• SUN TZU wrote the statecraft of war
  • ZHUGE LIANG wrote 36 Strategems as principles of war

By Cmde. Ranjit B Rai(Retd.)

New Delhi. 14 October 2020. It has come to light(by joining the dots), that China’s military moves in Ladakh across the Line of Actual Control from April were planned by China’s Central Military Commission(CMC) after it analysed the speech that Home Minister Amit Shah delivered on 5th August last year in Parliament abrogating Article 370 and declaring Aksai Chin and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir(POK) as India’s. Chinese leadership began planning to safeguard projects under construction in the CPEC, and hid its intentions with a large exercise in Tibet as a routine summer exercise, and crossed across India’s line of Actual Control and occupied territory in early May, in strength like 1962 as COVID raged.

China is propping up Pakistan’s defences in POK and is hastening the supply of munitions, four ships and eight submarines to the Pakistan Navy as CNS Admiral Abassi disclosed at the Bharia naval base in Karachi on 7th October, while handing over to Adm Niazi, listing the 50 Ship Vision for the Pakistan’s Navy including supply of a gratis training submarine from China, and bases at Gwadar, Ormara and Tarbat with Chinese help and Milgem OPVs from Turkey.

Pakistan Government issued a new map including POK, and has taken political steps to include Gilgit and Baltisitan as a province of Pakistan and will hold elections in November. China’s moves in Ladakh can be copy booked to Sun Tzu and the chicanery of Chinese strategist Zhuge Liang’s thirty six stratagems. EAM Jaishankar in, ‘The India Way’ quotes Zhuge, “The wise win before the fight, while the ignorant fight to win”. Chinese Staff Colleges teach Sun Tzu’s Art of War(544-496BC) as the philosophy of war, and Zhuge (181-234) as Principles for War. Prime Ministers Mahathir and Lee Kuan Yew are known to have studied Zhuge Liang.

This writer learnt about Zhuge Liang from Chinese in Singapore. They often used the word Kaisu on the golf course which Wikipedia says comes from the Chinese phrase, meaning ‘fear of losing’. It is often used to refer to anxious and selfish attitude arising from a fear of missing out, or lose face. Xi Jinping cannot afford to lose face on his prestigious BRI project in Pakistan.

The Stratagems by Zhuge Liang are a collection of tactics that can be applied to different situations. In China, they are like proverbs. They have been described as “gems that speak to the cores of Chinese society.” Chinese children learn them like others learn nursery rhymes or Indians learn lessons from the Mahabharata, Gita and Ramayan.

Sinologist John Barka writes, “ they are taught in school, found in literature, in folk opera and even in television programs and have become part of the collective unconscious of most Chinese people and the military” and , this writer adds to realise the China Dream, Zhuge derived stratagems from studying military tactics of the Warring States (403-221 B.C.) Some stratagems are even taught in commercial courses on negotiating with Chinese businessmen.

Sinologist Ambassador Shyam Saran in a lecture he delivered in 2012 in memory of K Subrahmanyam, describes one of Zhuge’s action of deception to deceive an intruding force to flee, advises, “What is required from our strategists and diplomats is to understand this important instrument (deception)in the Chinese strategic tool-box and learn to deal with it effectively. Perhaps we should take to heart Zhuge Liang’s advice and enter the mind of our Chinese interlocutor to judge his mental and psychological construct.”

Selected Zhuge’s stratagems are listed by this writer that apply the Ladakh incursion. Large Indian troops will have to safeguard occupied positions through the harsh winter. Parenthesis are by this writer to ponder over.

  1. Cross the Sea(LAC) by Deceiving the Sky: Act in the open (EXERCISE IN TIBET), but hide your true intentions.
  2. Besiege Wei (SHYLOK PASSAGE) to Rescue Zhao(AKSAI). Attack their Achilles heel.(GALWAN and PANGONG as Chinese had built a road in 1999).
  3. Relax and Wait for the Adversary to Tire Himself Out (MILITARY TALKS). Await
    leisurely to exhaust enemy: Exercise patience and wear them down(MOD SPENDING).
  4. Loot a Burning House: Hit them when they are down (COVID RAGING).
  5. Pretend to Advance Down One Path While Taking Another . Pretend to care about an issue and later give it up to get what you really want.(AKSAI CHIN & CPEC)
  6. Conceal a Dagger in a Smile. Befriend them to get their guard down, then attack their weakest point: (XI JINPING 18 MEETINGS and HUGS WITH MODI).
  7. Sacrifice a Plum Tree(GOOD RELATIONS WITH INDIA) to Save a Peach Tree (CPEC and PAKISTAN) Take a small loss for a larger gain.
  8. Raise a Corpse from the Dead . Revive a dead proposal by presenting it again or in a new way.(1959 LAC).
  9. Toss out a Brick (BIZ WITH INDIA). Trade something of minor value for something of major value(NATIONAL INTERESTS).Join forces with a friend against a common enemy(PAKISTAN).

India will need to join a partner or partners to turn the tables to face the China-Pakistan nexus. A Lend Lease Charter with USA like Churchill signed with Roosevelt in 1941 before USA joined WW II deserves consideration as after LEMOA and COMCASA US Navy has extended use of CENTRIX internet system to Indian Navy to access Pentagon’s plot of the Indo Pacific, and, the DAP has a clause for leasing of platforms and USA has offered moth balled ships from FMS, like Navy got INS Jalashwa(Ex USS Trenton) at a basement price still in service.