Excerpt from The Last War By Pravin Sawhney
What would a war between India and China be like? Author Pravin Sawhney offers a scenario he believes is most probable: “At the very outset China’s formidable cyberwarfare would shut down all forms of communications within India including phone, Internet and satellite. The Indian leadership, both political and military, would be isolated, dumb and powerless.”
“In a few minutes it becomes clear that the PMO is not the only one to fall off the Internet highway. The ministries of defence, home, finance, as well as the service headquarters of the armed forces have gone offline. The Government of India has been thrown backwards by more than three decades. Even the phone lines are not working.”
What follows is even more terrifying: The Chief of Army Staff “tells the Prime Minister that unaccountable numbers of intelligent armed drones, perhaps 15,000 or more, are coming in waves of swarms to attack military defences, communication networks, and ground-based radars. Hypersonic and cruise missiles had destroyed several hardened bunkers, command and control bunkers, and many other facilities deep Inside Indian territory. Ballistic missiles had hit targets all the way to the Brahmaputra River. Most of the airstrips had been hit by runway missiles”.
The clincher, the author writes, would prove to be killer bee-sized drones developed by China. “It turns out that these are intelligent micro and mini drones, each smaller than a bullet. They penetrate the human forehead at great speed and explode. They seem to have some kind of facial recognition technology. They are only hitting the humans… These are intelligent drones. They have been programmed to penetrate the helmets. They are not attacking any other part of the body. And they seem to wait for the soldiers to appear. They are not randomly hitting targets.” The Indian army apparently would virtually get wiped out by these tiny drones fitted with amazing, futuristic technology. Chinese soldiers would not have to fire a single shot.
The actual invasion of India would be carried out mostly by unmanned vehicles and fighting robots: “In the vanguard are unmanned vehicles — tanks and artillery guns — some on wheels and some hovering just above the ground. Marching alongside on their metal feet are humanoid robots. Tearing through the moisture-laden low clouds and mist that clings to the valleys in these areas, the stealthy march of this space age force is both mesmerising and frightening. There is not a human being in sight.”
The army of robots and drones easily overwhelm all resistance and the war is lost.
The author seems to believe such a scenario is inevitable primarily because the country’s leadership, both political and military, is incompetent and has no idea of the developments taking place in China. According to his assessment, the Chinese military would be ready to go to war with India by 2024.
“Despite all the threats, the Prime Minister and the NSA were convinced that China would not enter all-out war with India and imperil its own economic growth. This view was also supported by the military establishment led by the CDS [Chief of Defence Staff]… Traditionally, the Indian military believed that China was at least a decade ahead of Indian capabilities. Sanguine in this assessment cover it was clueless about the rapid transformation that had been taking place in the neighbourhood.”
The author is convinced that the Indian military does not have the mental wherewithal to match China. “It’s very clear that the biggest challenges facing the Indian Army today are its own mindset and vested interests.” This he argues has led to an “erosion of the army’s conventional war-fighting capabilities.” He also rues the lack of intellectual capacity in India’s military officers. He believes that the army’s “pool of young officers is not the brightest, the army hierarchy works on ensuring that they do not indulge too much in independent reading and thinking…it is no surprise that over the last two decades the intellectual profile of the army has diminished rapidly.”
The political leadership, going by the author’s assessment, is in no better shape and is responsible for rubbing China the wrong way. The BJP, according to him not only does not understand military power but has also used it for electoral gain. He believes that India’s “politically motivated or even a partially sectarian army” will be disastrous. In contrast, the author seems to believe that the only political leader with some understanding of military matters is the Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.
As for China, he feels that Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not understand what Chinese President Xi Jinping meant at the 2018 Wuhan Summit when he spoke about the need to develop a new modus vivendi given the gap between the national powers of the two nations had become unbridgeable.
“Implicit in Xi’s statement was that the east was led by China and the west by the US. Thus, China is no longer a rising power, but, like the US, a risen power.” India is simply not in its league. India, however, still believes it is China’s equal and instead of falling in line with China’s global agenda such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has dared to join hands with the United States and the anti-China Quadrilateral initiative.
Since India would be beaten hollow in the war that is imminent, the author seems to suggest that the best course of action for the Indian leadership would be to quietly capitulate: “A good strategy, therefore, for India would be peace with Pakistan by resolution of the Kashmir issue, strong relations with Russia, and cooperation in mutually agreed areas with China.”
The Last War
By Pravin Sawhney
pp. 424, Rs 999