C3S Paper No. 0174/2015
China held a massive military parade to remember the end of the Second World War on 3rd September 2015 in Beijing. Xi Jinping, chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) and the President of the People’s Republic of China led the parade. This grand function held at the Tiananmen Square of Beijing was attended by foreign dignitaries including Russian President Vladimir Putin, his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma, South Korean President Park Geunhye and others. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon was also present on the podium. India was represented by General V. K. Singh, the Minister of State for External Affairs.
Throughout this commemoration function, the Chinese authorities tried to play up their role in Asia and their long drawn “War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression” as well as “marking the full victory of the World Anti-Fascist War”, a term generally used by Chinese for the Second World War. “On that day, the world was once again blessed by the sunshine of peace”, declared the Chinese leader. However, in reality one also remembers the horrible tragedies happened to humanity in Hiroshima, Nagasaki and other places in Asia. Wars also remind us of the horrendous destructive capabilities of human beings.
During the parade China, displayed a variety of weapons and technologies in its armoury. It also highlighted some of their marching columns, ably turned out young and fit soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). 12,000 officers and men formed the marching contingents in the parade, some five hundred weapon systems and 200 aircrafts were on display. The Chinese authorities claimed that eighty percent of the weapon systems are exposed in public for the first time.
Keeping in view of its current strategic requirements China projected her deterrence capability in its periphery and immediate neighbourhood. These included a series of missiles and indigenously developed early warning systems and other power multipying capabilities. First in these series is the Dong Feng, DF21D super fast missile with the strategic missile forces (more popularly known as Second Artillery Corps), which can aim and destroy a modern aircraft carrier from a safe distance. The second one is the modified and vastly improved version of the DF 5B Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) with a range up to 12,000 kilometres and equipped with Multiple Independently Targeted Re-entry Vehicle (MIRV)ed warheads.
China with her own capability of Beidou (Big dipper) navigation satellite system and other early warning mechanisms, PLA can launch its own devices without interference from other powers. It is necessary for India to take note of these developments which enables China for its future power projection capabilities.
In a brief speech at the beginning Xi Jinping clarified his intention to stay within the existing world system and enhance China’s interests. He clarified by stating that, “all countries should jointly uphold the international order and system underpinned by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, build a new type of international relations featuring win-win cooperation and advance the noble cause of global peace and development.” Towards the end of his speech he announced the reduction of PLA from the existing 2.3 million to approximately 2 million.
Apparently he did not give a fixed timeframe for the reduction of three lakh soldiers, but this figure is on expected lines. His predecessors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao also announced reduction in the force levels of China. It is expected that China is likely to reduce some of its logistical support units and entrust their functions to more streamlined units planned to serve different sections of PLA. This is certainly aimed at China’s neighbours to show the defensive intentions of the current leadership.
However the real issue is not the marching columns and dazzling new weapons. The people across Asia was expecting that the current leadership would blaze and show a new path of reconciliation and development for Asia. All people of Asia suffered due to the Second World War and the repercussions of the same. As the major victor of the war in Asia, people were expecting China to lead the process of reconciliation and rebuilding of Asia to the next levels. During the war the people of China and Korea suffered innumerable humiliation and a number of horrible deaths. The casualty figures for China was twenty million, Japan 3.23 million, Korea 533,000 and India 2.5 million.
In early 1940s India was still a subjugated country, yet many Indians, both as active soldiers and labourers, contributed their valuable lives and precious services for the victory of progressive forces against the war mongers and fascists. According to various reports Indian President Pranab Mukherjee received an invitation to participate in the Seventieth Anniversary day parade in Beijing, however, the government of India decided to depute General V. K. Singh, the Minister of State for External Affairs for the same. The substantial issue is not who represented India, in China but the reason given for the same. No official explanation was available in the public domain, however, one of the mainstream news channels explained the reason is that as “Pakistan was sending an official military contingent, India decided not to sent her own soldiers” to the parade. This certainly is a weak defence and bad public relations management from an emerging power.
The government of India and defence ministry must improve their public relations mechanism. Who will represent India at a formal function is the privileged decision of the concerned authorities. India must be more confident to participate in such events in the future, in this context we may remember that India sent a formal military contingent and its President to Moscow on 9 May this year for such a function.
(The writer is Honorary Fellow at the Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi)