When China Rules the World
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Issue Vol. 30.1 Jan-Mar 2015 | Date : 15 May , 2015

Options for the Indian Military

Apart from nuclear alternatives – that have not been considered as they are beyond the scope of this hypothesis, options for the Indian military are enumerated below:

 India will not have Russian cover in case of hostilities with China…

Option One

  • Accept Chinese hegemony by following the present policy of appeasement, one-sided trade and management of the border with ad hoc crisis management.
  • Accept the Pak-China axis with large scale transfer of weapons, missile, nuclear technology and trade.
  • Allow China to access the Indian Ocean Region via a road/rail link through the Karakorum Ranges in Pak-Occupied Kashmir down to Gwadar port.
  • Tacitly agree for China to play a greater role in the sub-continent by greater economic and security arrangements with Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal and more recently with Sri Lanka.
  • As a quid pro quo to achieve relative calm on the 4,000-km border, greater trade with China which is currently the biggest trading partner, pursue a relatively independent role in world affairs.
  • Concentrate our energies on economic development with a traditional five to six per cent in GDP growth.

Option Two

Tie up with the US as a strategic partner and develop military and economic relations with it. An Indo-US alliance could tilt the balance of power in South East Asia and the sub-continent in favour of the US and leave it relatively free to maintain its strategic role in South East Asia and other parts of the world. What India needs to do is to get the latest technology from the US which it is willing to give, preferably via Israel, in the fields of satellites and drones for information and intelligence gathering. This would preclude a surprise attack by China.

India will have to get used to the PLA Navy sailing on the high seas in the Pacific and Indian Oceans…

India would also like advanced electronics technology in missiles and weapon systems for use by the Army, Navy and the Air Force. In such a scenario, India need not view the rise of the Chinese Navy with alarm. Basically China wants to protect its sea-routes for oil and vitally needed supplies from the Persian Gulf and Africa. An Indian view that China would like to encircle India need not also be taken too seriously. With the Indian peninsula jutting into the Indian Ocean and island territories of the Andaman and Nicobar dominating the Strait of Malacca, Indian forces cannot be bypassed and isolated. Yet India will have to get used to the PLA Navy sailing on the high seas in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

However, with or without US support, India need not challenge China’s dominance in the South China Sea but help to keep the sea lanes open as per international laws in coordination with Japan, US and ASEAN and China. This will suffice for its trade with Japan, US and ASEAN. With this end in view, India would need to have base facilities at Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam. Thus, India could play the role of a key swing state along with Russia. It is not and will not become superpower in the foreseeable future.

Eventually, in the face of reality, India cannot, should not and must not follow a policy of confrontation with China, however much the US would like us to follow. China is too big, geographically too close, militarily too strong and economically too far ahead of India. Today, China has a $11 trillion economy as against India’s $2 trillion. Moreover, the US being a global superpower, its interests and priorities can change, much to our chagrin like in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Option Three

India must not ally too strongly with the US. India has to develop its own modus vivendi with China, buy time to catch up economically and militarily. Both Japan and the US can help India but will do so without hurting their own economic interests in China. Just as the US need not choose between its Asian alliances and a constructive relationship with China, India need not choose between a closer partnership with the US and improved ties with China. India needs to manage relations with China but avoid the traps for rivalry/confrontation and seek a stable and peaceful order in which China is nudged into a peaceful and balanced world order.

Tactical Considerations

On the border aspects, India needs to develop its border logistics and infrastructure especially around 30 to 50 miles depth at an accelerated rate. It is vital for India to enhance our capabilities especially around our Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs), lengthen, strengthen, make them all-weather and construct new ones both in Arunachal Pradesh and in Ladakh.

China would not like to attack in strength in the Ladakh sector as it has already achieved its objective of road linkage to Kashgar in Xinjiang…

In addition, these destinations need to be developed as major tourist centres to allow for revenue generation and enhanced infrastructure development/population influx to strengthen our claims. The author has flown extensively over border regions both in the West and East and can authoritatively state that both development and military gains can be achieved at lower cost. The areas present one of the best tourist attractions in terms of ecosystems, animal habitats, flora and fauna worldwide.

One of India’s counter attack thrust axis needs to be along the central axis (Uttaranchal) where the lines of communication are shortest for main Central Army Formations and better located/suited, IAF airfields at Bareilly, Lucknow and Allahabad.

The Central Axis is also better suited logistically for switching of forces from the Western front. On the other hand, Chinese forces would face longer LOC and relatively less advantageous operations from their high altitude airfields. From here, India can best take advantage of Tibetan resistance to Chinese occupation and earmark forces for clandestine operations.

Another flashpoint is the Chumbi valley. Strategically located at the intersection of India (Sikkim), Bhutan and China (Tibet), it is a dagger pointing into the heart of India/the Chicken’s Neck which connects India to North East India. Two main passes between India and China, the Nathu La and Jelep La open up here.

Chinese forces have excellent logistics support close to the border… age to Kashgar in Xinjiang…

This, easiest route to Tibet via the Chumbi valley was followed by British explorer Sir Francis Edward Younghusband to establish a consulate in Tibet in 1904. Today, this area assumes strategic importance and could be the scene of raging battles between the Indian Army and the PLA. Generally speaking, the terrain at places the valley is very narrow thus making it unsuitable for operations of large Chinese forces, logistics and overall force deployments favour India and the LOC may well be shifted towards its Northern end. The location of the newly raised Strike Corps based in Panagarh could play a pivotal role.

The Likely Main Axis of Chinese Thrust

China would not like to attack in strength in the Ladakh sector as it has already achieved its objective of road linkage to Kashgar in Xinjiang. Moreover, there are large well-entrenched, acclimatised and trained Indian forces in and around Leh. In the Central Sector, the area in dispute is small, the terrain difficult and unfavorable to China. In the Sikkim/Chumbi Valley, the terrain and troop deployment is in favour of India.

Although large forces are concentrated here, the major thrust axis is not likely to be in this area. In the Tawang Sector which the Chinese claim, the forces are well entrenched and matched. However, there could be fierce encounters around Tawang. It is the area from Upper Subansari to Kibutu that is likely to be the Chinese main thrust axis. There is a lack of infrastructure on the Indian side with no major rail or road head.

Main Areas of Chinese Thrust (Map of Arunachal Pradesh showing the Fishtails)

On the other hand, Chinese forces have excellent logistics support close to the border. As such, a large asymmetry exists between the two forces. Recent Indian plans for better logistics with a road network and additional troop deployment, are likely to be too little, too late. This is an ideal area where the Chinese can concentrate forces and launch surprise maneuvering attacks bypassing thinly held Indian pickets, penetrating 30 to 50 miles, encircling forward posts and re-entering China before Indian counterattacks.

India needs to bolster its space programme, especially satellite and drone intelligence gathering to prevent a surprise attack…

Last but not the least, this is the so-called Outer Tibet area which the Chinese claim to be their own. High conflict areas include the 100 sq. km. Asaphila region in Upper Subansiri and Fish Tail I and II in Chaglagam, areas as large as Sikkim.

Finally, India needs to bolster its space programme, especially satellite and drone intelligence gathering to prevent a surprise attack and long range, (over 5,000 kilometres) missiles as a strategic deterrent. Successful implementation of a three to five year defence plans to enhance our logistics, infrastructure and force levels, would go a long way in buttressing India’s border position/perception and coercing China to negotiate on the basis of the “watershed “principle.

Ultimately, 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.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

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7 thoughts on “When China Rules the World

  1. With due respect to Air Cmdr Shri P.C. Chopra, whose strategic insights I respect, let me submit this. China ruling the world is a Chinese opium dream and will never materialize. That doesn’t mean India should be smug or complacent even a bit. We must strengthen our military to the level where China dare not even think of a war with us, not even a limited, confined-theatre one.

  2. india is very strong got very vast army ,no country is no match for india
    is not about how much you have its all about what you have.numbers doesnt win is just how you play well.india doesnt need to taught that.

  3. Hats off to our worthy Air Cmdr. Sh. P.C. Chopra, for this excellent, well researched and detailed article. Well I would begin to comment by saying that the title “When China rules the world” is not likely to happen…. The biggest thing China lacks is that nobody TRUSTS China, and just does not have that sort of goodwill and space to be a world leader. Bully style of leadership cannot be a cornerstone to success in this ever evolving global order. China is undisputedly Asia’s powerhouse and India is no match to it at this stage because of neglect and approach of previous regimes and one cannot expect miracles to happen overnight to catch up even if one wants to. But given the circumstances India has to grow and improve its place in global order for sure over the next two decades. India’s new foreign policy is pragmatic and China does not have the courage to take on the world powers in its achievement of ulterior motives. Now with India, US, France, Germany, Australia, Japan, Vietnam etc. clearly united on one side, of course because of their respective vested interests, and with everybody’s common objective to contain China, one need not worry beyond a limit about China’s might. However, this does not mean that one should be caught napping from this tricky and insensitive neighbour. Basically India as it is rightly working now should keep business at the forefront, develop India, and parallel to this upgrade militarily, without creating much noise. In the process involve China also in building India in a step by step process, calibrating strategies accordingly.

    India certainly has a brighter future than the present provided the leadership continues to be strong, receptive and proactive.

    Best regards,

    Rajkaran Singh Bhatti.

    • China only need Pakistan to rule the world and Pakistan trusts China. China has huge support base of African Countries and that is where future lies. China wants to rule the world economically and militarily not through soft power because they dont need any soft power.

      When Britishers left India was superpower, it was a decision taken by Nehru that it is against India interest to be even a regional power. To become regional power India need J&K and for superpower Tibet. India has none.

      You miss the article, compare to democracy china doesnt has to deal with religion especially Islam. All the western power that you mentioned suffer from Islamic Radicals and Terrorism and has no answer to them. Compare to that China has only 2percent muslims and use state power to control them.

      To develop, you need to be a secular state that is the first principle. Indian Muslims will riot and indulge in terrorism if India ever try to become a secular state. India has no future as with increase in Muslim population demand for partition will again increase. India is internally weak as written in the article.

  4. The problem is sanctions against China is only a dream in the author’s mind. Can you imagine anyone taking sanctions against the US today? Chinese economy is going to overtake the US, the author is effectively similar to proposing a sanction against US today, which means, you are sanctioning yourself. If your trade is only a fraction of the Chinese trade, but China is your biggest trade partner already, who will suffer most? How many countries already have China as the biggest trade partners in this world, yet, their trade does not count much in China’s trade volume? I guess India is not too far away from this category. Australia’s biggest trade partner is China, but Australia does not count in China’s own trade balance sheet. India is in a much weaker position than Australia. Just one question, does the author know that China is the biggest producer of gold, iron ore, coal, copper, and countless others, and also the biggest importer of such commodities? Do you know that China consumed cement in 3 years in the recent past which is more than the US has consumed in the past 100 years combined?I guess most Indians do not know, or choose not to know. Ignorance will blind you, and hinder your own development. If you think India is the biggest gold importer which I think many still think so, you will be rudely surprised to hear otherwise. Cooperation is the best strategy. If you want to contain China, you probably find out eventually that you have contained yourself.
    Take Pakistan for example, Pakistan is one of the biggest winners in the new Chinese trade route. Given time when Pakistan develops, the Chinese would help build a prosperous zone across Parkistan, can India still sit idle?
    Why not negotiate, compromise, cooperate with China and Pakistan, so everyone would be winners? What did India gain from wars with Pakistan? NOTHING, Majority of your people are still in absolute poverty. Please think peace, think prosperity for all the people.

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