Zorawar Daulet Singh is right that in the inner recesses of the Chinese Central Military Commission, the Mackinder versus Mahan debate must be in progress.

But eventually this debate will be overtaken by China’s hurtling pace of growth, that will force Beijing to rely almost exclusively on its SLOCs to support the garnering of resources from Africa and South America. So Mahan will eventually prevail — not his theory of the big battle; but that of protecting extended lines of commerce by an active maritime policy. That is when flag will follow trade and China’s challenge to the U.S. as a world power will take on distinctly naval overtones. The strongest arguments or hint that their weakness in the Indian Ocean is creating paranoia comes from Beijing’s own strategic commentators. This is the only weakness that India can exploit.

As for the mountain strike corps. the argument fails on its own demerits. A mountain strike corps is an oxymoron in that mountains funnel troops into valleys, and funnelling and strike manoeuvring are contradictory. A strike must create surprise at the point of impact and the few known axis of movement preclude surprise. One solution is high altitude lateral deployment of acclimatised troops, but that precisely is where the Army Aviation Corps backwardness hurts the overall strategy. In Tibet, the Chinese can always counter move faster than the Indian Army.

(Raja Menon retired as Rear Admiral in the Indian Navy.)

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