. The conflict with China on the borders of Ladakh, and the brutal murder of 20 Indian soldiers has led to furious allegations by retired service officers as well as opposition leaders of ‘another’ intelligence failure.
A disjointed Indian intelligence system appears to have permitted China the crucial time window to initially move forces into the contested areas of Ladakh. India in fact holds a military advantage against China in its border areas, leaving Beijing with only one pathway to create a localized force advantage: through deception. And so it was this year. China’s army began a major military exercise near Indian border areas from January as a distraction, later diverting forces to Ladakh to begin its occupation. Such significant Chinese activities should have merited exceptionally close monitoring and interagency evaluation by Indian intelligence services.
Individual agencies did in fact report suspicious Chinese movements toward Ladakh through February and March, but the intelligence clearly didn’t reach top policymakers—at least not in a way that conveyed enough urgency. As a result of this lapse, Chinese forces moved in to hold areas of Ladakh, cutting off Indian border patrol posts from each other and blocking critical roads connecting the mountainous region. By the time Indian forces received accurate intelligence regarding the Chinese incursions, their only realistic response involved rushing in troops from Leh, the regional capital. Under a more effective national intelligence system, Indian forces would have received enough prior warning to be in position to block Chinese troops as they attempted to make incursions. They instead had to play catch-up to halt further Chinese advances, with the invading forces also able to consolidate their presence on the ground they had gained.
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