Col Grant Newsham’s new book “When China Attacks: A Warning to America,” is a wake-up call for the United States. The book argues that the dispute between the US and China cannot be solved by reasonable discussion. The West also thought that increasing commercial activities will make China more suitable to fit in the free world. Today they regret that step.
Is today’s India also repeating the mistakes of the West and past Indian leaders? India held 17 rounds of Corps Commander Level Meetings with China, where China tried to twist every discussion point in its favour, and the talks failed. India’s trade deficit is at an all-time high with China and the Indian markets are awash with Chinese goods. Is Indian leadership ignoring the obvious that the appeasement policy doesn’t cut ice with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) or it is just biding the time?
Well, Indian leadership and the military are aware of the conundrum India is in. It is amply clear from Indian Army chief General Manoj Pande’s talk at the Savitribai Phule Pune University on March 27, 2023, where he said — China is seeking to replace the US as the global net security provider while believing in the policy of “might is right”.
Various political and military leaders have time and again expressed that the situation at the LAC is precarious. Any miscalculation from any side could lead to an irretrievable situation. So, the question arises, if that day comes, are Indian forces ready to take on China?
The Indian Compulsions
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) India’s defence spending had increased by 50 percent in the past decade, making India the world’s third-biggest military spender. However, 53 percent of the Indian defence budget goes to salaries and pensions, and only 23 percent is left for the procurement of new military ware.
Compared to this the official Chinese military budget is roughly $225 billion. However, as per SIPRI, China has many ways to camouflage its civilian spending on the military. Therefore, as per one estimate, the budget could be 25 to 50 percent higher or between $280-335 billion. That means China’s defence budget is 3.5 to 4 times the Indian defence budget.
That is a huge gap but the saving grace is that the territory under Chinese control is roughly 2.9 times the size of India. China shares a land border with thirteen countries (excluding POK) and all those borders are disputed. China also has maritime disputes with six countries. Therefore, China has the compulsion to keep a sizable military presence on all borders and at sea at all times.
Defence Forces and Defence Industry
But the question still lingers and the answer is not that simple. The biggest drawback for India is the defence industry which is in its nascent state. The burden of inaction in this direction in the last seven decades would always haunt India.
As per the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India report No. 6 of 2023 on Indian Army and Ordnance Factories, the following emerged:
Indian Navy’s Procurement Challenges
Indian Air Force’s Achilles Heel
The shortfalls are not limited to the above-mentioned list. There are many areas like rare earth elements (RERs), semiconductors, innovation in artificial intelligence, and border infrastructure that are critical for any country’s defence. It was the Manmohan Singh government that adopted a plan to build 73 strategic border roads in 2006. Even in 2013, his government announced plans for 850 km (530 miles) of new roads in the border region, and proposals to upgrade airfields. Sadly, all proposals made little or no headway. In its September 2014 article Reuters reported that governments before BJP deliberately neglected infrastructure in Arunachal Pradesh, partly to create a natural buffer against any Chinese invasion.
India Is Not Sitting Tight
Reviewing the operational readiness of the armed forces during the Combined Commanders Conference in Bhopal on April 1, 2023, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the three Services to stay ready to deal with new and emerging threats while stating that all steps are being taken to equip the armed forces with necessary weapons and technologies. The information Prime Minister shared could be seen in the flurry of defence acquisitions and activities:
The Question Still Remains
India has to keep in mind that as of now, 45 percent of Indian Army equipment is vintage, 41 percent of the equipment is of current technology, and only around 12-15 percent of the equipment is “state-of-the-art.” India is aiming to get to 45 percent of the equipment in the state-of-the-art category and 35 percent of current technology by 2030.
So the question remains — ‘is India ready for a war with China?’. The answer is ‘Yes and No.’ Yes, if the war is imposed upon India, then it has lots of strengths to take China on, or else India sees an opportunity to recapture Aksai Chin when China is distracted by the invasion of Taiwan. No, if India can manage the border situation and incursions well while enhancing capability and capacity.
Xi & PLA are still smarting the wounds they got when their lies and professionalism were exposed on 9 December 2022, when 300 PLA soldiers attempting to cross the McMahon Line were trapped and humiliated by the Indian Army. One should be wary of a wounded hyena, and China is a wounded hyena.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of Chanakya Forum. All information provided in this article including timeliness, completeness, accuracy, suitability or validity of information referenced therein, is the sole responsibility of the author. www.chanakyaforum.com does not assume any responsibility for the same.
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