India’s strategic partnership with middle powers like Japan, Australia, Indonesia and Vietnam will get greater domestic acceptance than an Asian strategy that relies solely on US commitment to maintain balance of power in the region. This will also counter China’s claims that regional security cooperation is merely a part of US and Indian efforts to contain China. Building multiple power coalitions as a complement to engaging China and deepening the strategic partnership with the US will strengthen India’s independent role in the security of Asia.
China’s experiment with industrialisation and poverty alleviation is unique and nothing short of a miracle…
China’s experiment with industrialisation and poverty alleviation is unique and nothing short of a miracle. Bringing over 30 million above the poverty line into the middle class in a period of 20 years, is unique in history. In fact, the age old adage that “Democracy is the worst type of government but the best devised so far” seems to have been left behind. If we look at the world scene closely, we observe that great economic progress and development has been made by totalitarian regimes slowly introducing civic rights and liberties. Countries in South East Asia notably Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, all point towards better economic development than those where democracy is being hoisted in the name of better political-cum-economic development and religious freedom.
China is a shining example of an authoritarian regime with economic liberalisation. China’s rise is generally viewed with envy, fear and praise. The huge economic success of the past decades has resulted in sustained Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of over ten per cent, 30 million new homes, 1,800 reservoirs reinforced, 197,000 km of new railways and 60,900 km of roads built, to name only a few. China’s success is the outcome of two policy initiatives namely liberalisation of the economy and control of population growth. In the early phases of development, the emphasis was on communism as an ideology with mass social movements such as the Great Leap Forward which, in retrospect, were failures.
As such, China continued to flounder with mass poverty, low rate of growth and growing population. Somewhere in the eighties, Chinese leaders such as Deng Xiaoping realised that to get out of this cycle, a new approach was needed. This started the policy of liberalism and opening up the economy to Western capital. Chinese leadership also realised that the result of development would not be felt by the masses unless there was a strict curb on population growth. China’s “One Child Policy” has worked well in the present, though it has brought an early end to the country`s prime demographic years. On balance, it was a success with the population feeling the effects of greater individual prosperity and high economic development.
China is a shining example of an authoritarian regime with economic liberalisation…
The leadership change from Hu Jintao to Xi Jinping and the direction it will take is a key question. We need to understand that large countries such as Russia and China with large land borders, initially need an authoritarian regime, as otherwise, the distant regions may demand autonomy and finally secession. Later, with economic growth and individual prosperity, economic and political control would need to be decentralised. In Xi Jinping’s regime, development will still be the key to solving problems, but it will be modest and incremental. China’s current path is opening its economy but not its political system. The old formula of trying to deliver increasing prosperity but not relaxing political control is likely to see strains especially in rural areas as also in Tibet and Sinkiang. The corrupt jungle of China, which breeds second class citizens, is well-entrenched and its stranglehold needs reforms. This could lead to weakening of central authority and public support.
As the country with the highest savings in the world, China will play a major role on the world’s financial landscape. Currently, its financial assets have reached $17.4 trillion. In cross border capital flows, China has defied global trends. Today, China’s loans to Latin America exceed those of the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank. The recent opening of the BRICS development bank is China’s answer to the West-dominated World Bank. The Chinese Yen is already being traded in bi-lateral deals in South East Asia and Africa. With its huge dollar reserves and growing appetite for gold, China is likely to link its currency with time-tested gold reserves and allow it to float and become a major competitor to the US currency.
By 2021, China will become the world’s largest economy with a GDP of over $24 trillion. The next stage of economic reforms will depend on political reforms. The Communist Party may not be able to deliver this comprehensively but will still prove the Western powers wrong. Against dismal forecasts, China will continue its economic growth albeit at a slower pace with increasing military might. China’s view of being the centre of the world and the Han culture, has led to greater Chinese assertiveness in securing its perceived borders and spreading its tentacles over whole of China and beyond.
The leadership change from Hu Jintao to Xi Jinping and the direction it will take is a key question…
Rapid economic development in Tibet and its dependence on mainland China has had mixed results. On the one hand, greater economic prosperity in Tibet has improved the life style of Tibetans, but on the other hand, has led to dilution of their religious freedom and culture. China will tread with caution on the Tibetan issue with a judicious mix of autonomy, religious freedom and economic development especially during the lifetime of the Dalai Lama. Post Dalia Lama, there will be no charismatic leader to rally the Tibetans and except for sporadic incidents, large scale opposition will be a thing of the past.
The problem in Sinkiang is more complex, as it involves more geographical, racial and radical religious differences. The region is already restive and Islamic fundamentalism has reared its head as a hydra-headed monster. With its far flung location in the middle of radical Islam, likely it is only a question of time before terrorism grows root, and a Chechnya-like situation develops. China’s non-interference style has allowed it to develop political and economic ties with many countries, especially in Africa and Central Asia.
The Shanghai Co-operation Organisation could play an important role in Central Asia with its gas reserves feeding the Chinese quest for energy. On Taiwan’s integration with mainland China, progress has been slow but incremental. Growing trade and greater economic inter-dependence could pave the way for reducing tensions in the area. With the growing military might of China and requirement to enlist China’s support in world affairs, the US may not think it worthwhile to openly support Taiwan. Finally, a relationship similar to Hong Kong is likely to develop especially as China increases its maritime might and control of the high seas.
China’s relations with ASEAN are in troubled waters. Yet with growing financial, cultural and military/maritime clout, China will dominate the South China Sea. It would prefer to deal bi-laterally with individual states and using the carrot-and-stick diplomacy, establish its claim over the area. For some bare rocky islands, the US may not want to get entangled with China especially near its doorstep.
China’s view of being the centre of the world and the Han culture, has led to greater Chinese assertiveness…
China is worried about the growing US, Japan, Australia and India relations, thus surrounding it and circumscribing its influence close to its borders. Chinese view Japan’s re-emergence from its US umbrella and its self-imposed isolation as a major threat. The growing technological, military-cum-naval revival of Japan will rouse latent historical fears of China-Japan animosity and might lead to a clash of interests with a flash point in the already volatile region.
China supplanting the US as the superpower is not a foregone conclusion. China’s leaders are nonetheless serious about displacing the US as the most powerful country in the world. With its growing naval strength of aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, recently developed land-based highly accurate 1,000-mile range missile, with space guided systems, China would provide a stiff challenge to US carrier groups operating in the Pacific Ocean unhindered since WWII and restrict their area of operations away from Chinese coastline.
The PLA Navy will sail the high seas from the Western coastal Pacific, and Indian Oceans till the East coast of Africa. Like any other super power, China would like to have foreign bases such as Gwadar in Pakistan, Trincomalee in Sri Lanka and in Madagascar for refueling, repairs and rest/recuperation for its naval personnel. China’s highly skilled and educated workforce will outsell and out build all others. Yet China will avoid any action that will soup up relations with the US, a military and technology superpower. The Chinese view themselves as a first class power and want to be treated as such by the world.
Relations with India
China views its relations with India as India views its relations with Pakistan. As seen from Chinese eyes, India appears like a monolithic elephant, in an overcrowded mass of 1.2 billion people, in a land area one-fifth its size. Political squabbles, no clear policies, weak infrastructure, and low economic growth, project India at war with itself. Border states such as Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Jammu and Kashmir with a little prodding, are ripe for succession.
China’s leaders are nonetheless serious about displacing the US as the most powerful country in the world…
How would China like to view India in the future? China would like India to remain weak and divided. Entangled by a terror-stricken nuclear Pakistan whose military strength it would bolster from time to time to counter India’s and leave it vulnerable to China’s influence and armed forces on its 4,000 km-long boundary . As such, India would not pose any threat to China both economically and militarily. China would then be able to pursue its policy of dominating the subcontinent. There may not need to be a Sino-Indian military confrontation as China could win without fighting a war.
Alternatives for India
Before we can answer this question let us take a look at the military doctrines of both China and India as also the latter’s relations with other countries, especially US, Japan and Russia. In the past 20 years, the gap between doctrinal innovation of the Mao era and current actual military capability has significantly widened. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) under Mao was an army with the maxim, “When the enemy is weak, attack; when the enemy is strong, retreat, regroup, infiltrate and attack” and “What you saw, was what you got.”
But now, when Chinese leaders speak of winning local wars under high-tech conditions by engaging in five-dimensional warfare and launching surgical strikes against an enemy’s C3I nodes, the PLA becomes an army in which “What you think is what you cannot do.” One PLA officer described this phenomenon by citing two Chinese maxims “Great ambition exists when the objective is unclear and plentiful ideas surface when the initiative is undetermined.” The main focus is on amassing a massive integrated capability as a show of force which the enemy cannot hope to counter, carry out threatening manoeuvres to awe the enemy and achieve the objective, without firing a shot.
The Shanghai Co-operation Organisation could play an important role in Central Asia with its gas reserves…
The current combat doctrine of the Indian Army is based on the effective combined utilisation of holding formations and strike formations. In the case of an attack, the holding formations would contain the enemy and strike formations would counter-attack to neutralise enemy forces. In case of an Indian attack, the holding formations would pin enemy forces down whilst the strike formations attack at a point of India’s choosing.
India has recently adopted a new war doctrine known as “Cold Start” and its military has conducted exercises based on this doctrine several times since then. “Cold Start” involves joint operations between India’s three services and integrated battle groups for offensive operations. A key component is the preparation of India’s forces to be able to quickly mobilise and take offensive actions without crossing the enemy’s nuclear-use threshold and implemented within a 72-hour period during a crisis. There is no coherent Indian strategy in the East to let large areas remain forested to impede China’s advance and present insurmountable logistic problems.
Primarily, it is a defensive policy to delay advance along major thrust lines, increase the lines of communication and blunt the Chinese attack. Of late, a Strike Corps is being raised in conformity with the doctrine “No battle can be won by defensive action alone.” As such, when Chinese attacks have been blunted, to mount limited counter-attacks along tactically advantageous axis. The plan is to have large number of troops along collateral axis to make up for the planned reduction of PLA and conduct traditional mountainous warfare where high-tech Chinese elements cannot operate effectively.
Overall, China would prefer not to fight a war with India. Its objectives can be achieved by supplying Pakistan with Chinese weapons, keep the Jammu and Kashmir issue alive and support its bid to keep India engaged in the West. Chinese interests would also be served by nibbling away at Indian territory to establish their actual LOC claims further and keep large Indian forces pinned down in the East so as to balance forces in the West with Pakistan.
Another possible scenario is if India is able to achieve a seven to ten per cent GDP growth. After an initial flash point to create a series of clashes at widely separated pre-planned time and place and follow it with surprise surgical five dimensional warfare strikes to deliver a knock-out blow. The idea is to destroy infrastructure near the Line Of Control (LOC), create fear in the minds of the enemy and make the situation ripe for further incursions.
India has recently adopted a new war doctrine known as “Cold Start”…
China will not make the mistake of waging a long-drawn war but complete the operation within two to three weeks by going in not more than 30 to 50 miles deep from its perceived LOC and closing the battle with bypass and encircling manoeuvres. Chinese forces will then withdraw to pre-held positions, occupying only strategic points. This will be followed by a unilateral ceasefire and massive propaganda of their peaceful intentions laying the blame on India for initiating the conflict. Such operations are likely to be planned when the Western powers are busy with interventions in other parts of the world. Specific targets would be achieved before world opinion and Western powers can intervene. This would be a major setback for India both militarily and economically and bring it on par with Pakistan.
In the present day scenario, US and Indian strategic interests over China converge. To circumscribe Chinese power, no other country except India can foot the bill better. India’s well-disciplined and trained over a million plus strong army, a strong tactical air force and a navy of two aircraft carrier groups, with nuclear submarines, has the wherewithal to tie up large Chinese forces away from Taiwan and Japan. Overall, it will leave the US free to maintain its role as a superpower.
In trade and commerce too, Indian and US interests converge as India’s huge market could be a magnet for US investments and trade. In the fitness of things and in the context of the present world order, there is likely to be a tacit understanding between the US and other Western powers that in case of a major thrust by China, they would come to the aid of India, by blunting Pakistan’s role in the west, providing tactical intelligence, electronic counter-measures and imposing financial and economic sanctions on Beijing.
Relations between China and Japan have a history of alienation / animosity especially during World War II…
The Japanese too would like to invest in India now that its exports and investments to China have peaked and the Chinese are more rivals than friends. Moreover, Japan has the technology and goods to trade with India in a big way. Relations between China and Japan have a history of alienation/animosity especially during World War II when the Japanese forces overran large parts of China. Of late, there have been conflicting claims over Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands and the adjoining oil rich seas. With Japan’s new rearmament drive away and growing military strength, it will assert its right to the high seas and defend its rights over disputed island territories. This could lead to a flashpoint in an already turbulent area with conflicting claims and counter claims of many countries.
Russia- India Relations
India is still dependent on Russia for defence equipment for its forces especially the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force. Dealing with Putin will not be easy with his strategic power play, tit-for-tat policies and Cold War-like tactics. Thus, India will not have Russian cover in case of hostilities with China. Still, Putin will need to be kept engaged for continued essential war supplies of weapon systems.