China’s intelligence agencies must need to do very little to gather information on India’s defence preparedness, the position and number of its forces on the border, etc. All they need to do is tune into the TV news channels, read the newspapers and peek into social media posts. Unless it is an elaborate disinformation campaign by India (most unlikely), the verbal diarrhea, more or less, gives it all away. The movements of troops, their numbers, even the names of officers where they can be obtained, the kind of weapons and equipment, etc., are broadcast to the world almost in real time. In fact, in contrast to nuclear equations, where it is useful to let the enemy know what you have got as a means of deterrence, conventional war requires as much secrecy and subterfuge as possible. At least make them work for it!
In contrast, the opacity of China is legendary. It only allows out information that it wishes to mislead the enemy. In fact, the ‘free’ news media often plays into its hands by regurgitating what is made available as propaganda. Backed up by its official media outlets, China helps create a perception designed to affect the enemy’s morale. Ask anybody about the relative strengths of Indian and PLA forces at the Ladakh face-off area and almost all will claim that the Chinese are at an advantage. Added to this is the ‘heckling’ by irresponsible leaders of the opposition, who in their animosity towards Modi think nothing of furthering the Chinese narrative.
So, India’s military strategists – the actual ones and not those pontificating from armchairs – have not only to plan for the Chinese moves, but also the developing narrative at home. The Chinese leadership does not need to look over its shoulders – its people are not even told the number of casualties suffered in incidents like that at Galwan Valley. Unfortunately, it would seem this gives an advantage to a closed and totalitarian society against an open and democratic one. This should not be the case, but it is a fact that democratic societies require their citizens to be more mature and personally responsible. There is no point in being more civilised and cultured if, time after time, the nation succumbs to downright barbarians who have the advantage of being single-mindedly focused on war. That has been India’s history through the ages – it should not be repeated in the present.
(The 2 September, 2020, GP editorial inadvertently mentions the date of the Rampur Tiraha firing as 1 September, 1994, instead of 1 October, 1994. The error is regretted.)