Limits of a limited war

Limits of a limited war

The reported consensus between India and China, this past week, over the urgent and immediate need to deescalate the military situation along the LAC in Ladakh is welcome and needs to be worked upon relentlessly. The foreign ministers of the two sides who met in Moscow also agreed that both sides’ border troops should quickly disengage, maintain a proper distance, and ease tensions. However, experts argue that these measures, even if implemented earnestly, may only sustain the current status quo, which is detrimental to India’s strategic interests as these appear to completely ignore India’s legitimate demand for a pre-April 2020 status quo. Amidst the dawning realisation that China may not readily accede to such a demand, there is a growing clamour amongst some military strategists, both domestic and foreign, for a “limited war” to re-establish the status quo ante. Some even alluded to the Yom Kippur War kind of limited aggression when a combined Arab (Egypt and Syria) military action against Israel in 1973 forced Israel to bargain with Egypt over the Sinai restoration. Similar limited aggression by India may force China to come to the negotiating table and pave the way for bargaining over the pre-April status quo. However, such arguments defy the logic of coercion and exhibit a faulty understanding of the concept of “limited war”. Moreover, there is always a danger of drawing on wrong historical analogies, leading to disastrous decision-making. Historians have written reams on how certain cognitive biases guide individuals to draw on history’s wrong lessons. The ...
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