Strategic and Nuclear Balancing of China in Asia-Pacific

United Service Institution National Security Seminar on “Peace & Stability in Asia-Pacific Region: Assessment of the Security Architecture”, Nov 17-18, 2011

Nov 17, 2011 – Paper presented by BHARAT KARNAD in Session 1 on ‘Strategic & Security Environment in the Asia-Pacific Region with  focus on Nuclear Issues’

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­                   Strategic and Nuclear Balancing of China in Asia-Pacific


 The new millennium is turning out to be everything nobody expected it to be. The international power shift from the Atlantic world to Asia has spawned uncertainty and deepened insecurities and mistrust, even as terrorism and economic blight have spread virally. It has fuelled, in some Asian countries, paranoia, and in others, the resolve to protect national interests with whatever mix of political and military policies that promise a modicum of order and stability in the region. The convergence of the two streams has led to enormous flux in policy where every country is at once hedging and maneuvering for slivers of advantage.  

      These developments, moreover, are in the larger context of an economically vibrant China throwing its weight around, so far mostly in Asia, while playing the banker to a heavily indebted United States as well as the European Union (EU); an exhausted America, apparently drained of self-confidence and resources, trying desperately to hang on to its dominant status even as it attempts to deal with the massive war-expenditure induced economic recession and attendant high rates of unemployment;[1] an increasingly irrelevant and diffident EU, habituated to riding the US coattails in all areas, is contributing marginally to the US-led NATO missions (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya), while many of its members (Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal) face bankruptcy and a future in which, not Washington, but Beijing is the economic “savior”;[2] and, the countries in East Asia, South-East Asia, and in the Indian Ocean littoral, face a China that is not a distant entity, even less an abstract ‘celestial economy’,[3] but a relentlessly driven power, hungry for hegemonic substance, standing and recognition, and perceived by almost all other Asian states as imperiling their security and peace of mind and, therefore, requiring counter-balancing with a cautiously willing United States and a hesitant India.[4]

      In such a milieu, what the majority of Asian countries are looking for is reassurance, overlapping guarantees of security from whatever credible sources may be available. Countervailing strategic alliance or partnership with the United States and/or India, both countries nuclear-armed and with strategic heft, and ostensible rivals of, and in sometimes tense relationship with, China, is the policy choice of most of these states. A few of them, while tacking to these winds, are also surreptitiously nursing the capability to produce nuclear weapons just in case it is ever needed.[5] The nuclear-armed regime of Kim Jong Il in North Korea, by successfully warding off the US for over a decade, has proved that the Bomb guarantees its owner protection from molestation by a big power in all circumstances.

      This paper will briefly analyze a couple of inter-connected issues: (1) the attitude and posture vis a vis China of the United States and of India, as perceived by Asian states on the Chinese periphery; smaller Asian countries hope to rely on these two powers to blunt China’s growing power, and (2) considering the difficult security situation Japan, Taiwan, and Vietnam and other ASEAN states find themselves in, the strategic policy choices they are making in terms of cultivating and strengthening politico-military ties with the United States and India. The paper concludes that the strategic and nuclear counter-balancing of China will be the background in which inter-state relations will play out in Asia in the foreseeable future.

 Litmus Test States

 Japan and Taiwan are among the oldest and staunchest allies of the United States, in Asia – their links forged at the start point of the Cold War between Soviet Russia-led Communist bloc of nations and the so-called Free World headed by the US. The security of these two states, both cowering in the shadow of a growingly aggressive China, has been the lynchpin of America’s Far East policy. Any perceived weakening of the US security commitment to either country is seen as bellwether of Washington’s lack of resolve to stay anchored in Asia. As it is Taiwanese and Japanese confidence was shaken by the entente engineered by the Nixon-Kissinger duo and the Shanghai Declaration that eventuated in 1972. For the first time, the US acknowledged Taiwan not as a separate, sovereign, entity but, more ambiguously, as part of the “One China, two systems” concept.

      The US intent was to use Maodezong’s China to balance the Soviet Union. To firm up the value of this geostrategic card, Washington transferred military high technology to gild China’s military muscle[6] and opened up the American market to Chinese exports – an opportunity the far-sighted Chairman Dengxiaoping quickly capitalized on to get the country’s economy rolling on the exports-driven path. The rapprochement, however, ended up leaving Taiwan in the lurch, its security concerns the US sought to address with the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act promising protection in case Beijing tried forceful means of “unification”.  Joining the international mainstream has resulted in sustained skyrocketing growth for China averaging some 9% annually over the last 30 years, and an economy set to overtake the US’ as early as 2015, but no later than 2020. Taiwan, ironically, played a leading role in China’s economic regeneration. It is responsible for over 80% of Foreign Direct Investment in China, with Taiwanese industrialists and entrepreneurs exploiting the low wages and state subsidies to establish that country as a base for exporting low cost manufactures to a global market, and establishing China as the “workshop of the world”. Beijing, on its part, has all along hoped that such linkages would, over time, ease Taiwan’s peaceful absorption into the larger Chinese fold. But the most significant development is not that Taiwan and China are mutually dependent but that, notwithstanding the enormous economic gains accruing to Taiwan, the sentiment for resolutely maintaining its status, independent of and separate from, China’s continues to be strong, and animates much of Taiwanese politics.[7]

      Indeed, the leader of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Tsia Ing-wen’s call, during her September 2011 visit to Washington, for a new basis for US-Taiwan relations and the possibility, moreover, of her winning the general elections in January 2012 has sent unease coursing through Washington and Beijing because of their shared fear that Sino-US relations and the region, generally, may be heading, once again, for a rough ride. [8] When DPP last ruled in Taipei, President Chen Shui-bian, it may be recalled, had mooted a nation-wide referendum on independence, and precipitated a China-US confrontation in the mid-1990s in the Taiwan Straits. In more recent times, the US Government’s faint-hearted approach to helping Taiwan strengthen its armed forces may have placated Beijing but it has, apparently, discouraged not just the Taiwan nationalists such as Tsia but also the ruling Koumintang Party, which would prefer that Taiwan stay engaged with China but also remain a distinct entity, to achieve which goal periodic injections of advanced weapons systems into the island state to counter the arms build-up on the Mainland are necessary.

      Three requests by Taipei since 2006 to replace 66 of its aging F-16 A/Bs from a fleet of 150 such planes with the newer F-16 C/Ds, were hanging fire for over five years before the Obama Administration finally turned them down. Instead, only a mere upgrading of the existing Taiwanese F-16 A/Bs in a pared down deal worth $4.2 billion was approved, which will do nothing to correct a major skewing of the air warfare capabilities in China’s favour. The PLA Air Force units fronting on Taiwan are outfitted with Su-27s, Su-30s, J-10s, and even the fifth generation J-20 combat aircraft. A US Congressional assessment surveying the scene  has observed that “the US paralysis over sales of these aircraft since 2006 has given China time to develop more advanced capabilities…and evaluate capabilities to defeat even more advanced US tactical aircraft such as the F-22”.[9] A relieved Beijing said little unlike its response to President Barack Obama’s 2010 announcement of a $6.4 billion arms package that included missiles, Black Hawk helicopters, and mine-sweepers, when it went ballistic.[10]  

      Washington’s  room for maneuver and, in fact, its ability to take a strong stand on Taiwan’s autonomy is limited by the current economic depression and high unemployment the US is experiencing combined with the resource-draining wars in Iraq and Afghanistan it is embroiled in.[11] While President Obama is beginning to wind down these wars, it is unlikely there will be significant cost savings considering US Special Forces presence will continue in the more active theatre, Afghanistan, for a long time and periodic injections of huge amounts of money into Pakistan will be required as incentive to keep Islamabad from bolting the “global war on terrorism”. The US condition will not be helped by Beijing continuing to buy US Treasury bonds just so its exports to the American market remain at a high level. It is the recognition of limited options America has that led US Vice President Joseph Biden on his return from a state visit to China   categorically to state that Washington does not entertain “visions of a cold war-style rivalry or great power confrontation with China.” In the context of “China’s growing military abilities and intentions”, he volunteered, the US is “engaging with the Chinese military to understand and shape their thinking.”[12] The trouble is it may be China that is actually “shaping” US thinking on Asia and not the other way around, especially because American strategic experts, having conceded a “power shift”,[13] seem to have already thrown in the towel.

      Security-wise, Japan finds itself in much the same unenviable position as Taiwan, caught between the economic pull of China and the security pull of the US. The new Democratic Party government was elected on the promise that it would reconsider that country’s US-centred foreign and military policy. Once in office, however, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has tried to find the middle ground between two policy streams – one tending to China, the other to the United States. The European Union-inspired concept of an East Asian Community proposed by a former premier from his Party, Yukio Hatoyama in 2009, as a means of solidifying the burgeoning economic linkages with China, was in the backdrop of his failure to convince the US Government to reduce the major US military presence in, and move the American base to a less populated part of, Okinawa. The other stream was the hard line adopted by his immediate predecessor, Naoto Kan, in the long simmering territorial dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu island chain.[14] It resulted in 2010 in an incident at sea leading to the Japanese navy arresting and releasing a captain of a Chinese vessel that occasioned a volley of harsh words by Beijing.

    Japan’s Self-Defence Forces, boasting of significant anti-submarine warfare and air superiority capabilities, an air assault brigade, and a navy bigger than most big power navies, are more than competent to handle China by themselves in the conventional military realm. As backstop is the US 7th Fleet in Yokohama, the forward-based American air strike and combat elements, and the land force contingent on Okinawa, which are bound, willy nilly, to get involved in any Japan-China military clash. But over and above that  is the status of Japan as a “para-nuclear state” that can in no time at all convert vast holdings of reprocessed spent fuel plutonium from its many power plants into quite literally “thousands of nuclear warheads”  to deter Chinese threats, as Ichiro Ozawa, the Liberal Party president  warned in 2002. He went on to boast that “If we get serious, we will never be beaten in terms of military power.”[15] This kind of uncharacteristically incautious utterance by a Japanese leader may mirror the rethink going on in Japanese security circles about self-reliance owing to doubts about US as a reliable military ally. It’s a feeling that’s been further fueled by Washington deciding not to sell 40 F-22 Raptors that Tokyo had asked for even before the decision was taken to scrap that aircraft programme. Even the deal for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for Japan in lieu of the F-22, is minus some of the cutting edge stealth capabilities. It is the sort of attitude that does not inspire confidence.[16] Similar doubts motivated the South Korean nuclear weapons programme started in the 1974 by President Park Chung Hee that Washington pressured Seoul into abandoning, but which went covertly ahead anyway; it however progressively lost steam.[17]

      Unlike Japan, Taiwan has a small and effective “Hsin Chu” nuclear weapons programme at the Chungsan Institute of Science & Technology, initiated in the wake of the Chinese atomic test in October 1964.[18] In the 1970s, CIA was of the view that this programme could produce a nuclear bomb inside of five years. Some forty years  later, it is reasonable to assume they have ready nuclear warheads for the two strategic nuclear-capable missiles developed as part of the so-called “Tiching Project”. The missiles are a 1000 km range, two stage, solid fuel variant, and another with range of 300 kms, both designed to carry the same sized nuclear warhead.[19] In essence then, Taiwan too has a nuclear deterrent in embryo to fall back on. Nevertheless, by way of abundant caution and to keep any conflict this side of the nuclear Rubicon, the clause invoking US military protection in the Taiwan Relations Act is likely to be invoked by Taipei at the first hint of serious trouble with China, despite Taiwan’s quite considerable conventional military preparedness. As the latest US Department of Defence report on the Chinese military capabilities clearly states, other than the small sparsely populated offshore islands, “An attempt to invade Taiwan would strain China’s untested armed forces”, “pose a significant political and military risk” for Beijing  and, in light of “Taiwan’s investments to harden infrastructure and strengthen defensive capabilities” make it difficult for China “to achieve its objectives.”[20]

      It is now evident that Tokyo and Taipei, looking beyond the US strategic umbrella, are seeking to add more arrows to their defensive quiver. India is a country both states hope will join them in their separate endeavours, so far exclusively underwritten by the US military deployment, to fence in China.  The Indian Navy has been exercising frequently  with the Japanese Navy in the waters off Senkaku, and with the navies of South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, and other ASEAN members. While Delhi put off the “trialogue” with Japan and the United States in 2011 lest China see this as a formal ganging up by rival powers,[21] it has been forthcoming in the military field – conducting the annual ‘Malabar’ naval exercise, most recently in summer 2011, with a destroyer flotilla off Okinawa alongside the US naval forces, an exercise the Japanese Navy had to withdraw from owing to its preoccupation with the Fukushima nuclear disaster relief work.[22]One reason India and Japan are increasingly on the same page as far as China is concerned is, perhaps, because Beijing is employing the same strategy with both countries of testing their defences with provocative acts. Incursions across the disputed Sino-Indian border (Line of Actual Control) by the Chinese PLA and the paramilitary People’s Armed Police units and the air space by Chinese helicopters are, apparently, as common now as the 96 incidents (a tripling of such violations over the past year) of intruding Chinese aircraft intercepted by Japanese air defence fighter planes over the outer Japanese islands.[23]  

      Even so, Delhi appears diffident, which problem was sought to be addressed in 2010 by the visiting former Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, who likened Japan’s situation to that of India in its relations with China and advised Delhi not to feel “shy” in joining the United States and Japan to keep the Asian sea lanes open and safe, because such military cooperation will soon draw other Asian states, such as Vietnam and South Korea into a collective security enterprise. He counseled that India and Japan ought to work together to ensure that, in this time of US weakness, there is “no strategic void” and, by implication, that this void is not filled by China. Abe also indicated the direction in which the mutually compatible countries are headed, saying “India’s success is in Japan’s best interests and Japan’s success is in the best interest of India.”[24] Japan has also overcome its earlier reservations about conducting nuclear trade with India, making the distinction between a nuclear weapon state and a nuclear proliferator.[25] This trend of greater Japanese strategic engagement with India is reflected in strengthening economic bonds, such as Japan emerging as the sixth largest source of Foreign Direct Investment.

      India’s links with Taiwan are still a work in progress, but proceeding along the lines the two countries have generally agreed upon. Taiwanese Member of Parliament Chen Chiech-Ju, visiting Delhi in October 2011 as head of a DPP delegation, proposed greater cooperation between littoral states, including India, to contain Chinese expansionism and maritime ambitions.[26] The Indian government, while happy with such sentiments, is more focused on getting a big part of the Taiwanese Foreign Direct Investment, presently channeled into the Mainland, diverted to India. But Taipei’s efforts in pushing such diversion of capital have floundered because the Taiwanese businessmen and industrialists find the difficulties of language and the poor quality of infrastructure in India obstacles too big easily to overcome. This reluctance is despite some singular successes racked up by Taiwanese Companies in India, such as Acer Computers and the telecommunications firm, D-Link. Early in the last decade, India broached the subject of sharing intelligence on China with Taiwan, given Taipei’s effective intelligence penetration of the Chinese system. The Taiwanese were however skeptical about what it would get of value in return. But, as Antonio Chiang, former Deputy Secretary General, National Security Council, Taiwan, who visited Delhi a number of times in the last decade, said in 2006: “Both sides have felt good about each other but are still unsure about what to do.”[27] Some of those early doubts may have been settled and cooperation, mostly in the intelligence field, is underway. More substantive cooperation, starting with joint exercises, in the security field may follow.

 South-East Asia: China’s Soft under-belly

 For geographically obvious reasons, South East Asia at once confronts China with danger and opportunities. The littoral states, while wishing to benefit from the surging Chinese economic growth, are nevertheless wary of Chinese intentions and Beijing’s moves are invariably looked upon with suspicion. The strategic problem for China[28] is that one of its two most volatile regions, Tibet (the other being Xinjiang) is proximal to this region, and harsh Chinese Communist rule and oppression of Tibetan people and Tibetan culture are seen as warning signals of the overarching danger posed to South East Asian states by China. The fear inspired by proximity to China has prompted increased defence expenditures and military acquisitions. Malaysia’s military acquisitions budget, for example, has gone up by some 700% in the 2005-2010 period, Singapore’s by 140%, and Indonesia’s by 84%.  Even so, the ASEAN states are not comfortable and seek further bolstering of their security by looking to India, with size, location, and politico-military weight to act as shield and counter. Unfortunately, the Indian government has lacked the strategic vision and the drive sufficiently to cash in on the anxiety triggered in this region by a China fast emerging as a great power.

      To the extent India’s ‘Look East’ policy has succeeded other than in fostering trade and commercial ties with the countries of that region, it’s been in the slow and substantive buildup of security partnerships across South East Asia, led by naval diplomacy. The leading countries with which India is developing special security relationships are Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and particularly Vietnam.[29] The annual ‘Milan’ naval exercise involving the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) members and Bangladesh, Maldives, et al,  with portions of the on-shore interaction designed to cultivate social bonding between the sailor communities and, at higher levels, allowing officers to exchange views on the evolving military situations they face and to chalk out cooperative and collaborative counter measures. Such confidence building programmes have prompted greater mutual reliance. Thus, Singapore sent its submarine crews to train on Indian ex-German HDW 209 Submarines, also in service with the Singapore Navy, and its Air Force regularly uses Indian air space for training purposes. The Malaysian Air Force pilots flying ex-Russian Mi-29 aircraft and the maintenance crews servicing these planes, are trained by the Indian Air Force. Along with other ASEAN countries, Vietnam sends scores of its senior officers for higher command training to the India’s National Defence College, and depends on the Indian Armed Services for technical support. Delhi finally accepted the logic, that has been articulated for many years now, of arming Vietnam with consequential weaponry,[30] and the strong pitch by Vietnam and Indonesia for the Indian Brahmos supersonic cruise missile. As a result, this missile may soon be found on Vietnamese and Indonesian warships and outfitting their coastal batteries,[31] no doubt to the considerable unease of the Chinese South Seas Fleet operating out of Sanya base on Hainan Island. South China Sea may no longer be exclusively China’s sea as Beijing perceives it with its rather arbitrary drawing of the expansive U-shaped dotted line on maps to claim most of it, a sea territory rich in oil and gas and hence even more vigorously contested by neighbouring countries, including Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, and the Philippines.   

      India is seen by these states as a counter-balancing military presence to China in the extended area, especially with the US naval forces in the strategic mix securing the eastern end of the arc of the Chinese periphery in Asia-Pacific in league with the Japanese and Australian defence forces.[32] The Indian government’s continued hesitation in overtly making common cause against China hasn’t prevented the Indian Navy from participating in joint maneuvers with its US, Australian and Japanese counterparts. Much of the firming up of the collective effort to ring in China is despite most of the countries, including India, having strong trade and economic relations with it. China displaced the United States two years ago as India’s largest trading partner with trade growth exceeding targets. The other states bordering China similarly are plugged into the Chinese manufacturing loop, such as Vietnam and Thailand, or are prime exporters of natural resources (wood, minerals, oil, off shore gas) to meet Chinese industrial demand, such as Myanmar. But all of them share the same high level of distrust where China is concerned owing to historical memory of imperial Chinese aggression and, in many instances, unresolved border disputes, and because of their apprehension of once again being reduced to vassal or tributary status. Some of these countries, in particular Myanmar, expressly blame India for “pushing” it “into Chinese arms” by over-stressing the Human Rights angle,[33] but have quickly grasped the Indian offer of development aid and military assistance to balance the Chinese presence. This even though Myanmar has allowed a rapid north-south road and rail build-up, enabling China to have an opening on the Bay of Bengal through a deep water port it is constructing on the offshore Ramree Island.

      China’s claims on the South China Sea encompassing the disputed Spratly and Paracel Island chains and coveted by many of the other nearby states not little because of rich oil and gas deposits found in those areas, have been arbitrary, transgressing existing maritime laws and conventions. Notwithstanding its being party to the 2002 ASEAN Declaration on Conduct (DOC) of countries with claims on South China Sea, Beijing warned all countries to terminate oil exploration and drilling activities not specifically permitted by it. Oil majors, such as Exxon and British Petroleum were intimidated enough to cease operations. China’s   expansive offshore territorial claims have been vigorously challenged in legal terms by Vietnam. Hanoi has complained about China’s non-conformance with numerous 1982 UNCLOS (UN Law of the Sea) provisions. Elsewhere, Philippines upped the ante when Chinese aircraft and naval vessels tried to run its people off the Reed Bank in the Paracels, by totally rejecting Chinese claims and invoking the 1951 Mutual Defence Treaty with the United States in order to deter China from taking precipitate action. A defensive Beijing fell back on justifying its claims on the basis of these being “formed by history”.[34] It led to the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the ASEAN summit in Hanoi committing America to, in effect, enforcing the international maritime law.[35]

      Vietnam, in furtherance of its proactive stance, also cleverly triggered both an acknowledgement by Delhi of a naval encounter off its coastline with China in order presumably to gauge India’s resolve to back Vietnam, and to test its willingness to protect its energy stake. Having earlier accorded the Indian Navy the right to use the port of Nha Trang on the South China Sea as provisional base whenever its ships are in the vicinity, Vietnam leaked the details of a mid-July 2011 encounter the Indian navy amphibious assault ship, INS Airavat, sailing north to Haiphong, had with a suspected Chinese ship, in which Airavat was ordered out of those waters. The Indian ship did nothing of the kind and the incident made it to the international Press almost a month later. Critical commentaries in Indian newspapers[36] resulted in the Indian Ministry of External Affairs departing from its usual policy line of offering China minimum offence and asserting India’s right, in a joint venture with Vietnam, to drill for oil in an area clearly within Vietnamese claim lines.[37] Hanoi, it may be deduced, hoped to test the seriousness of Delhi’s profession of support for its South China Sea claims in particular, and its readiness to tangle with the Chinese naval forces and, presumably, was delighted with the outcome, what with India providing proof of being a reliable strategic partner. Vietnam and India categorically rejected the Chinese exclusive claim on the South China Sea with India making it clear that the state owned oil exploration firm – ONGC Videsh Ltd, would continue to explore and exploit its resource-rich seabed.[38]  In fact, the new found bounce in bilateral relations can be seen in the Oct 13, 2011 joint statement issued during the state visit to India of Vietnamese President, Truong Tan Sang, which repeatedly harped on their “strategic partnership”.[39] China is watchful and believes the move to involve India in the South China Sea disputes was actually instigated by Vietnam and the Philippines and that, under the circumstances, it may be best to be more confrontationist. Beijing is considering  replacing its policy of “shelv[ing] the dispute and joint[ly] develop[ing]” the oil and gas fields, with one that “must dare and …develop” and otherwise draw “an insurmountable red line” which, it hopes, an “ambitious” but “immature” India will not cross, especially in the context of “reluctant” United States and Japan.[40]

      The “string of pearls” to-date may be more potential than reality. But it does show China’s long term plan to avoid the possible Malacca choke point by developing other trade and access routes via construction of deep water ports on the Indian Ocean littoral, such as Ramree Island in Myanmar and Gwadar on the Baluch coast in Pakistan.[41]


 The strategic worries and insecurities sparked by aggressive Chinese policy and the uncertainties attending on the best way to handle a growingly uncontrollable China, manifestly the dominant Asian power, suggest the obvious hedging strategy for countries of Asia-Pacific desirous of constraining China. This strategy will have to rely on the US, Indian, and Japanese militaries, their combined capabilities augmented by  the military wherewithal and locational attributes of smaller countries in the region. The objectives would be to, firstly, strengthen the choke capabilities at the Malacca Straits with India’s integrated Andaman military command in the van; secondly, to reject the exclusionist Chinese notions of  “closed sea” whether in the South China Sea environs or in the Yellow Sea area and, finally, collectively to get into a position to  mobilize and deploy sufficient naval, air, land, and strategic nuclear forces in relatively quick time to dissuade and deter Beijing from embarking on provocative or punitive military actions against any single state or set of countries in the Asia-Pacific region.



[1] “A declining power” is how much of the world sees the United States per world-wide surveys conducted by Pew Global Attitudes Project. Refer Richard Wike, “From Hyperpower to Declining Power”, September 7, 2011 at

[2] Stefan Shultz, “Europe and China Bound by Mutual Fears”, Spiegel Online, September 14, 2011 at

[3] The Economist, September 10, 2011, p. 78.

[4] Ashley  J. Tellis, Travis Tanner, and Jessica Keogh (eds.), Strategic Asia 2011-12 – Asia Responds to Its Rising Powers: China and India [Seattle: The National Bureau of Asian Research, 2011]

[5] Bharat Karnad, India’s Nuclear Policy [Westport, CO, & London: Praeger Security International, 2008], pp. 29-33.

[6] US agreed in the 1980s on joint projects such as “Peace Pearl” to upgrade the avionics suite in the Chinese F-8II fighter aircraft and to help in the production of high caliber ammunition. See David Shambaugh, Modernizing China’s Military: Progress, Problems, and Prospects [Berkeley & Los Angeles:  University of California Press, 2003], pp. 229-230

[7] The recent arrest in Taipei of Taiwan army Major General Lo Hsien-che for divulging details of the most secret command, control, and communications “Po sheng” (Broad Victory) network to China, reveals the extensive espionage and counter-espionage Taiwan and China engage in against each other, to secure every additional bit of military advantage. Andrew Higgins, “In Taiwan military, Chinese spy stirs unease”, Washington Post, September 27, 2011.  

[8] Kathryn Hille, Anna Fifield & Robin Twong, “China and US on edge over vote in Taiwan”, Financial Times, September 16, 2011.

[9] Bill Geertz, “Obama agrees to sell arms to Taiwan”, Washington Times, September 9, 2011.

[10] Keith B. Richburg, “China gives muted response to US-Taiwan arms deal”, Washington Post, September 19, 2011.

[11] To date, the US expenditure in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade and more  have exceeded $2.5 trillion.

[12] See his “China’s Rise Isn’t Our Demise”, New York Times, September 7, 2011.

[13] Robert D Kaplan, “A power shift in Asia”, Washington Post, September 23, 2011.

[14] “Analysis: Japan’s PM Noda: Warm to Washington, Wary of China”, Reuters, Washington Post, September 15, 2011.

[15] “Japan: Weapons of Mass Destruction” at

[16] “Dogfight over the archipelago”, Economist, Oct 1st , 2011

[17] Peter Hayes & Chung-in Moon, “Park Chung Hee, the CIA & the Bomb”, Global Asia, Volume 6, Number 3, Fall 2011.

[18] “Taiwan: nuclear weapons” at

[19] :Taiwan nuclear missiles:, June 26, 2006 at

[20]   Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, 2011, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Dept of Defense, p. 52

[21] “India develops cold feet on talks with Japan, United States”, Times of India, Aug 25, 2011

[22] “India upset over Russia calling off naval exercise”, Times of India, May 31, 2011. The Indian flotilla after ‘Malabar’ was scheduled to steam north for exercises with Russian Far Eastern Fleet off Vladivostok.

[23]  See footnote #16.

[24] “Ex-Japanese PM seeks security tie-up with India”, Times of India, September 21, 2011.

[25] Tsuneo Watanabe, Director, Research, The Tokyo Foundation, in a discussion with this analyst Oct 3, 2011.

[26] “Interaction with a Taiwanese delegation”, Vivekananda International Foundation at

[27] Tung I-Tsai, “For Taiwan, India’s in the slightly less hard basket”, Asia Times, February 15, 2006.

[28] T.N. Ninan, “Guns in the east”, Business Standard, Oct 8, 2011.

[29] A series of research articles by David Brewster analyze the evolution of many of these security partnerships. See his “The Strategic Relationship between India and Vietnam: Search for a Diamond on the South China Sea” Asian Survey, January 2009; “India’s Security Partnership with Singapore” Pacific Review, December 2009; and, “The Relationship between India and Indonesia: An Evolving Security Partnership?” Asian Survey, March/April 2011.

[30] I have argued that because China practices realpolitik, the effect of India’s arming Vietnam with nuclear missiles as a tit-for-tat gesture for China’s nuclear missile arming Pakistan, will have a salutary effect on China’s generally aggressive approach to India and the extended region. Bharat Karnad, Nuclear Weapons & Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy, 2nd edition [New Delhi: Macmillan India, 2005, 2002], pp. 540-542, and  Karnad, India’s Nuclear Policy, pp. 16-37, and Bharat Karnad, “Indian armed forces have China Syndrome“, Asian Age, Oct 13, 2011.

[31] “India to sell Brahmos missile to Vietnam”, Asian Age, Sept 20, 2011.

[32] Provisions of the new US-Australian defence and security treaty will likely be instrumental in facilitating operational military cooperation in China-related contingencies. Refer Anna Fifield, Peter Smith and Kathryn Hille, “US and Australia tighten military ties”, Financial Times, Sept 14, 2011.

[33] Myanmar Foreign Minister in an informal interaction at the Indian Council of World Affairs.

[34] “Don’t explore oil at (sic) South China Sea, warns Beijing”, Economic Times, Sept 16, 2011.

[35] Mark J. Valencia, “Diplomatic Drama: The South China Sea Imbroglio”, Global Asia, Vol 6, Number 3, Fall 2011.

[36] Bharat Karnad, “No buckling down to China”,  New Indian Express, Sept 24, 2011.

[37] Anupama Airy & Jayanth Joseph, “China objects to oil hunt, India says back off”, Hindustan Times, Sept 15, 2011.

[38] “Vietnam takes on China, says India can explore its oil”, Press Trust of India news agency, Tribune, Oct 9, 2011.

[39] See the text of the Joint Statement at It states, for example, that both sides seek not merely to “deepen” the “strategic partnership” but to “broaden it to new areas of cooperation” in “the fields of defense and security” with a view, among other aims, to ensure “the safety, security and freedom of navigation in the high seas”, and that both countries abhor the “the threat or use of force” to resolve “disputes in the East Sea.”

[40] “Breaking up the coalition on the South China Sea”, a commentary published in Huanqiu and reprinted in Xinhua, Oct 7, 2011.

[41] Vivian Yang, “Is China’s String of Pearls Real?”, FPIP (Foreign Policy Institute Forum), July 18, 2011 at


About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Indian Navy, Nuclear Policy & Strategy, Strategic Relations with South East Asia & Far East, Strategic Relations with the US & West. Bookmark the permalink.

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