping the Yangtse incident in focus, we have to understand that any such scuffle will be around a place that will have significance for Chinese.

Apart from Namka Chu, the Chinese have been calling Yangtse an area of differing perception. It is 17,000 ft high. Its gradient is steep for us but is gradual towards the Chinese side. Chinese yaks and herdsmen were sent there with a design to claim the area. Violent activities were reported since 2011 and then we made a breast wall of the rocks there for the restriction on free movement. From 2021 October, PLA troops started coming to post the campaigning season which is between May 1 to October 1 every year. This time, they came in December and if the reports are correct, they were 300 in number and another 300 must have been waiting down. A similar incident happened in 1987 when a complete brigade was mobilised from their side. Technically Yangtse is on our side, we are occupying points of vantage. To say in simple terms, they will create problems in areas which are sensitive to them.

Since the 2017 Doklam incident, this is the third such big incident where violent methods have been used to reinforce one’s perception of the LAC. What could be the Chinese intent?
People only remember Doklam, Galwan and Yangtse, but there have been incidents when the Chinese troops were made to go back. Such incidents have remained unreported. As Xi Jinping became the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 2012, he followed aggressive “projection of power” as he thought China acquired enough strength. Then, in 2013 during the visit of Chinese premier Li Keqiang, PLA intruded into Depsang Bulge, but there were negotiations and they went back. Chumar happened in 2014 and Demchok in 2014-15. In 2016 also things were happening but they didn’t come to the light in the media.

What in your analysis could be the possible direction of the dynamics between the Indian Army and Chinese PLA for now that all agreements and MoUs have been breached?
The Chinese have acquired economic and military might. Their tech prowess has seen a substantive jump and their modernisation programme is also-multifaceted. In the past decade, they have reorganised and restructured their rocket force and ground forces. Instead of seven military regions, they have five military integrated theatre commands with space, electromagnetic and cyber clubbed under the strategic force command.

In 2017, Xi Jinping during the 19th Communist Party Congress promulgated the concept of the fight and win wars, and revised it in 20th Congress to fight and win local wars. My analysis is that he is looking at short skirmishes like the Yangtse, Galwan and Doklam ones. As far as the MoUs are concerned, China is keeping them alive. We must also keep such agreements alive. The character of the LAC has undergone a change in the last two years but disengagement at four out of six places is also a result of these talks and we should continue them. Yes, the buffer zone will come into effect but it doesn’t mean that incidents like Demchok and Depsang will not happen.

You commanded the Division in Ladakh, Brigade in Tawang and Company in Uttarakhand. Now that India is fast developing infrastructure will it be able to match the Chinese build-up?
The fact of the matter is we are 20-30 years behind China as far as the development of Infrastructure is concerned. We woke up after the standoff. I wish that was faster but we must be pragmatic that these areas are at high altitudes where short work windows, long logistics lines and difficult geography requiring cutting of mountain spur lines make things difficult. But, our infrastructure build-up, including ones like the Depsang-Shyok-Daulet Beg Oldi (DSDBO) road, has given jitters to China.

What are the areas which India needs to strengthen to deter China from any aggressive action in future?
Our stress should be on the emerging threats, mechanisation, light tanks, and the emergence of cyber, electromagnetic and space intelligence. We need to have commands of cyber, space and special forces instead of the, at maximum, division level at present. We need to have them with offensive capability as we still lag in offensive strength.

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