The recent crisis over alleged Chinese incursions in the Indian territory has brought back the memories of the humiliating defeat of 1962 war at the hands of China.
Media reports about Chinese incursions, its grand strategy to encircle India, and its continued policy of containing India’s rise as a regional and global power, has created a war hysteria in the country.
The present Indian government has been accused of being soft on the issue of rising Chinese aggressiveness vis-a-vis India. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has blamed the media for blowing the border row issue out of proportion. The government admitted that there have been cases of incursions but the situation was not at all alarming.
Both the countries have reiterated that while there are difference on the border issue, they will be resolved peacefully. On the issue of China’s aggressive policy (mentioned later in the article) towards India, let’s look at the various measures undertaken/planned by the Indian government in the last few years.
1. With an objective to counter Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean, the Indian government has planned to strengthen the Andaman and Nicobar Islands by having a strong Air Force and Naval presence there. According to a media report, a proposed tri-service Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) will be in action by the end of 2009. Also, by 2020, the ANC will include,
- Nuclear submarine base in South Andaman
- Permanent Sukhoi-30 base at Car Nicobar
- Tactical aerial reconnaissance base at Campbell Bay
- Aircraft carrier base
- Expansion of INS Kardip advance naval base in Nicobar
- A dedicated 250MW nuclear power station to feed the proposed militarisation programme
2. India has revitalised its relations with the countries in Southeast Asia and East Asia. The ‘Look East’ policy is aimed at deepening India’s ties with these countries.
3. The Indian Air Force recently operationalised the Nyoma airfield, located at a height of 13300 feet, in Ladakh by landing an AN-32 aircraft there. The field is close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and the touchdown will help India move its troops and maintain logistics lines in the forward areas along the border.
4. Interestingly, Nyoma is the third helicopter base to be upgraded for operations of fixed-wing aircraft. Daulat Beg Oldie and Fuk Che were the other such bases that were made functional in May and November 2008.
5. The government also has plans of upgrading 38 airfields in the the border areas, most of which are located in the North East region facing China.
6. The government has also given nod to rapid modernisation and construction of airfields and roads of strategic importance in states like Arunachal Pradesh.
7. The Indian Army is raising two more divisions in the Northeast.
8. An airfield in Assam’s Tezpur was upgraded for handling fighter jet operations. The IAF has already deployed SU-30 jets there. There are also plans to operationalise another airbase at Mohanbari in Assam which too will handle SU-30s.
Now let’s also look at the Chinese policy towards India in last few years.
1. Certain reports in the Chinese media (Media in China is tightly controlled by the State) have indicated the possibility of a limited conflict with India. One article in a state-run publication even suggested “Balkanisation of India” in order to prevent it from posing a challenge to China’s supremacy in Asia in the future.
2. China is increasing its influence in Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Central Asia, Myanmar, and Thailand. It is selling military technology to countries like Bangladesh and Myanmar (besides Pakistan). The possibility of China acquiring naval bases in these areas and also gaining access to it through over-land and air routes can seriously affect India’s trade and maritime interests in the long run. This policy, of perceived strategic encirclement, is aimed at expanding its reach to Southeast Asia and the Bay of Bengal. Some analysts also point out that the policy is also driven by China’s need for oil to meet its increasing demand.
3. The Chinese policy of forging relations with key states in Southeast Asia, Central Asia and the Persian Gulf could also hurt India’s economic interests in the future.
4. China’s continuous support to the Pakistan is also a serious concern for India. It has been an important source of conventional military technology for Pakistan. The recent disclosure by Pakistani nuclear scientist A Q Khan of Chinese assistance in its nuclear programme justifies India’s concerns. While, China has never fully guaranteed Pakistan’s security, its policy of low-cost investment in increasing the latter’s defence capability vis-a-vis India is also a major irritant for the Indian policy makers. Add to this the long term political and diplomatic support China has been extending to Pakistan over last few decades.
5. China’s alleged support to the insurgent groups operating from Northeastern states like Manipur, Nagaland, and Assam.
While all these has been happening, the relations between India and China have been normal. Both the countries have made genuine efforts to resolve the boundary disputes. The number of military exchanges between the armed forces of both the countries have also gone up. Bilateral trade between India and China has also increased considerably.
Despite all this, the feeling of mistrust for each other exists in both the countries. The present incursion issue being an example.
The Indian response to the the hysteria in the press about recent Chinese incursions suggest that it wants to avoid rhetorical, political and military fights with China. India has avoided making public its displeasure even on the issue of China’s continued military assistance to Pakistan.
The Indian response to China’s policies (mentioned in the points above) suggest that India wants to strengthen its position vis-a-vis while seeking to avoid any direct confrontation with it.