China’s Maritime Ambitions
China’s ambition for maritime supremacy in the South Asian region can be seen in a military website6 dated 26 February 2009. In the report titled “The Indian Ocean has become China’s ‘Sea of Destiny’,” the views are stated thus: On 17 February 2009, the Philippines showed in its “Base Line Law” the inclusion of the Huangyan Islands (claimed by China) into its own territory. On 18 February the Indian Naval Admiral Mehta announced that India would launch its first indigenously manufactured aircraft carrier in 2011.
On 21 February a destroyer named “Guangzhou” of the Chinese navy set sail for Pakistan to join the fleet exercises named “Peace-09”. The 052-B class destroyer of the Chinese navy performing a mission in the waters of Indian Ocean was increased from one to two. The seriousness behind such facts remain that despite China’s having territorial waters of 3 million square kilometres, and more than 80 percent of ocean shipping required to transport energy resources, China is still short of promulgating its national maritime strategy.
“¦ China stated that it aspires to become a naval superpower. For this it should seek a point of penetration in its quest for a maritime strategy. From the Persian Gulf, passing through the northern Arabian Sea and stretching up to Myanmar, the vast expanse of water of the Indian Ocean should become one of the key points of the Chinese maritime strategy.
In its argument for getting a point of breakthrough in maritime strategy, China stated that it aspires to become a naval superpower. For this China ought to move out of its traditional concepts and should seek a point of penetration in its quest for a maritime strategy. From the Persian Gulf, passing through the northern Arabian Sea and stretching up to Myanmar, the vast expanse of water of the Indian Ocean should become one of the key points of the Chinese maritime strategy.
While justifying the great importance of the Indian Ocean to China, the report states that “the ocean to the southeast of China is being firmly controlled by a maritime power far more formidable than us. This navy has built up and has been closely maintaining security cooperation with most of the Southeast Asian nations. In fact such cooperation has been an endorsement by certain Southeast Asian nations to capitalize upon China’s strategic opportunities while nibbling upon our maritime rights. In Southeast Asia, China’s advocacy of maritime rights in terms of deeds and words is either faced with vehement opposition from certain countries, or evokes widespread suspicion.
The present maritime power of China is not in a practical position to challenge the global maritime hegemon and its allies. However, in the waters of Indian Ocean where feudal lords vie for the throne, China has advantages to demonstrate its maritime ambition. China does not have any territorial claim in the Indian Ocean, nor has it any historic grievance. Apart from the South Asian maritime power that wholeheartedly aspires to become the hegemon of Indian Ocean—no other South Asian nation opposes China’s increasing presence in the Indian Ocean. Here China hints at India and its geopolitical aspirations in the region.
The report continues saying that “more importantly Indian Ocean has a far-reaching influence on the future development of China. To some extent it has already become China’s ‘Sea of Destiny’. It is needless to add that there is a correlation between the unhindered thoroughfare in the Indian Ocean and the security of China’s energy resources. The place where China’s petroleum lifeline can be severed is not only the Strait of Malacca.
China is in the process of giving shape to its ambitious plan of opening up the western regions. But the northwestern hinterland is several thousand kilometres away from the southeastern coastal regions. The cost of land transport is an important element that would affect the western regions turning global. Instead, entering the Indian Ocean through Pakistan in the northwest and through Myanmar in the southwest can separately reduce the land communication route by several thousand or several hundred kilometres.
“China’s maritime strategy cannot be sailing from one sea to another. It ought to be from land to sea, to approach the ocean with the help of a land bridge. China should rely upon the strength of its traditional partners in South Asia, and lose no time in intensifying its campaign in the Indian Ocean. A spirit of bilateral and regional cooperation would be required instead of adopting antagonistic measures. China should expand its area of interests and benefits into the Indian Ocean over the two land bridges in the northwest and southwest. And also find a single or multiple permanent anchorage that could provide strategic support.”
Energy Corridor through Pakistan
As per the Chinese strategy, Pakistan is an overland thoroughfare for China’s access to the Middle East energy resources. Chinese media viewed that the significance of this corridor will only be felt at the time of China’s need to send its troops to secure the energy resources. “Hypothetically if the ‘petty Pak’ breaks its alliance with China, can it stop China from the latter’s objective? In case of a more intense war scenario, the Middle East petroleum export will be seriously affected. The worst affected will be Europe, not China.
Chinas maritime strategy cannot be sailing from one sea to another. It ought to be from land to sea, to approach the ocean with the help of a land bridge. China should rely upon the strength of its traditional partners in South Asia, and lose no time in intensifying its campaign in the Indian Ocean.
At least when the West imposes sanctions against China, it will be Israel that would firmly continue its military cooperation with China. In such a case, Israel will be controlling the Middle East petroleum. And China can get a share of that soup. Even now a big portion of China’s resources come from Africa. Therefore, if Pakistan assumes self-importance on this account, it will be its greatest mistake.”
On 23 November 2006, Chinese President Hu Jintao reached Pakistan. Next day the Chinese website www.xici.net reported under the title “Hu in Pakistan to expand bilateral trade, friendship” that Pakistan is an impoverished country of 160 million people which has been seeking increased foreign investment to help boost its infrastructure and industry demands, as well as expand much-needed energy sources. Bashir, the ambassador, said that China and Pakistan have established a framework to expand energy cooperation. They will investigate building an energy corridor providing Beijing access to oil and gas resources of Central and West Asia and developing oil refining and storage facilities in Pakistani coastal areas.
According to a report7 by Xu Yihe, titled “China says no to Pakistan gas link”, dated 23 March 2010, the pipeline to China was proposed as an important extension to the Iran-Pakistan link. A Chinese official was quoted saying that the pipeline project has questionable economic feasibility and technical reliability, as it will run through high mountains with complex terrain, giving rise to concerns of operational safety and maintenance requirements. “We would prefer instead to import gas from Iran directly,” he said. His comments were made just days after Pakistan and Iran endorsed an agreement to build a pipeline to export Iranian gas from the South Pars field to Pakistan.
The India Factor
Just after the grand military parade at the Tian’anmen Square in Beijing on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the PRC, a website8, labelled military, reported on 2 October 2009 that “China’s display of advanced weapon systems have once again given India a big terrifying jolt.” The report says that “India’s purchase of defence equipments from abroad took leaps and bounds thrice in the past. And all these purchases were the result of India’s policymaking, keeping China in view.
“¦ Pakistan is an overland thoroughfare for Chinas access to the Middle East energy resources. Chinese media viewed that the significance of this corridor will only be felt at the time of Chinas need to send its troops to secure the energy resources.
In 1962, during the Sino-Indian border clashes, India’s military expenditure exceeded 70 percent. The Indian forces were routed. That year India’s arms purchase was necessitated by a policy directly influenced by China.
The second occasion was in 1987. This was when India proclaimed the founding of the “illegal” state of Arunachal. Unprecedented tension prevailed in Sino-Indian relations. Small scale armed confrontation took place at the border. India deeply felt that it could not match China in military might. Thereafter India’s defence purchase reached 43.4 percent though 200 million Indians lived below poverty line.
The third instance was in 2000. The expenditure reached 28.2 percent. The outside world thought this was a fallout of the Kargil War between India and Pakistan. But in reality this was only partially true. Is such a big purchase necessary to tackle a few hundreds of armed Muslims? In fact, the actual reason was that China had its military parade on the 50th anniversary of the PRC in 1999. India felt it cannot match China.
“As is known to all, India since long has been having mainly two strategic objectives in military affairs. Firstly, to continue maintaining and strengthening absolute military superiority in the South Asian subcontinent. Secondly, to assume self importance by seizing the ocean. It hopes to become a global military power in a single leap, and be on an equal footing with other big nuclear powers. Out of the two military objectives of India, the first one has almost been fulfilled. But the second objective is in fact extremely difficult for India to attain. The main reason is the China factor.”
“In the early years of its independence, India’s national power was even greater to some extent than the newly founded China. But after sixty years of development, China’s national strength has increased rapidly, leaving India far behind. That is why India’s feeling for China is a mixture of envy, jealousy, and even fear and hatred. Therefore they want to compare everything with China. But they do not have such foundation for war industry like China. What’s the way out? The only way is large scale purchase from abroad.
“Since disputes exist between China and India over territorial rights, there are live cinders that have the potential to ignite war. And again since the Indian army feels threatened by the Chinese army, India can only purchase advanced weapons in large quantity. That is how they feel secure. This time during the 60th anniversary grand military parade in China, some advanced weapon systems were on display. India once again got frightened. Its sense of insecurity got heightened. This would be followed by India’s going for a mad shopping spree in military equipments. Even if they do not wish to purchase further, the Americans would lure and intimidate them to go for huge weapons purchase. Indian brains are such that allurement and threat have great impact on them. China predicts that India would once again go for a big arms purchase in 2010.”
Sino–Pak strategic cooperation and India
In a website text9 titled “Analyzing how Sino-Pak strategic cooperation pins down India”, dated 29 November 2007, the Chinese analyst expressed the view that Sino-Pak friendship is a thorn in India’s flesh. It is a saga of unfolding disputes between India and Pakistan over the issue of Kashmir. In fact, for India the problems are far from being simple because strategically the further strengthening of Sino-Pak ties goes so far as China building up railways encircling Asia through Pakistan, and Pakistan becoming an important outlet as well as a pivotal corridor for energy resources of China to the Indian Ocean. All these would contain India with some perception of danger and would have a chain of reaction on it.
The anonymous author states that the greatest crises in India in fact lie within itself. These crises viewed in recent times seem not to have manifested due to the thinking of the “docile Hindu subjects”””the principal ethnic group in India.
Finally, in a scenario where even no war would take place between the Sino-Pak league and India, or in the absence of any armed clash, India internally would face serious domestic turmoil and secession. India is terribly apprehensive of all these but as of now it has hardly been able to check such a situation. Despite India’s reluctance and even more being unconvinced, it had to soften down its position in regards to its relations with China. India’s objective is to try its best in mitigating the contradictions with China, and concentrate its power in resolving its internal crises.
The anonymous author states that the greatest crises in India in fact lie within itself. These crises viewed in recent times seem not to have manifested due to the thinking of the “docile Hindu subjects”—the principal ethnic group in India. Viewed since more than a decade, it would rather gradually accumulate into an irreparable situation. Moreover, it would manifest like an avalanche, pushing India to face the danger similar to the disintegration of former Soviet Union at the end of the cold war.
The author traces back the colonial history of India, and also the policies of post-independence India till the very recent times. The write-up says that facts amply reveal that the unchecked growth of population and the worsening environment for survival of ethnic minorities, and also the intensification of secessionist trends internally induce deep crisis within India. Once such internal crises are triggered by external factors, India would have no way to curb them. India’s position is indecisive. So it is extremely anxious about the intimacy between China and Pakistan, and feels more tensed about the Sino-Pak economic ties getting stronger. For India this is a Cold War-type situation where the opponent does not even fire a salvo but saps the morale of the Indian troops, and disintegrates its lethal weapon of national integrity.
The concrete worries of India in regards to the Sino-Pak cooperation include its frustration in direct relation to Kashmir militarily. India is also worried about a considerable magnitude of armed forces being permanently pressed along the Sino-Indian border. Such a huge force, almost occupying 62.5 percent of India’s total military strength, pressed permanently along such a vast stretch of the Sino-Indian frontier and not being able to move the troops elsewhere, is in itself an unwise tactics. At the time of India’s clashes with Pakistan or while tackling problems in Kashmir, it would not be able to transfer personnel or weaponry from this border area. At the time of critical secessionist movements within India, it would fail to deploy forces fast enough. Once the problem in Kashmir erupts and the domestic unrest occurs simultaneously, then the situation would indeed be grave.
In such a kind of warfare, India cannot explain Chinas action nor would it dare to strike the Chinese installations at the Pakistani seaports. Otherwise India would face a pincer attack from both sides. “” A Chinese Analyst
Pakistan, being an Islamic country, similarly does not follow family planning. About 80 percent of Kashmiris are Muslims, and are intimate with Pakistan. The sharp rise of population in India and the worsening of environment for livelihood can be equally faced by Pakistan. No matter how the Pakistani government would exert to live with India peacefully, the Indo-Pak border areas are mostly cattle-grazing stretches along the high mountains. The government is far from exercising control over its population and tribes, and hence Pakistan cannot ensure its people a good livelihood in the Kashmir region. Thus the local conditions can get complicated and worsened, easily triggering Pakistan’s military confrontation with India.
India’s greatest worry behind the Sino-Pak ties becoming stronger, is Pakistan becoming a point of attraction for Muslims in “India-controlled Kashmir”. The Kashmir situation will then be uncontrollable, leading to large scale armed conflict and even India’s war with Pakistan. Though China will not be drawn into the war as far as possible, and will not directly dispatch troops, but India would never dare to move out its troops from the Sino-Indian border to Kashmir or use them to tackle Pakistan. This is India’s greatest frustration.
When the Sino-Pak economic exchanges are getting enhanced to the extent that Pakistan has become a thoroughfare for China’s energy resources through seaports, then in the case of Pakistan’s military confrontation with India, Pakistan can get the better of its ties with China in terms of transit duty for petroleum and natural gas and the export of its commercial products. China can reduce giving free military aid but through purchase of foreign trade income could facilitate Pakistan in replenishing arms supply non-stop. As long as China witnesses a stable development of its economy, Pakistan’s external aid would never be curtailed. Perhaps it could get increased. But India can only mobilize its foreign exchange earnings to buy armaments from the Western countries or from Russia. In such a kind of warfare, India cannot explain China’s action nor would it dare to strike the Chinese installations at the Pakistani seaports. Otherwise India would face a pincer attack from both sides.
The nuclear threat has not proven effective. But with the help of sophisticated long-range missiles with heavy workload, multi-warheads, rocket technology, and also equivalents of sub-nuclear weaponries like the powerful cloudburst warhead, thermo-pressure warhead, and with conventional missiles and rockets the Chinese army will be fighting a battle of quick decision by destroying the major portion and larger number of Indian troops. This also is India’s frustration and a cause for worry. When the main body of the Indian army is destroyed, the turmoil within India would start in the real sense. Historically speaking, China and other countries of the world maintained big empires relying upon their military might despite their instability internally. There have been precedents where disintegration set in after a substantive loss in military supremacy following crucial defeat in war. Although not an empire of this kind, India is being hogged by this sort of a danger.