Seminars Reports

Seminar Report:Nuclear Doctrine Study Group Discussion 10 May 2016

By Rahul Bhatia,
Intern, FSI,
email: rahul.bhatia@flame

Strategic Stability in South Asia

South Asia is the second most unstable region in the word. The instability confounding the region can be attributed to radical extremism, economic backwardness, political instability, trafficking of narcotics and an incipient nuclear arms race.
The India-China relationship is stable at the strategic level and hence there is a low probability of nuclear conflict. This is because both India and China follow similar nuclear doctrines with a “no first use” posture. Thus despite border tensions, large-scale conflict with China is unlikely. However, given the growing conventional asymmetry and infrastructural ugradation and modernization of Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) in terms of theatre based combined network centric capability, and India’s own growth and growing strategic profile, there is a need to continuously evaluate ‘Nuclear Redlines’ and, more importantly, the efficacy of strategic deterrence vis a vis China.
Pakistan, however, poses serious and immediate challenges. Given its proclivity at developing full spectrum nuclear capability, it attempts to exploit the conventional space below India’s threshold through a proxy war aimed at destabilising India internally. A scenario of inherent escalation exists should India’s threshold be breeched and the Indian political establishment forced to contemplate use of military force. Thus a scenario of “ugly stability” exists and is exacerbated by Pakistan’s development and possible deployment of Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNWs) in an attempt to lower nuclear thresholds.

Pakistan’s Strategic Perspective and Doctrinal Thinking

In Pakistan’s strategic perspective, nuclear weapons are intended to maintain a strategic balance at all levels of conflict. This has led to the development of TNWs, medium and long range missiles and credible second strike capability. Pakistan through both posturing and explicit statements has sought to indicate that it has an India-centric nuclear deterrence which it will not hesitate to use in case of either conventional or strategic deterrence failure. According to Lt. Gen. Khalid Kidwai, former Strategic Plans Division (SPD) chief and current advisor to Pakistan’s National Command Authority (NCA), there are four possible thresholds for nuclear use: space, military, economic and political. However a detailed analysis of Pakistani doctrinal and other writings seem to indicate that the primary threshold remains that of space. It has been observed through simulated scenarios/table top exercises, that despite heavy losses being inflicted on naval and air assets by India, Pakistan’s nuclear thresholds were not crossed. It is only when major thrusts are made into the Pakistani Punjab heartland a change in strategic posture occur’s leading to deployment of nuclear weapons. It was felt by the group that despite these inputs and discussions during various Track II engagements the understanding of Pakistan’s threshold thinking was inadequate. It was felt a detailed analysis must be carried out based on inputs from strategic gaming exercises, academic writings in Pakistan and statements of NCA/SPD to develop clarity on the matter.
The second issue that emerged was that of the role of sub-strategic weapons, i.e. TNWs or battlefield weapons. The assumptions being made by our analysts are based on mirror imaging of Indian thinking. Pakistani interlocutors both military and diplomats tend to provide a strategic rationale of weapons of last resort in an operationally adverse situation that threatens its heartland and which cannot be countered by conventional forces. Thus the rationale outlined is that Pakistan would be forced to use these weapons to safeguard core strategic interests which essentially lie in Punjabi heartland. Use of sub-strategic nuclear weapons in its own territory would result in a large impact on its population and hence such a use creates moral credibility.
Theoretically the use of TNWs would result in a breakdown of strategic deterrence, freeing India for massive retaliation as per its stated doctrine. The group felt that Indian response options post use of TNWs by Pakistan required deeper analysis, particularly in the context of the nuclear action and reaction cycle that it would initiate leading to Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) kind of a scenario. The group felt that there is a critical need to analyse the circumstances and the nature of sub-strategic use by Pakistan and even more importantly India’s options following such a use. Is India’s massive retaliation doctrine hide bound? Or does it provide Indian political leadership flexibility in response in terms of massive retaliation only as an strategic last resort?
The credibility of Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine based on “First Strike” and “Nuclear war fighting” and not “dissuasive deterrence” to prevent India from exploiting conventional space remains a contentious issue. An associated issue although not discussed in detail was that of escalation dynamics, particularly the nature and credibility of Pakistan’s retaliatory response post Indian strikes following use of TNWs. Perceptions on this are based on rhetorical blustering by Pakistani interlocutors. Interestingly although Pakistan claims to have developed an assured second strike capability, the nature of its response remains unclear except for pronouncements related to certainty of response. This is another area that should become focus of deeper examination based on research and evidence from Track II discourses?

Terrorism as a Trigger

Pakistan continues to wage low cost proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir and uses trans-border terrorism as an instrument of state policy to undermine Indian security. It ups the ante by lowering its nuclear threshold, together with nuancing the use of TNWs as a last resort in an operationally adverse situation that poses direct threat to its heartland. Consequences of so-called Pakistani policy pronouncements has been forced strategic restraint and extremely high threshold of tolerance in terms of cross border terror. The Group was of the opinion that India needs to play the brinkmanship card by testing so-called Pakistani policy pronouncements and posturing by developing credible means to “punish” Pakistan for its proclivity in waging terror and meddling in J&K. From discussions by the group, four options emerged:
• Retaliatory attacks on military targets along the Line of Control in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. The aim should be to target both the Pakistani Army and terrorist infrastructure. As the army is deployed on the LoC, it can be directly targeted. Such an attack could be conducted using non-contact kinetic means, thereby minimising collateral damage.
• There was a feeling that Punjab was Pakistan’s national CG. An Indian deep thrust in semi/desert areas of Punjab and Sindh and capture of territory could be a useful punitive and bargaining option. Such operations it was felt are unlikely to cross Pakistan’s nuclear red line, although posturing and deployments of weapons could be resorted.
• Another option was punitive attacks to degrade Pakistan’s Air and Naval capabilities. Such operations will essentially be standoff operations with limited cross border attacks by Security Forces. Credible damage to both these assets will ensure major degradation of Pakistan’s war waging potential. Being high capital assets, the cost of recouping these losses would be high. However there was a danger as discerned in recent Table Top exercises of possible escalation that could force Pakistan to launch ground offensives. It was felt although a relatively more plausible option its full dynamics need to be examined in detail.
• Lastly an attack across Pakistani Punjab, being the heartland and the nation’s CG was seen as a most profitable option. There is no doubt with majority of its strike reserves poised for operations in Punjab and being an obstacle ridden terrain, going will be difficult. However reasonable depth of our offensives beyond first tear of defences will open its core areas to calibarted air and artillery attacks. Aim here is not so much capture of territory but to destroy war waging potential and lay bare its heartland in what will hurt Pakistan both militarily and politically. Use of tactical nuclear weapons in Punjab would be that much difficult for fear of large-scale civilian casualties and fear of making productive land useless owing to radioactivity. However it must be noted that this option is closest to its Redline and one that could force Pakistan to resort to massive nuclear retaliation rather than graduated nuclear response thru tactical weapons.
• While above are some of the retaliatory measures that India can adopt and there can be many more, the general consensus however was that India needs to adopt a long term strategy to counter the Pakistani threat.
Maintenance of Strategic Balance
In terms of maintaining sub continental strategic balance following issues emerged;
• There is a requirement to critically analyse Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine and more importantly its overall employment philosophy including second-strike capability.
• Such an analysis will dictate efficacy of our doctrine in the backdrop of aforementioned analysis, also dictate force development priorities and our overall operational options with regard to use of nuclear weapons.
• Third aspect that emerged was the issue of signalling and perceptions. There is a view that we have an inadequate understanding of driving force behind Pakistan’s logic of rapid force development, operational posture and employment philosophy. This issue requires serious examination both in official and academic domains based on credible research and analysis.
• There is a need to signal credibility and resolve of both our conventional and strategic capabilities as also laying down Indian redlines. Ambiguities or misperceptions about political resolve, propensity to only leverage nuclear weapons as a political deterrence need to be thought through and appropriate signalling undertaken.
• Last and perhaps most importantly, there was a consensus to understand the nuance of “conventional operations under nuclear overhang”. A detailed understanding of our military options is imperative for force development and acquisition of future capabilities.
The ideal solution for India is to enhance its conventional military capability and infrastructure. If India’s conventional military is powerful, smart and more importantly full spectrum, general consensus was that Pakistan would be automatically deterred from waging proxy wars and promoting trans-border terrorism. This means synergistic development of military capabilities in all domains including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), cyber warfare and special operations.

[ This report was edited by Brig. Arun Sahgal]

Nuclear Evolution: Ends and Means of Nuclear Deterrence

Report on US-India Discussion Co-hosted by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Forum for Strategic Initiatives, February 3-5, 2015

A workshop entitled “Nuclear Evolution: Ends and Means of Nuclear Deterrence” was co-hosted by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), Livermore, USA, and the Forum for Strategic Initiatives (FSI), New Delhi, India. The workshop was held at Bangkok on February 3-5, 2015.
While the US participants recounted their experience with the evolution and practice of nuclear deterrence during the Cold War period and later, the Indian participants shared their experience of nuclear deterrence in South Asia. The salient issues highlighted by the participants are given in succeeding paragraphs.
The workshop was held in the wake of a very successful Summit meeting between the Indian PM and the US President on January 25-26, 2015. The Summit has raised expectations of better relations. Overall, there is a feeling of optimism.

It was pointed out that India is a reluctant nuclear power. India has two nuclear-armed neighbours, with both of whom it has territorial disputes. India had sought but had been denied nuclear guarantees. It was only then that India opted to acquire nuclear weapons.

India believes that nuclear weapons are political weapons and not weapons of warfighting. Their sole purpose is to deter the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons.

India’s nuclear doctrine is credible minimum deterrence with a ‘no first use’ posture and assured retaliation to inflict unacceptable damage.India has invested deeply in strategic stability; this is reflected in the nuclear doctrine and posture. India has never flaunted its nuclear weapons.
India has exercised immense strategic restraint despite grave provocation, particularly from Pakistan – by way of a quarter century old proxy war being conducted through state-sponsored terrorism.
Despite the disadvantages, India opted not to cross the LoC during the Kargil conflict in 1999. In the 2001-02 stand-off, India did not retaliate despite an attack on our Parliament.

However, India’s threshold of tolerance is not limitless and any future terrorist strike with evidence of state backing is likely to elicit a military response. The response will be carefully calibrated to ensure that the risk of escalation to large-scale conventional conflict is minimised.

Total nuclear disarmament was and still is a cardinal principle of India’s foreign policy. India has adhered to the provisions of the NPT, the CTBT and MTCR even though it is not a signatory to these agreements and supports early conclusion of the negotiations for the FMCT.

India’s conduct as a responsible nuclear power was recognised in the US-India civil nuclear cooperation agreement of July 2005. India is looking forward to membership of the NSG, the MTCR, the Australia Group and the Wassenaar arrangement.

With Pakistan’s acquisition of tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs), does India’s nuclear doctrine need some tweaking?India needs to decide as to where we want to go with our nuclear deterrence programme.India’s pacifist and often weak strategic culture tends to result in greater strategic stability at times
Contextually, the narrative of the US and India on nuclear discourse has been different. In India, strategic thinking and nuclear posture continue to be a work in progress.India’s policy of credible minimum deterrence is facing immense pressure in the context of China and Pakistan’s deterrence policies, especially given thenuclear warhead and missile technology collusion between the two.

Nuclear disarmament no longer enjoys the salience it had in liberal thinking in America until recently. Due to Russian involvement in the civil war in Ukraine, NWs are back and, that too, with a vengeance. Strategic doctrine is being discussed again. President Obama’s top priority is to safeguard existing stockpiles – “save what is already there”. Post-9/11,President George W Bush had argued in favour of pre-emptive vs. preventive wars.
Nuclear deterrence between India and Pakistan depends a great deal on nuclear signalling and Pakistan appears to have an edgein this sphere.The international community is deeply involved in this mind game.
Deterrence can become unstable in the face of rapid technological innovation/change. In the US-Soviet equation, the US had parallel discussions with the Soviets on arms control and crisis management.
The Soviet Union did not want a war with the West; NWs were important in their “deterrence thinking”.They too laid emphasis on TNWs. The range or the yield of the weapon did not matter, what mattered was where it fell.If it fell on the Soviet homeland, it was not a TNW.

The Soviets were convinced that the West would escalate the situation; hence,preparing for a nuclear battlefield was necessary. When you have a huge army, it takes decades to equip/ re-equip it. Their concept of operations sought to pre-empt NATO. The Soviet Union wanted to win the war quickly before NATO could employ TNWs. They were certain that escalation to strategic use was inevitable.In the India-Pakistan context, the situation is somewhat similar with Indian thinking matching Soviet thinking and Pakistan adopting the NATO line.
The US/NATO experience with TNWs applies equally well to South Asia.NATO’s nuclear red-lines were very different from those of Pakistan. TNWs confront the initiator with complicating prospects of consequent escalation.There is danger inherent in the thinking, “We will fight as well as we can conventionally, and then fire the TNWs.The eventual outcome shall flow out of this.”
Due to the NBC protection provided to modern AFVs, armour formations are likely to suffer greater damage from radiation than from the blast and heat caused by a TNW. At some stage during a war, the custody of TNWs has to be released to field formations and the authority to fire them has to be delegated. TNWs are difficult to secure once they are pulled out of storage.Under certain circumstances, the mere act of deployment may result in deterrence break down in South Asia.
Pakistan believes that the eventual development of assured retaliatory strike capability would largely exclude the possibility of Indian retaliation or disproportional response.Also, India’s culture of restraint may inhibit the launching of the massive counter-value response predicated in the Indian nuclear doctrine. However, Indian signalling is designed to convince Pakistani planners that India will unhesitatingly retaliate massively in response to the use of nuclear weapons anywhere.
The yardsticks of determining whether a weapon is tactical or strategic varies and revolves around four particular aspects, namely, range, yield, function and point of impact. However, its effect is always strategic. The international community is bound to intervene if there are nuclear exchanges in South Asia or, for that matter, anywhere in the world.
Deterrence Stability incomplex systems consists of a large number of mutually interacting and interwoven elements and parts. Spatial complexity can be viewed in terms of geographical factors, terrain, climatic distribution; dimensional factors (medium of operation); and, organisational complexities (functional issues such as specialisation of capabilities, hierarchical issues)
It is necessary to understand and analyse the epistemic and doxastic issues; political complexity – sources of power and authority, civil-military relations; and, the differences between the state and the regime.Stability induced by NWs through mutual deterrence at the strategic level opens up the possibility of more frequent resort to force, and hence greater instability at lower levels of violence (Glenn Snyder 1965), the classical stability-instability paradox.
The essence of Pakistan’s acquisition of NWs is to negate India’s conventional military superiority and to wage a proxy war to destabilise India under the shadow of its nuclear umbrella. With the acquisition of NWs, Pakistan is attempting to blur the distinction between conventional and sub-conventional conflict. Now, with the introduction of the TNWs, it is seeking to blur the line between nuclear and conventional.
By supporting insurgency in Kashmir and terrorism in other parts of India,Pakistan is following a revisionist strategy – the use of force to alter the territorial status quo while seeking plausible deniability that is inherent in asymmetric warfare. This is Pakistan’s pincer – lowering the nuclear threshold, threatening escalation and attempting to restrict India’s response options.
Indian participants emphasised that India continues to exercise enormous restraint in the interest of strategic stability even though it is politically costly. However, India believes that there is space for limited warbelow the nuclear threshold. If it ever became necessary to retaliate militarily to Pakistan’s sponsorship of terrorism, India’s response would be extremely carefully calibrated to avoid risking escalation.
The workshop ended on a positive note with the participants expressing their satisfaction with the frankness and the quality of the discussions and endorsing the need to continue with the US-India dialogue.

Participants from India: Amb Lalit Mansingh, Amb K C Singh, Amb Sheel K Sharma, Dr R Rajaraman, Air Chief Marshal S C Tyagi, RAdm Raja Menon, Maj Gen Dipankar Banerjee, Lt Gen Aditya Singh, Maj Gen P K Chakravorty, Brig Arun Sahgal, Brig Gurmeet Kanwal, Dr Varun Sahni and Dr Monika Chansoria
Participants from the United States: Mr Robert Swartz, Dr Zachary Davis, Dr Peter Lavoy, Dr Neil Joeck, Maj Gen Paul D. Eaton, Col Jeffrey McCausland, Col David Smith, Mr Christopher Clary, Ms Christine Shannon and Dr Chris Donnelly (United Kingdom)


BRICS New Development Bank: A new and long overdue development.

The BRICS Summit has announced the setting up of a BRICS development bank, on the lines of existing multilateral institutions like the World Bank and ADB, headquartered at Shanghai. The BRICS development bank envisages an equity base of $50 billion shared equally by the five founders. It also envisages a further $100 billion initially as advances by member countries. These advances will be in the shape of subscribed bonds with countries subscribing them according to their capabilities. Thus, if China even subscribes to the most of the bond issues, it will not make a difference to how the funds are administered, as that will be managed by the banks management vested according to their equity. This is unlike the World Bank, where some are more equal than others. For instance the Indian nominated director has absolutely no say on critical policies that are set by the US appointed President and Western European directors.

The announcement of the formation of the BRICS development bank will have as much an impact about how the non-G7 countries manage their economies and their foreign reserves, as it does on the intellectual discourse. The development priorities and agenda which was hitherto set by western experts responding mostly to western priorities and notions will now have to compete with an intellectual tradition that is and can be very different. For instance western theorists have for long rejected state owned companies as wasteful and inefficient, but China has proved that SOE’s can be economic drivers and major exporters, and also very profitable. Similarly the co-operative sector, largely rejected as Marxist idealism, might now find a new relevance. Again industrial investment, now entirely left to the western dominated private sector, might find support.

Economists are as prone to herd behavior as any other animals. They veer towards the money and by the generally prevalent economic policy consensus, right now the Washington Consensus. This has as its main priority the maintenance of the status quo now tilted wholly in favor of North America and Western European interests. By encouraging a different way of thinking and exploring different intellectual possibilities, we might see the beginning of a global intellectual churn that will expose the prevalent casino capitalism for what it is and how vulnerable it has made global economic and financial order to the predations of western merchant banking. Clearly the impact of the BRICS bank is going to be more than economic and financial.

The BRICS bank is the first step towards reforming the world system. It has to be read against the decision of the BRICS nations to do trade more with each other on the basis of currency swaps. To understand the importance of this, it would be necessary to understand the flaws and inherent weaknesses in the existing international system, which is in a shambles.

The world barely escaped a melt down when bank after bank either failed or were on the verge of failing in the USA. The US Administration of President Barack Obama fashioned out a rescue by pumping in almost a trillion dollars to shore up the banks and save the giant US automobile industry, which is still that country’s major industrial driver. This money was made available by putting the printing presses of the various US Federal Reserve Bank’s on overdrive. Little wonder then that the UD dollar is devaluing against most world currencies. But the problem is that the US dollar is the world’s preferred currency. Today almost 61% of the world’s reserves are held in US currency. Another 24.5% is held in Euros. This clearly indicates that the USA is the world’s preferred banker. On the other hand if the USA continues with its profligate ways and keeps adding to the supply of dollars, they value of dollar reserves will keep dwindling.

Now lets turn to see the system actually works. Countries like China and India produce goods and services at low cost for consumption in the USA, which in turn pays them in dollars, which they in turn deposit in US banks. Give or take a little. Since money cannot sit still, this money in US banks is then lent to Americans, who today have the highest per capita indebtedness in the world, to splurge on houses, cars, plasma TV’s, computers and play stations which they can often ill-afford. This was well understood, but like the people who kept investing with Bernard Madoff, countries like China, Russia, Japan, Kuwait, India and others keep investing in US securities at interest rates mostly between 0.5-2%. Thus, in effect the rest of the world was plying the USA with cheap credit, encouraging it to splurge even more. Unfortunately there was and is no global regulator to caution the US on its profligacy or force it to mend its ways.

The Breton Woods Conference of July 1944 took place under the fast receding shadow of the WWII and when the US was literally the last man standing. Lord Keynes had in mind a more elaborate scheme that called for the establishment of an international reserve currency but this had to be shelved in the face of American obduracy. Keynes’ proposals would have established a world reserve currency (he proposed it be called “bancor”) to be administered by a World Central Bank. This Central Bank would have been vested with the possibility of creating money and with the authority to take actions on a much larger scale.

But the United States, as a likely creditor nation, and eager to take on the role of the world’s economic powerhouse, baulked at Keynes’ plan and did not pay serious attention to it. As a result, the IMF was born with an economic approach and political ideology that stressed controlling inflation and introducing austerity plans over fighting poverty. But the fact that the US has been the world’s biggest deficit country for several decades and seemingly least concerned about it seems to have eluded the IMF. This and the fact that the US dollar is the world’s preferred reserve currency is now the root of the world’s economic problem.

This international system was unilaterally abrogated when in 1971 US President Richard Nixon US delinked the dollar from the gold standard. Consequently the US and its even more profligate citizens have an apparently endless access to easy credit to satiate their sundry appetites. In this way the ever growing annual US trade deficit becomes the de facto engine of growth for very many economies, such as China and the ASEAN countries.

In the past few decades the GWP has been growing at a much faster rate. In 1985 it was growing at 2.76%. In 2005 it grew by 3.56%. Much of this is due to the changing of gear in countries like China and India that began their great leaps forward. China’s growth in particular has been truly astounding. The growth trajectory of these countries has made people to review long held notions about how this century is going to shape up. It seems that in 2050 it will indeed be a very different world economic order.

The economic balance of power is shifting towards Asia. Like Communism the ideology of the Washington Consensus rammed down the world’ throat has been proved to be a failure. It is time we begin to think differently. Many think that the world’s four fastest growing economies Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) must now become the basic building bricks of the new order.

With the IMF failing to play its role, it devolves upon these five growth engines to bring more order into the world system. Casino capitalism can no longer be the guiding ideology. It must be swiftly discarded and a more responsive and intelligent system best suited to all and not just the USA is the need of the day. It is time we revisited Lord Keynes’ proposal for a global reserve currency and consider establishing a system to regulate and manage it.

The USA and even the Euro zone will not want to relinquish the duopoly they have established whereby 91.4% of the world foreign reserves are held in their currencies. While the dollar alone accounts for 61% of global reserves of $11864 billions, the USA’s own foreign reserves stand at a measly $ 148 billions. China’s reserves alone stand at $4009 billion while Russia’s is $467 billion. India is way behind here with only $315 billion, but this is still 50% more than that of Germany, twice as much as those of and France and Britain. Clearly the time has come when we must put to work our money for ourselves and not be vulnerable any more to the gambling and speculative predilections of the so-called and over paid professionals in Wall Street. The BRICS bank, now tentatively called the New Development Bank is indeed a new and long overdue development.

Mohan Guruswamy
July 17, 2014



Standing our ground with China: What India needs to do

China wants to secure strategic depth to its civilian and military projects in the vicinity by pushing the Indian troops far away, says Srikanth Kondapalli

The continuing imbroglio on the Western Sector in eastern Ladakh with China’s border patrols reportedly crossing 10 kilometres inside the Indian claimed areas and pitching semi-permanent structures, despite two rounds of flag meetings between the local commanders, point to the precarious nature of the bilateral relations cobbled up two decades ago.

Firstly, even if the next third flag meeting results in the withdrawal of the Chinese patrols (which is a big if considering the change in the Chinese foreign ministry spokeswomen’s tone of ‘no transgression’) and both sides going back to the status quo, as suggested by the Indian foreign ministry spokesman, the current face-off could flare up again in the near future as fundamentally the issue indicates to the uncertainty on the unresolved border areas, with China’s pounding pressure to strategically dominate the region.

In the 17 areas where transgressions by the border patrols on either side is rampant, a majority of these are reported in the Western Sector — at Debsang Valley (with the current incident on April 15), Daulet Beg Oldi, Trig Heights, Pan Gong Tso Lake, Samar Lungpa, Chushul and Dem Chok, although last five years saw Chinese patrols’ increasing forays in Chumar — an area surprisingly not identified by the Chinese as disputed before.

Chushul and Chumar also witnessed helicopter intrusions. These indicate multiple pressure points that will test the resolve of both sides — but significantly contributing to the growing mutual mistrust in bilateral relations.

It is no coincidence that after China had developed infrastructure in Tibet [ Images ] and Xinjiang, specifically feeder roads to the border areas, railway projects, air fields, fibre optics, etc, China’s transgressions in the region expanded in the last decade. It is also quite queer that China demands rollback of similar infrastructure developments being attempted by India [ Images ] in the region.

China’s border patrols closer to the recently re-activated advanced landing ground by the Indian Air Force at Daulet Beg Oldi points to this pressure from China, in addition to the official communications from Beijing [ Images ] to New Delhi [Images ]. Indeed, it was reported that the Indian side had to demolish passes across the IndusRiver near Dumchile under Chinese pressure.

Second, overall the disputed region is closer to the large-scale projects being undertaken by the Chinese companies in Northern Areas and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir [ Images ] — be it in the hydro-electricity projects or the expansion of the Karakoram Highway or the proposed railway line connecting Xinjiang with the interior of Pakistan.

China also reportedly sent troops to the region to protect the Chinese companies, although denied by the former defence minister Liang Guanglie during his visit to Delhi in September last year.

It appears then that, in the background of the current transgression issue, China wants to secure strategic depth to its civilian and military projects in the vicinity by pushing the Indian troops far away. The Chinese side reportedly suggested the idea of setting up a demilitarised zone across the trans-Himalayan region by withdrawing troops, although geo-strategically again this is advantageous to China sitting as it were in the high altitudes of Tibet.

Third, the transgression incident and the bilateral responses indicated to the inability of the current mechanisms to deal effectively with any flare-ups on the borders. Indian responses to such incidents are pitched at three levels — political leaderships’ intervention, invoking diplomatic-bureaucratic procedures, and tactical conventional military preparations.

The high-level political leadership in India had identified the territorial dispute with China as triggering not only mutual suspicions but also security issues. To curtail any negative influence, successive Presidents and prime ministers have conveyed to the Chinese leadership that the territorial dispute needs to be resolved “immediately”. In reply, Chinese leaders suggested that this dispute is “complicated” and that only the “next generation” is capable of resolving this issue.

President Xi Jinping in his Five Point agenda last month vis-à-vis India identified the territorial dispute as such and that during his tenure in the next 10 years both sides need to maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas.

At the diplomatic-bureaucratic level, India had invoked the agreements on confidence building measures of 1996, additional protocol of 2005 and the last year’s joint mechanism on border stability to address the fallout of transgressions and other issues. Remedial measures included flag meetings (initiated at Chushul in 1978), border personnel meetings (typically four or five a month), courtesy calls on national days, hot lines between local commanders, etc.

While both leaderships suggest that no single firing incident occurred since the 1967 Jelep La incident in Sikkim, with the exception of a face off at Daulet Beg Oldi in December 2000, border transgressions have been reported repeatedly — indicating to the mounting destabilising trends on the border.

At the conventional military level, to counter any Chinese push, a series of measures were undertaken by the Indian armed forces — including the recent announcement of a Strike Corps, three new air bases in the Eastern Sector, plan to construct strategic roads connecting border areas, procuring new equipment, revamping the advanced landing grounds, etc.

Yet these remained tactical and ad hoc in nature, with robust nuclear deterrence not yet in place, besides command and control coordination problems between the paramilitary and the military.

Thus all the above three-level response need a radical revamp in the medium term while India needs to stand its ground in the short to medium term.

Srikanth Kondapalli is Professor in Chinese Studies at JNU, New Delhi


Give Peace a Chance

Srikanth Kondapalli on the significance of Chinese military official Gen Ma Xiaotian’s visit to India .

China military’s Deputy Chief of General Staff General Ma Xiaotian visited India for the 4th Defence dialogue with Indian Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma on December 9. Gen Ma’s proposed visit earlier in June was cancelled following the Indian Defence Ministry’s suggestion that his stop over visit to Sri Lanka at that time is “inconvenient” as India had other scheduled visits to attend to.

Actually, after the Chinese embassy in New Delhi refused to give visa to India’s Northern Area Command Commander General N S Jaswal on the opinion that he commands a “disputed” area, India had retaliated with cancelling the high-level military-to-military exchanges between the two sides initiated as a part of the MoU on the subject in May 2006.

No concrete decisions were announced at this annual defence dialogue nor any new confidence-building measures launched, although the discussions between the two sides were conducted in an atmosphere of cordiality and both sides were frank and constructive in their approach during the deliberations.

Nevertheless, they agreed to gradually enhance the range and scope of their defence exchanges at various levels and to continue to implement CBMs in the border areas. Mid-level official delegations would be enhanced, with a delegation from China visiting India next month. They also agreed that the process of dialogue and communication should be strengthened at various levels to ensure stability in the border areas. It appears that the “working level” meetings between the two would discuss more issues of common agenda.

This is in contrast to the previous three ADDs, at Beijing in November 2007, New Delhi in December 2008 and the third at Beijing in January 2010. Specifically, the first two included concrete decisions regarding joint military operations, such as hand-in-hand army-to-army operations at Kunming Military District in December 2007 and at Belgaum in Karnataka in 2008.

Also, a number of military delegations visited either side since then. These are for counter-terrorism purposes, although each side was not satisfied with the low level of contents and contacts considering that both countries consider terrorism as their number one security challenge. It appears that China is concerned that its ‘all-weather’ friend Pakistan may have reservations on this issue.

Again, two years ago, China accused an Indian submarine of trailing one of its ships sent to the Gulf of Aden for counter-piracy operations. Despite both the navies conducting search-and-rescue operations at Qingdao in November 2003 and Cochin in December 2005, and despite an agreement in December 2010 (during Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to Delhi) to conduct counter-piracy operation in the Indian Ocean region, no concrete cooperation exist between these two rising countries.

In the aviation sector as well, while the two commanders of the air forces visited each other, and Surya Kiran trainers of the Indian Air Force participated in the Zhuhai Air Show and IAF made seven earthquake relief sorties in Sichuan Province in May 2008, no major programmes exist to carry forward CBMs between these two forces.

Gen Ma’s visit to New Delhi is significant, nevertheless, by many counts. This visit comes in the wake of the postponement of another high level meeting — that of the 15th Special Representative meeting a week ago with China citing the Dalai Lama’s sharing the platform of International Buddhist Convention at New Delhi around the same time of the meeting. Going ahead with such a high level meeting indicated that both sides are intent on “breaking ice”.

Secondly, Ma’s visit also comes in the wake of the war-like situation in the South China Sea where India had decided to continue its 1988 contract to explore energy resources in the region along with Vietnam. In this region, China had been waging “psychological warfare” on the United States, Vietnam, Philippines and others. In continuation to the “media war”, China’s media is also highly critical of the Indian role here — with some arguing that the Chinese military should take action against Indian companies.

The Chinese military newspaper, the Liberation Army Daily, also had carried articles suggesting that India needs to be taught a lesson. On the other hand, India had reiterated its position that the energy operations in the region are in line with the United Nations legal procedures on exploitation of resources along with Vietnam and that free navigation principles should be respected.

Thirdly, Ma’s visit also coincided with the Indian plans to expand its conventional deterrence on its borders with China, citing the military modernisation levels in Tibet and other contiguous areas. Specifically, India had stated that it will mobilise 60,000 troops to bridge the gap in the strength of its corps. Three Su-30 air bases were also identified in the northeast India. India also announced that it would shift strategic weapons to this area. In the light of these developments, the Liberation Army Daily and the People’s Daily carried articles suggesting that China’s precision guided weapons could neutralise these formations.

Fourthly, Ma is believed to move up the ladder in the Chinese military next year in the crucial reorganisation of the Central Military Commission and the 18th Communist Party Congress possibly in October 2012. If all goes according to the plan, Gen Ma is expected to become air force commander and the current commander of the air force could become vice chairman of the CMC. In this context, interactions with Ma could be worthwhile.

Fifthly, Ma as a person is gifted with sharp memory, ability to engage in a structured dialogue with apt remarks. His main weakness, of course, is that he is a terrible listener!

Srikanth Kondapalli is Professor in Chinese Studies at JNU


Sino-Indian trade marked by caution and suspicion

Last week, India and China concluded a “highly productive and successful” strategic economic dialogue at Beijing, as the agreed minutes of the meeting depicted.

Proposed during Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to New Delhi in December 2010, the dialogue process came in the backdrop of the global meltdown, euro zone crisis and scaling down of economic growth rates by India and China.

The dialogue came in the background as well of China becoming the largest trading partner of India (with more than $61 billion in 2010 and expected to reach $100 billion by 2015).

Several India and Chinese companies have also expanded their business operations. More than 200 Indian companies have invested in China, while Huawei and ZTS have major stakes in the Indian telecom sector.

Infosys had acquired land in Shanghai for its commercial operations and Tata’s Jaguar and Land Rover witnessed 70 per cent jump in sales in China in 2010 as compared to the previous year.

Mahindra as well carved out niche areas in the China tractor market.

Yet, despite the positive statements on expanding the ambit of cooperation in the economic, trade, investment, infrastructure projects, water, energy and environmental issues and building the much needed stakes in each other, India appears to be treading cautiously and is reflected in the absence of any “big ticket” items in the list of agreements.

Firstly, India is looking for positive assurances from China on a number of issues – market access, investment flows, anti-dumping, etc. given the wide trade imbalance (of more than $22.2 billion in 2010 in favour of China) and restrictions imposed on the Indian companies in the Chinese market.

This issue was raised during President Pratibha Patil’s visit to Beijing last year and subsequently in several high-level meetings.

Secondly, while India had assiduously negotiated and had been putting in place Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements with South Korea and Japan, implementing Free Trade Area with Sri Lanka, Southeast Asian countries and negotiating for such a zone with Taiwan and European Union, New Delhi is unenthusiastic on the long-standing FTA proposal from Beijing.

The Chinese Ambassador to India Zhang Yan, on the eve of Premier Wen’s visit to Delhi, reiterated that India should sign a FTA.

However, both have been discussing a possible Regional Trade Agreement, which as well had not yet materialized given the reluctance of the “Mumbai club” in India.

Indian political and commercial lobbies’ reluctance in jumping into the FTA fray with China is based on the assessment that such an arrangement is fraught with long-term consequences not only impacting on domestic economic sectors but also in the larger strategic landscape of Asia and beyond.

As a large country, with more than a billion people (that is exhibiting younger demographic profile), with mature service and software sectors and posting near double-digit economic growth rate figures, India needs to study carefully such proposals.

In this context, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh proposed a pan-Asian FTA at the second East Asian Summit at Cebu in January 2007, but opposed by China.

It appeared that India is concerned about the uninterrupted Chinese inroads into Central, South, West and Southeast Asia through infrastructure projects and the effect this could have on marginalization of India. A pan-Asian FTA could avoid such pitfalls as there could be better level-playing field and positive development of complementarities. In this scenario the “rules of origin” principle could also restrict dumping of cheaper goods from China into the Indian market.

Thirdly, while India announced that it needs more than $1 trillion in building infrastructure projects and expand the manufacture sector share in the GDP to nearly 30 per cent, China’s role, modalities and contribution in this regard is not clear.

For instance, although Chinese companies such as Sepco Electric Power, Harbin, Shanghai Electric Corp, etc are preparing to supply equipment for nearly 80,000 MW projects in India worth an estimated $50 billion, some established Indian companies have expressed concerns on the Chinese banks (such as China Development Bank, ICBC, etc) offering cheaper credit (about $10 billion), mainly in renminbi [Chinese currency, yuan] loans.

Such a move, although sought by some Indian companies have two potential long-term consequences, viz., one, major Indian companies in this sector like Bhel, Larsen and Toubro, etc. are likely to be adversely affected and secondly Indian economy as a whole possibly coming under the renminbi hegemony, specifically as the US dollar and euro are facing turbulent times.

The Chinese proposals for establishing “Hua Yuan” in East and Southeast Asia and the currency swap arrangements are being watched carefully in this regard.

Another infrastructure project, reportedly explored at the dialogue, is the development of high speed railways.

China indeed made rapid strides in high-speed railways, although this came at high cost – reflected in multi-billion dollar scandal involving minister Liu Zhijun, a protege of Jiang Zemin and the architect of high speed railways, who was dismissed in February 2011 on charges of corruption.

The Shandong (2008) and Wenzhou (2011) train crashes have also questioned such projects.

During Premier Wen’s visit to Delhi in 2010 a proposal was made to sell Chinese high speed railways to India, but in vain.

Professor Srikanth Kondapalli teaches at the China programme at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi