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To counter China, look for options beyond LAC: analysis


India and China are currently involved in an opaque military confrontation through the Royal Line of Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh. The meeting between the two general officers of both nations on June 6 ended without conclusion. This was predictable and part of a family pattern. This amounts to no breakthrough or break and a bland official statement of what is essentially “stasis in glacial progress,” as it has been since November 1962.

Towards the end of May, Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) met with his central security team to review the incursion of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), while Chinese President Xi Jinping called his military to ” think of the worst-case scenarios “and” to increase battle readiness. ” As part of this resolution, Beijing announced a defense budget of $ 178 billion by 2020, and stated that the coronavirus disease pandemic (Covid-19) would not adversely affect military readiness.

The result of the latest talks is that while neither side wants a military escalation leading to the exchange of artifacts, LAC’s “perception” in eastern Ladakh may have been altered in China’s tactical favor, pending of the final resolution of the apparently insoluble territorial dispute between the Asian giants.

Reviewing the current LAC Deadpoint Against the broader historical background and examination of some structural trends may allow a better understanding of India’s options and the most viable path to manage China’s challenge.

The disputed LAC is symbolic of the decades-long territorial dispute, and from the Indian perspective, the border war of October 1962 remains a clear reminder of the “humiliation” accumulated in former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

However, at a deeper level, the discord between the two nations has its roots in their pedigree and in their own image, that of ancient civilizations reformulated by the vicissitudes of history as modern nation-states that now seek to realize a past. glorious.

The chosen paths were different and the contrast is surprising. While Delhi opted for the still unpaved path of Gandhian democracy, diversity, and pacifism, the Chinese path to independence was through the long march of Mao and a communist squad. Thus, India will remain the eternal “other” in Chinese reckoning, where the success of democracy and memories of Tiananmen 1989 remain the chief concern of the ruling elite in Beijing. Therefore, Taiwan and Hong Kong are high octane problems that must be solved by President Xi in order for the virus of “democracy” to symbolically reach Tiananmen again.

Therefore, while LAC and the increased presence of the PLA in some areas of eastern Ladakh are cause for concern, the most relevant aspect for India to be aware of is China’s unwavering focus on acquiring comprehensive military power. , particularly the cross-border dimension of this military capacity

China is facing the United States (USA) in its quest for great power and this film will be released before 2049, when Beijing will celebrate its centennial. The extended struggle between the United States and China is found in the global ocean commons, where Beijing perceives a vulnerability: the Malacca dilemma. This refers to China’s marked dependence on maritime lines of communication for its large trade and energy imports. The Indian Ocean is the critical maritime domain, and China is aware of its limitations as a Pacific Ocean power: geographic, political, and naval, and the inherent advantage of the United States in this spectrum.

It is instructive that China has maintained a steady rebound in its annual defense budget, and the current allocation of $ 178 billion is an increase of nearly seven percent from last year’s allocation. Within this, the PLA navy budget is 30% or $ 54 billion.

The contrast with India is more than absolute. India’s $ 46 billion defense allocation was broken down to less than 14% for the navy, and the military and air force received much of the defense budget. Therefore, with the maritime domain presenting a range of opportunities and challenges for India, the annual naval budget is less than $ 7 billion, and due to the pandemic, this is likely to be further reduced.

Constant fiscal support has enabled China to embark on a breakneck pace of platform acquisition in recent years. The PLA navy has been launching up to 25 new ships a year and expects to be a 550-ship navy by 2030. As for the Indian navy, even a figure of 175 ships is considered “optimistic”.

The Prime Minister outlined his maritime vision in 2015 in his first term when he referred to Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) in the Indian Ocean region. Unfortunately, this remains a vision, and the fact that it did not have a full-time defense minister at the time was a major institutional constraint. India now has an improved defense structure and the engagement with China is expected to be comprehensively reviewed and options considered beyond LAC.

Investing in the long-term acquisition of cross-border military capabilities incorporating emerging technologies is the key to managing the relationship with China. Modi has outlined the SAGAR objective. You need a capable team that can implement this without resorting to quixotic statements. Sea blindness should not remain a permanent feature of Delhi.

C Uday Bhaskar is director of the Society for Policy Studies, New Delhi.

The opinions expressed are personal.

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