What Edge Does India Have Over China?

Posted in China, Current Affairs, India, politics by Anuraag Sanghi on May 17, 2013

China is currently in border disputes with Vietnam, Japan, Philippines, Cambodia, – apart from India. Is that why they are nervous?

Shankar's cartoon on Decmber 17, 1961 in his own cartoon magazine, Shanker's Weekly, forewarned PM Nehru about the imminent Chinese threat - nearly one year in advance.

Shankar’s cartoon on Decmber 17, 1961 in his own cartoon magazine, Shanker’s Weekly, forewarned PM Nehru about the imminent Chinese threat – nearly one year in advance.

What could have provoked China to send 50 soldiers over to the Indian border?

I mean, fifty soldiers …?

Obviously, they were not expecting fifty soldiers to take and keep Indian territory. Reasonably, they are also not trying to open a second front against India, while they were making tough moves against Japan. Understandably, this was also, like Kargil, not some adventurism by rogue elements in the PLA.

Three things come to mind.

Come to think

One – China seeks to ‘talk’ from a position of strength.

These perceptions are important to the Chinese. Especially, when the first foreign visit by the Chinese Prime Minister, Li Keqiang is to India – onward to Pakistan, Germany and Switzerland.

If this is true, don’t the Chinese understand that Nehru took on the Western world, without military or economic might. Indira Gandhi took on the US, plus Pakistan with the risk of a China joining in, on the side of Pakistan, in the 1971 War.

So these fifty soldiers and five tents will only reduce goodwill – and not induce any fear, respect or regard for the Chinese in India.

For the first time since 1998 more money leaves China than enters it  | Graphic source & courtesy- economistcom on Aug 4th 2012 | HONG KONG

For the first time since 1998 more money leaves China than enters it | Graphic source & courtesy- economistcom on Aug 4th 2012 | HONG KONG

Two – Was it Chinese nervousness?

While the Chinese were busy with the Japanese, did Indians take ‘advantage’ to strengthen their positions in the Himalayan heights? Was this a warning to India, not to take advantage of Chinese ‘preoccupation’?

India says Chinese soldiers have set up camp 19km (12 miles) on its side of the “line of actual control” (LAC) that separates Ladakh in its state of Jammu & Kashmir from China, in the absence of an agreed border. Japan reports that Chinese maritime surveillance vessels are every day circling the disputed Senkaku or Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea. And on April 26th China demanded that the Philippines “withdraw all its nationals and facilities” from a number of islands and reefs in the South China Sea, where they have been, in some cases, for decades. In all these cases China can with some justification claim it is responding to provocation.

Ajai Shukla, an Indian defence analyst, has pointed out that the Indian army has been undertaking what he calls its “third surge towards the Sino-Indian border”. The previous two were in the late 1950s—leading to the 1962 war—and in 1986, leading to the present stalemate. Now, once again, says Mr Shukla, India has been “thickening” its presence in Arunachal Pradesh and in Aksai Chin, with more soldiers, weaponry and infrastructure.

So China may feel India is exploiting both the inexperience of its new leaders who took over last November, and the pressure China is under on other fronts. It may harbour similar suspicions about Japan and its “provocations” over what China calls the Diaoyu islands. Its patrols near the islands were prompted by Japan’s ignoring its warnings not to “nationalise” three of the islands by buying them from their private owner last September.

The demand directed at the Philippines, that it withdraw from disputed islands, was also a reaction—to the Philippines’ taking its dispute with China to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea. China rightly points out that, although the law of the sea sets rules about the waters and exclusive economic zones around islands, it says nothing about sovereignty over them.

via Banyan: Thunder out of China | The Economist.

Three – India can cut-off China’s vital shipping and logistics lines through the Karakoram and the Straits of Malacca in Indian Ocean. Was China covering their nervousness with these aggressive gestures?

Compared to China, India has three major advantages: –

The Aces In Chinese Hand

1. China is under sanctions or limits from the three major armament vendor blocs US, EU and Russia. While US and EU have sanctioned China, ostensibly, over Tienanmen Square. But, of course, the real reason is US and EU don’t want to arm a rival for Western military influence in Asia.

Apart from some border issues between Russia and China, Russia, finally, has more commercial reasons.

China has simply copied Russian defense designs and tried selling these products to third-party countries at heavily discounted prices. Russians have been hit by reduced purchases committed by China, lower prices in face of Chinese competition and outright losses to Chinese orders.

China still does not have crucial sub-assembly technologies – like jet engines, AESA radars, electronic warfare systems, and has also been shut out of the market.

India on the other hand, can practically buy whatever is available.

2: – India is threatened from two sides – Pakistan and China.

Pakistan today does not have aircraft to fly or missiles to fire. Under similar sanctions like China, Pakistan’s preparedness is close to nil. In Kargil, they could send no more than 2000 soldiers.

China is currently in border disputes with Vietnam, Japan, Philippines, Cambodia, – apart from India. China’s behaviour has so caused affront in Vietnam, that Vietnam made friendly overtures to ex-enemy America against their ex-ally, China.

3: – Recent war record. In the last war against Vietnam, China came out with a bloody nose. In the last two wars against Pakistan, India came out victor.

On the more recent Kargil War, here are some interesting thoughts.

September 26, 2012: China has, in the last few years, demanded that India turn over a contested area in northeast India (Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims as a part of Tibet). China then escalated its demands by refusing to allow Indians born in the disputed area to visit China. This Chinese behavior has angered India, which two years ago implemented a five year plan to increase their ability to deal with any Chinese aggression against Arunachal Pradesh, by increasing its defense spending. But since both nations have nuclear weapons, a major war over Arunachal Pradesh is unlikely, but not impossible.

India fears that China might try to carry out a lightning campaign (a few days, or a week), and then offer peace terms (with China keeping all or part of Arunachal Pradesh). Since neither country would be willing to start a full scale nuclear war over Arunachal Pradesh (a rural area with a population of about a million people, spread among 84,000 square kilometers of mountains and valleys), the “grab and parley” strategy has to be taken seriously. In the meantime, China keeps finding ways to annoy India over this issue.

Meanwhile, India seems quite confident that they can handle China if a war breaks out in this mountainous wilderness. Partly that’s because India is playing defense here, which always confers an advantage. But India’s big advantage is that it has recent (1999) combat experience in mountain warfare. China has not fought since 1979, and what was in the hill country on the Vietnamese border. Not only was India’s combat experience recent but it was in the same mountain range (the Himalayas) where they face China.

That 1999 war got little publicity, so it’s generally unknown outside India how much that experience changed the Indian armed forces. That’s not surprising. The foe in that war, Pakistan, did not even officially admit to its role in that undeclared war until 2010. Two years ago the names of 453 soldiers killed in “the Kargil war” were posted on the Pakistani Army website.

Although the Pakistani troops, masquerading as Islamic terrorists, were forced to retreat during the 1999 conflict, Pakistan still considered it a victory (because it garnered much publicity for their terrorism campaign in Kashmir and India chose not to mount a major invasion of Pakistan). India lost about 550 troops in the fighting. The elected Pakistani government of the time was opposed to the Kargil operation and tried to remove the head of the armed forces (general Pervez Musharraf). In response, Musharraf staged a coup and ruled the country for the next nine years.

Although the Indians succeeded in forcing the Pakistanis to retreat, the unexpected conflict exposed deficiencies in the equipment, training, and tactics of the Army and Air Force, as well as the ability of the two services to coordinate their operations. The Indian military was not keen on giving a lot of publicity to the problems they had during the 74 day Kargil campaign. But in the last decade it’s been noted that Indian military reformers often invoke Kargil, and that tends to help overwhelm opposition to needed changes. This has led to more attention being paid to what went on during the high altitude (4,000 meters and up) conflict.

As a result of Kargil the army has purchased a lot of new high-tech gear for its infantry, revised training methods, and even changed the organization of infantry battalions. The air force has bought more heavy transports (American C-17s) and set up closer and continuous coordination with the army and navy. The air force has studied the unique conditions encountered over these high mountains and trained their pilots to deal with it. The Chinese are just now catching up with this item.

Initially, the impetus behind all these reforms was to avoid another “messy victory” as had been achieved in 1999. But nine years later China started making territorial demands about similar high mountain terrain to the east of Kargil. While initially scary, as the Indians reviewed their readiness for such a conflict they realized they were still in the midst of reforms intended to improve their mountain warfare capabilities. Now it was China’s turn to wonder if they were ready for war in the Himalayas.

via Leadership: The Indian Edge Over China.

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