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Ladakh Standoff: Four reasons we can be sure China suffered heavier losses than India

Given the authoritarian nature of the Chinese state, they may never officially disclose the losses on their side. This forces to put the pieces together using source based reports about Indian and US intelligence, observing China’s reactions and some basic common sense.

A week later, we are still coming to grips with the shocking events that unfolded on the night of June 15 between Indian and Chinese armies at Galwan Valley. The contours of what happened are amply clear: Indian troops on a patrol were ambushed by the Chinese. There was furious hand to hand fighting, in which both sides suffered casualties.

There are two things we know for sure. One, the Indian Army has tragically lost 20 soldiers. Second, there have been casualties on the Chinese side. The question is how many. The grim reality of war forces us to compare.

Given the authoritarian nature of the Chinese state, they may never officially disclose the losses on their side. This forces to put the pieces together using source based reports about Indian and US intelligence, observing China’s reactions and some basic common sense.

So here are four reasons we can be sure that China suffered heavier losses than we did in the June 15 conflict.

Countries hide casualties only to avoid embarrassment

It is noteworthy that China admitted openly that they have suffered casualties. They confirmed this on Day 1, but since then they have stubbornly refused to disclose how many. Since then, they have also been hiding behind the term “casualties,” which is a weasel word in itself. It could refer to the dead or to the injured, or both.

In the history of warfare, there is ever only one reason a country hides its losses. To save face and keep up morale of their civilians and their military.

Ironically, China claims that they are not disclosing casualties to protect the sentiments on the Indian side. This is weak sauce. And if the matter were not so serious, it would be laughable. In other words, they are willing to sacrifice morale of their own people in order to protect our sentiments? Come on. We are all grown ups here.

US intel sources appear to say the same thing

US News carried a report the very next day, saying that US intelligence indicates that the Chinese side suffered 35 casualties. They have repeated the figure today from US intel sources and provided more details about who ordered the ambush on the Chinese side.

These reports have since gone viral on the internet and have been widely quoted by Indian media. Even with China’s strict censorship, it is near impossible that the reports haven’t reached the Chinese public. If nothing else, there are hundreds of thousands of Chinese students and professionals working abroad, who will see these reports and mention them to folks back home.

China has not tried to contradict or even discredit these reports, officially or unofficially. They have not offered even the slightest assurance to the Chinese public against them.

China has a recent history of hiding deaths due to Coronavirus

Officially, China claims to have suffered only 4,634 deaths due to the Wuhan Coronavirus. It would be hard to find any rational person who takes this number seriously.

There are studies that estimate over 35000 people could have died in Wuhan city alone, when the official death toll for the whole of China is not even 5000.

If China can hide literally tens of thousands, possibly even lakhs of deaths with such ease, it is really not difficult for them to conceal a few dozen deaths on the LAC.

China’s childish efforts to keep morale high on their side

It’s not like China has done nothing to keep morale high on their side. They could have been adults about it and revealed their casualty figures. Instead, we have seen propaganda that can only be considered childish.

Chinese media propaganda

As if this poster of live fire from Chinese batteries is supposed to scare us. In fact, on the day after the conflict, Chinese mouthpiece Global Times and its editors and reporters said an astonishing number of times that China is “not scared” of India. The kind of desperate self-assurance that you would hardly expect from a winner.

They literally said that again yesterday, along with another high resolution picture of a soldier.

Chinese media propaganda

It’s not clear whether China is trying to intimidate us or showing off their photo editing skills. And here is China showing that its soldiers can perform circus tricks.

Chinese media propaganda

I think they had another one today, of Chinese soldiers grabbing their guns while waking up from sleep. One guy wakes up quickly and spins his cap around with a flourish. It is possible this video was taken during a school trip, intended to make third graders start clapping their adorable little hands.

Again, if the matter were not so serious, we could just laugh. We don’t have time for that. Instead, the Indian public must ask itself two questions.

Who is helping China wage psychological war and why?

Having fared badly in the ground conflict, China is only left with psychological warfare. The posters and videos from Global Times won’t scare the Indian public. But since the morning of June 16, there have been certain cartels on the Indian side who have been trying to run down our morale. Trying to create visions of China pulling off some huge military victory and humiliating us.

Who are these people and what is their motivation? Could these be frustrated people who want the BJP to lose power at any cost? Could these be frustrated weapons dalals who have been put out of business by the Modi government?

Who prepared the ground for the Chinese propaganda offensive and why?

China is not a democracy and will not become one in the foreseeable future. For China, the only hope of turning global opinion against India was to project India as an authoritarian, fascist state. In particular, they would like the world to think of the Indian government as run by Nazi sympathizers and the Indian Army as brutal occupiers. Above all, they want the world to think India “annexed” Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh in Aug 2019.

Now, who on the Indian side has been saying exactly these things defaming India for the last 6-9 months? How come their rhetoric matches so perfectly with what China wants everyone to hear? What were the real motivations and real incentives of those who were defaming India.

At the LAC, the Indian Army has given a befitting response to the Chinese on the night of June 15. But China may have a shadow army operating very deep within our borders. Are we prepared for that?

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Abhishek Banerjee
Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or may not be an Associate Professor at IISc Bangalore. He is the author of Operation Johar - A Love Story, a novel on the pain of left wing terror in Jharkhand, available on Amazon here.  

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