Similarities in Russia-Ukraine and India-China The Excelsior 01 Mar 2022 Maj Gen Harsha Kakar

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Similarities in Russia-Ukraine and India-China Conflict

Similarities in Russia-Ukraine and India-China The Excelsior 01 Mar 2022

          Prior to launching his offensive into Ukraine, Putin created favourable conditions. He placed terms and conditions which were unacceptable including, rolling back of NATO, recognizing annexation of Crimea and the breakaway republics and ensuring Ukraine is never admitted into the organization. With the US prolonging talks, Putin switched attention to Ukraine and placed additional conditions, including demilitarization and removal of the democratically elected government, both of which were unacceptable.  When the offensive finally came, he could justify his actions by stating he did provide an opportunity for talks, which led nowhere.

He was forcing Ukraine to accept his terms, aware that it is far weaker, does not possess nuclear weapons and has limited options, especially with Biden announcing that NATO will not support Ukraine militarily. Putin’s perceived anger was against the US, which through a network of allies was creating an anti-Russia alliance and intruding into what Russia visualized as its traditional sphere of dominance, Central Europe. Ukraine was the scapegoat.

Putin needed a pretext to project a Russia which will surrender economic gains for security considerations, especially in Central Europe and also that the state would be recognized for its formidable military power, despite a weak economy. He built the scenario by recognizing the two breakaway republics, Donetsk and Luhansk, signing an agreement for moving in forces to ensure their security while accusing Ukraine of targeting ethnic Russian residents.  Alongside his military actions, cyber-attacks on Ukraine continued, possibly from Russian or pro-Russian groups.  

Long before Putin launched his military offensive, he put NATO under pressure. He forced the west to ignore the rest of the world and concentrate on Central Europe, a region which impacted Russian sphere of influence. His hybrid warfare tactics included deploying sizeable forces all around Ukraine’s borders, conducting offensive exercises with missile launches, employing proxies to enhance tensions including artillery duels, placing unacceptable terms and conditions, while launching cyber strikes all damaging the Ukrainian economy.

Russian salami slicing of Ukrainian territory commenced by recognizing the breakaway republics and moving in troops in a peacekeeping role. Ukrainian population was instigated to believe that adhering to Russian demands of giving up Crimea and Donbass as also not joining NATO were its best option for avoiding war. When this failed, he launched his offensive. Putin’s television address, just prior to his offensive and subsequent statements asking the Ukrainian military to overthrow the government, was aimed at breaking Ukraine’s political cohesion.

By threatening Russia with unacceptable economic sanctions including blocking the NORD Stream 2 pipeline, as also deploying missiles and troops on Russia’s periphery, the US was hoping to stem Putin. Europe, despite differences stood by the US, hoping to pressurize Russia to back away. Both (the west and Russia) employed informational warfare, a subset of hybrid war, intending to push the other from interfering. Russia was aware of its end state as also when it would launch its invasion, while the west was guessing. Putin did not disappoint.   

Similarities in Ukraine-Russia and India-China scenarios cannot be missed. The Chinese pretext for its intrusion in Ladakh was based on the fake premise that India ignored agreements by building infrastructure and changing status quo by bifurcating the erstwhile state of J and K. It ignored the fact that infrastructure was being developed in Indian territory. An added Chinese concern, similar to that of Russia, was growing Indian proximity to the US and its active participation in the QUAD which China believes is aimed against it. China could not hit back at the US, hence targeted two members of the alliance, India and Australia. India militarily and Australia economically. 

China deployed troops in Ladakh against bilateral agreements, salami sliced into Indian territory. Like Russia is currently doing, China sought a resolution based on previous agreements, all of which were null and void by its intrusion.

Cyber-attacks on Indian infrastructure are regularly reported. Recent Indian missile tests were a means of conveying that India possesses the capability to hit back in case China expands the conflict. India banning Chinese apps and restricting its investments emphasized its intent to block further Chinese inroads into its economy, while impacting Chinese businesses. With both nations being nuclear powered, India possesses the capability to respond in full measure, unlike Ukraine.

The recent visits by foreign minister S Jaishankar to the QUAD summit and Europe led to him exploiting information warfare, to project China in poor light by emphasizing that it does not adhere to bilateral agreements, hence cannot be trusted. China termed it as internationalizing the dispute. The Global Times in an editorial on 20th Feb stated, ‘New Delhi may try to exploit the force of the international community to embolden itself,’ adding, ‘By leveraging their power, India hopes to pressure China to make a concession over the border issue.’

As Russia did in Donetsk and Luhansk, China is backing separatist rebel groups in the Northeast, while supporting Pakistan in pushing terrorism into J and K. ULFA chief Paresh Barua is known to be residing in Ruili in China. An article titled, ‘The Chinese hand behind terrorism in the Northeast, published by Vivekanand International Foundation, Dr Sriparna Pathak, writes, ‘it (Chinese support) has been one of the prime reasons as to why insurgency has been sustained in the region for decades.’ An Indian security official stated after the Manipur attack which claimed the life of Col Tripathi, ‘the possibility of China fuelling insurgency in the Northeast exists.’ China has regularly threatened to enhance support to these groups.

Simultaneously, China along with Pakistan continue exploiting India’s social, cultural and religious fault lines thereby dividing the Indian community, in a similar manner as Russia was attempting in Ukraine. Similar to Russia supporting the breakaway republics, economically and militarily, China supports Pakistan, thus compelling India to expend funds for cater for a wo-front war.

Almost all aspects of hybrid war, visible in the Russian-Ukraine conflict exist in the India-China scenario. While India has been able to contain Chinese hybrid warfare, Ukraine has been impacted. Similar to Ukraine, India is countering the Chinese alone.

The major difference is that the world seeks to sanction and punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, while no nation considered doing so to China for its intrusion in Ladakh.