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The Chinese Dragon Vs The Indian Tiger

December 21, 2010

David Eshel

Defence Update, December 20, 2011

http://www.defense-update.com/analysis/2010/20122010_analysis_dragon_vs_tiger.html

Beijing's aggressive "String of Pearls" strategy is not confronting the
U.S. alone but is already severely jittering India's complacency. And
here precisely lays the root of the next conflict flashpoint in South
East Asia. The soaring "Indian Tiger" facing the rising "Chinese Dragon"
will eventually grow into two regional giants, both competing with
rapidly dwindling strategic assets, vital for their survival,
transforming the geopolitical landscape in the Asia-Pacific region - and
challenging American hegemony as a global superpower.

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 only with
Pakistan. New Delhi has started developing strategic plans for dealing
with China by 2020 or 2030. Many Indian think tanks are already working
on this mission objective.

What transpired last August 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 was a clear demonstration by China,
of its capability to mobilize in Tibet, in the event of a new
Sino-Indian conflict. China already has four fully operational airports
in Tibet, the last one started operations in July 2010.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Navy?s recent seafaring activities and maneuvers
have revealed Beijing?s intention to increase its control of the
maritime sea lanes in 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 the 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 in New Delhi.

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. India is rapidly expanding and modernizing its military air,
land, naval and missile forces, investing in establishing a nuclear
deterrence, through a 'Triad' of land and surface launched missiles as
well as submarine launched missiles, expansion of its air bases along
the northern border, positioning of early warning radars on mountain
along the North-Eastern border with Tibet and more.

Though China retains a decisive lead, New Delhi is determined to stay on
Beijing's heals. In the economic race, India could already outpace China
in 2011, to become the fastest growing economies, according to the
latest World Bank forecast.

But Beijing has one dominant ace along its sleeve. Being a strict
authoritarian regime, it is pushing rapidly forward with aggressive
modernization of its industrial and military machine, while India's
administration inherent bureaucracy is much slower in getting things done.

But the highest point of tension in the Asian Subcontinent still remains
the decade-lasting animosity and suspicion existing between India and
Pakistan. Here remains the most potential trigger for a regional
conflict. Historically, China has been Pakistan?s strategic and military
ally for nearly five decades. It was Beijing who gave Pakistan the
designs for a nuclear bomb in 1984 and then helped them build it.
China?s has two purposes behind its strategy assisting Pakistan. First,
it takes Pakistan as a secure friend and ally in the Indian Ocean and
second, they share a common interest to contain India, which, by its
huge economic potential, demographic size and geopolitical position, is
challenging Beijing's ambition for regional hegemony.

Within this strategy, China has stepped up its military presence in
Tibet, primarily to contain India. Their aim is to capture as much
Indian territory as possible, including the town of Tawang ? the
birthplace of the Dalai Lama ? in case of renewed hostilities. A
secondary purpose for this buildup is to help Pakistan in any future
military conflict with India. Indeed the Sino-Indian border region
remains one hotly disputed area since the 1962 India-China war.

The core of territorial disputes between India and China converge at
Kashmir, which also ranks as the worlds' largest militarized zone of
contention. The Chinese army, perched on its geographical vantage
position, atop the towering peaks and glaciers of the strategic
trans-Karakoram tract and Aksai Chin, dominates the Indian positions
below. Moreover, the geopolitical ramifications of China's forceful
annexation of Tibet, which had for centuries, posed a natural barrier
for India, gave Bejing a tremendous strategic starting point for any
military operation against India. The 2006 opening of the China-Tibet
rail-link further strengthened China's potentially offensive capability.

On the other hand India's quest to enhance its military potential, with
active aid from Washington, could reignite a new Indo-China Himalayan
border war - with acute danger from its escalating into a terrifying
regional nuclear-weapons conflict.

 From a strategic perspective, China is hemming India from all four
sides- Tibet, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar (Burma) - all within
Beijing's zone of interest. As the deteriorating geopolitical dynamics
between Beijing and New Delhi increase, as both are struggling for
global superpower status, the role of the United States in this region
faces sharp competition.

Although from military perspective, the US will continue to remain a key
player; its influence in the region will wane considerably as the troop
withdrawals from Afghanistan conclude. With Chinese naval presence in
the Indian Ocean on the rise and its "string of pearl" strategy
advancing towards key positions in the Persian Gulf, the strategic
importance of India will become crucial for Washington, to prevent a
most dangerous development in this part of the world.
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