shiv wrote:Therefore we don't have protection against cruise missiles
To me this is the most worrying thing.
See, if PLA attacks in force at the Tawang defile or in Aksai Chin... geography will make it necessary for them to concentrate all their forces in a small area that gives onto Indian territory. We will see it coming. If we are watching at all, we cannot miss the preparations.
Now once the attack begins, there are (very broadly speaking) two ways to respond to it.
The first is to meet them head on at the point of the breach, with land forces backed by CAS patrols, while using longer-range IAF assets and perhaps some missile assets to interdict their supply lines in the rear. If the assault can be quickly made expensive for the Chinese in this way, it is a good idea. However, it also means that the initiative will be with the Chinese. If they are expecting to be met head-on as soon as they cross into Indian territory, and we oblige them, then they are effectively choosing the time and more importantly the location of the action.
The second way to respond to it is to extend the Chinese. Let them advance into Indian territory; use flanking manoeuvres and harrassment, as well as the terrain, to corral the advancing Chinese into a location of our choosing. Then surround, isolate them and finish them off. Meanwhile, of course, interdicting the supply lines with IAF and missile assets to whatever extent possible.
In this case we have the advantage of initiative, and of fighting on ground of our choice. Another advantage is that their supply lines become longer, as do the distances their aircraft will have to fly to provide CAS or recon (a very critical thing given the altitude of Tibetan airbases, as Shiv has pointed out many times.) Each mile further into India that the action takes place, is an extra cost to the PLAAF in fuel or payload.
On the face of it the second option seems marginally more attractive (unless we are sure of bringing overwhelming force to meet the Chinese as soon as they breach Indian territory.) I am no military strategist, but given that India has so far been extending its border infrastructure at a leisurely pace, it is possible that our military strategists may also have something like this in mind... let the PLA have a long rope, advancing into India with no roads to help supply them or beat a quick retreat, and then slaughter them like the Russians slaughtered Napoleon.
The problem, of course, is the cruise missiles.
To exercise the second option, we will need to do a lot of complicated manoeuvres in the PLA's rear and around their flanks before surrounding them. If the PLA were only relying on the PLAAF, these manoeuvres would have been relatively low-risk for India; but if the Chinese have the capacity to send barrages of cruise missiles against Indian forces cutting off the PLA's advance, something against which we have no protection, we will lose a lot of lives and materiel, as well as speed and initiative, while trying to maneouvre around the PLA. This could put severe pressure on IA if it is also fighting a war against TSP at the same time.
The Chinese know this and, since Sumdorong Chu, they have rightly decided that only missiles can give them an overwhelming advantage over India in the event of a border war. That's why they have been deploying thousands of LACMs all along the Indo-China border for years. The Chinese also know that they cannot win a long or protracted land war on the Indo-China border... ultimately, no matter how many supplies they stockpile, repeated IAF and missile raids will sever their supply arteries and then they will be stuck. Thus, they are likely planning a "shock and awe" move with their cruise missiles, and will deploy them against us in large numbers at the very early stages of a war... hoping to demoralize us with mass military casualties and possibly even by destroying large numbers of civil, commercial and industrial targets.
Countering the cruise missile threat is an urgent need... because right now, escalation to a nuclear war seems our only option when confronted with such an assault.