Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Challenges from China: Need for defence modernisation

by Kamlendra Kanwar
India’s just-retired naval chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta’s recent warning that China will become a “primary challenge” for India in the future and that “in military terms, both conventional and non-conventional, this country has neither the capability nor the intention to match China force for force” was a candid statement of fact though it caused many eyebrows to rise in policy-making circles. The Chinese threat has generally been talked of in hushed tones. During NDA rule the then Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes, had disturbed a hornet’s nest when in 1998 he stated that China was India’s enemy number one. Though he later expressed regret over the remark, suspicion of Chinese intentions has been a reality in the Indian foreign affairs establishment for long.

Admiral Mehta’s prediction that Beijing’s territorial claims would become more assertive as its military capabilities continue to develop cannot be taken lightly. He surely knew what he was talking about when he addressed the National Maritime Convention in New Delhi earlier this month. As Admiral Mehta was dwelling on Chinese assertiveness, Beijing was all set to launch its largest-ever military exercise involving 50,000 troops not far from the Indian border.

While China holds on to 38,000 sq km in the western sector occupied during the 1962 hostilities, its growing assertion of its claim over nearly 90,000 sq km in Arunachal Pradesh has a history to it. The legendary first chairman of the Communist Party of China, Mao Zedong, had once termed Tibet as the palm of a hand with its five fingers as Ladakh, Sikkim, Nepal, Bhutan and the North-East Frontier Agency. He had claimed that these were Chinese territories that needed to be ‘liberated’. Mao often quoted a famous Chinese saying, “…If the east wind does not prevail over the west wind, then east wind will prevail over the east wind.” This was interpreted as an obsession to dominate other nations in their vicinity.

Though the spurt in Sino-Indian trade in recent times has encouraged the view that the economic inter-dependence of the two Asian giants would ensure that they don’t go to war again as they did in 1962, China’s consistent support to Pakistan, both overt and covert, and its fanning of Naxalism in large parts of India leave no room for complacency.

It is no secret that nuclear weapons and missile technology were transferred to Pakistan by China in an effort to build it up as a bulwark against India. Likewise, Maoists in Nepal supported on the sly by the Chinese are in cahoots with the Indian Maoists who now control 40 per cent of India’s territory.

The Chinese have also seen to it that all of India’s neighbours —Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and even Sri Lanka — remain under their spell. India has indeed come a long way from the days when the shadow of China evoked great fear in the establishment but there is still much ground to cover.

A recent manifestation of this country’s new-found confidence was the deployment of a full squadron of 18 Sukhoi fighter aircraft a bare 370 km from the last post on the India-China border. Considering that China had earlier deployed ground troops on a major scale in this sensitive area, this was a much-needed Indian response to Chinese hegemonistic activity on the northeastern border with India.

Earlier, in June last a leading Chinese newspaper, Global Times, which is the official organ of the Communist Party of China, had editorially described the Indian decision to station 60,000 troops in Arunachal Pradesh as a “military provocation” and warned India that it “needs to consider whether or not it can afford the consequences of a potential confrontation with China”.

The editorial linked this move to a statement by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that his government would “make no concessions to China on territorial disputes” despite cooperative India-China relations. Said the editorial: “This ‘tough posture’ may win Dr. Singh some applause among India’s domestic nationalists, but this is dangerous if it is based on a false anticipation that China will cave in.”

Apparently, the Chinese have been unaccustomed to India’s show of confidence and their reaction stems from unhappiness over the growing clout that India enjoys in the world at large.
While border talks have been continuing with both sides reiterating their position, there is an undercurrent of strain that surfaces from time to time. The latest flashpoint was the Asian Development Bank’s nod to the funding of an irrigation project in Arunachal Pradesh late last year.

In the face of China’s objection, the ADB recently approved a $60 million loan for a watershed development project in Arunachal, as part of its $2.9 billion India development plan for three years to 2012. The Chinese claim that the area that India calls Arunachal Pradesh belongs to it and that the ADB had no business including it in the India aid plan.

India’s stand was that while Arunachal was an integral part of its territory, China’s objection on political grounds was a clear violation of the ADB’s charter which prohibits the Bank from evaluating any proposal on grounds other than economic. China angrily rejected India’s assertion that Arunachal Pradesh was its integral part, insisting that Beijing never recognised the “illegal” McMahon Line and that the status of the border state was “never officially demarcated”.

Though the Chinese are now clearly upping the ante on Arunachal, their designs were clear nearly three years ago when, on the eve of the visit of their president, Hu Jintao to India, China’s ambassador Sun Yuxi created a diplomatic flutter by reiterating Beijing’s claim to Arunachal Pradesh. Significantly, China is setting rail tracks very close to Arunachal Pradesh whereas the nearest Indian railhead is far away.

All this may not presage war both because India is no longer weak and helpless as it was in 1962 and trade between the two countries is on an upward spiral to the benefit of both countries, but it does not bode well for relations between the two neighbours. India can hardly ignore the fact that the Chinese worked assiduously behind the scenes to block the Nuclear Suppliers Group from allowing access of nuclear fuel and technology to this country. That it failed to achieve its goal is quite another matter.

Clearly, India can ill afford to lower its guard. Beijing deploys the world’s biggest army, and its defence spending is rising faster than any other power. According to official figures, Beijing’s military budget in 2008 was 418 billion yuan — £35 billion — a rise of 17.8 per cent on 2007. This already exceeds Britain’s defence budget of £34 billion and places China’s military spending second only to the US.

According to figures from Jane’s, the military specialists, the Chinese defence budget has risen by 178 per cent in the past seven years, even after adjusting for inflation. At this rate, China will spend £180 billion — half of the Pentagon’s current budget and five times Britain’s — by 2020.

India has to match up to Chinese preparedness through its own military modernisation programme and also through strategic alliances. After the huge outgo on salaries of defence personnel, there is sadly little left from the budgeted amounts for the modernisation of the armed forces. But even that remains partially unspent. There is indeed a long way to go before this country can consider itself duly equipped to face up to the Chinese threat.

4 comments:

"According to figures from Jane’s, the military specialists, the Chinese defence budget has risen by 178 per cent in the past seven years, even after adjusting for inflation. At this rate, China will spend £180 billion"

So what if China's military budget has risen 178 percent over the last 7 years? The military budget (which I believe equates to about 4.5 percent of GDP each year) has pretty much been proportional to China's economic growth. Basically China had a smaller budget 7 years ago because they had a smaller GDP 7 years ago.

Also up until recently China's main focus on developement has been the Economy first, followed by Industry, then Argriculture, then Science/Technology and finally, in last place, the Military.

China put their military developement on the backburner so that they could focus on the Economy, Industry etc. first, and now that the top 4 of the list has pretty much got a big tick next to it, China can now pay attention to item number 5 of the list, its Military.

India on the other hand, in an effort to play "catch up", seems to be trying to put their Military first before they've properly taken care of their Economy, Industry etc.

The only way India can match Chinese military spending at their current situation is if they increased their military-to-GDP percentage to about 10-15 percent.

Compare that to China's 4.5 percent of GDP and who's economy do you think will ultimately come out the loser? The one spending only 4.5 percent of GDP or the one that may have to spend 10-15 percent of GDP on their military?

Another plea to buy foreign weapons. India is not a great power, only looks strong when compared to Pakistan. Just look this blog and you will see the delays in fielding weapons despite spending billions.

The time has come for the dragons to see Genghis khan again. This time they are going to loose their own land .

hats off to china, long live

pak-china friendship, our most

trusted friend always,

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