Rising China & Indian Response

Discussion in 'West Asia & Africa' started by Rahul92, Oct 15, 2010.

  1. Rahul92

    Rahul92 Senior Member Senior Member

    Sep 4, 2010
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    By Rajeev Sharma

    (The views expressed by the author are his own)

    George Fernandes, Defence Minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government, was bang on target when he famously said that it was China, not Pakistan or any other nation that was India’s biggest security threat. Again, it was not fortuitous when the then Prime Minister Vajpayee said in a letter (later leaked) to the then US President Bill Clinton that the Indian nuclear tests had been conducted with China in mind.

    The remarks of Vajpayee and Fernandes did not emerge from nothing; rather these averments indicated that India has long been conscious of a rising China and its implications to India. The Indian, and to a certain extent, the international media have started highlighting Sino-Indian rivalry circa 2009 when the Chinese incursions into Indian territory started becoming more pronounced. From the Indian government’s point of view, however, India has long been aware what shape the Chinese threat is going to take in not too distant future.

    This has happened a decade after the Vajpayee government placed on record its concern about a rising China. The ambitious incursions by China in 2009, China edging past Japan to acquire the number two place in the world’s economy rankings in 2010, the feverish assertiveness of China in making maritime territorial claims in East China Sea, South China Sea and Yellow Sea, the flexing of military muscle by China and China’s relentless and transcontinental infrastructural drive are all important milestones that has to be taken note of.

    At a time when Indian and foreign newspapers, journals and think tanks have gone on an overdrive to emphasize how the Chinese dragon is all set to devour the Indian tiger, let us focus on what India can do and is already doing to develop an effective counter to a rising China. It was a decade ago when India started developing strategic plans for dealing with China in 2020 or 2030.

    The Chinese infrastructure drive is an integral part of its strategic encirclement policy. Three ports that China is building in India’s immediate neighbourhood – Gwadar in Pakistan, Sittwe in Myanmar and Hambantota in Sri Lanka – are important parts of the Chinese strategy. China has a vibrant presence across South Asia. Besides Pakistan, with which China has a true strategic partnership, Beijing has emerged as a major player in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal. It has firmly entrenched itself in Myanmar (Burma), Mauritius and the Seychelles.

    On 5 August 2010, The People’s Daily reported that two days previously “important combat readiness materials” (read missiles) of the Chinese Air Force were transported safely to Tibet via the Qinghai-Tibet Railway – the first time since such materials were transported to Tibet by railway. It is a clear demonstration by China of not just its technological competence but also its capability to mobilise in Tibet in the event of a Sino-Indian conflict. China already has four fully operational airports in Tibet (the last one started operations in July 2010) while the fifth is scheduled to be inaugurated in October 2010.

    Meanwhile, the Chinese Navy’s recent seafaring activities and manoeuvres have revealed Beijing’s intention to increase its control of the maritime sea lanes of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The latter is an obvious cause of concern for India. China’s new-found aggressive posturing and maritime territorial claims in South China Sea – which Beijing has begun to describe as an area of its “core interest”, a term that the Chinese have been using for Tibet, Taiwan and Xinjiang – is of no less concern.

    China is building up its naval might in a big way. It is not just India that is confused and concerned about the real intent of Beijing. Japan, the US, South Korea, Vietnam and Taiwan are equally apprehensive. China’s People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) was recently given a green light by the country’s highest military planning body, the Central Military Commission (CMC), to build two new nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. One aircraft carrier – Varyag of the Kuznetsov class – is already under construction. All three aircraft carriers will be available to China by 2017 and will patrol the South China Sea, Western Pacific and Indian Ocean. This will give the the Chinese Navy a blue-water capability to rival the US Navy.

    India is far behind China's gargantuan defence capabilities. At the same time, New Delhi is not sitting idly. India has been conscious of rapidly growing Chinese military capabilities for well over a decade. In fact, the then Indian Defence Minister George Fernandes, while speaking in the aftermath of the May 1998 Indian nuclear tests, had gone on record as saying that China was the number one threat for India.

    In 1999, the government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee approved a 30-year submarine construction plan under which 30 submarines were to be constructed. Construction work on at least four nuclear submarines is in full swing, while the indigenously made Arihant nuclear powered submarine has already been launched. India plans to have at least 30 submarines by 2030, but this target may prove to be too stiff. India’s submarine fleet is currently facing depletion and their number is expected to go down to 16 by 2012 with the decommissioning of two Foxtrot submarines in the near future.

    In March 2009, the present government cleared Project 15B under which next generation warships are under various stages of construction. Besides, at least three Kolkata class destroyers are under construction under Project 15A. Two aircraft carriers – INS Vikramaditya (Admiral Gorshkov of Russia) and INS Vikrant – are under construction.

    To strike a harmonious balance, the Indian Navy is in the process of beefing up its fleet of stealth frigates and has initiated several new projects in this regard. Shivalikwill be India’s first stealth frigate of its class. The Sahyadri and Satpura class of frigates are under advanced stage of construction. All this is as per the government’s plans to maintain a force level of more than 140 warships.

    What is important for China to note is that it is not dealing with India of 1962?

    China stepped up its involvement in India’s backyard – Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Afghanistan – as a part of its India’s strategic encirclement policy. India too has intensified its diplomatic and strategic involvement in China’s own backyard – with Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and Myanmar. But that is another story.

    (The writer is a New Delhi-based journalist-author and commentator on strategic issues, international relations and terrorism. [email protected])


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