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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Chinese dragon versus Indian tiger

October 17, 2010

Rajeev Sharma
The Morung Express
October 12, 2010

China’s resurgence in recent years has jolted the
leading powers of the world out of their stupor –
and India’s case is no different. Today,
forward-looking Indian mandarins are no longer
obsessed with Pakistan. New Delhi has started
developing strategic plans for dealing with China
in 2020 or 2030. Many Indian think tanks are
already working on this mission objective and
those which are not are gearing up to it.

India is pursuing a China policy that America has
practiced for long -- emphasising cooperation
with China while minimizing competition. It may
be the politically correct strategy but it does
precious little to counter China’s rapidly
increasing military might. Of late, China has
become more and more assertive in its diplomatic
and military conduct in line with increasingly
ambitious global objectives. India, Japan, the US
and Russia are indeed mindful of the probable
repercussions an increasingly powerful China
would have on the international balance of power,
particularly when Japan and the US seem unable to maintain their lead.

The Chinese infrastructure drive is an integral
part of its "string of pearls" strategy vis-a-vis
India. Three ports that China is building in
India’s immediate neighbourhood -- Gwadar in
Pakistan, Sittwe in Myanmar and Hambantota in Sri
Lanka – are important pearls in the Chinese
string. China has a vibrant presence across South
Asia. Besides Pakistan, with which China has a
true strategic partnership, Beijing has emerged
as a major player in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal
and the Maldives. It has firmly entrenched itself
in Myanmar (Burma), Mauritius and the Seychelles.

What transpired last month was an eye opener for
China-watchers in the Indian government. On 5
August 2010, The People’s Daily reported that two
days previously "important combat readiness
materials" (read missiles) of the Chinese Air
Force were transported safely to Tibet via the
Qinghai-Tibet Railway -- the first time since
such materials were transported to Tibet by
railway. It is a clear demonstration by China of
not just its technological competence but also
its capability to mobilise in Tibet in the event
of a Sino-Indian conflict. China already has four
fully operational airports in Tibet (the last one
started operations in July 2010) while the fifth
is scheduled to be inaugurated in October 2010.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Navy’s recent seafaring
activities and manoeuvres have revealed Beijing’s
intention to increase its control of the maritime
sea lanes of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The
latter is an obvious cause of concern for India.
China’s new-found aggressive posturing and
maritime territorial claims in South China Sea --
which Beijing has begun to describe as an area of
its "core interest," a term that the Chinese have
been using for Tibet, Taiwan and Xinjiang -- is of no less concern.

China is building up its naval might in a big
way. It is not just India that is confused and
concerned about the real intent of Beijing.
Japan, the US, South Korea, Vietnam and Taiwan
are equally apprehensive. China’s People’s
Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) was recently given a
green light by the country’s highest military
planning body, the Central Military Commission
(CMC), to build two new nuclear-powered aircraft
carriers. One aircraft carrier -- Varyag of the
Kuznetsov class -- is already under construction.
All three aircraft carriers will be available to
China by 2017 and will patrol the South China
Sea, Western Pacific and Indian Ocean. This will
give the the Chinese Navy a blue-water capability to rival the US Navy.

India is far behind China's gargantuan defence
capabilities. At the same time, New Delhi is not
twiddling its thumbs and sitting idly. India has
been conscious of rapidly growing Chinese
military capabilities for well over a decade. In
fact, the then Indian Defence Minister George
Fernandes, while speaking in the aftermath of the
May 1998 Indian nuclear tests, had gone on record
as saying that China was the number one threat for India.

In 1999, the government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee
approved a 30-year submarine construction plan
under which 30 submarines were to be constructed.
Construction work on at least four nuclear
submarines is in full swing, while the
indigenously made Arihant nuclear powered
submarine has already been launched. India plans
to have at least 30 submarines by 2030, but this
target may prove to be too stiff. India’s
submarine fleet is currently facing depletion and
their number is expected to go down to 16 by 2012
with the decommissioning of two Foxtrot submarines in the near future.

In March 2009, the Manmohan Singh government
cleared Project 15B under which next generation
warships are under various stages of
construction. Besides, at least three Kolkata
class destroyers are under construction under
Project 15A. Two aircraft carriers – INS
Vikramaditya (Admiral Gorshkov of Russia) and INS
Vikrant -- are under construction.  To strike a
harmonious balance, the Indian Navy is in the
process of beefing up its fleet of stealth
frigates and has initiated several new projects
in this regard. Shivalik will be India’s first
stealth frigate of its class. The Sahyadri and
Satpura class of frigates are under advanced
stage of construction. All this is as per the
government’s plans to maintain a force level of more than 140 warships.

China knows very well that it is not dealing with
the India of 1962, when the two countries fought
a one-sided war. Then India had deliberately not
used its air force against the Chinese to
minimize loss of territory and restrict Chinese
military gains to the far-flung border areas.
Though China retains a decisive lead, New Delhi
is determined to stay on Beijing's heals.
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