India’s Failed Pakistan Air Raid; the Siliguri Corridor

(Reuters) Satellite images show madrasa buildings still standing at scene of Indian bombing.

It sounds like India had faulty intelligence, targeting, and execution. The bombs missed their target, which might have been a good thing. Although the madrassa is run by  (Aljazeera) terror group Jaish-e-Mohammad, childhood is still an age of innocence.

The buildings are still standing. This is the result of  a “hollow military”, one which appears to have all the elements, both material and organizational, but can’t actually fight effectively. On close inspection, a hollow military has faulty procurement, training, and execution.

The state of mind that allows this, a world of reduced belligerence, is a good thing. Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Europe’s military had hollowed out, posing negligible threat to Russia. European weapons were job programs. The Eurofighter, sports car of the sky, can’t carry the JDAM, the essential smart bomb, because sex sells, and JDAMs aren’t sexy.

Then Russia gave Europe a kick, causing panic in NATO, which responded  by filling the military holes. Russia’s appreciation of the peace dividend had been lacking. They aren’t enjoying it anymore. Now Russia is an impoverished “great power”, with plenty of room for “real men” to charge up the Syrian version of San Juan Hill. Russians should pay more attention to Norman Schwarzkopf, who said (Wikipedia, boldface mine),

… War is a profanity, it really is. It’s terrifying. Nobody is more anti-war than an intelligent person who’s been to war. Probably the most anti-war people I know are Army officers—but if we do have a war, I think it’s going to be limited in nature like Vietnam and Korea. Limited in scope. And when they get ready to send me again, I’m going to have to stop and ask myself, “is it worth it?” That’s a very dangerous place for the nation to be when your own army is going to stop and question.[55]

The tragedy of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, and China’s claim to  parts of the various China seas, is the loss of  hollow militaries. While continuing to trade raw materials and smartphone parts, trading partners are actually preparing for conflict, in the sense of creating militaries that can actually fight.

In the West, fear rules. With the hunger of Russia and China for new territory, might they try to grab  more? That they will ultimately lose much more, in the quality of their lives, than the value of their acquisitions is unappreciated.  Skipping the rationalizations of geopolitics, it could be  a mind-virus, something in the old reptilian brain, screaming “More, more….more!”

But what does this have to do with India?

One of the next “mores” for China is Doka La, located at the  junction of Bhutan, China, and India, claimed by both Bhutan and China, defended by India. The dispute acquires strategic importance with proximity to the 13 mile-wide Siliguri Corridor, a.k.a. the “Chicken’s Neck”, the sole connection of India with its northeastern territories. The Indian account (economictimes.indiatimes.com), Behind China’s Sikkim aggression, a plan to isolate Northeast from rest of India, acknowledges the boundary dispute and gives plausible motive. (Wikipedia) 2017 China–India border standoff differs in unresolved detail. China attempted to extend an existing road into  disputed territory, and India resisted.

The current threat has surgical precision, compared to the 1962 Sino-Indian War, when China overran large and widely separated areas in the northwest and northeast of India. Mysteriously, China withdrew almost entirely, back to their claimed line of control. There was wide agreement that Mao’s China was not expansionist; it had the inward focus of the Middle Kingdom. Perhaps Mao reasonably worried about 600 million Indians with a grudge.

Under Xi Jinping, China’s outward focus and expansionist drive is measured by the  the Nine-Dash Line. Is Xi Jinping’s China as respectful of the wrath of a billion Indians as Mao was? Or does he intend strategic pressure on the “Chicken’s Neck”, the only connection to India’s northeastern territories?

It’s hard to fight at 15,000 feet. The terrain is not tactically favorable to China, though China has a road, while India does not. But the incompetence of the nighttime JeM raid could tempt. That India’s force structure, which begins with reconnaissance and ends with release of a programmed smart munition , was incapable of the mission, is only half the shame. The other is that they didn’t know the limitation.

India used an Israeli precision guided bomb, the SPICE, which uses computer vision (EO) in the bomb itself to identify and lock onto the target. If it can’t see the target, it switches to  GPS as a backup. EO makes these bombs much more expensive than the JDAM. So you really want good images, or very good GPS coordinates. Since the SPICE has two guidance options, the Indian force lacked both:

  • Target locations, accurate to the yard, not the neighborhood.
  • Pictures of the targets usable by the SPICE EO vision tracker.

To cap it off, India lost no time  announcing a  bomb damage assessment of total success. When you do a rotten job, it’s handy to have someone as rotten to cover you. The rot might not be restricted to the team that executed.

The temptation increases if India and Pakistan fight. Somebody in China might be thinking  the main danger of fighting India at Doka La is to die laughing.

A recommended instructional video for the Indian Air Force, by noted strategist Jimmy Breslin, can be viewed here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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