Clear warning of Chinese intentions for 4 weeks, says ex-Army officer

Panag called the clash at Ladakh the Modi government's "Kongka La" moment

china defence Representational image of Chinese Army | Reuters

Retired officers of the armed forces and defence analysts have expressed alarm at the "violent" faceoff between Indian and Chinese Armies at Ladakh on Monday night. An Indian Army colonel and two soldiers were killed in the incident, which is the first fatal clash between India and China in 45 years.

Retired Lt-General H.S. Panag tweeted he was "Deeply anguished that we came this pass despite clear warning of Chinese intentions for last 4 weeks". Panag called the clash at Ladakh the Modi government's "Kongka La" moment, adding "What we were hiding is out in the open". In October 1959, nine Indian soldiers were killed when they clashed with Chinese troops at the Kongka Pass on the border with Tibet. The Kongka La incident led to the worsening of ties between India and China, culminating in the war of 1962.

Panag, currently a noted defence analyst, had commanded the Northern Command and Central Command of Indian Army during his four-decade long tenure. In an article in The Print on June 4, Panag had warned China had taken control of "approximately 40-60 square km of Indian territory in three different areas" and was negotiating with India from a "position of strength". Panag argued the Narendra Modi government and Indian military had "gone into ‘denial’ about any loss of territory, attributing the present situation to differing perceptions about the LAC." Panag even warned that if a diplomatic solution to the dispute at Ladakh was not found, "China has come prepared for a border skirmish or a limited war."

Retired Indian Navy commodore C. Uday Bhaskar tweeted that the clash at Ladakh was a serious development that needed a response that was "calibrated but resolute". Bhaskar noted India had to counter "China's use of 3 warfares framework & shaping of narrative". The "three warfares" strategy—consisting of public opinion warfare, psychological warfare and legal warfare—is considered by many experts as a key element of China's attempts to meet its geopolitical goals without going to war.

Noted strategic commentator Brahma Chellaney tweeted the clash at Ladakh was a "major escalation". Chellaney tweeted, "China's stealth occupation of some vantage locations in Indian Ladakh marked a major escalation. The killing of an Indian Army colonel and two soldiers makes it worse. By starting a conflict with India, Xi is creating a climate hostile to the realization of his ‘Chinese dream’."

In another tweet, Chellaney declared, "... The invading Chinese forces did not start a ‘physical brawl’ with Indian troops but an ‘armed confrontation’ in which they used a variety of improvised weapons other than guns."