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Addressing the Non-Kinetic Threats from China: A Perspective; By Brig (Dr) R Kannan

Updated: Nov 16, 2023


Image Courtesy: War on Rocks

Article: 36/2023


In 2022, we were remembering the sacrifices made by our brave men 60 years ago in the Sino-Indian War of 1962. The war which dealt a psychological blow and also possibly told our Indian leadership of the time that “China can do anything if it wants to’. The fact that the Chinese withdrew back almost 300 km was again an indicator of the war being more psychological and not physical in the strategic context. This war was in a way a legacy of the British treaty of signing of the Mc Mahon Line with Tibet, in 1914, which was an independent country then, but the Chinese not recognizing the same once they occupied Tibet in 1950. The failure to administer the areas south of the line for almost 30 years after the treaty also kept the area underdeveloped and demarcation of the line nebulous. This was also a warning to the Indian leadership to take China seriously and a decisive blow to the ‘Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai’ slogan. It was a huge wakeup call that it is national security and interests first rather than semantics. The biggest victim was of course –‘faith and trust’. After the war China, already a ‘mystic’ neighbor became undependable, though it is debatable whether it is the Indian leadership of the time which remained naïve to the warnings being given by the Chinese. Thus, the Line of Actual Control (LAC) that was coined, after the war, continues to be a bone of contention leading to numerous border disputes thereafter and continuing to be treated as the ‘boundary issue’ with China being a major irritant in the progress of our bilateral relations.


Since China and India are the major economic competitors in Asia it is natural that conflict of interests would emerge with respect to natural resources and security of economic infrastructures globally and protection of the critical sea lanes of communications (SLOCs). It is not without reason that China has still not resolved its boundary dispute with India, which it can bargain in the future. It is in China’s interests to keep India engaged in the northern and western sides so that funds are diverted towards military capability building from other development works which can contribute more to India catching up with China. The Doklam, Chumar and Galwan incidents substantiate this aspect.


AIM OF THE PAPER

The paper proposes to :-


(a) Determine the types of threat likely to unfold from China in the near future.

(b) Analyse each type of threat to include indicators of occurrence, thresholds for India and capabilities required to respond.


(c) Analyse the options available to China to counter India in the asymmetric plane, in terms of different types of threat.


(d) Give possible recommendations for an Indian response.


TYPE OF THREATS


Over the past two decades, Chinese civilian and military strategists have debated the nature of modern warfare. These debates draw on sources within the Chinese strategic tradition and its historical experiences to provide perspective on the “revolution in military affairs,” “asymmetric warfare,” and “informationalized” war. Such debates highlight China’s interest in non-kinetic means of warfare and the increased role of economic, financial, information, legal and psychological instruments in Chinese war planning. Underscoring the PRC military’s comprehensive, multi-dimensional view of warfare, the PLA Academy of Military Science text, the Science of Military Strategy (2000), notes that “war is not only a military struggle, but also a comprehensive contest on fronts of politics, economy, diplomacy and law.”


For the past decades, China is known to have actively used ‘three warfares’ (3Ws) strategy—media, psychological and legal warfare—to weaken its adversaries to deal with matters pertaining to its ‘core interests’. While a wide range of tools have been deployed, the attacks have remained mostly confined to Taiwan and South-East Asian states involved in the territorial disputes in the South China Sea. But with Beijing’s influence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) growing, we can see the 3Ws strategy being put to use against India too. Expanding conventional war dynamics into the political domain, the 3Ws appear aimed at undermining India’s organizational foundations and target military morale. The strategy appears designed to subdue India without even needing to fight . The acme of warfare is to win without fighting by targeting the enemy mind and psyche.


Post-Gulf war, Chinese and Russian Generals came up with the concept of a “grey zone” in which powers such as Russia, China and Iran can exercise aggression and coercion without exposing themselves to the risks of escalation and severe retribution. Mark Galeotti of the Institute of International Relations in Prague describes this approach as “guerrilla geopolitics”. A key aspect of grey-zone challenges is that they should be sufficiently ambiguous to leave targets unsure how to respond. They are drawn from a comprehensive toolset that ranges from cyber-attacks to propaganda and subversion, economic blackmail and sabotage, sponsorship of proxy forces and creeping military expansionism. China is asserting itself along the border by repeated incursions, exploiting its grey zone strategy to keep the activities below thresholds of criticism by the world community, while causing discomfort to India.


Thus, while a military threat cannot be ruled out, its probability of occurrence is reducing and the sequence of occurrence will be deferred. This does not also mean the end of border skirmishes/jostling for space along the LAC, as we have seen in the past, with the recent one being the Galwan incident of 2020. It actually doesn’t bother about criticism either as long as there is no tangible counter action, by India or the world community. Thus while non-kinetic threats seem to be more tangible and immediate, India will have to always keep its ‘powder dry’ since incidents will continue to happen in the sea and land domains.


Thus, the primary means of keeping the pressure on India , besides border skirmishes, is going to be by non-kinetic means. If the nature of threat is going to be Non-kinetic then the types of threat and the probability of occurrence can be classified as under:-



(a) Cyber threat - Priority 1

(b) Economic. - Priority 2


(c) Diplomatic. - Priority 3


(d) Electronic warfare. - Priority 4


(e) Water threat. - Priority 5


(f) Space War. - Priority 6


The prioritisation above indicates just the higher probability of occurrence of one against the other, both due to ease of application and the impact it would cause. It by no way signifies the sequence in which they will manifest since the probability is that some of these will certainly manifest simultaneously or in near simultaneous manner. But this certainly doesn’t mean that we do not have to develop conventional military capabilities. It is only a strong nation that will deter the enemy, else if success is assured a strong nation will always run over a weak one. Development of military assets also gives a nation a lot of diplomatic leverage and respect from immediate neighbours, of which India has many.


The reasons, as to why China is not resolving the boundary issue with

India could be as under :-


• India is not a weak opponent who will agree to China’s terms, as did the other countries. China will agree to resolve the boundary issue only when it sees India would agree to its terms.

• China’s security is not threatened by India, since India is not likely to launch conventional operations against China.

• The priority for China is to first resolve Taiwan and South China Sea issues.

• Not resolving the boundary issue will help take an anti-India stand in international fora.

• Facilitate in launch of legal, media and psychological warfare.

• Historical sentiments associated with the boundary alignment.

• It retains this as an option for future conflict.

• Change in demography of Tibet will result in moral and economic ascendancy by 2049 (100 years of establishment of China). So, China is ‘enforcing’ soft power on the Tibetans by carrying out infrastructure and economic development by the Hans. It believes that in another 30 years, once the Dalai Lama will no longer be there the Tibetans will see the sense in aligning with China and turning the tables against India, thus forcing India to resolve the boundary issue on ‘Tibetan terms’.


Threat Indicators

The indicators for a military threat are well documented and are periodically reviewed through ‘wargames’ in various military HQs. Thus, even their thresholds and responses are well documented. However as discussed above, China now has more wherewithal to threaten India by non-military means and then graduate to a military option as a last resort. Thus hybrid /non-kinetic threats will be a precursor to a military action. Hence the challenge is to identify indicators of non- kinetic threats. The danger is when indicators of non-kinetic threats are already prevalent during peace time but we fail to read the signals. Are we already under attack ? If we are, who or which agency is monitoring the activities ? What should be our thresholds ? How should we respond, since our response in one domain is likely to impact other domains too. These are some issues being discussed in this paper.


To start with, let us try and us identify the threat indicators for various non- kinetic threats, as indicated above. The indicators listed below are only indicative and are not conclusive. These will change with timelines and international events/relations.


• Diplomatic Indicators

• Repeated denial of membership to NSG and UNSC.

• Establishing additional Confucius Institutes.

• Collaborate with India’s neighbours to isolate India in the international fora.

• Visa restrictions/denials.

• Oppose infrastructure development along the northern borders.

• Raising Kashmir issue in the UN and change of stand on the issue.

• Vetoing resolutions in favour of India in the UNSC.

• Raising rhetoric against visit of Dalai lama to India or visit of Indian government officials to Arunachal Pradesh/Ladakh.

• Increased collusivity with Pakistan.

• Applying pressure on Bhutan to change its stance with respect to India.

• Recalling of diplomats.


• Economic Indicators

• Growth of Chinese economy coupled with Imbalance/Reduction in bilateral trade/increased tariffs on Indian goods.

• Competition in acquiring assets globally and in preventing India from doing so.

• Progress of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in India’s immediate neighbourhood.

• Increasing Defence budget.

• Flooding international markets with Chinese goods as a counter to Indian goods in the world market.

• Prevent neighbouring/neutral countries in having economic engagement with India.

• Vetoing World Bank/IMF loans.

• Prevent Indian shipping vessels entry into South China Sea and Aggressive domination of SLOCs in IOR.

• Preventing Indian companies from having economic activities in SCS.

• Withdrawal/prevention of FDI.

• Increased military spending.


• Cyber & Information Warfare Indicators.


o Increased investment in high tech industries with focus on AI and Data Analytics.

o Disrupt banking, railways, power and/or Stock Exchange networks.

o Plant false / manipulated media reports in print, electrnic / social media sites.

o Support to Pak Cyber terrorists.

o Discrediting and embarrassing India through pseudo identities.

o Cartographic aggression by issuing modified maps.


• Space War Indicators


• Improving Anti Satellite (ASAT) capability.

• Domination of space/jostling for similar space based activities.

• Imposing errors in space-based data like met, location devices

(GPS), media network.



• Electronic Warfare Indicators.

• Jamming of mobile networks and simulating communication outages.

• Activation of Trojans/viruses/electronic bombs already incorporated in hardware in circulation in India.


• Water Threat Indicators

• Release of excess water during rainy season causing increased flooding.

• Disruption of water supply during drought season.

• Not sharing of essential data as mandated by international rules.


Some of the above indicators may already be playing out. They can play up individually or collectively; simultaneously or over a differential time frame. So how do we discern and respond is the next major issue. We cannot be responding like a child giving a slap for a slap. As a responsible nation we have to display tolerance and take appropriate action , as per our national interest, when we feel our threshold is being crossed. So, we need to be clear about the thresholds too for each type of threat.


Visualised Thresholds

Some of thresholds that were obtained from a target audience of over 100 Colonels and Brigadiers, through a questionnaire are listed below :-


• Diplomatic Threshold

o Arrest of diplomatic staff in the Embassy.

o Closing down of Indian Embassy in Beijing.

o Anti-India resolution in UNSC.

o Vetoing legitimate Indian claims in World fora.

o Announcing a change in status of POK, Sikkim, Eastern Ladakh or Arunachal Pradesh.

o Increased supply of nuclear weapons & platforms and sensitive/sophisticated military hardware to Pakistan.

o Ceasing India’s membership of SAARC, BRICS etc.

o Justifying terrorist actions by Pakistan on Indian soil.

o Asylum to terrorist leaders involved in anti-India activities.


• Economic Threshold

o Economic blockade in IOR/SCS.

o Imposing economic sanctions against India.

o Increased use of disputed territory for trade. (CPEC/ Western Express Highway)

o Cutting off India’s oil supplies.

o Blocking India’s trade with other countries.


• Cyber and Information War Thresholds

o Denial of Service attack on banking, railways, cyber networks.

o Cyber attacks on strategic assets, security establishments and Government sites.

o Information warfare to incite anti-nationalism or anti-government issues.


• Electronic Warfare Thresholds

o Frequent jamming of mobile and civil communication networks.

o Jamming of radars in the border areas.


• Space War Thresholds

o Jamming of satellite based communications.

o Knocking down of own satellite.


• Water Threat Threshold

o Flooding through excessive supply.

o Blocking of more than 50% of water flow.


The above mentioned thresholds/‘red lines’ for India should not be based on quantitative factors alone but on the impact/scale of the threat posed by China. The response to a non-military threat should not be military but we should have our options to respond. Further India’s response should not or cannot be based on individual thresholds as indicated above but it will be based on a cumulative impact. There would be ‘battle indicators’, as mentioned above, before the ‘red lines’ are reached and thus the Indian response should commence early. Moreover, Indian response should not be an ‘eye for an eye’ i.e. a diplomatic threat responded by a diplomatic counter but it should be based on ‘where it would hurt China the most’, so that we could also cause maximum damage with minimum effort. However while responding to the Chinese threat we should cater for the counter that she would undertake, based on our response and be prepared accordingly.


China is not without its vulnerabilities. It faces daunting domestic, social and economic problems, which makes the communist party leadership feel less than secure. Though authoritarian regimes like China’s with their extensive and efficient surveillance and control capacities would be better able to manage domestic unrest than democratic ones. Now with Xi Jinping having been crowned as President for life, it gives him a clear mandate to take the domestic compulsions headlong and quell all unrest or dissent. But to respond in time and effectively we need to attack the enemy weaknesses and not his strengths. Some of the vulnerabilities of China are as listed below :-


• Challenge to China’s core values or its ‘leadership or governance styles’.

• Tibet and the Dalai Lama.

• Taiwan’s demand for autonomy.

• Vietnam cozying up with other nations.

• USA or it’s allies gaining more space in the IOR.

• Militancy in XUAR.

• Hinderance to successful implementation of CPEC/BRI

• The South China Sea (SCS) dispute.

• Disruption of movement in Western Express Highway (WEH)

• India getting closer ties with Japan and Australia.

• Disruption of oil supply from the West.

• Support to democratic movement challenging supremacy of the CCP.

• Image of China still being an unreliable ally/bully/not respecting international conventions.

• South Asian countries extending support to India than to China on international issues.

• Lack of allies globally.


Response Mechanisms


Having identified the Chinese vulnerabilities the next step is to identify the response mechanisms for the non-military threats. Some of the recommended responses are :-


• Diplomatic Threat Response.

o Support to Taiwan.

o Highlight debt traps in CPEC and BRI.

o Highlight Human Rights violations

o Support other nations in SCS dispute.

o Recognise Tibetan government in exile.

o Close Indian Embassy in Beijing.


• Economic Threat Response.

o Ban of certain critical Chinese goods.

o Strangulate SCS/IOR.

o Exploit proximity of neighbours.


• Cyber & Information Threat Response

o Assistance from USA, Japan and Australia to launch a counter offensive on Chinese sites/systems or by own systems if we have developed capabilities.

o Have sanctions imposed against the Chinese companies involved or against China, depending on the intensity of the strike.

o Paint negative image of China as an untrustworthy ally.

o Counter propaganda by exploiting social media. India has a language advantage vis-à-vis China and can reach out to a larger global population faster. The Western world would readily lap up any negative propaganda about China.


• Electronic Warfare Response

o Jamming of Chinese EW systems.

o Safeguard own EW systems.

o Offensive EW actions.


• Space Threat Response

o Use of ICBMs if own satellite destroyed.

o Neutralise Chinese satellites.

o Force errors in Chinese satellite data.


• Water Threat Response

o Use Pakistan as a counter leverage.

o Mediation through UN or friendly countries.



Capability Building


When China, achieved its four-modernisation objectives and became the foremost power in Asia by 2008, it unveiled a unique strategy of cooperation and confrontation – primarily against the United States – to conceal its intentions. Conscious that it would not be able to take on the US militarily in a conventional war, China developed asymmetrical military assets referred to as anti – assets comprising anti-satellite capabilities; cyber warfare; long range accurate ballistic and cruise missiles; unmanned aerial vehicles; plethora of sea-denial submarines and so on, which have got the US worried because they can intimidate US’ allies and weaken their political resolve by inflicting psychological defeats without going to war. India can pull a page out of the Chinese book and develop similar capabilities since India will also have to counter China, the way China is countering USA. Military capability building is an ongoing process and would involve both sea and land denial weapons and platforms. India will also have to develop a Ballistic Missile Defence system and a strong anti-Electronic Warfare equipment and cyber hardened equipment.


In order to achieve Long Term response mechanisms, India will have to look at building certain capabilities, which are listed below :-


• Diplomatic Capabilities

o Proactively engage with immediate neighbours by being sensitive to their requirements. Ensure China doesn’t wean them away from us.

o Need for a strong central leadership and need for nationalism rather than party politics.

o Continue to engage with China to prevent misunderstandings manifesting into inimical actions.

o Develop strategic partnership with USA, Japan, Russia and Australia and ensure domination of IPR/IOR.

o Secure a seat in UNSC and membership of NSG.

o Develop adequate leverage/options to resolve boundary dispute.

o Formulate a consistent foreign policy, the core aspects of which should not change with each government.

o Develop a higher Comprehensive National Power.

o Enhance Mandarin Literacy.

o Establish more India Cultural Centres in South/SE Asian countries.

o Shape world opinion against China.

o Selectively participate in the BRI and find own alternatives to counter the same, like the IMEC.

o Develop additional leverage in G20, SAARC and SCO.


• Economic

o Enhance trade and technical support to countries in the region.

o Improve GDP, try and sustain at more than 7% and build sufficient Forex reserves.

o Graduate to a USD 5 trillion economy by 2025.

o Attract more FDI.

o Reduce dependency on Chinese goods.

o Get markets in Africa and South America.

o Compete with Chinese volumes and cost in world markets.

o Enhance own niche products like jewellery, gems, handicrafts, handlooms etc.

o Invigorate Make in India/Assemble in India and export arms and ammunition to neighbouring countries.

o Take advantage of India’s superior skill in medical services, IT, Hotel & hospitality services.

o Develop own Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) to wean away from dependence in the Chinese markets.

o Increase Defence Spending.

o Improve tourism to draw in more tourists and spread greater awareness about India and the government – seeing is better than just hearing.

o Need to develop world class universities with focus on research to draw more international students, like USA.


• Cyber & Information Warfare Capabilities

o Establish Public–Private partnerships to develop

capabilities. Indigenisation of IT hardware and software is

essential.

o Develop own GPS and Internet.

o Exploitation of local languages on the internet/mobile apps.

o Establishment of national monitoring agency.

o Develop capabilities to defend and counter attack.

o Coordination of Cyber Command with CERT.

o Formulate government approved rules for cyber counter offensive.

o Spread information in the social and conventional media about Chinese unjustified claims, high-handedness in dealing with countries, sufferings by Tibetan & XUAR citizens etc.


• Electronic Warfare Capabilities.

o Develop own capacities and technology to discourage Chinese electronic hardware in Indian Markets especially semi-conductors.

o Electronic hardening of all critical networks,

o Developing Offensive capabilities by procuring equipment/manufacturing on our own.

o Develop OFC based communication network along the LAC with end to end encryption for plug and play purposes.


• Space War Capabilities

o Develop anti satellite capability.

o Develop Ballistic Missile Defence over major cities /establishments

o Develop redundancies in equipment and procedures to cater for disruptions.

o Develop more space based assets to monitor and target China.


• Water Threat Capabilities

o Reduce own vulnerabilities by linking up rivers.

o Develop bilateral and international treaties to safeguard Indian interests and share data.

o Get into international treaties to contain China.

o Develop flood control mechanisms.


• Employment of Guerrilla Forces Capabilities

o Cultivate sources in XUAR, Tibet.

o Cultivate Indian diaspora in China.

o Establish reliable intelligence network.

o Improve Mandarin literacy.


• Conventional Capabilities. India should simultaneously develop conventional assets like aircrafts, missiles, aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, air defence systems, surveillance systems and infrastructure along the forward areas like roads, airfields and storage capabilities.


India’s Response


Thus as seen from above, one leads to the other. We need to continuously reads the indicators, monitor our thresholds, keep China’s vulnerabilities in mind and build capabilities for an appropriate response.


China has the economic clout (despite the waning economy), a determined leadership, cyber and space capability and strategic vision to execute its agenda. India thus has to read the indicators continuously since a non-kinetic ‘offensive’ can be launched even during peace time. Once the indicators are read we need to determine the thresholds which if crossed will force us to respond. Then the response itself needs to be calibrated across various ministries. The Cabinet Committee on Security, should depute think tanks to develop various scenarios and put forth to the CCoS to obtain their directions on the response or ‘proactive offensive’. This will ensure that we don’t have think on our feet when an incident happens. This exercise should be done atleast one a year also keeping the geo-political scenario in mind.

India’s response will depend on it’s capabilities it has at a given point of time. The complete gamut of capabilities have been discussed earlier but it will take time. Capability, as can be seen can be built internally or by collaborating with other countries. Thus, India will have to calibrate it’s response by reading the battle indicators continuously, deciding on the thresholds, keeping China’s vulnerabilities in mind and the capabilities it has achieved at the given point of time and based on each situation and how the response will affect other ministries or countries. It has to be conscious of the counter measures by China too. Only then can the response be holistic. Taking a decision ‘on the fly’ may be only a half-measure.


“It is in India's interest to bide its time, remain calm, not get distracted by geopolitics and instead focus on core strengths. India has the advantage, even on China, because of a young population”, said Kishore Mahbubani, Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, way back in 2016. We need to focus in building capabilities, which has been happening in the recent times.


Diplomatic Options


India has to put in some hard effort to gain the confidence of the ASEAN members. In this case it is not hard to get their cooperation and willingness since they are looking up to us as a counter to China and other major powers will welcome our initiatives. China too is a good competitor and will not give India an easy run, while the ASEAN countries will want a better deal from both the Asian powers. The challenge is to convince our own political parties and state governments to join hands in investing in our neighbours to secure our territories and create opportunities for economic development in our neighbouring countries too. We need to work out a model for each of the ASEAN country to see where our manpower also can be employed gainfully and how to optimize on the local labour/talent. Uncertain regional geopolitics coupled with the rise of economies in the region will require Asian governments to adapt to a newer political environment, economic realities, and a different regulatory ecosystem. The region’s multifaceted challenges require dynamic and forward-looking policymaking.


The Presidency of G20 has augured well for India in showcasing our diversity and organisational capabilities besides shouldering this additional responsibility with aplomb. The successful completion of the summit in Srinagar showcased our resolve and of an economically booming Kashmir valley. India should make use of this opportunity to get countries to tow the path of ‘Vasudeva Kutumbakam’ and play down hegemonistic tendencies of big countries.(USA, Russia, China)


China’s territorial claims on the resource-rich South China Sea, and the desire to dominate the Indian Ocean has given rise to maritime rivalry. When it comes to the South China Sea, It is in India’s interest to have freedom of navigation, unfettered access to common water and respect for international maritime law. The recent cartographic aggression, has aggravated the situation since China is showing all the islands as it’s sovereign territory. Given the prevailing regional power imbalance created by a declining China and an assertive USA, India and ASEAN are well poised to become strategic partners in ensuring regional peace and stability. Battling non-traditional risks such as terrorism, human trafficking, cybercrime and piracy also provide opportunities for greater cooperation.


India’s China policy needs a re-structuring based on a fresh perspective that is relevant for the 21st century, the global power matrix has undergone a paradigm shift, from exclusively Atlantic shores-based concerns to emerging Indo-Pacific ocean strategic issues. Thus India-China relations matter as never before. Organisations like QUAD and AUKUS are also furthering the cause of security of Indo-Pacific.


China would be flexible in dealing with India if it is convinced of India’s equidistance with the U.S, on China - U.S disputes involving Taiwan and South China Sea islands. Of course, we will require that China respond with similar commitment on Pakistan-India disputes.


Information Warfare Options


China is friends only with Pakistan and North Korea, who do not have a global standing. This is a major trust deficit, which has increased manifold in the post COVID era, that China faces in the global arena and India could do well to use Psychological Warfare/Information Warfare to highlight China’s breach of trust with various countries of the world.


India could exercise leverage over China by using the Islamic wedge and also using the Tibetans. Thus, India will need to cultivate groups in Xinjiang and Tibet which could disrupt activities in these areas, in case of a conflict or when it wants to show China in poor light causing human rights atrocities as a Permanent Member of the Security Council.


The recent cartographic aggression, besides being a diplomatic offensive is also an Information warfare tool to feed not only the world but also the local populace, and instil national fervour at a time of internal crisis. India will have to closely watch the happenings in Taiwan and South China Sea and build counter measures, since those will be a fore bringer to the way China will deal with India with respect to its borders and bilateral relationships.


It is important to plan the information campaigns at each stage and build the narratives for different audiences, like domestic, Western media, Midde East, etc. In the case of Galwan we were not proactive with our IW which led to a lot of false propaganda by China, which we had to counter.


Conclusion


In the final analysis India’s relation with China has to be that of cooperation and competition and not necessarily adversarial. We also should not be overly cautious of our approach towards China since She too has her vulnerabilities. We should be able to have a policy of Engagement, Deterrence, Balance and Capability. Engagement would involve that we continue to hold talks and bilateral relations with China on a host of issues, without being in an ‘either or’ situation. Thus, the border issue should not be a precondition for all talks while that will continue to remain our core concern, the way it would be for China. Deterrence would involve deployment of the missile systems, infrastructure development in the forward areas, development of forward airfields and helipads, greater deployment of forces. Balance would mean that we need to maintain our balance with respect to our relations with Russia, USA, South Korea , Japan and other South Eastern nations without jeopardizing our relations with China. There has to be a lot of give and take and push and pull in the relations to maintain a grey zone or leverage. We need to balance between taking issue based tough stands where our core interests are affected and letting go in some others. Capability would mean developing our economic, cyber, media and military and other capabilities as has been discussed earlier to be able to take a stand or respond appropriately to actions by China. It is only an economic power which can dictate terms to the world coupled with military capability. While India should focus on increasing its GDP it should also focus on increasing its military spending to acquire more satellites, missiles, aircrafts, submarines and aircraft carriers along with technology and AI enabled systems.


Whatever its long-term ambition of Asian hegemony, China is not yet in a position to assume the sort of leadership role that the US provides. China, however has a long-term strategy that can be adjusted to changing situations, it has a strong determination to succeed. The Chinese non-kinetic threats as mentioned earlier will continue over the next decade ‘to put India in it’s place’ in the regional and global context. Thus, India has to develop capabilities and strategies, as mentioned, to fight the ‘war during peacetime’. The threat till 2040 will certainly remain non-kinetic as have been analysed earlier with diplomatic, economic, cyber and information being the primary ones. Even while responding to the non-kinetic threats one has to keep in mind the impact that one response may have on another dimension or even on a relationship with a third country.


As is being done for conventional operations, there is a need for scenario building being undertaken by the Cabinet Committee on Security/National Security Council and wargaming various scenarios with representatives of all departments of the government, since our response in one department may affect other departments. This may be done by outsourcing to various think-tanks and presenting to the government on a six monthly basis. The same can be documented for an appropriate response at the desired time and occasion.


A conventional threat is likely to unfold only in the time zone of 2040 to 2045, if India continues to be a major competitor to China and China too maintaining a strong leadership as it has today. It is China’s Dream to reunify the ’ancient China’ before it’s 100th Foundation Day. Given the conflicting interests coupled with unresolved issues, relations between India and China are bound to be marked by contradictions, leading to frequent non kinetic confrontations. However, through deft diplomacy, differences can be managed. While solutions to vexed problems may not be on the horizon, disputes turning into conflict can be avoided in the larger interest of both nations. The Chinese are shrewd negotiators with tremendous stamina and penchant to sit across the table, but with equals. India must, therefore, firmly stand its ground and forthrightly safeguard its strategic interests. To deal with China on a level footing, the Indian leadership needs to make pragmatic assessments, possess the courage to accept home truths and display audacity for bold decisions


India and China have been rapidly emerging as influential power hubs. Being two of the three most post populous and largest GDP nations, both are culturally akin, are socially structured on family values and associated social attitudes. Potentially both are poised to fill the role of global/regional powers. To achieve that potential, both require hardware, software and a clear mindset for exercising this power. As of now, China is way ahead of India in reaching that level. We are concerned here with India achieving levels where it can deter China.


(Brig (Dr) R Kannan is a Former IC Adm at DSSC Wellington. He obtained his PhD from Devi Ahilyabai Vishva Vidyalaya(DAVV). The views expressed in this article are those of the author and does not reflect the views of C3S.)



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