Making up Asymmetric Deficit vis-à-vis China
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Issue Vol. 29.3 Jul-Sep 2014 | Date : 13 Oct , 2014

Information and Cyber Warfare

PLA’s Integrated Network and Electronic Warfare (INEW) doctrine helps organise and structure forces for information dominance. Specific roles for Computer Network Operations (CNO) during conflict and peace include targeting C2 networks, intelligence processing centres, communication nodes, power supply grids; using cyber weapons to paralyse enemy critical infrastructure. Protection of the electro-magnetic domain is considered vital to own national security. Chinese network exploitation and intelligence collection capabilities pose formidable counter intelligence challenges. China is actively engaging in cyber reconnaissance by probing computer networks of many countries particularly US, Japan, India and South Korea.

India imports bulk of the computer hardware and telecommunication equipment from China…

The US recently indicted five PLA officers for hacking into American nuclear, metal and solar companies to steal trade secrets. Assets at sea are increasingly susceptible to detection by Chinese space-based ELINT satellites, SIGINT collection and land-based OTH radars. There is strong focus on counter space weapons, A-SAT being one of them. China is developing Directed Energy Weapons (DEW) such as LASERS, High Power Microwave (HPM) systems and Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) generating weapons. Chinese Defence-industrial reforms have three vertices – commercial ICT companies, state R&D institutes and funding infrastructure and the military.

Civilian entities are used to conduct military work, synergy facilitated by growing use of COTS technology and rise of China as a centre for global ‘fabless’ IC production, both permitting PLA to access advanced micro-electronics at the heart of modern military sensor and weapon systems. A recent report in the US has revealed Chinese ICs having been smuggled in and fitted in the US nuclear submarines.

India imports bulk of the computer hardware and telecommunication equipment from China where embedding of malware at the manufacture stage is easy and India has no detection capability. The main focus of modernisation of the PLA is enhancing capabilities in the domain of C4I2SR, joint operations, precision strikes, rapid deployment, combat support and realistic joint training. At the present rate, the Indian Army will take another decade plus to develop NCW capabilities. There are large voids in airlift capability particularly rotary wing. No full-scale airborne or heli-borne exercise has been conducted at full scale battalion level over the past two decades.

The PLAN is a significant force in the region, second only to the US Navy…

Naval Might

The PLA Navy (PLAN) is a significant force in the region, second only to the US Navy. China’s military investments provide it with an enhanced ability to project power at increasingly longer ranges. The Pentagon recently stated that the PLAN continues to expand its operational and deployment areas into the Pacific and Indian Oceans though somewhat hemmed in as of now by its limited logistical and intelligence support, especially in IOR. The latter will improve with time. Arrangements PLAN has with the ‘String of Pearls’ at ports of Myanmar, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka would help.

China plans to deploy her first carrier battle group at Hainan but subsequent ones would find their way into the IOR. Stealth vessels, drones, OTH radars, nuclear SRBMs will all add to the lethality, in addition to space and air based surveillance and precision weapons. The voids in the Indian Navy have become conspicuous in recent months. The Andaman and Nicobar Command needs to be provided requisite teeth with its strategic location in IOR and proximity to the Strait of Malacca.

Proxy and Unconventional Warfare

China and Pakistan have both been resorting to Unconventional War against India since long. China has been providing tacit support to Pakistan’s anti-India jihad and in many cases Pakistan is acting as a proxy for meeting Chinese aims. Chinese weapons and communication equipment have been supplied to Indian insurgents, particularly Maoists via Myanmar to the PLA in Manipur and onwards to Indian Maoists. Media reports quoting intelligence sources had reported last year that China had supplied AK-47 manufacturing capability to Kachen rebels in Myanmar and Maoists in India.

China has been providing tacit support to Pakistan’s anti-India jihad; Pakistan is acting as a proxy for meeting Chinese aims…

Significantly, on June 07, 2014, Indian newspapers reported the emergence on the scene of AK-47 rifles “manufactured in Bihar”. The presence of Paresh Barua and other ULFA hierarchy at Ruli in China has been confirmed through communication intercepts. China has also been trying to mould perceptions of villagers living in strategically located East Sikkim and Ladakh through money, rations, kerosene, even mixing of blood, a trend that could be further exploited by her. Unrestricted and hybrid warfare are likely to be employed by China and peacetime cyber-attacks on Indian web-sites expose potential of this type of warfare.

Border Defence

China has methodically developed intricate border infrastructure. In India, the only words to describe our border infrastructure are ‘pathetic’ or ‘atrocious’ because of which we cannot respond properly to intrusions and transgressions or even sustain our forward troops appropriately. Chinese border forces are fully synergised with the PLA. In our case, ITBP has been deployed even in sensitive areas without placing them under command of the Indian Army. Operational responsibility of the entire Western sector along the LAC is with one Chinese formation whereas the same sector of LAC is divided between three Commands on the Indian side. Our surveillance and communication facilities in the border areas too are inferior compared to those of Chinese forces.

The Requirement

A comparison of forces shows that China has a competitive military advantage over India in all dimensions of battle space, more pronounced asymmetries being in strategic weapons, stealth maritime capability, force multipliers, cyber space, outer space, information space and asymmetric warfare. China has better military infrastructure in Tibet and its routes of induction are not susceptible to the vagaries of weather. In their Book ‘Unrestricted War’, PLA Colonels Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui wrote, “When faced with a technologically superior enemy, it is necessary to dare to completely upset the order of the cards in one’s hands and reorganise them in accordance with the needs of war and the interests of a nation.” We need to take a cue from this. What India needs is a strategic transformation.

A comparison of forces shows that China has a competitive military advantage over India in all dimensions of battle space…

Bridging the asymmetry vis-à-vis Chine should include:

  • Spelling out a National Security Strategy (NSS) and defining objectives particularly with respect to China
  • A comprehensive defence review to include defence and operations astride the LAC and IOR
  • Initiating the RMA
  • Reorganising higher defence structures including appointing CDS, restructuring the MoD ensuring professionalism, merging the MoD and HQ IDS, creation of Integrated Commands including Integrated Aerospace Command an Integrated Special Forces Command
  • Providing requisite teeth to ANC
  • Simplifying defence procurements and review LTIPP in accordance NSS review border defence entrusting LAC to army accelerate development of border infrastructure integrating private resources
  • Defining the technology roadmap (including by leapfrogging technology), R&D, joint ventures with friendly countries specific to capability building in ISR, aerospace, cyberspace, electro-magnetic domains and for accelerating credible C4I2 structures
  • Developing the ability to paralyse enemy C4I2 infrastructure, stand-off and stealth weapons to pre-empt enemy attack and adequate mix of DEW, PGMs, ASATs
  • Developing indigenous operating system, computer hardware and critical software, and telecommunication systems
  • Developing credible deterrence to asymmetric war and use of proxy/irregular forces and the like

MoD’s 2010 Technology Perspective & Capability Roadmap identifies DEWs and ASAT weapons as thrust areas over next 15 years but the UAV and MAV programs of the DRDO must be accelerated. There is a need to accelerate the pace of optimising lasers as well. Presently, only the Laser Dazzler that impairs vision temporarily to control unruly crowds is operationalised albeit DRDO’s Laser Science and Tech Centre (LASTEC) is developing ADITYA – a vehicle mounted gas dynamic laser-based DEW system as a technology demonstrator and a 25-kilowatt laser system is under development to strike a missile in terminal phase at a distance of five to seven kilometres. We need to review and provide momentum to bridge the asymmetries vis-à-vis China.

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4 thoughts on “Making up Asymmetric Deficit vis-à-vis China


  2. India’s armed forces have grown over the years on the same principles that were inherited in 1947. They are not driven by any clear strategic perspective, but rather by “inheritance”, “force matching” with other nations and wanting “me too” toys for the boys like entirely unnecessary air craft carriers rather than nuclear armed, nuclear submarines that will lend some desperately needed credibility to its “no first strike” “strategic deterrence” or fortified bases on its many archipelagos among which submarines, interdiction aircraft and missiles can be moved around to give India an enormous force multiplier and total command of its near oceans at a fraction of the cost of acquiring and maintaining obsolete, carcinogenic, purposeless carriers that have cost far more than they were ever worth, ab initio. The absence of, nay contempt for, military thinking ince 1947 has seen the severe degradation of the Armed Forces. Bangla Desh was a Second World War type scenario that was won by WW II veteran KCOs. But Kargil? What a fiasco. And now India is indulging in World War I type of trench war fare at the LOC over a resurrected Maginot Line (!). India needs strategic thinking of both Military and Foreign Policy and the will to translate it into action. This means re-engineering the armed forces into a fit-for-purpose force that will put fear into all enemies and achieve greater effectiveness and efficiency at far lower costs than the forces of hostile nations. This will surface a weapons program that suits the purpose. But, right now, India needs the political will to re-engineer command and control, dispense with the bureaucracy that knows even less than every successive generation of commanders and put the fear of God into the defence production establishment. The asymmetry of a China AND Pakistan (it is two fronts and hybrid war that India is engaged in) can be easily foiled by the better design and management of resources.

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