Emerging Chinese Security Threats In Indian Context: Need For India To Review Security Strategy – Analysis


“If he strikes me once, it is his fault.
If he strikes me again, it is my fault.”
Chinese Saying (Anonymous)


The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has the largest population in the world, the fastest growing economy in the world, the largest army in the world, the largest middle class in the world, a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, a manned space programme, a nuclear arsenal, and so on. But analysts, commentators and policymakers have yet to decide just how to understand China.1 History also shows the Communist China becoming a republic under Mao Tse Tung started in 1949 following its expansionist policy all over. As part of expansionist policy, Chinese annexed Tibet in 1950. India in order to keep and maintain goodwill of China did not openly object to their occupation of Tibet and did not realize the arising security implications to India of the Tibet being annexed by the Chinese. During the British times, Tibet always served as a buffer state between British administrated India and Russia-China. Thus, kept Tibet as a buffer state, whereas India overlooked this aspects altogether.

Providing asylum to large number of Tibetans and the Dalai Lama by India in the 50’s further infuriated the Chinese Government. India tried to maintain very cordial relations with China ever since its independence in 1949. In the 50’s Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, the Prime Minister of India even went out of the way to introduce Chou-in-Lai, the Prime Minister of China to the World leaders. However, India’s paternal relations with China with slogans like “Hindi Chini, Bhai-Bhai”, remained only the empty slogans, whereas the Chinese had sinister designs towards India and for the Indian Territory. Though the Chinese offensive had started much earlier, but on 20 Oct 1962 a full fledged Chinese attack commenced on India. The Sole war with China in 1962, was one in which India was on the losing side, ceding 40,000 square kilometers of its territory, which remain in Chinese occupation till today.

China ever since its emergence as a monolithic communist state in 1949 was involved in boundary disputes with virtually every nation on its peripheries. It led to border wars with the former Soviet Union, Vietnam and India, the border wars were perceived by China as punitive wars. China undertaken boundary settlements with virtually all countries with which it had disputes with the exceptions of India.2 The northern border of India with Tibet was based on MacMahon Line as the boundary which the Chinese did not recognize as the borders with India. China had laid large territorial claims in the Indian territorial claims in the Ladakh region,Himachal Pradesh, hills of Uttar Pradesh (now Uttaranchal), the whole of the than North East Frontier Agency(NEFA) now called Arunachal Pradesh (right up to hills of the Assam), Sikkim(Sikkim was an Indian Protectorate).

After the Sino-Indian war in late 1962 ended, this territorial dispute also seemed to have ended. This region acquired an independent political status in January 20th 1972, when it was declared as Union Territory, an administrative division of India ruled directly by the national government, under the name of Arunachal Pradesh. The state of Arunachal Pradesh Bill was passed by the parliament in 1986 and with effect from February 20th 1987; Arunachal Pradesh became the 24th State of Indian Union. Even though Arunachal Pradesh is administrated by India as a state, China still claims most of it as a part of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). Chinese also had claims on the Bhutan territory especially the areas with Sikkim. The boundary of India and China runs along the “Mac Mahon Line” in the Himalayas based on the “Watershed principle”.

Even the merger of Sikkim with India is yet to be recognised formally by China. Continued intransigence on the territorial and boundary dispute does not send encouraging signals for long-term stability and, in fact, has the potential for escalating once again to a border conflict. A possible future reversal in the present policies being followed by the Chinese government could create serious problems for India’s security.

In a recent article Professor Rakesh Datta who is Chairman of the Department of Defence and National Security Studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh described the relationship between India and China, it is often said that the two countries should remain good neighbours in geopolitics, good friends in economic cooperation and good partners in international affairs. However, the reality is that they have been uncomfortable neighbours, estranged friends and cool partners. Though both countries boost of civilisational linkages, they have hardly anything in common. India somehow, willingly or unwillingly, is carrying the burden of a much compliant, obliging and ever-pleasing neighbour. There is great need to improve our basic inventory to deal with China. The

later has reorganised its ground forces into group armies. Significant to mention here is the building of the elite Rapid Response Force, composed of eight types of troops belonging to scouts, infantry, artillery, signals, engineers, anti-chemical warfare automobile corps and airborne fighters. Intended to engage in small-scale intensive regional military operations, these are highly technology-based forces and competitive in character. 3

Chinese Concerns in the Region

Looking at China first, its core concern is maintaining its integrity, territorial or otherwise, while it moves dynamically forward to build up its economic, political and military strengths. It seems to it that its strongest challenges will emanate from the US, seen to be encircling it from all directions with the help of its allies, and wanting to force a democratic wave within China, also targeting for loosening of its hold over Tibet and Xinjiang. In the game of diplomatic chess that has emerged China wants to ensure that no lending hand is given to the US by India. It seeks to achieve this objective by keeping India off balance. It has developed Pakistan as its Israel against India, extending nuclear and missile technology, all directed 100% against India. More than collaboration with the US, China fears India over the possible roles it can play around Tibet.

As  long as fires of Tibetan nationalism burn in Tibet and a diaspora of over 100,000 Tibetans, mostly well educated and politically aware, with Dalai Lama providing  a focus, shelter in India, China will view India with grave suspicions. There is no way by which India can succeed in removing such mistrust from the Chinese mind. While the resulting state of unease may not lead to a war as in 1962, it certainly blocks progress on the border settlement and withdrawal of territorial claims such as over Arunachal Pradesh and Aksaichin. As of today, one may not be off the mark to state that China India relationship will remain a hostage to China’s crisis with Tibet.4

India is regarded as an emerging power thanks to its high growth rate of over eight per cent in the last few years and the opening of its market. The tag of an emerging and rising power also brings with it a host of new challenges in the foreign policy arena. The primary global challenge, including for India, is to avoid an economic recession. The prospect of a double dip economic slowdown is staring at the world. In a disturbing development, Mozambique has witnessed food riots due to rising global food prices. India will need to ensure that its economic policies are prudent and sustainable in the long run. Another round of global economic woes will affect India adversely.

The most dramatic geopolitical change in recent times has been the emergence of China as the second largest economy in the world, overtaking Japan. Its economic rise has been accompanied by acceleration in its military modernisation and greater assertiveness in its foreign policy. Its presence and influence is becoming noticeable in far flung areas, in the Indian Ocean, in Africa, in Latin America and even in the Arctic. There are fresh question marks on the peaceful nature of its rise. China is India’s largest neighbour and the latter is, therefore, naturally concerned about the intentions of a rising China.

Both India and China are rising simultaneously in Asia. Although the Indian prime minister has repeatedly stated that there is enough room for both countries to grow, the possibility of conflict of interests cannot be ruled out if the relationship is not managed properly. Both countries have a longstanding unresolved border dispute over which they fought a war in 1962. China is beginning to probe India’s resolve and capabilities by xonstructing a vast military infrastructure in Tibet near India’s borders, by increasing its naval presence in the Indian Ocean and by altering its position on Kashmir. Some of its recent actions have been deliberately provocative. It has adopted an uncompromising stance on the territory of Arunachal Pradesh, which India regards as its own. It has refused a visa to a senior Indian army general serving in Kashmir. It issues only stapled visas to Indian citizens of Kashmiri origin.

There have been reports of Chinese troop presence, though denied by the Chinese, in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, which India claims as its own, and New Delhi sees the increasing Chinese presence in Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives as an indication of encirclement of India by China. These are all signs that China is testing India’s defences and pre-eminence in South Asia. India cannot afford to fail the test. But this will require a well thought-out strategy. India will have to find the necessary will, determination and, more importantly, the capacity to transform the neighbourhood. Otherwise, external influences in the neighbourhood, particularly that of China, will grow and India will lose its strategic space sooner than it thinks.5 China has upped the ante against India once again vis-à-vis its territorial claim on the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

In early January 2012, China denied visa to Group Captain Mohonto Panging, a senior Indian Air force officer hailing from Arunachal Pradesh, who was to be part of a 30 member Integrated Defence team travelling to China under a bilateral defence exchange programme. Ironically, the visit, starting January 10,2012 was meant to be a Confidence Building Exercise and an offshoot of the Annual Defence Dialogue. India did not cancel the visit per se but instead sent a truncated 15 member military delegation that did not include Mohonto Panging. It must be noted that this is not the first time that China has signalled its territorial claim on Arunachal Pradesh by denying visa to an Indian citizen from the state. In 2010, the Chinese embassy had denied a visa to then Lt. Gen. B.S. Jaswal, then head of the Northern Command because he was serving in Jammu and Kashmir. In May 2007, China denied visa to Ganesh Koyu, an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer from Arunachal Pradesh, who was to be a part of a 107 member IAS officer study visit to Beijing and Shanghai. China pointed out that Koyu is a Chinese citizen since he belongs to Arunachal Pradesh and hence could visit China without a visa! The same logic appears to have motivated the Chinese action this time around as well. In April 2011, the first BRICS summit was held in Sanya, Hainan, China.

During the event, the two countries agreed to restore defence co-operation, and China had hinted that it may reverse its policy of administering stapled visas to residents of Jammu and Kashmir. This practice was later stopped, and as a result, defence ties were resumed between the two nations and joint military drills were expected.

China doesn’t like India’s closer ties with the US or even Russia, for it views them as detrimental to its regional and global interests. It does not want another giant in Asia. That why it tries to keep India on tenterhooks as regards the Sino-Indian relations. It wants India to remain embroiled regionally with its neighbors and dissipate its vital resources. In 2006, China’s Ambassador to India ignited a political firestorm when he declared the “whole state of Arunachal Pradesh is Chinese territory… we are claiming all of that. That is our position.” Later, on many separate occasions, China denied visas to Indian officials from Arunachal Pradesh, explaining Chinese citizens didn’t require visas to travel to their own country. China perhaps fears that India might itself become a base for the subversive activities of the Dalai Lama’s supporters.

Consequently, China believes that its aggressive posture on Arunachal Pradesh will deter India from overplaying its Tibet card, which includes 100, 000 Tibetan refugees living in India, against China.

Chinese Presence in South Asian Region

China is creating areas of influence in South Asia. Its interest in South Asia is purely strategic with India in mind. The export of technological and creation of infrastructure in India’s neighborhood is largely military oriented. China is singularly responsible for making Pakistan a stand alone nuclear power besides continuously arming it with conventional weapons to India’s discomfiture. China is increasing controlling investment and major infrastructure projects in Pakistan, Srilanka, Nepal, Myanmar and Afghanistan. This has been a cause of security concern for India. China is known to have provided direct assistance to Pakistan for its nuclear weapons programme, including nuclear warhead designs and enough HEU (highly enriched uranium) for at least two nuclear bombs.

China is known to have provided assistance and transferred dual-use technology and materials for the development of nuclear weapons.China has also helped Pakistan to build a secret reactor to produce weapons-grade plutonium at the Chashma nuclear facility. China has transferred M-9 and M-11 nuclear-capable ballistic missiles and has facilitated the transfer of Taepo Dong and No Dong ballistic missiles from North Korea to Pakistan. China and Pakistan have jointly developed a fighter aircraft – JF-17 Thunder/ FC-1 Fierce – and a main battle tank – Al Khalid, besides other military hardware like anti-tank missiles.

China has “guaranteed Pakistan’s territorial integrity” and in the words of the leaders of the two countries, their friendship is “higher than the mountains and deeper than the oceans. “As part of its “string of pearls” strategy in the Indian Ocean, China has built a port for Pakistan at Gwadar on the Makran Coast. This port could be upgraded to a naval base for Chinese naval vessels with minimum effort.6

Besides building a deep sea port of Gwadar, China is now building two major hydro projects in POK ($ 1.5 billion) over the river Neelam. In Nepal, the Chinese government plans to extend the Tibet railway right up to Kathmandu. China has surpassed both India and Japan as a leading donor to Sri Lanka. It has given $ 1 billion aid with no strings attached for major strategic projects. China’s long term strategy is to link its Southern landlocked regions to Bay of Bengal through Myanmar and the Arabian Sea through Pakistan. It is also trying to extend its influence far as Maldives and Mauritius. So the prospect of the Chinese Navy becoming an Indian Ocean Player is real one and far India, this is not a comfortable thought.

Until some years ago, the Chinese Navy, despite operating nuclear powered submarines, some fitted with nuclear warhead missiles, was essentially a coastal force. Thereafter, as China grew economically and as a major power, this small defensive perimeter was extended to what was termed ‘the first island chain’ which required credible operating capability in the waters up to and including Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines. The next step was to enhance this coverage to the ‘second island chain’ an expense of water going up to Guam in the Pacific. China imbibed the lessons of US military undertakings such as the 1991 Gulf War, war in Afghanistan and the recent operation Iraqi Freedom. These have spurred China’s pursuit of the latest Revolution in Military affairs (RMA) manifested in the buying, adopting of latest technologies and weapons systems (particularly from Russia) along with concomitant changes in doctrine and organizational structures.7

China stated objectives in its Sixth National Defence White Paper 2008 are clear that its aims at developing strategic missile and space based assets and of rapidly enhancing its blue water navy to conduct operations in distant waters, and the systematic upgrading of infrastructure, reconnaissance and surveillance, quick response and operational capabilities in the border areas.

China realised that the space war is still more central to Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA). It has an active space weapon programme called the “4th leg of the triad”. It is developing counter space systems by shooting down its own low orbit satellite, thus demonstrating its potential of anti-satellite warfare capabilities. Long range precision strikes, are denial capability, information warfare, ballistic and cruise missiles capabilities and strategic nuclear force potential are some of the areas China has achieved reckonable competence.

The South China Sea Disputes and Indian Policy

In October 2011 statements by Chinese officials reasserting China’s “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea and warnings to India against investment in the region are seen as signs of Chinese aggressiveness that would inevitably precipitate conflict. Suggestions for greater Indian involvement in the South China Sea disputes are made on the grounds that India must be forceful in its dealings with China. The continuation of ONGC Videsh Limited’s (OVL) investments in Vietnamese energy fields is certainly advisable. In fact, there is nothing to indicate that the Indian government is thinking otherwise.

OVL’s presence in Vietnam is not a recent phenomenon. Its first joint-venture for offshore oil and natural gas exploration in Vietnam’s Lan Tay field along with Petro Vietnam and BP became functional in 2003. Deals for the investments now in the headlines were signed in May 2006; this is a project that will not be halted because of oblique Chinese statements. India simply need not take heed of Chinese views on Indian economic ventures. In the aftermath of statements by the US and skirmishes over fishing vessels, ASEAN and China agreed upon The Guidelines on the Implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea at the Bali Summit in July 2010. Recent tensions may well prod the parties towards a more binding code of conduct. This is not to suggest that territorial claims and sovereignty issues will be resolved, but certainly can become more manageable to prevent military conflict. A revision of Indian policy on the issue should be based on a clear understanding of what India stands to gain and how Indian national interest is strengthened. India’s relationships with South East Asian countries are not uni-dimensional.

They are not geared only towards checking the Chinese imprint in the region but are reflective of India’s multifarious interests globally. As regards military support for OVL’s operations, the issue should be reflected upon seriously. It is one thing to build capabilities in order to deter misadventure, quite another to back investment with military might. This is a matter that will affect Indian ventures globally.8 India is right to forcefully reject Chinese claims of sovereignty over the entire South China Sea. It should now build credible strategic partnerships with other regional states so as to prevent a Chinese regional dominance that will undermine the Indian and regional security interests.

Unstable Indian neighbourhood in South Asia

Dealing with the increasingly unstable neighbourhood will assume ever greater importance in Indian foreign policy. The old paradigm of minimal contact and cautious engagement with neighbours will have to change. Many of India’s security problems are rooted in the turbulence in the neighbourhood. Pakistan is in serious crisis, which could threaten not only its stability but also that of the region. Is India ready to deal with an increasingly unstable Pakistan where the society is getting radicalised and terrorist groups find safe havens? The Af-Pak region is already the epicentre of global terrorism.

The security situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating despite the massive presence of foreign forces. Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Bangladesh, and Myanmar are in various degrees of political and economic instability. In the new paradigm, India will have to scale up its engagement with its neighbours manifold. The aim of Indian policy should be to forge physical and social connectivities and stabilise the neighbourhood by creation of jobs and growth at a fast clip. Regional cooperation within and outside the framework of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) needs to be vitalised. India has the task of working towards refurbishing its negative image in the neighbouring countries that have suspicions about its size and intentions. India’s rising economy should be an anchor for the weak economies of its neighbours, provided India takes a pro-active approach. India should demonstrate to them the enormous benefits of integration with the rising Indian economy.

Of course, India would legitimately expect the neighbouring countries to be sensitive to its security concerns. India can take the lead in coming up with suggestions to build a cooperative security structure in the neighbourhood. This should, in the first stage, include a sustained strategic dialogue among the neighbours.9

The Sino – Pak Nexus as a Challenge for India

It is clear that India will have to deal with this challenge at several levels. The Sino-Pak nexus, particularly in the military and nuclear fields, makes India’s relations with both a matter of considerable concern. While China is an immediate neighbour, it is also a global economic power, a power that has begun to flex her muscle – not only bilaterally but globally as well. The dilemma faced by India is to deal with the consequences of China’s assertiveness and its seeming willingness to tweak established global rules – whether those of the non-proliferation regime or of the Law of the Sea while simultaneously maintaining a balanced relationship with that country which would give us the time and space to deal with her internal imperatives.10

China’s assistance and involvement in infrastructure projects in POK, assistance in upgrading the Karakoram highway and its tacit support to Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir has severe implications for Sino-Indian relations in the long run. The issue of stapled visas to residents of Jammu and Kashmir exemplifies the misreading by China of Indian sensitivities. This factor too has a major bearing on overall atmospherics.11The US and China both needed Pakistan for their respective strategic considerations and meet its demands for cash and weapons as per its terms. China in total disregard to global ethics went on to help Pakistan to become a nuclear state. It served China’s purpose of keeping India embroiled in an incessant proxy war with a smaller neighbor. China’s attempts to befriend India from other neighbours like Myanmar, Bangladesh and SriLanka through devious means are no less threatening. It has clearly emerged that China poses the most potent military threat to India and, given the nuclear, missile and military hardware nexus between China and Pakistan, future conventional conflict in Southern Asia could be a two-front war.

Therefore, India’s military strategy of dissuasion against China must be gradually upgraded to deterrence. Genuine deterrence comes only from the capability to launch and sustain major offensive operations into the adversary’s territory. India needs to raise new divisions to carry the next war deep into Tibet. Since maneuvers are not possible due to the restrictions imposed by the difficult mountainous terrain, firepower capabilities need to be enhanced by an order of magnitude, especially in terms of precision-guided munitions. This will involve substantial upgradation of ground-based (artillery guns, rockets and missiles) and aerially-delivered (fighter-bomber aircraft and attack helicopters) firepower. Only then will it be possible to achieve future military objectives.

Indian Military diplomacy in Geopolitical Context

A country of India’s size, with 15,000 km of land frontier and 7,000 km of maritime frontier, 2.2 million square km of exclusive economic zones and a history of five military conflicts with Pakistan and China, will always require a strong military. India has an ambitious military modernisation programme. Being one of the largest military powers, its defence production and research capacities are insufficient compared to its needs. India is trying to develop its military manufacturing capacities even as it has an ambitious military procurement programme. Thus, India will have to factor the military dimension into its foreign policy. It is already engaged in strategic partnerships with several countries. Much of this relationship building is, however, ad hoc. India will have to ensure that its military strength is not taken amiss by other countries. Combining soft and hard power and projecting it as safeguarding its national interests as well as an instrument of global peace will be important. 12 India, too, has come out with its Cold Start doctrine against Pakistan. Designed as small composite units to cut down on the period of mobilisation, such rapid action troops could well be organised for the China border as well. But, sadly, buckling under US pressure, the present Army Chief has denied altogether the existence of any such doctrine. There is need to create such specalised units in the Indian Army and the Navy to meet contingencies such as sea-borne threats. Efforts should also be made to reduce the period of acclimatisation for troop deployment on the Himalayan frontiers. India started its military modernisation in 1963 after the 1962 war. China, instead, began much later in 1978. However, unlike the Chinese defence industry, which has produced some of the relatively modern weapon systems besides the development of missiles, India has manufactured very few major weapon systems so far. China, in contrast, possesses a whole range of missiles, including ICBMs and SLBMs, whereas, but for Agni and Prithvi missiles, all other Indian missiles remain technological demonstrators. 13 The geopolitical context of India’s northern frontiers must also shape Indian strategy. China’s absorption of the Tibetan buffer has, since 1951, provided it with the geostrategic upper hand, in that Chinese forces positioned on the Tibetan plateau have compelled India to stake a defensive position on strategically located passes to deny the people’s liberation army (PLA) potential access to and political leverage over the sub-Himalayan space. This also explains India’s urgency to improve its logistical infrastructure in the eastern and western sectors of the Himalayan borders, and improve the tactical military balance on its frontiers. There is another geopolitical factor that India must account for: China’s military-industrial and political heartland is concentrated largely on its eastern seaboard, several thousand miles away from the Indian heartland and the reach of most of India’s offensive capabilities. This implies that India requires stand-off deterrent systems, such as LACMs and greater reach in air power, to buttress its diplomatic position in the event of a conflict. This geopolitical context will remain relevant even after a potential resolution of the boundary dispute. 14

Indian Concerns and Response for making a China Strategy

India needs to take note of developments of strategic interests in its surround areas. Indian Forces modernization plans must recognize the capabilities that are being created and respond to them. Only the Prithvi SSM (surface to surface missile) may be considered sufficient for India to deal with any threat from Pakistan, India’s missile strike capability vis-à-vis China is severely limited, if not altogether non existent. Chinese missiles on the other hand, have the capability of striking any part of India. In this context, India should strengthen its own intercontinental ballistic missiles as part of a credible nuclear deterrence posture vis-à-vis China. Building military infrastructure in Arunachal Pradesh would also add credibility to the country’s conventional deterrence posture. Through such defensive postures, India must ‘signal’ not only its commitment to defend Arunachal Pradesh in case of a military invasion but also ensure that China clearly understands that India’s defensive force structures are credible. War games must be conducted and the results made public in order to act as postures of deterrence. Keeping its bilateral relations with the US and Russia robust is also a wise move vis-à-vis China.15India is relying on internal research and development to build an indigenous missile programme, which has included technology from its space programme. India is also engaged in developing ballistic missile defence (BMD), which has been tested thrice. But New Delhi is still a long way away from developing anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon capability. As a result Indian satellites are vulnerable to attacks from China which have posses this capabilities earlier. Its only when India is able to develop and operationalise long range air, land and sea based missile systems and also ASAT capabilities that it would have made a definitive step towards deterring China. China remains the only major power in the world that refuses to discuss nuclear issues with India for fear that this might imply a de facto recognition of India’s status as a nuclear power. It continues to insist on the sanctity of the UN resolution 1172 which calls for India (and Pakistan ) to give up its nuclear weapons program and join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear weapon state. This was reflected in China’s lack of response to the Indian Foreign Minister’s proposal of a common nuclear doctrine for China, India , and Pakistan .

China would not like to get into any sort of nuclear dialogue with India that might give the impression of China recognizing India as a nuclear power. Moreover, while both India and China have a “no first use” nuclear doctrine, China ’s doctrine is not applicable to India as it is not a party to the NPT. 16 Having gained a strong foothold in India’s neighbourhood, China is poised to increase its strategic clout enormously in this region. This is likely to haunt India’s strategic security planners in the coming years. For its part, New Delhi has become both increasingly aware of its disadvantage and exceedingly suspicious of China’s intentions. India’s strategic moves to deploy two additional army mountain divisions to the northeastern state of Assam will bring India’s troop levels in the region to more than 100,000. India has taken some critical strategic decision to countering emerging Chinese threats over claims on Arunachal Pradesh. The deployment of the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile, which has a flight range of 290 km, in the eastern sector to strengthen its defence posture vis-à-vis China. A five year expansion plan to induct 90,000 more troops and deploy four more divisions in the eastern sector is also underway. Already, there are 120, 000 Indian troops stationed in the eastern sector, supported by two Sukhoi 30 MKI squadrons from Tezpur in Assam. The distance from Tezpur to Tawang is 345 kms and from Tawang to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is 60 kms. The Sukhoi 30 MKI will cover the distance in less than 15 minutes given its cruise speed of 860 mph (1380 km/h) at 32780 ft (10000 m) and 1350 kmph over sea level.

China has also upgraded its own military presence in Tibet very close to the LAC in Arunachal Pradesh. The 2010 US Department of Defense Report to Congress indicated that China replaced its old liquid fueled, nuclear capable CSS-3 intermediate range ballistic missile with “more advanced CSS-5 MRBMs” and vastly improved its border roads in the eastern sector bordering India for PLA movement. Intercontinental missiles such as the DF-31 and DF-31A have also been deployed by China at Delingha, north of Tibet. On the border with India, China has deployed 13 Border Defence Regiments amounting to around 300,000 PLA troops.

Airfields have also been established at Hoping, Pangta and Kong Ka respectively, along with the existing six airfields in the Tibetan Autonomous Region for supporting fighter aircrafts and to enhance PLA’s airlift capability. India initiated a policy shift in May 2006 when the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) cleared the construction of strategic roads in Arunachal. This vital Indian policy shift in Arunachal could be seen as a reaction to the Chinese build-up of roads to Aksai Chin in the western sector and to Tibet in the eastern sector. China’s road link to Tibet is along the Arunachal border and consequently enables the easy movement of Chinese goods, services and military hardware to the border areas. The Indian Air Force, meanwhile, announced it will station two squadrons of advanced Sukhoi-30 MKI aircraft in Tezpur, also in Assam. They will be complemented by three Airborne Warning and Control Systems and the addition or upgrade of airstrips and advanced landing stations. This is part of a broader effort to bolster India’s military and transportation infrastructure in its neglected northeast.


A surprise attack is any country’s worst nightmare. Surprise, one of the long-lasting principles of war, was recommended by Sun Tzu and practiced by Napoleon. China and India have failed to satisfactorily resolve their territorial and boundary dispute since the two nations fought a war over it in 1962 despite 14 rounds of talks between political interlocutors and many meetings of the Joint Working Group.Even the Line of Actual Control (LAC) has not been clearly demarcated on military maps and on the ground due to China’s intransigence. Patrol face-offs are common and an armed clash could take place any time. If it is not contained quickly, such a clash could lead to another border conflict. Of late, while stability prevails at the strategic level, China has exhibited marked political, diplomatic and military aggressiveness at the tactical level. This has led to anxiety about Chinese intentions.

China’s defence modernization needs to be monitored carefully in the foreseeable future for the implications that it can have on the security and defence of India. So now China is seen as a main security threat to India’s growth than Pakistan. Its time for India to realised the security implications of China’s rising military profile.

In so far as the sub-continent is concerned, India’s strategy makers must enunciate a strategy of ensuring that great power interference in the neighbourhood remains minimal and develop those capabilities that can either deny or increase the costs of unilateral strategic involvement on the Indian periphery. India should also be ready to play Tibet card, something it has consciously avoided doing for almost half a century since China launched its brutal suppression of the human rights of the Tibetan people. The Chinese people’s latent yearning for democracy could also be discreetly encouraged. The Indian Government has no long term plans or resource allocation to meet current or distant security challenges. The plans drawn by the armed forces remain without government approval for want of politico-bureaucratic combine’s reluctance to commit. Consequently, India does not have a coherent strategy to manage its security challenges. Adhocism without any defined objectives prevails in all matters of security. No other country is so lackadaisical towards its national security. The government of India will have to formulate a clear China policy and, more importantly, a broader national security strategy. This should be the top foreign policy priority of the Indian government if it wants India to emerge as a global power of any reckoning. With China, India should continue to seek a relationship providing stability and peace for mutual benefit.

India’s offensive capability in high altitude areas is hardly dependable. Our perspective planning for building a force structure must be based on a central agenda directed towards projected capabilities. China is adopting a new military strategy based on unrestricted warfare where there are no rules with nothing forbidden. In this context, apart from designing some innovative response strategies vis-à-vis China, India must look for and cultivate certain dissident Chinese political leaders settled abroad and use them to its advantage. India needs to exploit Chinese vulnerabilities in socio-economic, technological and geo-strategic areas, besides concentrating on ways of waging asymmetrical warfare against more powerful hegemonistic presence in our neighborhood. Though India cannot stop China from developing infrastructure in its own territory across the border, we must give up our irrational idea that developing border infrastructure is detrimental to national security. There has been some change in thinking with regard to our borders with China in Arunachal Pradesh, but nothing substantial is seen on the ground. Taking into account China’s achievements in militarising space and in the Indian Ocean region, India needs to adopt a focussed and fast-track approach to harness measures most effectively as it has reasons to be wary of China. Above all, it is in India’s political direction and will where lies the country’s actual potential in formulating and executing counter-threat strategies keeping in view the designs of China. China’s emergence as a major world power with widespread economic and security interests is a reality, which has to be accepted. India should endeavour to realistically balance China’s power through developing its own economic and military strength and through strong relationship with neighbouring countries in SARRC, the ASEAN and the CARs.

References and Footnotes
1. William A. Callahan(2005). How to understand China: the dangers and opportunities of being a rising power. Review of International Studies, 31, pp 701-714.
2. Dr Subhash Kapila. China: The strategic reluctance on boundary settlement with India, Paper no. 2023, 13-11-2006.
3. Rakesh Datta. Challenges from China, The Tribune, Page 8,December 2011
4. A. K. Verma. Paper no. 2687 01-May-2008Security Threats Facing India: External and Internal, http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/%5Cpapers27%5Cpaper2687.html
5. Arvind Gupta. (2010): Tasks before Indian Foreign Policy, Strategic Analysis, 35:1, 1-5.
6. Gurmeet Kanwal, Defence doctrine ,Facing up to war on two fronts. Article No.: 1513. 05/03/2010. http://www.claws.in/index.php?action=details&m_id=515&u_id=7
7. Ravi V. Prasad, “ America ’s Two Timing,” The Hindustan Times, New Delhi , March 17, 2004.
8. Rukmani Gupta, The South China Sea Disputes: Why conflict is not Inevitable. IDSA COMMENT. October 17, 2011, http://idsa.in/idsacomments/TheSouthChinaSeaDisputesWhyConflictisnotInevitable_rgupta_171011
9. Ibid.5.
10. Arundhati Ghose , October 2011 Defence AND security alert page 74-76 volume 3 issue 1
11. Lt Gen Sudhir Sharma, India China :Emerging Fault Lines, October 2011, Defence and Security Alert page 83 volume 3 issue 1
12. Ibid.5.
13. Ibid.3.
14. Zorawar Daulet Singh (2010): Thinking about an Indian Grand Strategy, Strategic Analysis, 35:1, 52-70
15. Namrata Goswami, China’s Territorial Claim on Arunachal Pradesh: Crafting an Indian Response, IDSA Issue Brief October 25, 2010 www.idsa.in/system/files/IB_Chinasterrorialclaim.pdf
16. N. Banerjee, “Center to review Nathula Trade Policy,” The Times of India, New Delhi , June 22, 2004.

Asif Ahmed

Asif Ahmed is Assistant Professor at the University of Kurukshetra, teaching defense and strategic studies. He holds an MA in Defence & Strategic Studies (Punjabi University) with couple of other post graduate degrees in Mass Communications and Journalism. Professor Asif Ahmed has published one book on national security of India and authored articles in English, Punjabi, and Hindi languages in various newspapers, magazines journals, and has also edited chapters in books at the national and international levels. For some time he also participated in Live Radio Talks and Phone in counseling programs at the AIR Patiala station in India. Professor Ahmed's areas of interests are National Security of India, Distance Education, Human Rights Education, and Environment Education. He may be reached at [email protected]. and blogs at asifahmed081.blogspot.in

5 thoughts on “Emerging Chinese Security Threats In Indian Context: Need For India To Review Security Strategy – Analysis

  • August 9, 2012 at 1:52 am

    The world is dealing with China with diplomacy as if China is not run by thugs.

  • August 9, 2012 at 2:16 am

    China has much trouble caused by evil us.
    India dont Invite trouble now.

  • August 9, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    The present Indian Stae seems incapable of planing and implementing policy in any sphere of development. All strength comes from a robust economy and India has failed in building one. Twin scourge of corruption and poor governance are its Achiles heels.

  • August 10, 2012 at 2:35 am

    “If he strikes me once, it is his fault.
    If he strikes me again, it is my fault.”
    Chinese Saying (Anonymous

    Indian Saying : i’ll slumber as i’m used to being SLAPPED !

  • August 31, 2012 at 1:36 am

    Go on. I dare India to play the Tibetan card.


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