The Narendra Modi government has cleared new defence projects worth Rs 80,000 crore (a little over $13 billion). Who are these new defence projects aimed at?
The obvious answer is China and Pakistan. But will China risk another war with India, non-winnable this time, at a time it has greater strategic sweepstakes elsewhere like the South China Sea? Probably yes, and probably not!
“Probably yes” -- because China is the most potent threat to India and the Indians are nowhere at par with the Chinese in terms of military capabilities. If China has to wage a winnable war against India, the option for the Chinese is fast closing. Though in today’s scenario, a full-scale war is unthinkable, and that too between two nuclear armed powers, if China has any ambitions of seizing Indian territory through military means, it will have to move fast. The longer China waits, the lesser will be its chances of winning a war because of the counter military measures being taken by India, slowly but comprehensively.
“Probably not” – because China does not have to really a fight a war with India if it can extend its military umbrella to Pakistan and see the fireworks in the Indo-Pak battlefield without putting its own military boots on the ground. In other words, China can “manage” India by encouraging a situation where the familiar South Asian enemies get into a war, or a near-war, situation.
The Indian government has been well aware of this twin threat for decades and has been trying its best to get a shade better of this pincer military situation.
This is the perspective from which one must view the Modi government’s push to modernize its defence capabilities and preparedness. The Modi government’s decisions are aimed at beefing up the Indian navy and army in a big way, with a deep focus on bolstering the Indian Navy, particularly in the field of submarines.
The newly-cleared Indian defence projects are aimed at plugging the gaping loopholes in the submarine sector. These include acquisition of six conventional submarines for augmenting the aging and depleted submarine fleet and two midget submarines, used for special operations. The Indian focus is on “Make in India,” PM Modi’s pet scheme, and indigenization and self-reliance.
This is a major give-away of Indian tactics. Indian Navy gave a stellar performance in the 1971 War with Pakistan and proved to be a game-changer by blockading and throttling Pakistan’s main commercial artery – Karachi. The Indian Navy (IN) did not have to do much military combat and its mere presence around the enemy’s throat did the wonders.
Though the IN is presently not in a very healthy state, particularly because of its vastly depleted submarine strength, even in its current situation it is more than a match for Pakistan Navy.
Therefore, the IN is being bolstered with an eye on the bigger enemy China, rather than Pakistan.
If India continues with its defence push over the next decade or so, it is sure that China won’t be in a position to even think of embarking on another 1962-type military misadventure. Even now the Indian armed forces are no push over for the Chinese but by 2025, India’s defence capabilities would be several notches higher.
It is in this context that the new defence projects cleared by the Modi government on 25 October assume significance.
The Modi government’s next logical step should be to ensure that the China-specific mountain strike corps is made fully operational at the earliest.
In other words, if no India-China war takes place by 2025 the chances are that such a war will never take place as the Indians would have covered a lot of ground vis a vis the Chinese by then.
If India has to be most careful and vigilant about the China threat, it is now. Therefore, all new Indian defence projects must have minimum gestation period and the weapons promised in such projects must be delivered to the Indian armed forces in the shortest possible time span.
Last year on 8 July the state-owned Chinese daily Wenweipo had published an article with a sensational title “Six Wars China is Sure to Fight in the Next 50 Years”. According to this widely talked about article, China’s third war would be against India over Arunachal Pradesh (“Southern Tibet” for the Chinese) which will be fought sometime between 2035-40.
But that seems to be a midsummer night dream of the author as India would be completely at par with China, if not ahead, at that time.
It is now, not a decade or two later, that India has to fear China. The Modi government’s decisions on new $13 billion new defence projects must be welcomed in this context.