• 18 August, 2022
Foreign Affairs. Geopolitics. National Security.
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Galwan – China Got it Wrong, Again!

Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia (Retd) Sun, 09 Jan 2022   |  Reading Time: 5 minutes

Global Times, owned by the ‘People’s Daily’ the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist party (CCP), tweeted on the new year “In the Galwan Valley near the border with India, under the characters “Never yield an inch of land,” PLA soldiers send new year greetings to Chinese people on January 1, 2022.[1] The tweet also showed a 16 second video of PLA troops purportedly at Galwan, unfurling the Five – Starred Red Flag of China. The tweet is indicative of China’s continued aggressive behavior, despite the Indian Army and the PLA exchanging sweets at ten different locations along the India – China border as a goodwill gesture on New Year Day.

The video is another failed salvo fired by the Chinese in continuation of the ongoing psychological warfare. It needs to be reiterated that China propagates and practices the ‘Three Warfares’ to include psychological warfare, legal warfare and public opinion as an official political and information pre-kinetic warfare strategy. In pursuance of the ‘Legal Warfare’ China also implemented the new law on ‘Land Borders’ effective on new year and the renaming of 15 places in Arunachal Pradesh recently.

The video showed Chinese Soldiers unfurling the Chinese flag at Galwan, the site of the June 2020 conflict wherein by conservative estimates the PLA suffered over 40 fatal casualties when they attacked an unsuspecting Indian patrol led by Colonel Santosh Babu with spiked clubs. Twenty Indian soldiers including Colonel Santosh Babu made the supreme sacrifice. The effective retaliation by Colonel Santosh Babu and his team surprised the PLA who despite the initiative came out second best, thus Galwan hurt their pride and shamed the Chinese.

The Chinese media and the PLA thereafter went on an information overdrive to convince the Chinese that in a few hours of skirmish albeit with primitive weapons they were the victors. The acceptance that four PLA soldiers were killed came months after the incident. Many videos have emerged wherein the PLA has tried to win the information war in vain as ground realities do not support their tall claims. The new year message purportedly from Galwan is yet another attempt to project a false narrative of their occupation of Galwan and the glory attached to it.

Galwan is located at an altitude of 5450 meters (17,800 feet). The video obviously is not so well choreographed as it shows fresh chocolate faced PLA soldiers, immaculately turned out on parade as on a drill square, rather than a tactical deployment occupying a defended locality. Having served a fair share of tenures in high altitude, from a company to a corps commander, one can say with authority that the video is a photo shoot.

A soldier or a person gets sunburned within a few days of exposure to sunlight at these altitudes. It is common military practice that to be deployed at 17000 plus feet a soldier has to undergo third stage of acclimatization which takes a minimum of two weeks. The PLA soldiers appear to have fresh faces with makeup worthy of the best cine stars of Hollywood and Bollywood. A portal named ‘Carbun Tracy’ claims that one of the soldiers seen in the Chinese video is none other than Chinese film artist, Wu Jing. The portal claims that the Chinese female soldier seen in the video is none other than Wu Jing’s wife, Shi Nan. Shi Nan is also a Chinese artist as well as a TV host. The portal has made this claim after questioning the video of some Chinese citizens hoisting the Chinese flag in the Galvan Valley on China’s social media platform ‘Weibo’. The portal claims that the reality of Chinese soldiers was exposed on Weibo itself, but as soon as the matter caught fire, all those Weibo accounts were blocked.[2]

It is unfortunate that the Chinese propaganda video went viral in the Indian social media, wherein questions were raised in certain forums about the Chinese having reoccupied Galwan, thus giving avoidable credibility to the Chinese psychological operations. China is adept at playing mind games and aims to not only show the Indian armed forces as weak but also hit at the Indian government and the ruling party in particular.

To some extent China did achieve its aim when the opposition raised the issue in parliament, little realizing that they were in fact furthering the adversaries agenda and by design or default impacting the morale of the soldiers who safeguard the nation’s frontiers under challenging conditions.

Continuing with the ‘Three Warfares’ strategy as part of public opinion,  China’s  Western Theater Command which is responsible for the India – China border debuted  on Chinese social media Sina Weibo on 07 January , offering a stone taken from the Galwan Valley to 10 lucky winners who repost the notices on Galwan.  Such a move happened to be the latest episode of recent stories centered on the Galwan Valley following Indian media’s hyping of Chinese soldiers’ oath-taking video. [3] A picture with Chinese soldiers patrolling the Galwan Valley, with a rock face seen in the post reading in Chinese characters “Splendid landscape, no inch to give up” was posted together with the notice. [4]

India has done well in standing up to China’s ‘Military Coercion’, surprising China with a resolute response along the LAC following a philosophy of ‘No Blinking No Brinkmanship’. The equitable and proportional deployment of combat power, the effective retaliation in Galwan in June 2020, the occupation of Kailash Ridge on 30 August 2020, which forced the Chinese to accept ‘Status Quo Ante’ along Pangong Tso and Galwan, have ensured that there has been no escalation all along the LAC, after the initial forward deployment in May 2020.

Be as it may, it is also imperative for India to be equal if not more in the ‘Information Domain’, not only countering Chinese propaganda, but going on the offensive and exploiting Chinese strategic concerns and vulnerabilities, be it Tibet, Taiwan or the brewing internal dissent within CCP as President Xi seeks an unprecedented third term. There has to be a nuanced approach with credible narratives to win the war of perceptions. For that India and Indian Armed Forces will need requisite structures and resources.

The Indian Army as a reaction released pictures of Dogra Regiment soldiers deployed on their own side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The difference between the military bearing and the demeanour of the Indian soldiers in the pictures and the PLA in the video is obvious and leaves no doubts about the veracity. However, the Indian counter came a little too late as some damage had already been done by the Chinese propaganda machine.

What India and the Indian Armed Forces need is formal Information structures, systems and resources. The Additional Director General Public Information (ADGPI) needs the requisite resources and authority, or rather a Director General Information War (DG IW) with three verticals i.e., psychological operations, social media and public information. In a networked interconnected world, information flow is in real time, and narratives drive opinions and decisions. A counter narrative has limited value.

The IW should have pre prepared alternative narratives, which should be out in the public domain and the media in real time, three days is a long time in the information domain.  To shorten the ‘OODA’ loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) especially in the information domain, will need inter ministry and inter agency coordination. In addition to the China Study Group (CSG), the ministries of Defence, External and Home are equal stakeholders in giving inputs and taking decisions, on issues concerning the India – China borders. A single inter ministry empowered group needs to be designated to fight the virtual war.

The thirteenth-round corps commander talks witnessed a condescending stance of the PLA with the spokesperson of the PLA’s Western Theatre saying “Instead of misjudging the situation, the Indian side should cherish the hard-won situation in China-India border areas. The fourteenth round of talks is now scheduled on 12 January 2022. Both India and China have hardened their positions, with India seeking a ‘Status Quo Ante’ and an unrelenting China.

The positive is that New Delhi and Beijing seek a mutually acceptable solution through talks at the political, diplomatic and more importantly military level. Though the face off along the high Himalayas between the world’s two largest armies has the potential to spiral, fortunately there has been no escalation by either side since the Galwan incident. The hardened positions along the LAC dictate that India prepare for the long haul and continue to talk to China from a position of relative strength.

China will continue with her military coercion unleashing the ‘Three Warfares’ – psychological warfare, legal warfare and public opinion. India needs to stand firm and meet and mitigate China’s aggressiveness both along the LAC and in the ‘Virtual Domain’.

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References :-

[1] https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202201/1243883.shtml

[2] https://hindustannewshub.com/world-news/chinas-pole-again-opened-dragon-used-film-artists-in-flag-video/

[3] https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202201/1245358.shtml

[4] Ibid


Author
Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia, PVSM, AVSM, SM, (Retd), is a former Director General of Military Operations (DGMO), Indian Army.  He writes on wide ranging subjects such as Regional and National Security, International Relations, Special Operations, Human Resource Development, Operational Philosophy, and Multi Domain warfare.

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POST COMMENTS (1)

abinash

Jan 09, 2022
thank you sir for your brief explanation of the issue

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