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Seminar                         Summary Reports   


Geo-political Contest in Afghanistan and its impact on India ’s Interests

"Strategic Options" by Brig Rahul Bhonsle (Retd)

"The Regional Contest" by                  Dr Shanthie D’Souza

"The Afghan Riddle" by Shri Hormis Tharakan 

"The Way Forward" by 

 Ambassador S K Lambah, IFS (Retd)


CHina's Defense Modernisation: Implications for India 

"Upgradation of Chinese Forces- Implications by

Mr. D.S. Rajan

"Missile and Space Modernisations" by 

Prof R.  Nagappa,

"A Strategic Review" by Air Chief Marshal Fali Major (Retd)

"Economic Implications " by 

Prof Srikanth Kondapalli

"The Way Forward" by Amb. C.V. Ranganathan

Complexities of the situation of Iran: India's strategic interests and options

"A Historical Perceptive" by           Amb. Akbar Mirza Khaleeli                          "A Strategic perspective" by           Vice Admiral (Retd)         P J Jacob                            "A Media perspective" by Shri Kesava Menon. 

Indo-Myanmar security relations: Measures to improve trade and economic ties

Presentations by:

Col. R Hariharan (Retd),  

Dr Sayed Ali Mujtaba,  

Shri T P Sreenivasan,  

Developments in Nepal: impact on India

Presentations by:

  "A Security Assessment" by            B. Raman

  "The Current Scenario" by               Shri K V Rajan, IFS (Retd)

  "Implications for India" by Maj. Gen (Retd. Ashok K. Mehta  

  "Current Situation and its import" by     Shri Gururaj Rao

Recent developments in Nepal and their impact on India's security

Presentations by:

  "The Political Scenario" by Dr. Arvind Kumar

  "Analysis of Political events" by Dr. Smruti Pattanaik 

  "Implications for India" by Maj. Gen (Retd.) Dipankar Banerjee

  "Strategic Analysis and Opinions "by Maj. Gen (Retd.) Ashok K. Mehta


Whither Pakistan?

"The Crisis in Pakistan"  by

Captain Alok Bansal, IN

"A security assessment" by 

Shri S Gopal

"A Strategic Overview" by M K Bhadrakumar, IFS (Retd)

"Whither Pakistan?" by Lt Gen Satish Nambiar (Retd)


India-Russia strategic relations in the new world order 


" Vision and Reality"  by Ambassador Shri Rajiv Sikri  (Retd)

" Historical Perceptive and Current Realities"

by Amb. A Madhavan, IFS (Retd)

"Defence Cooperation Aspectsby

Air Marshal N Menon (Retd)

Changing contours of Indo-US relations: Challenges, Risks and Opportunities

Presentations by:

"A strategic review"  by Dr. Brahma Chellaney

" A historic perspective"

by Amb. Krishnan, IFS (Retd)

"India's options in the global senario" by

Lt Gen S. S Mehta

"Indo-US core interests" by

Shri Aravind Sitaraman


Look East Policy  

Impediments to India's Look-East policy’: suggested remedies

" India's Look-East Policy: Vision and Reality"  by Ambassador Shri C.V Ranganathan (Retd)


" Impediments to India’s Look-East Policy – China’s Reservations and Suggested Remedies Realities"

by Shri. D.S. Rajan  


"Maritime Aspects of our Look-East Policyby

Vice Admiral (Retd)   P J Jacob

Seminar Summary Report

CHina's Defense Modernisation: Implications for India 


  As compiled by Shri A Madhavan, former ambassador of India and a current member of Asia Centre;

  25 July 2009 IAS officer’s Association, # 1, Infantry Road, Bangalore -1


 Asia Centre has been conducting a series of seminars and discussions to review India’s Security environment in the Sub-continent. As a  final leg  of this of Series, a seminar was held on 24 October 2009 from 9 A M to 1:30 P M on the topic “China’s Defense Modernisation: Implications for India at the I A S Officers’ Institution, # 1 Infantry Road, Bangalore. The seminar was presided by Shri A P Venkateswaran, former Foreign Secretary and chairman of Asia Centre. 

The presentations were followed by a lively discussion session. Nearly 45 Asia Centre members and invitees drawn from retired officers of Indian Administrative Service, Foreign Service & Defense Services, and academics attended the seminar.

The following distinguished speakers addressed the seminar: -


"Upgradation of Chinese Forces- Implications by

Mr. D.S. Rajan, Director, Chennai Centre for China Studies

"Missile and Space Modernisations" by 

Prof R.  Nagappa, Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies

"A Strategic Review" by 

Air Chief Marshal Fali Major (Retd), Former Chief of Air Staff  

"Economic Implications " by 

Prof Srikanth Kondapalli, Professor in Chinese Studies

"The Way Forward" by 

Amb. C.V. Ranganathan, Former Ambassador to China and France Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

This report summarises the essence of the presentations and the discussions that followed.

This seminar on China ’s defence modernisation was held at a time of public concern over a perceived bellicosity in the articulation of China ’s policy towards India and doubts about the adequacy of India ’s response.  A balanced assessment by experts was therefore both necessary and timely.  By chance the seminar took place on the very day that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met the Chinese Prime Minister, Wen Jiaobao during the Indo-ASEAN summit in the Thai resort of Hua Hin on October 24, 2009.  A reassuring note was struck at that meeting, with both sides reaffirming their commitment to tranquility along the border and better relations and building up mutual trust.  It was acknowledged that the border dispute was very complex, more notable was their conviction that all differences should be resolved by negotiation.

The five panelists, being highly qualified observers, assessed the developments in Sino-Indian relations and gave nuanced presentations of China ’s rising military preparedness in the context of its planned strategy of catching up with the US as the leading power in the world.  The lag in India ’s overall development was noted, but balanced by reasoned suggestions on improving our own defence posture. 

An editorial in People’s Daily ( November 1, 2009 ) welcoming President Obama’s visit to China reiterated the Chinese assurance that China ’s military modernisation aims at protecting its territorial integrity and ensuring economic advance, which is not projecting power.  It regrets that “the US keeps second-guessing China ’s intentions”.  India , as a neighbour is obliged to scrutinise Chinese intentions and test them against both its words and deeds.

Lt. Gen. Ravi Eipe, Director of Asia Centre, welcomed the panelists and the audience.  After a memorial tribute to two distinguished members of Asia Centre who had passed away recently, viz., Ambassador. C.B. Muthamma, (IFS retired) and former Commerce Secretary Shri P.P. Prabhu (IAS retired), he set out the main issues for the seminar, explaining the relevance and importance of the subject. 

Every day new tensions are surfacing in the bilateral relations, along with increased acrimony in the media.   There is unease and tension at one level, but also a desire for stability and normality at higher levels.  The rapid rise of China as an economic giant in the last three decades is obvious.  Its military modernisation was in evidence at the 60th Anniversary parade on October 1.  In the field of defence, changing capabilities will lead to changing intentions.  We have to gauge how far China ’s new clout affects the geopolitical environment in the region. Will China maintain status quo on territorial issues with India , Japan and others in the region or will it use its military prowess to coerce them to bend in its favour?  How far will China dominate the region using its political and diplomatic leverage?  Will its increasing energy requirements and the need for secure sea-lanes change its behaviour in the Indian Ocean ?  Will its internal ethnic unrest make it more belligerent towards neighbours?  What will be the impact on India ’s security as it strives for economic development and a place under the sun? 


The basic problem of India 's China policy is to reconcile the need to build up mutual trust for peaceful development by both countries and the persistence of the deep divide between them, which undermines mutual trust, despite their shared concern to maintain Asian stability.  This divide relates, not only to the unsettled though historically respected border between them, but also to the strategic sphere, where Indians perceive calculated Chinese moves to constrict and counter our influence, to keep us ever on the defensive. For its part China has, from the time of Dalai Lama's flight into India with Tibetan refugees in 1959, unfairly suspected India of designs to detach Tibet from the Chinese republic in collusion with other powers: this, though Nehru accepted Tibet as part of the PRC and advocated its entry into the UNSC against Western wishes.  The fact that China ’s Han pacification of Tibet still rankles among its people has added to Chinese doubts on Indian intentions, causing a spillover into the reiteration of their clamorous claim to Arunachal Pradesh as China ’s Southern Tibet . 

Both countries have for several years set aside their irresoluble differences and strengthened relations in other areas, especially trade and economic, reaping mutual benefits.  They have tinkered with Confidence Building Measures to mitigate the bitterness of the border dispute, with scant success.  New disputes in sharing the waters of the Brahmaputra may come up.  On global issues like climate change, both have found convergence to forge a common approach.

China 's defence modernisation is of a piece with its overall strategy of catching up with the US and surpassing it by the mid-twenty-first century as the world's premier power.  India cannot ignore the implications of China 's modernised military merely because it may be motivated by rivalry with the US .  China may be tempted to seek assertive domination if not hegemony in Asia . 

China 's faster growth and all-round advances have shown up a marked asymmetry between India and China in the military sphere; the gap cannot be closed for a long time.  But this is no reason for despair and despondency. Without racing to match the Chinese strength in its navy, air force, army, space assets and cyber-war capacity, India can significantly accelerate its own economic and technological growth with self-confident determination and modernise its military without fanfare.  Indian diplomacy has to be acutely tuned to shifting international equations.  It should strengthen a multipolar network for warmer bilateral and regional ties to counter erosions of our strategic space by Chinese activities and allurements to neighbours.  Such was the consensus that emerged from the seminar and the discussion. 

The five experts who spoke at the seminar covered the advances made by China ’s armed services in detail, citing China 's White Paper on defence, 2008.  China 's defence budget, which ranges anywhere between US $ 60 billion and $140 billion (US estimate), is far higher than India 's.  Without doubt India 's defence should have higher priority in order to achieve credible, modern military machine to deter and repel any local incursion.  We need radical reforms in most of our systems.  We have to blur the line between state-managed defence production and the private sector in defence industries.  The present modus vivendi with China will be fragile without India ’s defence modernisation. 

A gist of the Chinese plans and achievements (as explained at the seminar) can be given.  China is devoting more resources to power projection as a maritime nation, in view of its need to secure the sea lanes in the Indian Ocean for its energy imports and its exploitation of a vast EEZ in the South and East China Seas .  It formidable fleet will be augmented by more nuclear and other submarines, more battleships and aircraft carriers.  Its naval cruise missiles have enhanced ranges.  China is building a network of port facilities at key locations on its extended sea routes.  In aircraft, China has indigenously improved on Soviet planes to match the US fighter planes and built bombers to carry medium range, terrain-hugging cruise missiles.  China has become a leading space power, with counter-space-war capacity and accurate killer satellites. In ground forces, the PLA has been sharply reduced in personnel but much improved with modern weapons and electronic aids for ‘informatised’ (or cyber-dimensional) warfare.  The whole military machine can be employed with great flexibility for different operations and mobilised for action at short notice.  Alongside, cyber warfare has received special attention in China ’s drive to modernise defence.

Suggestions for consideration and action by the concerned ministries and departments of the Government of India:

1)  Prepare a national plan to modernise every part and wing of India ’s defence.  Particular attention has to be paid to formulating new military doctrines to meet the threat of border incursions and aggressive patrolling, as well as threats of aggression from sea and air.  This exercise has to run parallel to continued negotiations on the border issues, with an eye to possibly more effective CBMs, and in the longer term, a renewed ‘package’ solution which can gain acceptance in parliament and among the main political parties. 

2) Special attention to the Indian Navy in its role as a guardian of the Indian Ocean sea lanes between the Gulf and Malacca.  This is already under review by the Defence Ministry and the IN.  Parallel with this, we may encourage navy to navy visits, exchanges and understandings, China included. 

3) In aerospace and space, India has to travel far.  Our aircraft fleet needs to be thoroughly renewed, with new technologies like pilotless ‘drones’ (UAVs) as well as upgraded fighter planes (initially to be imported at a very high cost, unavoidably).  We must make up the leeway in cruise missiles and missile capability.  We must enlarge our ISRO and space programme for defence purposes assertively.  The use of small satellites and counter-space war strategies needs more national attention. 

4)  The diplomatic arm has also to be strengthened, so that China does not find congenial ground to sow anti-Indian sentiments in India ’s neighbourhood.  This again is a large programme.  India can gain more friends in the region by enlarging the economic space we have already created, so that our neighbours can share the opportunities we open up for development and improved technologies.  Indians would also benefit from such a drive.  In our trade with China , we should consciously reduce the raw material export components and increase the value-added components.  We can go by reciprocity rather than look for short-term gains from cheaper Chinese consumer goods and services. 

India should actively put across its core interests in all forums and foreign offices as regards the dangers of China ’s condoning Pakistan ’s hostile policy of sponsoring terrorist attacks against India .  India must seek closer links with the US to deter Chinese activities against India , though President Obama seems to be relying on China to stabilise South Asia under a misguided view of regional realities.  Russia and the EU are also important powers which can help to ensure a safer regional environment for India .  Other countries with which we could improve relations and strategic consultations are Japan , South Korea , Vietnam , Indonesia and the ASEAN, Afghanistan , the Central Asian republics and Iran .

5)  The MEA could do more to promote the dissemination of facts and analytical assessments concerning India ’s relations with the key countries mentioned above.  This could be done more informally and with possibly better results through small groups of concerned citizens in various cities like Bangalore , Chennai, Pune, Hyderabad and Kolkata. 


 Upgradation of Chinese Forces- Implications

By Shri D. S. Rajan

The official White Paper on ‘China’s National Defence in 2008’asserts that “China will never seek hegemony or engage in military expansion now or in the future, no matter how developed it becomes”.  But this statement is regarded by the world with scepticism, given the lack of transparency in China ’s military actions and plans.  The US believes that, with the improving capabilities of China , the military balance is shifting, and that this will have far-reaching implications.  Japan has also noted international concern over China ’s lack of transparency.  India is concerned about the impact of China ’s defence modernisation on our defence and security.

The speaker covered the two assigned sub-topics:  China ’s land and naval forces and the territorial disputes between China and India .

Defence modernisation is part of the “four modernisations” programme of China dating from 1978.  The White Paper (2008) offers clues to Chinese policy on its security concerns and the stages of defence modernisation intended to meet them.

The PLA is pivotal for meeting security challenges.  Due to increasing interdependence in the international arena, China believes that the risk of a world war has lessened, though there will be struggles for strategic resources, regional and local wars and an arms race among the major powers.  The Asia-Pacific region is relatively stable, with a positive turn as regards Taiwan-China tension.  The negatives are: conflicting claims for territorial and maritime rights, the consolidation of regional alliances by the US and “containment of China from outside and sabotage by separatist and hostile forces inside.”  The last item did not figure in the previous five years.

President Hu Jintao in 2008 had referred to “two incompatibilities” in China ’s preparedness: i) between military capabilities and the aspiration to win local wars, and ii) the level needed to defend expansion of national interests.  China wants to fill the gaps.

National Defence Strategy

Three objectives are mentioned in the White Paper in its “National Defence Strategy for a New Stage in the New Century’.  i) ‘informatisation’ for modern defence, ii) upholding national security and unity, and iii) coordinated development of national growth with the armed forces.  By 2010, solid foundations should be laid, by 2020 the forces should be mechanised and adept at using information technology and by mid-century the modernisation plan should be accomplished, i.e., China should catch up with the advanced powers.  The PLA is charged with the “historical missions” to consolidate the party leadership, safeguard China ’s expanding national interests and maintain world peace.  Specifically, the military should be capable of defending the borders, win local wars in conditions of ‘informatisation’, pursue nuclear strategy under the ‘no first use’ principle, maintain security, including maritime, space and cyberspace, carry out counter-terrorism tasks and develop military operations “other than war”, as in countering Somalian naval piracy

The Chinese have upgraded the technological levels of defence by moving from land wars of attrition to ‘informatisation’ of main battle weapon systems, e.g., rapid detection, target location and precision strikes

They are now more transparent in their budgeting.  They show a 15.9 % annual increase in defence expenditure in 1998-2007.  China ’s military budget for 2008 is $ 57.2 billion, an increase of 17.6 % from the previous year.  The US estimate of China ’s defence expenditure is between $ 97 and 139 billion. 

Chinese perceptions on Taiwan have become less tense after the cross-Straits thaw, but the problem will remain important in China ’s defence posture.

The US has noted that inter-service cooperation in the Chinese forces is wanting, and that the PLA lacks experience in joint exercises and combat operations.  China intends to improve services level capabilities by an integrated network on modern lines.  It has obtained advanced weapon systems from abroad, augmented the scope of its industries in defence production and technology, along with reforms in military doctrine and organization.  The DF-31 and 31 A intercontinental missiles, its anti-access denial capability through advanced cruise and anti-ship missiles, its anti-satellite weapon test in January 2007, all show a significant augmentation of strategic strength.

Such moves imply that China has considered defence contingencies beyond Taiwan , such as conflict for resources in disputed areas.  New missile units could be deployed with theatre range missiles for contingencies elsewhere.  The Airborne Early Warning and Control and aerial refuelling programme could be intended for operations in the South China Sea and beyond.

Though China will still lack long-range power projection and defence capability for critical sea-lanes, China will plan to extend its reach, as evidenced by its aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and space-based surveillance system. It will also use counter-space and cyber warfare against technologically superior enemy forces.

Land Forces

China ’s land forces have evolved from the infantry-based level to Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) wings for joint operations with the army, navy and air force.  The Army has shifted its focus from regional defence to trans-regional mobility.  The Army is down-sizing itself, acquiring aviation and missile capability for integrated joint operations and long distance maneouvres on the borders.  The main responsibility is to deter any outside intervention in a possible conflict across the Taiwan Straits.  The aim will be a multiple layer offensive system for land, sea, air and cyber operations.

China ’s Navy and Power Projection in the Indian Ocean

The Chinese Navy used to be limited to ‘in-shore defence’ till the 1970s. Offshore defence, strategic deterrence and counter-attack have been taken up in later stages.  There is a new stress on operations in distant waters and countering non-traditional threats.  The Navy’s responsibility is to “safeguard maritime security and maintain the sovereignty of China ’s territorial waters and maritime rights and interests”.

The navy is to be equipped with a new generation of weapons, large surface combat ships, super cruising combat aircraft and Stealth submarines for long endurance, including nuclear submarines.  Russian supersonic diesel-electric submarines with cruise missiles, nuclear powered submarines fitted with ballistic missiles, surface ships, destroyers, frigates, missile boats, minesweepers, landing ships are listed.  In addition there are the Marine Corps and coastal defence wings.  The navy plans to build and operate aircraft carriers.  All this confirms China ’s ambition to become a naval power with a global reach.

  The navy is also improving its near shore and offshore combat capability.  Its power projection in distant waters may be prepared in stages.  i) the island chain from Japan to Taiwan, the Philippines, Borneo and the South China Sea by 2010, to delay or deny the US forces entering Taiwan;  ii)  anti-access strategies from Japan to the Mariana islands by 2020, including submerged platforms in the Indian Oceans;  iii) High sea defence, beyond Hawaii into the West Pacific.  The Sanya base in Hainan province, housing JL-2 missile-fitted nuclear submarines, indicates a plan for deep-water access.

  Two further hints of maritime ambition may be noted.  i) an airport and sea port on Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratlys and ii) military bases, starting with a test base in the South China Sea to protect China’s commercial interests. 

Energy Security and Role of Chinese Navy

China became a net importer of oil in 1993.  Its energy requirements from abroad will be crucial.  Hence the shift in naval focus from the Taiwan Straits to the Indian Ocean sea-lanes of ships bearing oil products.  But China ’s navy is not yet capable of protecting the sea-lanes from West Asia to the South China Sea .  Hence China is forging alliances and political arrangements with the rim lands of the Indian Ocean and building port facilities.  But the ports of Gwadar, Chittagong , Sittwe and Hambantota may also be viewed as potential facilities for the Chinese navy, if the ‘String of peals’ theory is valid.

 Sino-Indian competition

China believes that India could impede this drive and has even charged that India has formed an Iron Curtain in the Indian Ocean .  The Andaman-Nicobar islands could be a chain to block outside entry to the Malacca Strait , which is vital for China ’s imports.

As a major importer of oil India also finds energy security important.  It is expanding its naval presence from the Mozambique Channel to the South China Sea and modernising its navy and increasing its fleet strength.  It is also intensifying naval cooperation with littorals like Myanmar , Iran and Indonesia .  Cooperation with Maldives to patrol the EEZ of the latter is also significant.

Former Foreign Secretary S.S. Menon, commenting on maritime security concerns, said ( 1 September 2009 ): With the possible eruption of instability in key areas like Hormuz, it is useful for the major powers, including the US , to form a collective security arrangement to safeguard the flow of maritime trade.  A ‘concert of Asian powers’ is conceivable.  Maritime competition between India and China will sharpen the tensions in their relations.

Sino-Indian territorial dispute

  China has been territorially ambitious.  Mao Zedong described China as the palm of a hand, with the five fingers representing Nepal , Sikkim , Bhutan , NEFA and Ladakh.  Chinese cartography has depicted neighbouring territories as Chinese.  Even Assam and the Andamans are deemed to have been historically parts of China .  No border claim is allowed to lapse, though some are shelved in the interest of China ’s own peaceful economic development.  Thus the South China Sea dispute, the Senkaku issue with Japan and the border dispute with India were shelved for a time, the latter by Deng Xiaoping in 1979, awaiting “a suitable climate for solution”.  The latest example is the Japan-China settlement on exploring the disputed Chunxiao gas field in the East China Sea .  China claims sovereignty over the whole field.

Both China and India perceive the boundary issue as complex.  Both have been ready to develop bilateral ties, looking beyond the dispute.  China’s stand is that its borders as of 1912 (end of the Qing period) were ignored by British India when the latter appropriated 90,000 sq. km of Chinese territory in the Eastern sector under the Simla Convention of 1914.  China consequently rejected the McMahon Line.  It claimed the entire Arunachal Pradesh as Chinese, calling it ‘ Southern Tibet ’.  Chinese scholars say that if China recognises the McMahon Line, it would be tantamount to admission that the 1962 conflict with India was a war of aggression and an acknowledgement of Tibet ’s former independence from China .  India however regards the McMahon Line as the de facto border with China .

Chinese claims in Sikkim, intrusions along the border, the protests against our prime minister’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, harsh criticism of Indian military moves on the Eastern border, moves against the ADB loans to Arunachal Pradesh, the fulminations and warnings against India in the state-controlled Chinese media: all these have vitiated the atmosphere of bilateral relations.

China has been correct at the diplomatic level in contacts with India , but since its media have struck discordant notes, the inference we draw is that hawkish elements in the party and the PLA are influencing its policy towards India .  Possibly this is due to China ’s insecurity regarding dissidence in Xingjian and Tiber .  Defence Minister Liang Guanglie stressed the importance of defence mobilisation to deal with “new challenges caused by unconventional threats to national security” (in Lhasa , 29 August 2009 ).  Tibetan unrest weakens China ’s claim of sovereignty in that province and also its case in the border negotiations with India .  Premier Wen Jiabao had noted that Tibet was a “sensitive issue” in the bilateral context.

Despite thirteen rounds of talks, the border negotiations have got nowhere.  Even the ‘framework’ envisaged in the agreement of 2005 has not been reached.  China wants “mutual understanding and mutual accommodation” to govern the talks.  India stresses “ground realities”.  One explanation for the Chinese claim to Tawang is that the monastery there is a centre of Tibetan resistance which China wants to control.  The Chinese have lately gone back on the agreed position that settled populations should be kept out of the territorial differences. 

Strategy for India  

§    India ’s interests lie in ‘engaging’ China bilaterally and globally, but protecting our own strategic interests.  These include Indian defence modernisation parallel with China ’s.  India has taken up reforms and the acquisition of long-range missiles, nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers.  India is also speeding up the improvement of its infrastructure along the Eastern sector with more troops.

§    India should strengthen relations with Japan , Vietnam and south-east Asian nations for strategic deterrence against China . India should use its defence relationship with the US to balance China ’s military rise, but without entering into a treaty alliance with the US  

§    India should affirm its core interests while dealing with China .  Its recent protest against China taking up infrastructure projects in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir is a right move in response to China ’s anti-Indian statements.  Indian leaders could also consider meeting the Dalai Lama as a religious leader.

§    India should continue border talks with China indefinitely.  Zhou Enlai in 1960 had proposed a border settlement roughly on the basis of mutual accommodation:  Chinese acceptance of a line close to the McMahon in the East, and an Indian acceptance of Chinese claims in the West (Ladakh and Aksai Chin).  Such an accommodation could be reconsidered by both sides.

China wants to advance towards “peaceful development” ambitiously, and is unlikely to act to the detriment of its need for international stability and a “favourable neighbourhood”. 

The question remains whether China , with its modernised military power projection, will act more aggressively.  We have to examine China ’s intentions on using its growing military power, in view of voices calling for a stronger China .

India , like other concerned countries, is obliged to readjust its policies in response to China ’s rise.  Noteworthy is the comment by Harry Harding, a China scholar. “ Beijing may not resort to military means to settle issues, but will use its growing resources to shift the overall balance of power in China ’s favour, especially in Asia and such a shift is already taking place”

Missile and Space Modernisations

 Prof. Rajaram Nagappa

China is much in the news of late. It has made a telling statement of strength, capability and confidence in the National Day Parade on October 1, 2009 . Chinese posturing is seen across a wide spectrum covering science, technology, industry and policy, apart from military modernisation.  The approach is long term, a conscious effort to think far ahead in coceptualisation, plan and implementation. In hi-tech areas relating to aircraft, there is a pattern. It starts with licenced Russian technology in the 1950’s; stoppage of technology transfer due to the souring of Sino-Soviet relations in 1960’s; achieving objectives with limited assimilated technology and more self-reliance; trial and error learning, quality control problems—all leading to a rich bank of self-acquired knowledge and capability; opening up of the window to the West in the 1980’s—the accompanying economic boom and exposure to new technologies; a cash-strapped Russia willing to part with state-of-the-art technologies and expertise and cash-rich China willing to exploit it to the hilt. Today China boasts of generation 4 type of indigenous aircraft capability and is no longer dependent on imported know-how.  A high level of maturity and capability is evident in their missile development efforts, spin-offs into space efforts and a natural follow-up relating to militarisation of space.

A good place to start will be the latest White Paper on National Defence. China has been publishing Defence White Papers since 1998. The 6th white paper for 2008[1] was released on January 20, 2009 .  It gives an overall picture of China ’s national defence covering the security environment, national defence policy, defence expenditure and arms control. Exclusive chapters are devoted for the 2nd Artillery Force, army, navy and air force and Science and Technology.  The key and oft-repeated words are ‘Mechanisation’ and ‘Informatisation’. The white paper outlines a time bound programme covering

1.            China ’s ambition to accomplish military mechanisation and to advance in informatisation by 2020...

2.            Strengthen the military by means of science and technology. China would be working to develop new, hi-tech weaponry and equipment, conduct military training in conditions of informatisation and build a modern logistics system.

3.              China strives to adjust and reform the systems of defence-related industry, S & T and the procurement of weapons and equipment.  It will enhance its capacity for innovation in R&D of weapons and equipment with better quality and cost-effectiveness.

Chapter XI of the white paper deals with ‘Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence’. From the White Paper it is obvious that the military needs will be the drivers of the science, technology and industry with spin-offs into the civilian domain. China is constantly reforming its management system of defence-related science.  The first element of restructuring entailed superseding the Science, Technology and Industry commission with the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence. The government role is regulation and control, while implementation will involve participation of social capital, intermediary services and positive military-civilian interaction.

It is obvious, that a highly coordinated system involving R&D, academic research, industrial production and training is the expected outcome of this approach, with civilian partnership. Major policy changes are underway to promote the transformation of defence industry enterprises into joint stock enterprises, diversification and specialization oriented restructuring. Along the same lines, while retaining state control over weaponry and equipment research and production, the non-public sector is allowed to compete for research and production projects.

Some research areas are specifically mentioned in the white paper and give an idea of the thrust and priority accorded to them. They include:  Digital simulation and hardware in the loop simulation facilities, Advanced experimentation and demonstration facilities (to aid higher design capability and R&D success rate), Precision manufacturing, Special welding, basic experimentation facilities serving the entire industry’ test & Evaluation Centres for reliability testing and burn-in screening. standards and other basic support conditions.

The white paper China ’s policy of ‘no first use’ (NFU) of nuclear weapons. It is stated that in peace time, the nuclear weapons of the Second Artillery Force are not aimed at any country. The important point is that since 1990, the conventional missile force is also under the command of the second artillery force. Unlike the nuclear force, which is primarily deterrent in nature, the conventional artillery force is primed for offensive operations.

China started development of ballistic missiles based on Russian technology transfer of their R-2 missile in 1957. Dubbed Project 1059 in China , the technology transfer helped China to develop and hone its skills in missile engineering. The deterioration of the relations between Russia and China in the 1960’s precluded further transfers of missile technology. The Chinese had by then involved enough institutions and personnel who could engineer larger capability missiles by extending the received technology. At this time each Chinese missile was designed for specific targets countries. For example, the DF-2 could target Japan ; DF-3 targeted US bases of Clarke Field and Subic Bay in the Philippines ; DF-4 had Guam in its rangefinder; and DF-5 targeted the continental USA . The DF-6

development was cancelled in 1973; its design considered a trajectory over the South Pole to approach USA from the South. All these missiles used earth storable liquid propellants and DF-5, the largest of the Chinese missiles, could carry a 3000 kg warhead, deliverable in a range of about 12000 km.

In the early 1960’s China realised the operational superiority of solid propellant missiles over the liquid counterparts. They started laying emphasis on the development of solid rocket systems. They noted that US ballistic missiles like the Polaris used solid propellants. The submarine-launched JL-1 missile was an early development. Hampered by technology related issues and upheavals caused by the Cultural Revolution, the project took long to fructify. The propulsion system took 13 years; the guidance and flight control system could be readied only by end of 1980; the miniaturisation of the thermo-nuclear warhead was another challenge. The first flight took place in January 1981, but was not successful due to a problem in the inertial navigation system. However, by November 1981 a successful flight test had been achieved and a launch from a Chinese nuclear submarine took place in 1988. The land-based version of JL-1 is called DF-21; these missiles with a range of 3000 km constitute a major element of the ballistic missile force. The DF-31 land-based and its submarine counterpart, the JL-2 form the bigger and longer range system, capable of taking a 700 kg warhead to a range of 8000 km. The missile can deploy MIRVs. Subsequently, the Chinese have improved the capability of DF-31 by developing DF-31A. With this the reach of the Chinese missiles is truly global.

Specific to India , the M-9 and M-11 which have shorter range, can target areas in the north and north-east of the country, but the DF-21 can penetrate deep into the southern regions of the country. The missile CEP’s have been trimmed and with solid propellants, the overall readiness time has been drastically reduced.

Cruise missiles have certain advantages of their own. Equipped with a low cost expendable turbojet or turbofan engine, they can be designed for aircraft missions of long duration and large range. Low altitude flight along with Stealth features render them a difficult weapon to counter. They can be equipped with terrain following features. A terminal guidance system can enable strikes on targets with pin-point accuracy. They can be launched from various platforms—land, air, ship or submarine.  During the 1991 Gulf War, the US forces extensively used the Tomahawk cruise missiles with telling effect. Impressed by this China went all out to procure, assimilate and develop this technology. The DH-10[1] is a 1200+ km range land attack cruise missile. The potency of this weapon increases when it can be carried on and launched from an aircraft. Images of the H-6 bomber with the PLAAF show that it has been modified and reinforced. Some US strategic observers feel that the H-6 can carry the DH-10 missile and launch it from air. When the aircraft range is added to the missile range, the missile’s extended reach can be understood.  Cruise missiles are designed for radar avoidance and low level flights. They can be carried over the Himalayas by air and launched from air to be guided along the terrain.

Current missiles use GPS for navigation. To be more independent on the US GPS fleet, China has a stake in the European Galileo system as well as the Russian Glonas navigation satellites. It has also put in operation its own navigation constellation, the Beidou[2] system. In summary, one can say that

1.     China has a set of ballistic missiles capable of reaching targets anywhere in the world (with the exception of parts of South America ).

2.     The later missiles are solid-propellant based with improved range and improved CEP (Centre Error Probable). 

3.     It has a large number of improved versions of short range M-9 and M-11[3] missiles. The CEP of these is stated to be < 50m.

4.     The DF-21 can cover all parts of India .

5.     Cruise missile development has been given importance—especially the long range ones. Aircraft carriage and launch will increase the reach of such missiles.

6.     China has put in place its own satellite based navigation system.


Chinese Space Activities

Space technologies and applications are dual use in nature—serving both civilian and military needs. With the exception of Japan , India and the European Space Agency, the civilian space activities have been an off-shoot of the military space activities. The aims of the Chinese space activities were stated in a paper[1] by Luo Ge, Vice Administrator, China National Space Administration as:

1.     Explore outer space and enhance understanding of the Earth and the cosmos

2.     Utilise outer space for peaceful purposes; promote human civilization and social progress, benefiting the whole of mankind.

·               Meet the demands of economic reconstruction, scientific and technological development, national security and to raise the scientific standards of the Chinese people and to protect China ’s national interests and rights, all leading to a comprehensively strong China .

China launched its first artificial satellite on April 24, 1970 and has since launched more than 70 satellites for remote sensing, communications, meteorological, ocean, earth resources, navigation and scientific missions. China ’s early missions included recoverable space capsules from remote sensing missions which enable China to build up early technology for recovering objects from space-mission management and thermal protection material development can be stated to be two of the technologies over which they would have acquired early mastery.

China has used the booster of the DF-5 ICBM in their very successful Long March (CZ) series of launch vehicles. The current Long March version has the capability to place 9.5 tons in LEO and 5.1 tons in GTO and can be used for both unmanned and manned missions. China initiated its manned space flight program in 1992 and has long-term plans for orbiting and manning a space laboratory and space station. China has three launch centres located at Jiuquan in Gansu province (manned flights take place from here), Taiyuan located in Shanxi province (medium range vehicles flights) and Xichang located Sichuan province (for GSO satellites and international commercial launch services). China has established the necessary space tracking, telemetry and command network as well a deep space network.

China has used the launch capability as an exercise in soft power. Some of the initiatives of China in this category are:

·               Launch services at attractive rates. Customers have included the US , France , Sweden .

·               China and Brazil have a joint development programme of Earth Remote Sensing satellites. Two satellites have already been launched and two more are planned.

·               China has promised $ 222 million in funding to Pakistan for space research. In 1990 China launched Pakistan ’s Badr 1 satellite.

·               China has active MOUs with Iran , North Korea , Mongolia , Pakistan and Thailand on Cooperation in Small Multi Mission Satellite Project and Related Activity.

·               China has promoted the Asia Pacific Space Cooperation Organisation. Besides China , Bangladesh , Indonesia , Iran , Mongolia , Pakistan , Peru and Thailand are members of the Organisation.

China with its manned, deep space and space station missions, in addition to its commercial launch services, domestic satellite and launch service requirements and military missions—some already accomplished and some on the anvil—aims to be a major space power. A 2004 article[2] in the People’s Liberation Army Daily asserted that “Information dominance cannot be separated from space dominance. We can say that seizing space dominance is the root for winning the informatised war.”

Counter-space capabilities

The Chinese conducted an Anti-Satellite Test (ASAT) on January 11, 2007 . In the kinetic kill test, China ’s ageing weather satellite was destroyed in a head-on collision by the DF-21 missile. Media reports were extremely critical of the widespread debris caused by the collision and the fact that much of the debris had been scattered to a higher orbit, with the resultant longer time span for their orbital decay. However, while one may disagree with the debris-related outcome of the test, this was a major technical achievement and China broke no international law in the process. China was trying to make a statement against the attempts at space domination by the United States . This was part of the overall counter-space strategy of China . US technology and conventional forces are superior to those of China , but the US relies heavily on its space-based assets in war—especially the C4ISR (Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) component. If this superiority is to be overcome by a relatively weaker power, space denial to blunt the C4ISR will be an obvious strategy.

In counter-space capabilities China is concentrating on:

o   Space object surveillance and identification systems (investments in optical telescopes, laser-tracking devices and large phased array radars).

o   Kinetic energy weapons.

o   Small satellites.           

o   Directed energy weapons (ground-based high and low power lasers).

Side by side, China is also pursuing with Russia diplomatic initiatives for prevention of the weaponisation of space. In successive white papers, China has maintained that space should be used for peaceful purposes and opposed its militarisation. In the Conference on Disarmament, it has proposed draft resolutions to the UN General Assembly on the Prevention of an Armed Race in Outer Space (PAROS) and is an advocate of the draft treaty on the Prevention of Placement of Weapons in Outer Space and the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects.

Information Warfare

China has stressed informatisation with Chinese characteristics in successive white papers. The 2002 White Paper noted that information technologies have helped stretch the battlefield into a multi-dimensional space and added to the established land, air and sea regimes the dimensions of outer space and the electron or the information sphere.

High bandwidth connectivity is an obvious priority with the optical fibre cable network expanding fast. A 2002 report showed that the cable network spanned 20000 km in western China in 2002 and a million kilometers in 2006. In 2002, Gen Dai Qingmin brought out the concept of an Integrated Network-Electronic Warfare. According to Dai, information warfare is composed of six forms:

·               Operational security

·               Military deception

·               Psychological war

·               Electronic war

·               Computer network war

·               Physical destruction

Dai goes on to explain INEW refers to a series of combat operations that use the integration of electronic warfare and computer network warfare measures to disrupt the normal operation of enemy battlefield information systems while protecting one’s own, with the objective of seizing information superiority. While network war disrupts processing and use of information, EW disrupts acquisition and forwarding of information.  The core of computer network warfare is to disrupt the layers in which information is processed with the objective of seizing and maintaining control of network space. The task of information superiority is vital since it is a precondition for seizing sea, air and space superiority. The essence is to achieve the functional effect—which in most cases should result in messing up the enemy’s decision taking process.

As part of its information warfare practice, China is known to have carried out attacks on US, Indian, Japan and Taiwan [3] computer systems. The aim of the exercise was to disrupt critical infrastructure like banking, power supply and telecommunication networks in the target countries.

China ’s Defence Budget

During the years 1988 to 1997, the average annual increase in defence expenditure[4] was 14.5%. From 1998 to 2007, the average annual increase rose to 15.9%. In actual terms the defence expenditure amounted to RMB 297.938 billion ($42.56 billion) in 2006 rising to RMB 355.491 billion ($50.78 billion) in 2007. The expenditure for 2008 is pegged at RMB 417.769 billion ($59.68 billion). The US DOD estimates[5] are much higher than the figures given out by the Chinese. For the year 2007, the lower and upper US estimates are $ 97 billion and $ 140 billion respectively against the Chinese figure of $ 50 billion. Even the lower US estimate is close to double the Chinese figure. China ’s GDP is high and it can afford to spend this type of money for national defence. In 2007 China ’s defence expenditure amounted to 1.38% of the GDP ($ 3675.8 billion) and 7.14% of the State Financial Expenditure ($ 711.16 billion). The Indian defence budget by contrast was $ 23 billion though in terms of GDP this amounted to about 2.38%.


Some aspects of the China Defence White Paper of 2008 have been analysed. Chinese plans in the areas of ballistic and cruise missiles, space and counter-space capabilities, and information warfare have been examined. China is ahead of India in many technology disciplines and aims in the short run to be second to the US and in the long run equal or overtake the US . It is in the process of charting out S&T roadmaps up to the year 2050 in 18 key sectors, which include energy, space, marine science, material science, information technology, nano-technology, water resources and hydrocarbon resources. China ’s stated defence budget is more than double India ’s defence budget of $ 23 billion. What India needs is a focused approach and to build on the strengths it already possesses.  The other day, Prof Rodan Narasimha, in his talk on ‘ India and World Science’, mentioned that ten years ago Indian aeronautics was ahead of China . The situation is totally reversed today.

India needs to assess the impact of development in China on many of the issues and evaluate the appropriate counter-measures. Investment in situational awareness tools is a must and will require sizeable investment in sensors and tracking equipments. The Agni missile variants provide for adequate deterrence in terms of capability—the logic of a well enunciated policy of deployment with conventional warheads as an offensive tool may be worthy of debate and consideration. Either way, India may have to step up its production rate of the missiles and warheads. India has lagged behind in the development and deployment of subsonic long range cruise missiles and must take urgent corrective steps.

Critical technologies required for counter-space strategies need to be prioritized and taken up for development. Small satellites can play a major role in time to come and their development and deployment merits serious consideration. An independent launch capability in this regard should be seriously considered. There is a whole host of associated technologies and launch services to be addressed as well as enhancement of the industrial sector and private sector participation.

In the areas of missiles, space, counter-space and electronic warfare, we have established capabilities and but need to coordinate and prioritise our development actions to face the challenges and pose our own new challenges.

A Strategic Review


Air Chief Marshal Fali Major (Retd.)

National power is increasingly determined by economic and technical power rather than military might.  Economic strength is fundamental and sustains all other aspects of power, but it must be protected by military strength.  The importance of economic strength is evident in the development of Russia , China , India , Japan , the US and the EU.  Africa , the sunrise continent, will also find it true. 

Conflict is endemic to human life.  The past three millennia have seen 14,500 wars, with only 270 years of peace.  It is utopian to hope for a peaceful, harmonious world.  India awakened to its destiny as a regional power only after Independence . It has gained respect and influence as the world’s largest democracy, with a sound economic and technical base for development.  Asia has become the global engine of growth.  All the major powers have a presence and stake in it.  Economic growth has galvanised Asian military capabilities. 

Asia will still be racked by conflict, instability and terrorism, but India as a vibrant, resurgent nation with resources can assume a greater role in world affairs.  India and China are neighbours, the largest democracy jostling with the largest autocracy in the same region.  China envisioned the differences decades ago to create a strategic space for itself.  India has experienced the Chinese provocations beginning with the assertion of control over Tibet, the huge border claims, the 1962 aggression, right down to the latest moves, of opposition to India’s membership of the UNSC, the criticism of the Prime Minister’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, the claim to Tawang, and the accelerated pace of military modernisation.  All this has provoked anger and hostility in India . 

But instead of hyping China as a too formidable a power to rival, we should focus on what India can do.  Despite turbulence and uncertainties, we live in exciting times with challenges which should provoke a fitting response.  Despite cynical and pessimistic forebodings, we must credit our armed forces.  They have by no means ignored China ’s defence developments and modernisation.  India too has been adding to its defence strength, though at an admittedly slower tempo.  All armed forces continuously modernise, reform and improve their infrastructure, personnel and combat readiness, following similar paths.  India is no exception.  Modernisation is inevitable, since equipment becomes obsolete and doctrines must change with technology and the security environment. 

Armed forces must prepare for the capabilities of other powers, not their intentions. India faces a dilemma regarding Chinese intentions when China is on an overdrive in defence modernisation.  We must assess how far their capability matches their display of might and organisation in parades and ceremonials.

China ’s Air Force has surely made huge strides in capability, but no air force can rely only on a technologically sophisticated inventory.  Neither funding nor technical progress will be sufficient to provide it.  China ’s buzzword of ‘informatised warfare’ should not stun us.  The Chinese are not targeting only India , but other powers too.  In space technology, India certainly needs to speed up its programme, since other countries are already taking up slots in the satellite world above us. 

India should focus on the entire spectrum of possible threats, not limit plans to one country or two, since new power centres emerge along with conflict zones.  For too long India was Pak-centric in defence preparations, neglecting China ’s ascent. 

It is hard for a country to build up adequate capability, but no country can acquire a full range of capability all at once. It is good that India has finally started a capability-based approach to defence policy.  It has begun to modernise its military assets.  Notably, there is a change from the policy of dissuasion (of the perceived threat) to active deterrence.  This has infused urgency in the whole exercise.  Further, we are into a systematic, nuanced programme spread over three plan periods, with no funding constraints and full government support.   If successful, it should advance Indian defence by a few generations. 

The underlying causes of Sino-Indian differences will remain unaltered.  Despite the hazards of prediction, it is reasonable to envisage that future wars will not be long-drawn out world wars.  But violence of many kinds will remain, and conflicts of low level, border wars and regional wars, are always likely.   India may even have to initiate a limited and calibrated conflict to defend or assert its interests and demonstrate its will.  Our planning takes such contingencies into account. 

A key question in defence preparation is whether it doctrine drives technology or vice versa?  Do we have to go into conflict situations with what is available or do we demand the technical improvements by enunciating a need newly felt.  It is doctrine that should dictate the technical levels of preparation.  If there is a perceived gap in capability, the military planners should ask for a technical ‘fix’ and the process will lead to the approved design and the product.  India needs this process, along with a robust core of R & D to make it timely and effective.  India over-depends on governmental support, the DRDO (which has performed quite well) and public sector defence industries.  To go beyond the current level of transferred technology under licensed production, we must involve the private sector in defence industry.  Technology gallops ahead, and armed forces should not only absorb new technology, but also manage the old equipment resourcefully until it is superseded. 

Another issue is that technology for weapon systems should be reinforced by building up the capability of personnel through training, induction of new technologists and specialization.  Older personnel need retraining.  China too has followed the same route.

If it is a race with China , India may be slower, but that is partly due to China being an autocracy.  The quest for technological advantage must continue.  Defence must generate force multipliers, both tangible and intangible.  The latter kind depends on the quality of personnel and strong doctrines.  More can be achieved with less in men and materials if the quality is superior.  Asymmetric warfare means that an armed force must prevail over an adversary with greater numbers. 

India ’s strategic perspective is strengthened by its civilisational memory, its composite culture, benign approach to other countries, moral principles and the wide acceptance it commands in the comity of nations.  India must demonstrate its soft power backed by economic and military capability.

Economic Implications

Prof. Srikanth Kondapalli

China ’s rise began with the reform process since 1978.  The thesis propagated at that time was for the peaceful rise of China , in contrast to the aggressive rise of Nazi Germany, Italy and Japan before the Second World War.  China is propelled by an obsession with the GDP.  From a growth rate of 12 percent, there is a slowing down to 8 or 9 percent per annum, which is still high, considering the global economic crisis.  It is reckoned that one percentage point up or down involves an increase or decrease of 20 million jobs.  Unemployment creates serious problems for the Communist Party and the state, considering that China , unlike India , does not have the safety valve of governmental change by elections.

  China ’s GDP has shot up to $ 4.4 trillion, the third largest in the world.  By contrast, India ’s is reckoned to be $ 1.2 trillion.   According to a Goldman Sachs estimate, China will record a GDP topping the US GDP by 2027 as the No. 1 economy worldwide.  The global balance of forces will move from the West to the East.  The Chinese have resisted the hyphenation of India with China in political discourse, but after India was included in the G 7 and G 20, they tolerate it.  China is using its rise to good effect to gain bargaining space in negotiations and appreciation as a responsible stake-holder in world affairs.  The US wants China to demonstrate responsibility in negotiations with North Korea and Iran on their nuclear ambitions and programmes.  There is even talk of a G2 (the US and China ) to manage difficult global issues.  But India does not welcome this, since it may erase or erode the diplomatic gains of the US-India nuclear deal and strategic partnership under President Bush, along with the prospect of India being accepted as a major power. 

China has expanded its naval reach in the Indian Ocean in order to safeguard the important sea-lanes connecting it to the Arab peninsular.  The Indian Navy is also becoming more active in this area with exercises and improved relations with the littoral countries, especially in the arc from Bandar Abbas to Malacca.  Key weaknesses and strengths on our side have to be assessed.  China believes that the Indian vision is tactical, not strategic.  The Chinese vision has been strategic since the Nixon visit in 1972.  It is to acquire comprehensive national strength, evolve both hard and soft power, and become the manufacturing hub of the world.  China today would rank fourth in a scale of ten major countries.  India may be at number 6, but will take long to reach the level of China in all round development.  Hard power, viz., economic and military power, remains important in world standings.  China manufactures for export, with foreign trade valued at $ 2.2. trillion, nearly 60 percent of its GDP.  Therefore, keeping the sea-lanes safe is a priority for China , which implies that its navy has been given a more important role now. 

During the financial and economic crisis, China was worse hit than India , which has weathered the global downturn better, since China is more dependent on foreign trade than India .  Export dependent countries are badly affected by reduced demand from the advanced countries, the main importers. China ’s own domestic consumption amounts to only 21 percent of the GDP.  This aspect makes the sustainability of China ’s growth problematic.  India can sustain its growth rate better.  In China , the economic crisis led to industrial unrest.  India is a relatively more stable society.  China can possibly rejuvenate itself through structural reforms. 

An important point is that China has the ability to transfer funds within the defence budget more smoothly than India .  Recent reallocations have led to a reduced percentage of the defence budget (in money terms, much higher) for the army (19 percent), the navy and the air force getting larger shares.  China ’s plans for power projection explain the change in allocations.  The army has been down-sized from strength of 4.5 million to 1.6 million.  Further demobilisation is planned.  With the increased defence budget, the per capita amount available per soldier is higher than in India .  The retirement age is set at 62 years.  China ’s armed forces will have a younger age profile with more new recruits joining.  China can be flexible to suit requirements in disbanding or amalgamating the units in the forces.  Inter-service rivalries are more prevalent in India than in China , though inter-departmental rivalries, such as that between logistics and staff departments, remain.  China aims at a coordinated and integrated set of modernised and trained armed forces which are ‘lean and mean’ and reliably available in theatres as and when required.  It can even appoint a qualified civilian to fill the post of a military attaché in a neighbour country and retire generals no longer wanted.  The military regions have been reduced in number while the mobility of units has been greatly increased.

Reforms have also been carried out in the theatre command force, the western and the eastern.  Rapid Response Forces have been set up, twenty units already posted.  They can move from one point to a target point speedily.

The implication for India is that the lead time our side can expect at a given battle front is much reduced.  The Indian army has hitherto believed that the Chinese across the border posed a low level threat, because it would take three to four months before it could mobilise and be combat ready, but that expectation has to be revised in view of the Chinese military reforms.  India and China at present maintain a broadly similar troop strength along the border.  The Chinese military regions of Chengdu , Aksai Chin are ranged against our side.  In Tibet there are perhaps about four lakh Chinese armed personnel. 

Quality upgradation is the main line of reform.  The Indian side used to count on its capacity to inflict heavy damages on the adversary in a conflict.  But the Chinese have significantly increased the combat capacity of their army, making up the leeway.  India perhaps has the better air force. 

China proclaims the principle of No First Use of nuclear weapons.  But we cannot be sure when the nuclear threshold may be passed.  At present, the phase of confrontation is rated as a sub-sub-conventional phase, but there have been many violations by them of the Line of Actual Control, publicised by the media and acknowledged by the army. 

China studies the weaknesses and strengths of the adversary.  For example, it found that the Soviet armoured corps was vulnerable.  Following the overall command formula of C4ISR, China found a weakness in the US satellite array; China then showed its capacity to knock off a target satellite.  The Chinese must be noting India ’s weak points.  Bangalore , for instance, is both a weakness and strength, thanks to its IT success.  Some of the software developed there goes to China .  The Chinese have invested $ 54 million in India in key sectors of use to them.  Elsewhere too, they choose investment opportunities in the energy sector and other sectors which can help them to advance as a world power. 

In the area of anti-terrorism, China and India have attempted joint operations.  On our side, there seems to be a difference between the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Defence in assessing the feasibility of joint operations with China , the former being more sceptical.  In Confidence Building Measures, the two sides have so far probed the possibility of conflict prevention, but not trust building.  The outlook is not favourable.  Joint air exercises are unlikely since China does not want to invite Pakistani suspicions.  Though both India and China have a common interest in fighting terrorism, China is unwilling to accept the Indian contention on “cross-border terrorism” from Pakistan .  At best there can be some sharing of intelligence on terrorism. 

 In sum, China ’s rise does pose a challenge to India .  China has assessed that India is tactically focused on South Asia , whereas its own focus is strategic.  China ’s policy will be to confine India to South Asia .  It is for us in India to break these constraints by an equally strategic vision, which we should realise in stages.

The Way Forward

By Ambassador C.V.Ranganathan

The outgoing Naval Chief, Admiral Sureesh Mehta, in a speech before his retirement, drew attention to the asymmetries between China and India in economic, military, technological and other areas of development.  The India-China comparison has bred an Indo-pessimism which needs to be resisted.  Such an outlook does not take into account the vast differences between the two countries in their historical experience, cultural traits, their chosen paths of development and the systemic differences in the instruments of political governance and the opportunities which each of them availed of amid changing international situations. 

This apart, there are features which belong more to the realm of political psychology which are noteworthy in the India-China comparison.  In spite of spectacular economic growth and the international influence which it has brought China , certain basics of China ’s party-state relations and the approach of the leaders of the CCP in statecraft and strategy have not altered much since the founding of the PRC in 1949.  This is mainly to be seen in China ’s approach to sovereignty and political power.  All its rulers since 1949 have been committed to putting China in a position to determine its own destiny; all have identified China ’s independence with the material power of the ruling political organisation; and all have considered and developed China ’s ideological mind-set as instrumental to that goal

China ’s sovereignty is manifest, almost tangible.  A state’s independence is meaningless unless its government can act as it sees fit.  But since economic interdependence has become a priority after globalisation began in earnest, Chinese leaders seek ways to influence whatever advantage there is with the potential to influence.  This situation calls for an exceptionally vigorous and far-reaching foreign policy.  Wherever China ’s interests are at stake, i.e., almost everywhere, China must be present.  This implies that China must not only have a robust enough economy to supply its needs and a powerful enough military to resist outside pressure; China must also work to cultivate an international system that is not inimical to its internal political order and its broader objectives. 

Viewed in this light, the difference diminishes, with the Indian public having its own parallel idea of sovereignty issues, the pursuit of Indian national interests, the threats thereto.  The entire globe is seen as being connected to India , with international interdependence the ruling principle.  The difference, however, is marked in the capacities which China and India have built up.  The asymmetries in turn lead to a lack of trust. 

In China , a new generation far removed from the difficult times of the 1950’s has come to the fore.  The younger Chinese people have been brought up on a diet of nationalism bordering on chauvinism.  They have been acutely schooled in sovereignty issues, territorial integrity and Chinese honour.  These factors impact on India .  The Tibet issue is contentious, and parts of India where Tibetan spiritual connections were present have influenced the border question.

The Chinese type of robustly defined sovereignty and territorial integrity is interpreted to mean that threats can arise to the nation, not merely from hostile acts by adversaries, but also from fundamental contradictions, or even conflicts of interests with other countries.  These include opposing social systems and ideologies as well as disputed economic interests, territorial or ocean rights. 

Another aspect of asymmetrical relationships is that the smaller side has more at stake, which makes it more attentive to the contentious issue.  The larger side runs lower risks in the relationship.  But more attention from the smaller side need not mean a better understanding, because it tends to exaggerate the risks as well as expectations and opportunities.  The larger side tends to underplay them.  The insensitivity of the larger power can amplify the paranoia of the smaller and lead to tension and the erosion of public support.  Difference in capacities creates a situation of different expectations, even in a stable relationship.  The larger side expects deference from the smaller, while the smaller expects respect for its autonomy of judgement in pursuing its own interests.

Closer economic, trade and investment links do not by themselves solve the security dilemmas, e.g., in the Sino-Japan relationship, the Sino-American and the Sino-South Korean relationships. 

Another aspect of China needs to be noted.  One can distinguish between power defined as the capacity to achieve set purposes and ‘impact’ defined as the effect on others.  China has a great deal of impact that is often perceived as power. 

China’s relations with countries neighbouring India, with the exception of Pakistan, are not so much to dictate outcomes as to prevent others (India mainly) from undertaking activities that threaten China’s core interests.  As regards India ’s relations with major powers and groups, China has yet to adjust itself in particular to the Indo-US relationship. 

Regional constraints on China should not be overlooked.  In East Asia, there are three main ones:  North Korea ’s nuclear and missile capability, the Taiwan issue and the future course of Japan .  In Southeast Asia , China has unresolved maritime and territorial issues.  In the economic field, China ’s imports from the region to feed its finished goods exports could be problematic.  China needs to increase its domestic consumption levels to sustain its growth rate in future.  India has been welcomed by some of these countries to take on a bigger role for the Indian Navy, which China does not favour. 

Among China ’s problems is the rise of fundamentalism manifested in ethnic unrest (in Xingjian).   In Central Asia, while China has forged relations with the republics, a favourable balance will depend on Russia ’s military might and China ’s economic clout.  These republics, aware of balancing, are also inclined towards the US role in the region. 

For us in South Asia, regional security or insecurity is perhaps the biggest issue in bilateral relations with China . The friendly and positive statements by the two governments need to be translated into action.  Air Marshal Fali Major’s remarks set the right tone of self-confidence and the case against pessimism in the Indian strategic community. 

The area from the Irrawady to the Hindukush faces many different kinds of perils of the unconventional kind:  terrorism, smuggling, drug and arms running, criminal activities, human trafficking and aggressive messianism.  The permeability of borders has blurred the barrier between regional security complexes – India and China .  They both have to watch the situation in the neighbourhood to maintain their own domestic stability.  These interests go beyond the traditional power plays.  The internal stability of neighbouring states becomes an important factor in the maintenance of regional security.  Cooperation and dialogue between India and China has not gone beyond the purely declaratory level.  The principle of interdependence is challenged by regional contexts where internal policies have serious external consequences. 

A wide gap needs to be bridged in India-China relations vis-à-vis South Asian security.  Similar security interests are not always approached as common ones.  The low level of cooperation in security matters is because, as an objective, it is ranked below the wish to maintain diplomatic, economic and military dominance vis-à-vis another state.  This applies to Indo-Pak and India-China relations. 

In conclusion:  1) India must work on China not to allow Pakistan to make Afghanistan an exclusive area of Pak influence and not to allow the exclusion of India from the developmental progress in Afghanistan .  To resolve the Afghan problem, a grouping of India , the US , the EU, Russia , China , Iran and the Central Asian republics could be mooted.  2) We should continue the mature handling of the border question.  3)  Both countries could intensify their military-to-military relations and start confidential talks between them to prepare for the acceptance of a reasonable, defendable, maintainable boundary.  4) The two countries should work towards a broader Asian collective security scenario.  5)  They should work towards joint India-China infrastructure projects in transportation (both rail and road) in Myanmar and other countries. 


A question was asked on China ’s probable strategy of hacking the key computer and communications networks of the other side in future skirmishes. The Chinese are investing in key industries and services in India with such networks in mind.  What can India do to counter this strategy?  Prof. Kondapalli replied that Chinese strategists had begun working on futuristic scenarios of “unrestricted warfare” even from 1995, when a book with that title was written by two high-ranking PLA officers.  The concept includes domains like electro-magnetic fields and paralysing enemy networks.  Pakistan is also studying techniques of hacking and other methods, for example in the University of Changsha in Hunan .  The hacking of our websites at BARC, the MEA, and the MOD was possibly by the Chinese.  To avoid this danger, the US is deliberately experimenting with systems avoiding computer networks.  Since the Indian armed forces have not yet adopted full-spectrum networking, they are relatively immune from serious damage to their systems in a conflict involving the sabotage of networks.  A comment was offered that in the era of globalisation, we have to have a mix of older and newer technologies, and cannot avoid the latter because of dangers.  Amb. Venkateswaran pointed out that in diplomacy, reciprocity is a recognised principle and that India had allowed Chinese technologists to train in institutes like Infosys, without Indian trainees being able to find similar opportunities to train in China . 

To a question on the likely outcome of the PM’s meeting with the Chinese PM in Thailand (on October 24, 2009 , the day of this seminar), Amb. Ranganathan replied that he was baffled by the outburst of media hostility displayed on both sides in recent weeks due to bilateral tensions.  He hoped that both governments would show maturity to safeguard their common interest in and desire for improved relations.  Indians, he thought, were swayed by western literature on the rapid rise of China , but the Chinese on their part were making the mistake of acting insensitively, in a way reminiscent of their attitude in 1962. 

A lady argued that India were too defensive in using its cultural legacy to gain more recognition and prestige.  In Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh, where our archeological and cultural togetherness could be high-lighted, the Indian government, she thought, was being over-solicitous to respect China ’s concerns over Tibet .  Amb. Ranganathan agreed that it was a valid point.  India should spend more on cultural diplomacy and opening more cultural centres abroad.  Indian assistance in developing countries is well appreciated, especially in Afghanistan .  He added that corporate industry and the private sector should do more to supplement governmental efforts.  Another lady commented that India should invest in public relations and highlight its accomplishments over the ages and also its current problems. 

Air Chief Marshal Major said that any PR exercise must be backed by performance.  In our effort to catch up with China ’s defence capability, we must modernise.  We are not relaxing, but asymmetries will remain.  It is futile to go into an arms race, but we can reduce the asymmetries. 

Prof. Jayaramu expressed the view that in dealing with China ’s military modernisation, we have to take the route of diplomatic negotiations, through confidential dialogues, and private level exchanges over an extended period.  If necessary, India should also “play the America card”.  We should find out what the young Chinese feel about India , whether they are intent on conflict with India or want to be at peace with us.  We should not take on the Chinese in the technological and military fields.  A former military officer recalled the heroism of our jawans and JCOs against the PLA in the 1962 border engagements.  In 2009, we are far better equipped and prepared, but does the experience of border negotiations with China hold any lessons for India now? 

Amb. Ranganathan agreed that following PM Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to China in 1988, there was an understanding that the unresolved border issue be set aside and that discussions be held on other bilateral issues.  This approach has paid dividends.  The boundary being undefined, we have to manage our patrols along the border with care and delicacy.  Without crossing the disputed Line, our patrols should go up to the LAC in its commonly accepted sections and defend it.  We should uphold our rights within the LAC and assert them, as they do from their side.

Prof. Kondapilli explained that in the 1914 talks with British India, the Chinese envoy disputed, not the McMahon Line, but the British move to divide Tibet by marking an Inner Line and an Outer Line.  Natwar Singh, in his recent book of memoirs, has said that Zhou Enlai accepted the boundary as marked by McMahon, with some alterations, but wanted another name for the Line. But in 1986, the Chinese made a specific claim to Tawang as part of China . 

The speaker said there are five policy options for India , none of which is viable in the long run.  1) Engagement with China in a controlled and incremental way.  2) Status quo, which is problematic when both sides are rising powers in Asia .  3)  Balancing, which we are following to an extent, with diplomatic initiatives for better relations with the US , Russia and the countries of south-east Asia .  But this option must be accompanied by a higher defence outlay by India .  4)  Containment of China , which is not viable, given the asymmetries between the two countries and the problem of roping in Mongolia , Vietnam and others.  5) For the present, negotiations, to get enough space in Asia for us to carve our area of influence.  

The Chairman (Shri Venkateswaran) concluded the discussion.  He observed that China ’s borders today are very different from what they were 2000 years ago.  So also are India ’s borders.  But China was an aggressive power which incorporated large areas, while India was not a predatory power.  It was Nehru’s mistake, when the territorial conflict began in the 1950s, to declare that our army would expel the Chinese from the border areas on the Indian side which they had encroached.  China overran some of our border pickets, and withdrew to the present Line of Actual Control.  If the Chinese soldiers had stayed on in the Eastern sector, they would have been snowbound and trapped by the winter.  They had no rail and good road communications in Tibet at that time.  A decision was taken by Delhi not to use the IAF to isolate the Chinese forward positions.  India should stand up to China and not act in a subservient manner.  China will respect us only if we do so. 

The issues with China need to be taken up seriously, not hysterically.  Deng Xiaoping began the Four Modernisations policy in 1979 after China was humbled in a military conflict with Vietnam , which exposed the outdated weaponry of the Chinese and resulted in large casualties for the PLA.

China has indeed made great advances in industry and agriculture and other fields.  It is a dictatorial regime, a regimented society with its own weaknesses and problems.  China wants to be No. 1 in everything, but its growth has become lopsided, with reliance on exports and a relatively low level of consumption.   To meet the possible threats from China , India should undoubtedly strengthen all its defence forces and the infrastructure to sustain it.



The speed of China ’s military modernisation and reforms, powered by a determined CCP and PLA command, has alarmed sections of the Indian strategic community, because it has been accompanied by a brazen escalation of anti-Indian chauvinism, hostile moves and signals in the Chinese media, official, semi-official and the internet.  Likewise, the climate of India-China relations has also been vitiated by the overblown anti-Chinese fulminations and litanies of grievances by some Indian commentators.  Memories of Chinese perfidy in 1962 have contributed to a mood of pessimism about India ’s chances of shoring up effective defences to deter any Chinese encroachment of our strategic space.  Though China and India are bracketed as the rising powers of Asia in Western discourses, Indians are sceptical of India ever equalling or rivaling or China ’s current status as a leading world power. 

A cooler examination of the present situation shows that China’s concerns are related to certain factors and circumstances affecting India:  1) the suppressed unrest in Tibet and Xingjian reveals that China does have problems of unresolved ethnic and class divisions, despite its outstanding economic advances;  2) the loyalty that the Dalai Lama commands among Tibetans living in Tibet and elsewhere, and the reverence accorded to him in Tawang which he visited in November 2009 despite vehement Chinese protests; have discomfited China; 3)  India standing fast by its decision to allow the Dalai Lama to visit Tawang as a Buddhist leader is a diplomatic reverse that the Chinese cannot brook.  India’s protest against China undertaking development works in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and its refusal to accept the validity of Chinese visas on separate sheets stapled on to passports by Indians from Kashmir have demonstrated that India will not give up its rights to conciliate China. 

On the other hand, China has also gained in strategic terms.  The US-India partnership that was crafted against many odds by President Bush and our Prime Minister has been attenuated in President Obama’s first year, when the US finds itself at a distinct disadvantage in its negotiations with China on key issues like Afghanistan , Pakistan , North Korea , and Iran .  The weakening of the US and the parallel enrichment of China had altered the equation.  The US being grossly indebted to China as its creditor is a potential geostrategic earthquake that obliges the Americans to be sweetly solicitous to Chinese concerns.  We in India cannot afford to overlook the fact that China and Pakistan have a rock-firm alliance of mutual convenience which the US is obliged to lean on, though it is a partnership with a sordid side in its nuclear and missile transactions and though it is implicitly adversarial to India, which the US would wish to retain as a trusted partner.   

China is emboldened by its Indian admirers and friends who use our free media to canvass Chinese versions and Sinophile opinions.  We need not agree with those who believe that India has been outflanked by a Chinese strategy of containment to limit our scope or space within the subcontinent, harassed by Pakistan and less than friendly neighbours; but it would be a blunder to disregard the stunning advances in China’s military modernisation which mandate our leaders to propel own defence policy of modernising our armed forces rapidly and urgently, integrating them under a single overall command, and upgrading our missile, anti-missile and space capabilities.  Deterrence rather than a forward policy needs to be the guiding principle.

 Such a policy should go hand in hand with energetic diplomacy, with the following aims:

  1) Take advantage of China ’s genuine interest in preventing a disturbance in the conditions for peaceful development.

2) Strengthen the convergence of interests between India and China to set aside irresolvable issues for a better time and to strengthen bilateral ties, economic, commercial and other.  Encourage close consultations on global and regional issues where both have similar or same positions, such as climate change.

 3) Utilise every possible forum for high level bilateral meetings, such as the India-ASEAN summit in Thailand when our Prime Minister met the Chinese Prime Minister and defused the tensions between the two countries.  Common platforms like the SCO, the UNGA and BRIC can also be used similarly.

  4) Since in defence matters, the armed forces of both sides can have direct contacts to promote understanding, and since China obviously has a stake in Asian stability, we could facilitate more exchanges at professional levels, extendable to other areas like agriculture, science, medicine and urban development.

  5)  If the Chinese leadership is willing, India could informally probe the possibility of confirming the LAC along salients which are broadly agreed on both sides and avoiding accidental clashes between patrol parties and a sentry posts

. 6) Indian leadership must eventually prepare the parliament and public opinion for a national consensus on negotiating the border with China with some flexibility, since a securely delimited border will remove one serious issue which has bedevilled bilateral relations.

  7)  In planning defence modernisation, India should be ready for massive investments, not only for the import of costly weapons like fighter aircraft, but also to make good the known gaps in the infrastructure for defence and defence production.

  8) Training on the modern lines for personnel, both military and civilian, in the defence sector must be systematically pursued as a priority.

  9)  Improvements are desirable in putting across the Indian view more effectively, both to our own citizens and to other countries.  India can utilise its I.T. advantage in this area.  Simultaneously, we should keep abreast of the latest knowledge on cyber-warfare and cyber-sabotage, so that we can emplace more secure safeguards against damage to our important data bases and communications during crisis situations.

This seminar was an effective means to find a reasoned and informed understanding of China ’s military modernisation and the deficits on the Indian side which must be addressed without delay.  The details of China ’s defence strategy and the conviction that India must pursue its own defence modernisation without desperation or hype came out clearly from the five presentations and the discussion afterwards.  The role of diplomacy in cooling down bilateral tensions and reducing areas of disagreement was also a running theme of the seminar.


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