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China is a Bigger Threat to India than Pakistan; By Jai Kumar Verma

C3S Paper No. 0122/2016

The Indian security planners have to analyze whether Pakistan is a bigger threat or China is a larger menace to the security of the country. There can also be a scenario of two-front war, when India has to face the combined might of China and Pakistan. India has had three full-fledged wars with Pakistan and one war with China. Besides these wars, there were several clashes of big and small magnitude with both the countries however so far, both the countries have never joined hands to fight India.

Analysts mention that China has no specific animosity with India and its interests are restricted to border dispute mainly at Arunachal Pradesh and maintain that India should not provide any assistance to Tibetans living in India and Nepal so as to create disturbances in Tibet. They claim that China has no interest in the disintegration of India or disturbing the law and order situation of the country. China may not like to fight with India again as India is a lucrative market for consumption of Chinese products.

On the other hand, Pakistan, which was created on the name of religion, has an in-built abhorrence towards India. Pakistani army which enjoys several privileges will never allow cordial relations between India and Pakistan. The army controlled Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has created several terrorist groups to carry out terrorist activities in India, including Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistan may continue troubling India on the back of Chinese economic and military assistance to it. Not only this, the fundamentalist/extremist elements in Pakistan would also be satisfied to witness terrorist activities hampering peace and security in India. Recently, China has agreed to sell 8 submarines to Pakistan, and in this way, China will continue selling weapons to Pakistan and the latter will be contented to get it on concessional rates.

Nonetheless, the nuclear-warheads equipped Pakistan is no match to India in the conventional warfare and that is the reason that it is involved in low-intensity war against it. Hence, India should try to strengthen its internal security to counter the terrorist attacks as Pakistan is not a threat but it is an irritation.

The real danger to India is however, an expansionist China; it is member of United Nations Security Council with veto power, and has lot of surplus funds which it spends on poor countries to gain their support.

Recently, China blocked India from joining Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). China was supporting Pakistan to become the member of NSG knowing well that in view of Pakistan’s past record, NSG members would not allow it to join NSG but China hit two birds by one stone. Firstly, it stopped India to become member and secondly, Pakistan became happy that China is supporting its case.

China is much ahead of India in military power; it has bigger armed forces, more and better nuclear warheads and is modernizing its armed forces at a much faster pace than India, especially in cyber and space.

According to the 2016 Fact Sheet (for 2015) issued by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), China’s military budget was approximately USD 215 billion while India’s military budget was measly USD 51.3 billion, which is less than one fourth of China’s military budget.

Here it will be pertinent to mention that the real expenditure is always much more than projected in the defence budget. In China’s military budget there is very little transparency. China’s military budget is increasing exponentially. In 1997, China’s military spending was USD 10 billion which reached to USD 215 billion in 2015.  This spectacular increase in military spending is worrisome for the neighbors especially India as there is border dispute between the countries.

In fact, China regards its position much higher than India in the international field. China considers itself as a comprehensive economic and military power while it treats India as a rising power in the region. At present, India is in no position to compare itself to China in economic as well as military power.

Intention is not as important as capability because intention can change overnight while it will take a much longer time to develop the capability. Pakistan has the intention to fight but it lacks capability, while China has the capability as well as reasons to attack and subdue India.

In view of the above, India must inculcate capability to counter China, in case it attacks India. First of all, India must raise a Mountain Strike Corps especially for India-China border. The mountain corps must be equipped with offensive weaponry. Secondly, China has developed infrastructure like roads, bridges, Railway lines, aerodromes etc. near the India-China borders and hence, India needs to develop good roads, bridges, airports and possibly railway tracks. India is trying to develop Nyoma Air Base but the pace of work has to be enhanced.

India should expedite the purchase and delivery of 145 Ultra Light Howitzers and deploy on India China borders. Light tanks can also be positioned at the borders.

The country must improve living conditions of troops posted at high altitudes; they should be provided specially designed thermally-insulated shelters so that they can stay even at Siachen where the average winter snowfall is more than 35 ft and the temperature may dip up to minus 50 degrees.

India’s decision of export of BrahMos supersonic missile to Vietnam is a welcome decision as it will strengthen Indian position in international arena. Several other countries also want to import BrahMos missiles as well as other arms and ammunition from India which will be good for the country in long run.

India must modernize all three services including Army, Air Force and Navy, should also strengthen its intelligence agencies and should try to inculcate friendly relation with the countries which are either hostile to China or suspicious towards it. Japan and few other members of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are apprehensive about the growing might of China.

The United States which is the lone super power in the world is also worried about the rapid growth of Chinese military; hence India may take help of USA, Japan and other countries to counter China but should never become a frontline state against it.

(Jai Kumar Verma is an independent analyst working on issues that are of strategic relevance to India. He can be reached at: jai_pushpa@hotmail.com)

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