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Association of Retired Senior IPS Officers (ARSIPSO)

This is with reference to my letter No. ARSIPSO/GS-BSD-4/2023 dated. 10/08/2023 on the 4th B.S. Das Memorial Lecture, which had to be rescheduled for unavoidable reasons.

The 4th B.S.Das Memorial Lecture to be delivered by Shri Anil Kumar Sinha, IAS (Retd.), on the subject Disaster Management: Creating Safer Communities, has now been rescheduled for October 14, 2023 as per the following:

Conference Room No. 2, India International Centre, Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi, October 14, 2023 (Saturday)

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  The 2010 Defence White Paper of China released in March this year is significant because China seems to have altered its earlier world view that peace is the dominant trend. Instead, it now says that some conflicts seem to be inevitable and world peace remains elusive.
China recently cancelled the boundary talks with India after India refused to oblige China & cancel a Buddhist Conference in New Delhi which the Dalai Lama was expected to address. Chinas attitude seems to have hardened after the East Asia Summit in Bali where the Chinese expressed disapproval of Indias presence in the South China Sea. A few months ago an unidentified caller on a radio channel advised Indian Naval Ship INS AIRAVATS as it was leaving Vietnam after a goodwill visit and advised it to lay off the South China Sea. The latest spat follows exploration projects by Indias Oil & Natural Gas Corporation Videsh Limited (ONGC Videsh) in two off shore blocks that Vietnam claims. Chinas spokesperson has stressed that china enjoyed indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea and its islands which of course is a bone of contention and disputed by several neighbouring countries in South East Asia. An influential communist party run newspaper has called on the Chinese government to use every means possible to stop the ONGC Videsh from going ahead with exploration projects in the South China Sea warning India that any deal with Vietnam would amount to serious provocation that would push China to the limit.

Chinas muscle flexing vis-a-vis India is not restricted to the South China Sea only. With the USA due to leave Afghanistan sooner or later, China intends to fill the vacuum with the help of its all weather friend Pakistan. And that is why it has come on Pakistans side in the recent past by stationing its troops in the Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK) while engaging in infrastructural projects there. The obvious aim is to contain India in the North-West and encircle us in the Indian Ocean Region with Naval presence. India has to toughen its attitude while preparing for any backlash. More importantly, India should not count on the US or any other nation to safeguard its vital national interests. Meanwhile, PRCs Foreign Ministry website has described the length of the disputed border with India as about 2000 KM whereas the actual length is 3488 KM. This is significant because it means that China has now excluded the entire border relating to J&K. China much to Indias discomfiture, has also got away with two nuclear reactors for Pakistan with the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in June this year on the flimsy argument that this deal was reached before China joined NSG in 2004.

India has every reason to be concerned with Chinas Navy looming large on Indias radar screen. We need to build a powerful Navy to protect our geo-strategic interest from the Hormuz straits to the Malacca straits.

Indian Navy needs new generation naval multi-role helicopters to replace the old sea king helicopters for anti- submarine and anti-surface warfare, amphibious assault and troop carriage. Besides, our Navy should also acquire new carrier-borne fighter Jets like MIG-29Ks, long range reconnaissance aircraft and drones.

On December 1, China signed an agreement to set up a naval base in Seychelles. There is already a defence support agreement between the two countries under which Seychelles got two Y-12 surveillance aircraft this year. This is hardly surprising because it is well known that China has been seeking naval presence in the small countries in the Indian Ocean region. Since more than 60% of Chinas energy requirement is dependent on imports from oil producing nations through the Indian ocean, Chinas national interests dictate that PLA Navy should be prepared sooner or later to intervene from naval base facilities in this vital region if & when called upon to do so. The strategy has far reaching implications for not only India because it will encircle India but also the countries in the Asiapacific region.

General Ma Xiaotian, PLAs Deputy Chief of general staff, visited India in December 2011 for the 4th Defence Dialogue with Indias Defence Secretary. His visit was earlier scheduled in June which was cancelled by India after China refused to grant Visa to Indian Armys general Jaswal on the ground that he commands a disputed area i.e., Indian Northern Area Command. The annual Defence Dialogue on December 9, did not result is any new confidence building measures unlike the previous three dialogues in 2007, 2008 & 2010. Nevertheless, Gen Mas visit is noteworthy in the context of India-China spat in the South-China Sea following Indias decision to explore energy resources along with Vietnam which led the Liberation Army Daily, Chinese militarys official newspaper, to publish an article suggesting that India needs to be taught a lesson. Notwithstanding the fact that nothing of substance has been achieved, Mas visit is still important because he is likely to become the next Air Force Commander when the current Air Force Chief becomes the vice chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) in the 18th CCP congress scheduled to be held next year. The recently created Strategic Planning Department within the General Staff Department of the PLA, according to Chinese experts themselves, will be dealing with non-military issues like economic, trade, energy, and so on including diplomatic issues. By all available indications, therefore, the CMC will play increasingly important role in political and diplomatic affairs of China despite the fact that the PLA has no representative in the top decision making Standing Committee of the politburo. The sinologists of the world need to watch this trend carefully and take statements such as the communist party commands the gun with a pinch of salt. It may be the other way round much to the dismay of Chinas neighbors including India in the not too distant future. China, we should do well to remember, has been developing strategic roads, railways lines and airfields in Tibet. Our Senior Army Commanders have been warning us that India faces not only threats from China across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) but also between India and Pakistan across the LOC. The Defence Ministry has belatedly taken note of the developments in the Eastern sector and if published experts are correct, plans are afoot to raise new mountain Infantry Divisions and deploy Sukhoi 30 MKI fighter aircraft in the North East to improve our military capability.

China is miles ahead of India in all aspects of military modernization. The missile programme is ahead of India by at least more than a decade. It boasts of very long range missiles capable of hitting targets globally. Its IRBMS operationally deployed in Tibet and Xinxiang are India-specific. Earlier this year, China startled the world by announcing test flight of J-20 stealth fighter Jets which can evade detection by enemy radar. China has advanced SU-30 & SU-27 fighters in service. The annual reports of Indias ministry of Defence have noted the speed and scope of Chinas military modernization with considerable concern. As regards the PLA Navy, it is upgrading its destroyers and frigates for long range deep strike. By all available accounts, china may also launch its first aircraft carrier in the year 2012. India, according to published news, would be testing 5000 KM AGNI-V missile soon. If that happens, then it will be a major and significant force multiplier in our nuclear missile capability and a meaningful deterrence against China. Unlike AGNI-III and IV, it will be able to hit a Chinese city from deep inside India. But it will take several years before these missiles pass various tests and are operationally deployed in the Indian Army. The present writer feels that notwithstanding claims made by the DRDO, it may take four to five years. Since India needs deterrence across the LAC, enhanced and effective air power is of vital and immediate importance for defending our territory in the event of any Chinese misadventure.

In March 2011, both China and India have announced their respective Defence budgets. Although both showed double digit growth rate, China plans to spend nearly US $92 billion whereas India hopes to spend US $34 billion. China of course is worlds second biggest defence spender besides being second largest economy. It may be mentioned in this connection that Chinas actual defence spending is considerably higher than the published figure. According to the SIPRI (noted Stockholm based Think Tank) the actual amount will be another $30 billion more than the stated figure. As far as India is concerned, our defence budget is less than 2 percent of our GDP and that too is not likely to be fully spent if past experience is any guide. It is time our defence planners and Security Establishment wake up and go for rapid military modernization. Chinas regional and global posturing has been undergoing subtle change during last one decade or more. According to sinologists, the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) has reemerged as a major player behind the scene in shaping Chinas foreign Policy and the generals call the shots particularly in respect of India, Japan, North Korea and the USA. Chinas increasingly assertive territorial and maritime claims in the South China Sea and the Yellow Sea threaten Asias Peace and stability. Whether it is Arunachal Pradesh (which China calls South Tibet), Taiwan, the Sneak Islands or the Sprat leys, China seems in no mood to give up its so-called historical claims.

The Chinese String of Pearls has the potential to encircle India in the not too distant future. After investing in strategic projects in Myanmar, Pakistan & Srilanka, China is seeking to establish direct rail link to the port city of Chittagong in Bangladesh and construction of Sonadia deep-sea port at Coxs Bazar. The governor of Yunnan province has recently promised support to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh for the proposed road-rail link with Yunnan province via Myanmar. China already has transit facilities through Chittagong Port and is keen to reduce its dependence on the sea trade route through the Malacca straits. In spite of the downswings in bilateral relations and threatening posture by China on the issues of Arunachal Pradesh, Dalai Lama, and oil exploration in the South China Seas, there is a welcome new assertiveness in Indias China policy. New Delhi has ignored Chinese warnings and went ahead with 44 other countries to take part in Nobel peace prize giving ceremony to the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo in Oslo. New Delhi has adopted a harder line on Tibet by making it clear to Beijing that it expects China to reciprocate on J&K just as it expects India to respect Chinese sensibilities in respect of Tibet and Taiwan. India has made its displeasure known about issuance of stapled visas to Indians from J&K and expressed concern about Chinas plan to build a dam on the Brahmaputra River and impose trade barrier against Indian companies. However, the relations remain fraught with tension and the discord on various issues is deep-rooted. The challenge remains formidable mainly because India has not yet achieved economic and military muscle that China enjoys regionally and globally. Indian strategic thinkers are obsessed with Pakistan for understandable reasons and 60 years of Indo-Pak hostility. But time has come to see an increasingly assertive China as Indias main security concern. China is, without doubt, a growing, nationalistic, aggressive power with capacity to reshape the regional and global balance of power with adverse consequences for a rising India. As of today, India does not have capability or the intention to match China force for force. India is belatedly looking up to the reality that China is a long term threat which must be handled by a combination of diplomatic skill and military power in the years to come.

Shri Mitra is former Principal Director, D.G. Security in Cabinet Secretariat

The views and facts stated above are entirely the responsibility of the author and do not reflect the views of this Association in any manner.
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