New Delhi: Navy chief Admiral Suresh Mehta on Monday warned that Beijing was likely to be more assertive on its claims in the neighborhood and called for countering its space- and cyber-warfare capabilities. "China is in the process of consolidating its comprehensive national power and creating formidable military capabilities. Once that is done, China is likely to be more assertive on its claims, especially in the immediate neighborhood," Mehta told the National Maritime Foundation here. "China's known propensity for intervention in space- and cyber-warfare will be major planning considerations in our strategic and operational thinking," Mehta said during a lecture on 'National Security Challenges: An Overview'.
Commenting on the widening gaps between China's military might and India, Mehta said it would be foolhardy to compare India and China as equals, considering that Beijing was in the process of "consolidating" its comprehensive national power and creating formidable military capabilities. "It is quite evident that coping with China will certainly be one of our primary challenges in the years ahead. Our trust deficit with China can never be liquidated unless our boundary problems are resolved," the Navy chief said. India and China, which fought a war in 1962, are yet to resolve their 4,500-km-long boundary issues. After the war, Beijing seized 36,000 sq km area in Jammu and Kashmir, while Pakistan unilaterally ceded 5,120 sq km area in Kashmir, occupied by it in 1947, to China under a pact in 1963. China has also been laying claims on 90,000 sq km area in Arunachal Pradesh in India's North East.
Mehta said India's annual defence spending at USD 30 billion (hovering at two per cent of GDP) was less than half of what China spent, though Beijing's official defence budget was USD 40 billion. "It is widely believed that China actually spends more than twice as much. RAND Corporation and other international studies peg China's defence spending to be anything between USD 70 billion to USD 200 billion," he said. Whether in terms of GDP, defence spending or any other economic, social or development parameters, the gap between the two was just too wide to bridge and getting wider by the day, he added. "In military terms, both conventional and non-conventional, we neither have the capability nor the intention to match China, force by force. Our strategy to deal with China would need to be in consonance with these realities...common sense dictates that cooperation with China would be preferable to competition or conflict," the Navy chief said.
Listing China alongside US and Russia that have acquired considerable capability in cyber warfare and web espionage, Mehta said international studies warned that international cyber espionage is set to be the biggest single threat to national security and over 120 countries were already on the bandwagon. The primary targets of cyber spies were national infrastructure network systems including power, air traffic, financial markets and government computers, Mehta said. "Indian armed forces are increasingly investing in networked operations. We cannot afford to be vulnerable to cyber attacks. It is in our interest to leverage the country's known information technology strength in developing formidable offensive and defensive cyber warfare capability," he said. On coastal security challenges, the Navy chief said intrusions via the sea were extremely difficult to prevent with the security agencies' current state of material and organizational preparedness, as exposed rudely by the Mumbai terror attacks on November 26 last year.
He called for a "whole-of-government" approach and robust coordination among various ministries and agencies to enhance situational awareness, rapid response and total synergy among enforcement agencies to carry out surveillance well beyond the exclusive economic zone, risk and threat assessments and prosecution, which was a very complex process.
Calling for cohesion in thought and action among all wings of the armed forces and national security apparatus, Mehta proposed the idea of "functional commands" such as for military aviation or air defense, which could be the pre-cursor to joint theatre or geographical commands.
I think Admiral Mehta is one of the very few honest COJS for the tri-service. Most of his comments are considered as "just criticism" while he always tells the latest concerns that are in the line for the country.
It is very tragic that the government has taken his comments lightly and doesn't take immediate steps to counter this threat.
China's Ministry of Defence Sci & Tech consists of civilian R&D organizations that work on weapons development projects supported by the money both from military budget for the "weapon" and from governmental funds for the "technology development". It's similar to the role of Indian DRDO. I have no idea if DRDO is totally supported by India's military budget.