China’s N-buildup, CSC responsible for India’s non-response, and the Abhinandan issue

[The canisterised Dong Feng-31 missiles on parade in Beijing]

There’s not a thing China does wrong strategically and not many things India does right. Whence my advice to the government in my 2015 book – Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet), that owig to its institutionalized inability to think and act strategically, it should merely imitate whatever China does.

What China is doing is building up its nuclear forces, reaching the threshold of 1,000-odd deliverable nuclear weapons and still larger numbers of missiles. The Pentagon in its 2021 (annual) report to the US Congress on Chinese military power conveyed this piece of information with as much alarm as surprise. Why so? Because successive US administrations have trusted in the line taken by the likes of Jeffrey Lewis rather than the assessments of experts like Lawrence Korb and the Pentagon’s own intel supplied by the US Defence Intelligence Agency, who counted the missile silos, the very long tunnels bored into mountain sides as missile emplacement and firing sites, monitored the traffic to them as picked up by satellite imaging and other sensors, and came up with more realistic numbers of nuclear missiles with the PLA Second Artlliery Strategic Forces (SASF). Indeed, the US DIA had concluded by the late 1990s that China had some 800 nuclear weapons and missiles. The 200 or so added since then is par for the course.

This was the SASF figure I based my analysis on and suggested in my 2002, (2nd edition in 2005) book — Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security, that because the likely operational strength of the Chinese arsenal would be some 500 missiles, with the rest held in reserve, and because a goodly number of these are India-targetable medium range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) and intermediate range ballistic missiles (IRBMs), the minimum Indian strategic force size needs prudently to be around 475 thermonuclar weapons and delivery systems, without counting the reserves. And that, this force size should be elastic enough and automatically increase to be within striking distance of whatever weapons level China attains over the years. This was necessary I argued to ensure that (1) notional strategic parity is maintained, (2) the Chinese conventional military prowess is blunted, and (3) China is never able to wield the psychological edge of thermonuclear superiority in any prospective confrontation. By my 2002 standard, the Indian SFC should now have a minimum of approx 900 nuclear weapons.

But with the “minimum deterrence”-wallahs having the ear of the government from the beginning and convincing all incoming PMs about the supposed wisdom of small nuclear forces, successive governments have thought nothing about taking an axe to India’s own nuclear weapons manufacturing capability to please and pacify external powers, chiefly the US. So, the civilian nuclear deal was negotiated with America and the option of resuming testing signed away. In keeping with the minimalist thinking, the freedom of policy choices and military options too was surrendered by agreeing to the Missile Technology Control Regime and the Wassenaar Arrangement. And by seeking membership in NSG, New Delhi will ensure India cannot respond, even if it wanted to in the future and belatedly, to Beijing’s nuclear weapons and missile proliferation to Pakistan by hurting China in equal measure by arming its neighbours with like strategic armaments. Having thus painted itself into a corner, Manmohan Singh and now Narendra Modi are embarked on a policy, as I have argued, that is tantamount to outsourcing India’s strategic security to the US.

As if to prove that this is indeed the case, India has let Pakistan outpace it in producing nuclear warheads and bombs. The Pakistan army’s Strategic Plans Division has in excess of 150 nuclear weapons; India’s Strategic Forces Command, on the other hand, has apparently leveled out at 110 weapons or thereabouts. And as mentioned in a previous post, India has been even more niggardly in producing and fielding Agni-5s and, more detrimental to the national interest, has consigned the indigenous MIRV-technology that enables a single missile to carry multiple warheads to the rubbish heap. What else does refusing to test and induct the MIRV system mean?

But minimum this, and minimal that, sort of thinking fits in with the advice on China given by an unending line of foolishly optimistic mandarin-speaking diplomats, intel types, and their ilk crowding the China and East Asia Desks in the MEA, the Beijing ambassador and Foreign Secretary posts, and the apex level policy forum — the ‘China Study Circle/Group’ (CSC). CSC and all within it are terminal misreaders of Beijing’s intentions, underestimators of Chinese military strength, and unapologetic surrenderers of India’s military and other initiatives because they value Sino-Indian relations more than they do the national interest. The CSC has been so wrong about China so often, it is a surprise anybody takes it seriously. But hark, the Indian government does! Even though, no Prime Minister in his right mind should have done other than terminated this cabal long ago and those within it dismissed from service with extreme prejudice. Instead, CSC continues in its merry way — pushing India deeper into the hole it has dug for the country and the Indian military.

The last such bit of harmful counsel was the negotiating parameter that resulted in the pullback of the Special Frontier Force units from the Kailash range — the only Indian action that showed initiative and was of some consequence, in exchange for the PLA withdrawing from ‘Finger 3’ on the Pangong Lake. These worthies expected that the Chinese, suitably softened, would suddenly start behaving like a good neighbour and withdraw from the Y-Junction on the Depsang Plain, to allow the Indian army to once again patrol Gogra, Hot Springs, and other points proximal to the Karakorum Pass. Predicatbly, India fell for a Chinese mirage and, thanks to CSC, lost the slight leverage it had with the occupation of the Kailash heights.

The expertise of these desi China specialists and professional policy bunglers stops at a benign reading of the Chinese threat. They mirror the kind of nonsense the China lovers in the US have been spewing for decades. These MEA mandarins and CSC members propagate the view about the Chinese Communist party leadership being driven by the purest of motives, and believing in “no first use”, and in “minimum deterrence” and, despite the altercations on the border and PLA’s relentless massing of forces in the Tibet theatre, why the Modi regime should talk it out with Beijing, and similar piffle. Those more besotted among them try to display their deep understanding of everything Chinese by citing all kinds of supporting evidence — gobbeldygook references to party plenums, Confucius, “warring kingdoms”, Suntzu, and obscure warriors, strategists and whatnot, that while, perhaps, plausible sounding, are usually off kilter. In the main because their rationalizations and justifications of Chinese actions are informed more, it seems, by sentimentalism and delusions of what could have been if only Xi Jinping had not sported his hardline approach. Dengxiaoping’s “long handshake” with Rajiv Gandhi in 1986 is still recalled, and the illusory promise of ‘Chindia’ — the combined Asian powerhouse of the two countries in the new Century is mulled over.

Characteristically, these thinly veiled China sympathizers have habitually missed out on the traditional animus fueling Beijing’s India policy. Lest it be forgottgen, Deng strategically screwed India; he was the architect of the policy that has proved the most strategiclly damaging — establishing Pakistan as a nuclear weapons state. Except, it is only another version of Maozedong’s clear-eyed ruthlessness in pulling India down by showing up the Indian army in 1962 as an imperial era ‘paper tiger’ with pretentions. If Rajiv Gandhi was taken in by Deng’s avuncular behaviour, Atal Bihari Vajpayee (and his alter ego — Brajesh Mishra) by Jiang Xemin’s promise of peace, and if Modi, had drunk a little too much of the Wuhan and Mamallapuram “spirits”, he is now sobered enough to crash down to the earth, what with his government seemingly so bewildered by Xi’s actions in eastern Ladakh and along the Line of Actual Control that his China policy is stranded in a “no man’s land”. Who is to blame for this state of affairs other than the consistently gullible Indian leaders and their compromised advisers in MEA and CSC?

Just how confused the Modi government is is plain from the non-use of the weighty economc leverage provided by denying Chinese exports access to the Indian market. It has resulted, ironically, in Chinese exports touching a new high (some $67 billion in 2020!), further skewing the balance of payments problem already hugely favouring China. It is not as if Indian exports to China are high value or big revenue earners as, say, German exports to China are — some 700,000 Mercedes Benz passenger cars were reportedly sold in 2020. So, India has little to lose by legally restricting Chinese exports. After all, China is the prime enemy country, is it not? Then why accord it favourable treatment? Shouldn’t Chinese exports to India be severely curtailed, and Indian retailers, including petty shopkeepers, deterred from stocking and selling Chinese goods and light manufactures, on the pain of punitive fines and even jail time? Why this has so far not been done is a mystery, considering such measures are legitimate under the GATT and Doha Round provisions for fair and equitable trade, and because it is the right of countries to protect their economies from being inundated with cheap goods and stuff produced by heavily subsidized Chinese industries.

A fearful Indian government shies away from undertaking even reciprocal actions in the economic, diplomatic and military spheres in response to Xi’s precision targeted policies and actions. In the event, for Modiji to believe India can become China’s equal by carrying on strategically as it has these past few decades, is to do a lot of day dreamin’. But, dreams cost nothing.

——-


National hero IAF pilot Abhinandan flies MiG-21 again; pictures go viral |  Photogallery - ETimes
[WingCo Abhinandan with the then CAS ACM BS Dhanoa in a 2-seater MiG-21 Bison]

The news about Wing Commander Abhinandan making a time-grade promotion to Group Captain made me think about what brought him notoriety. He is perhaps the only fighter pilot in history to be awarded a gallantry award — Vir Chakra, for being shot down over enemy territory after a questionable, if not imaginary, kill by him of an enemy warplane. The IAF and the Indian government doubled down on the story that the combat aircraft Abhinandan shot out of the skies was a Pakistani F-16 even when it had too many holes in it. He was welcomed back, feted as a war hero with the then Air Chief, BS Dhanoa, even flying a celebratory sortie with him in a twin-seater MiG-21 Bison. Such are the small successes IAF is now reduced to.

Not to go into the details of this episode, but what really happened? In broad brush terms, Abhinandan was obviously hotdoggin’ it, picked up an adversary aircraft on his radar, went after it in hot pursuit, fired off a shortrange R-60 air-to-air missile. That missile hit something; he claimed it was an F-16. In the heat of the pursuit, he little realized he had intruded into Pakistani airspace and, too late to maneuver and scoot out of trouble, found himself and his MiG-21 shot down by a PAF plane that had him in its “cone”.

But it was not an F-16. The fact that no team from Lockheed Martin — producer of the F-16 aircraft, hightailed it to India or Pakistan to ascertain the details of that engagement is proof enough that no hardware of their’s was involved.

If it was not a PAF F-16, many IAF veterans speculate what Abhinandan had in his sights was an ex- Chinese-built JF-17. Two parachutes were observed floating down after that fighting incident, conforming to the fact of two pilots of two downed aircraft. So, why have Abhinandan and the IAF stuck to the F-16 story? Because, well, there is more glory in shooting down a frontline F-16 than a Chinese ripoff of a Russian MiG-21 — the JF-17.

And why was Abhinandan so speedily released? For one thing because, it is said, the IAF, backed by the Modi government,warned PAF that should anything happen to Abhinandan in captivity, or he not be returned forthwith, it was prepared to go to war — a threat that worked, especially on the Imran Khan government. The question arises: Why did the IAF make such a threat? Because, Abhinandan’s father, also a MiG fighter pilot, Air Marshal Simhakutty Varthaman, retired in 2012 as commander-in-chief, Eastern Air Command, and the IAF brass had made his son’s expeditious release by Islamabad, its personal business.

The troubling question: Would the IAF HQ have gone to bat for Abhinandan as aggressively, and decorated him with a VrC, had he not, in a sense, been IAF royalty?

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.
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32 Responses to China’s N-buildup, CSC responsible for India’s non-response, and the Abhinandan issue

  1. Ayush says:

    Dear Karnad sir,i truly admire to intense patriotism and utter disgust for india’s elite.By the way,i am new in this space and a first year student in iit bombay.

    I believe there is a major flaw in the policy you advocate.Thermonuclear weapons are not going to deter PLA encroachment of our territory.Chinese generals like Xu Qiliang will die laughing thinking about the Indian government ordering a nuclear strike in response to salami slicing. At best,these weapons will be able to deter a pre emptive Chinese nuclear strike.We could achieve notional strategic parity with China and use it to introduce tacnukes like nuclear landmines.But even nuclear landmines are of dubious value as India is a downstream nation.
    China’s conventional military might and technology is just so overwhelming that they can actually threaten our nuclear arsenal even without using nukes at all.For instance,China’s cyber capability can literally jam the communication system of the SFC.This is the very reason why the military is hastily deploying fibre optics and software defined radios(SDR).Besides the PLA rocket force can inflict incredible damage on indian army.With about 500-1000 MRBMs they can smoke all our airbases,command and control centres,ammunition depots,communication nodes etc.The sad part is that they can inflict all this damage and it will still remain below the nuclear threshold.Bottomline is that Nuclear weapons are no substitue for conventional military might, at least not anymore.Nobody is going to take the threat of first use by an obsequious indian govt seriously.India has no option but to build up our cyber capabilities and a rocket force with 1000-1500 MRBMs.As for MIRVs , India is slated to test K5 MIRVed
    SLBM anytime soon.India’s nuclear arsenal will eventually grow in size once the PFBRs are commissioned.By the end of this decade India will too have 500 warheads.

    Last question,what do you think is the approximate yield of A-5’s warhead(obviously untested)?1 Mt?

    • andy says:

      @Ayush
      Your assessment would be correct if @Bharat had been advocating scaling down conventional military prowess vis a vis China. Instead he was the one advocating a pak oriented strike corp be turned against China years ago,which course of action the Indian army has belatedly taken after the latest fiasco in Ladakh.

      His point, in my understanding is that India could strategically handicap itself by not fielding adequate numbers of thermonuclear weapons, given that China is hell bent on matching USA powers in all military realms.

      Nuclear weapons are a deterrence game and numbers count,we can’t be satisfied with a piddling little hundred odd weapons,which even a pygmy like Pakistan can match, while China has a foot on our throats by fielding a 1000 odd nuclear weapons.

      As for missiles with conventional warheads the army should be pushing the throttle by insisting on the early testing and induction of the pralay/prahar duo,but instead of doubling down on these,due to some strange reason,there’s foot dragging on display.Instead we have the spectacle of the M777 artillery gun, with its small range of 24 to 30kms being inducted and being more than matched by the new MLRS weapon system PHL-03 of the PLA that has a long-range rocket launcher that can carry multiple 300mm or even bigger rockets with more than 100km of firing range(70-to 130kms).

      To match this India has the Russian Smerch system with 90kms range. The indigenous Pinaka inducted in the army has around 40kms of range,the newer version is supposed to have 60 to 80kms range. So we are outgunned here as well in terms of range.

      So Indian response should adequately match the Chinese build up in the nuclear as well as conventional realms.

  2. Kuru says:

    What shot down the Indian MiG-21 back in 2019? If I remember correctly, America did shortly thereafter reprimand Pakistan for improper use of the F-16 which was allegedly only meant for counter-terror operation (armed with AIM-120s to take on goat herders, lol).

    I don’t know why India has fallen so deeply into the US camp, they have given us far less than the Russians, who also don’t harp on about our “human rights” record.

  3. Sankar says:

    Excellent assessment of what went on!

    I would like to add that during that melee of air-battle, the Indian Air Force shot down their own helicopter somewhere in the sky over Srinagar carrying Indian military personnel – a wonderful achievement of military prowess by IAF indeed!

    In sum, IAF is in the doldrums to operate a modern Air Defence System.

  4. Amit says:

    Professor,

    It took China’s aggression for India to finally accelerate its conventional military strategies/upgrades. I wonder what it will take to change its nuclear policies. India has so much negative inertia, it’s mind boggling. India maybe a democracy, but it’s hard to overturn its Raja-Maharaja culture.

    All the points you suggest make sense. But there is no catalyst on the horizon which will make India change its course. Maybe we should hope for China to show even more aggression. Or for the Indian public to put explicit pressure (through think tanks). Or have a more visionary Raja. Or all three.

  5. Kunal Singh says:

    Why the heck is modi jammed in his own zone?
    Looks like chamchagiri of modi by the people around him is reducing his own standards.

    Time to test thermo-n of megaton’s order.
    Start nuclear drills in schools/colleges, make nuclear bunkers to signal Chinese our nuclear intents, force Beijing to reconcile with Delhi

    Sir i wish you were a politician in BJP to tell these hoax rightist ( saffron communist) about our national interests😅. What do you say?

  6. Deepak says:

    Nuclear/Conventional warfare what India mainly lacking is Political will power from dhimmi minded leaders. Modi is foolishly lecturing chinese that this is not an era of expansionism but an era of development ,visiting army during Diwali,visiting Ladakh near LOC and other PR events claiming these tokenism as master stroke without doing anything great to really modernize Indian armed forces and major changes in foreign policy decisions.Retard Raga’s reaction to Modi’s PR events will make anyone feel master stoke in Modi’s tokenism.

  7. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    @ Professor Karnad- Regarding the following excerpt from your write-up;

    “Who is to blame for this state of affairs other than the consistently gullible Indian leaders and their compromised advisers in MEA and CSC?”

    The compromised advisers are on Chinese payrolls.

    The Indian politicians aren’t gullible. Just check out the number of times, the present so called ‘special one’ has visited China.

    Chinese are excellent hosts. Their lunch/dinner parties don’t have dearth of anything. Private clubs cater to every need.

    People who pretend to be saints through their outward physical appearance and useless sermons on very subject are usually crooks of the highest order actively lusting after 3 w’s (wealth, wine & women)

    The above category of individuals can only talk but cannot act tough because their ‘adventures of the carnal kind’ are all captured on tape.

    • Ayush says:

      Gaurav Tyagi@ — Are you talking about Jaishankar?He is a CIA asset not chinese.My grandfather was a high ranking R&AW officer and worked directly under legendary RN Kao, one of mother India’s greatest sons.Whenever i meet him,he never fails to mention “how much can someone bootlick the west so much,that too when they have given us absolutely nothing.”

      • Gaurav Tyagi says:

        @Ayush- The ‘special one’ I referred to is the Pradhaan Drameybaaz of India.

        Jaishankar of course is a CIA mole in the Indian establishment.

        The Chinese assets in India comprise largely of IAS/IFS lobby bureaucrats.

        Your Grandfather is spot on in his assessment. He must be a treasure trove of information about the geopolitical happenings of those bygone days.

    • Ayush says:

      My GM is from the era the when US was the no.1 enemy of india,above china and pak.CIA left no opportunity to penetrate R&AW .China and pak never came close to penetrating our agency during that time .It was US not China that alerted Pak in advance,when Indira was about to strike Kahuta.They used the assets in R&AW to get the intel.Those assets were busted by my GM.He was in counterintelligence.US continues to use pak as leverage over india.Why else have they not sanctioned them yet?Those c**nts are still the biggest obstacle between us and thermonuclear weaponization.US intends to use India as punching bag against China just like how china uses pak.But unlike China, they will not give us a blank cheque or furnish us with better nukes .My GM agrees that there was incriminating evidence against several top civil servants regarding their links with CIA .He didnt have the guts to report this to the higher ups.God knows whats the situation today.Morarji was also an “asset”,according to him.It soubds crazy but surprisngly Seymour Hersh also says that.

      • Gaurav Tyagi says:

        @Ayush- US is nobody’s friend. Once upon a time in R.A.W they had a very influential mole in Rabinder Singh. He escaped to Nepal when he felt the heat in India.

        US authorities flew him to Yankeeland from Nepal and completely deserted him in US.

        Rabinder had family in US, which housed him. The Americans didn’t provide him with any job or monthly income after obtaining valuable intelligence from him for years.

        The guy died in a road accident (maybe an arranged hit) sometime back.

        So, your grandpa was right in not forwarding the evidence of bureaucrats collusion with CIA.

        Nothing would have come out of it instead your grandfather’s department colleagues would have turned his personal/professional life into hell.

        The rot goes right upto the top. Every single government department in India is characterized by high levels of corruption.

        What’s your grandfather’s opinion about the current NSA of India?

        I have heard from multiple sources that he is an ace in masterminding ‘false flag’ operations in collaboration with ISI.

        Kandahar Hijacking, Parliament attack, 26/11, Pulwama to name a few.

  8. DEBANJAN BANERJEE says:

    Another wonderful article by Mr Karnad.

    However I tend to disagree with you on this particular aspect of your article with regards to Pakistan. “India has let Pakistan outpace it in producing nuclear warheads and bombs. The Pakistan army’s Strategic Plans Division has in excess of 150 nuclear weapons; India’s Strategic Forces Command, on the other hand, has apparently leveled out at 110 weapons or thereabouts.”

    1. I believe that it was our strategy to bleed Pakistan dry by ensuring that the Pakistani economy which did not grow as much as India’s in the last few decades will be overburdened and will collapse with a growing nuclear arsenal to support.

    2. I believe that this was a deliberate strategy for us in the last two decades to ensure a complete collapse of the Pakistani state. We encouraged Pakistan to increase spending on strong nuclear defense by increasing the conventional military balance in our favor. Since nuclear weapons were Pakistan’s only defense against a conventionally superior India they were forced to expand their smaller resources on that to increase their nuclear arsenal. We believe that Pakistan will face a collapse like the Soviet Union in this way.

    3. Indian involvement in Afghanistan whereby we did support the Baloch militants and the TTP should also be seen in this way.

    3. So to conclude it was a deliberate strategy for India to make sure Pakistan collapses by tacitly encouraging them to overspend us on nuclear weapons. This was not pussyfooting but a deliberate strategy on our part with regards to Pakistan.

    I would love your views on the same.

    • Amit says:

      @Debanjan,
      Whether India has deliberately made Pakistan spend more on nuclear weapons or decided not to spend too much itself and let Pakistan spend more to hurt itself is something to consider. That was my question earlier about financial reasons involved in India’s low nuclear stockpile. But you raise an interesting point.

      I also support the idea of balkanising Pakistan, with its current radical ideologies and it being a puppet of China. It will do a few things for India – weaken China’s hybrid war against India, and create smaller states inimical to Western Punjab (Sindh, Baluchistan and Pashtun Afghanistan – let all of them fight with each other and resolve their ideological issues). It will also put a full stop to the CPEC, which is a security threat to India. Lack of access to the sea will also put tremendous pressure on W. Punjab to change its hostile attitudes. I get the feeling India is already doing this, but what do I know!

      • DEBANJAN BANERJEE says:

        @Amit

        Thanks for your viewpoint.

        1. However there are already significant roadblocks in the way of India getting its way when it comes to Pakistan. Much of our assumption to balkanize Pakistan was based upon the fact that the US will continue to occupy Afghanistan and we will have a client government of Amrullah Saleh and Ghani in Afghanistan and continue to disrupt CPEC and support the Baloch and TTP militants against the Pakistani state.

        Moreover India’s joining the Quad has more or less destroyed India’s connections with Iran.

        2. 15/08/2021 that brought Taliban to power has smashed this option for us. Now we do not have any presence in Afghanistan. Just notice that the TTP and Baloch militants have been forced to negotiate with the Pakistan government and the reason is that the safe heaven in Afghanistan is gone for these TTP and Baloch militants.

        3. With the Western front quieter for now, Pakistan can concentrate better now on the Eastern front with India. Henceforth Pakistan has already started pushing the envelope in Kashmir and Punjab. The recent killings in the valley or the ongoing Khalistan referendum are taking place because these forces feel that India is on the backfoot when it comes to the geopolitics in the region following the Taliban coming to power in Afghanistan.

        4. The removal of article 370 or the current political instability in Punjab are signs of tense and fractured fault lines of India. Add to it the farmers’ movement and we are for a rough ride in the coming months. Things are going to be tense.

        In addition, we have the PLA now ready to pounce on Ladakh and Arunachal. So our military resources are stretched thin on both LOC and LAC because of this particular situation.

        So the presence of PLA on the LAC prevents India from attacking POK and conquering it.

        To conclude based upon my above analysis, we have been trying to ensure the collapse of the Pakistani state for last couple of decades using Afghanistan however the present situation of the Taliban victory has reversed that equation for us. Now we have a real two-front situation without too many options either in Kashmir or Ladakh/Arunachal.

        I would love your views on my analysis.

    • Amit says:

      @Debanjan,
      Agree that Taliban’s victory is a temporary setback to India. However, India has the option of supporting the NRF and leveraging the Stans to regain a foothold in Afghanistan. Additionally, historically, in this region money talks and there are mercenaries willing to fight anyone for money. So India has not lost this leverage. India can continue to put pressure on Pakistan through the FATF and continue to bleed Pakistan. What I would like to see is India putting pressure on the US to tighten the screws further on Pakistan.

      Regarding your comment about forced nuclear spending to cripple Pakistan’s economy – if India had spent even more to match China, then it would have really tightened the screws on Pakistan. But I can’t confirm or deny this strategy since I do not know the details. But if India spends to match China, it would be a stronger act.

  9. Bhaskar says:

    You have criticized & held accountable the CSC people here. Usually, the foreign policy matters from a military & other threat perception are expected to be dealt by people who might have worked for intelligent services earlier and possibly have connect with them for inputs. They could be military veterans as well.
    With whatever discussions I have seen on TV talk shows & web over the years & now ongoing none of the strategic minded people or even retired military/navy/air-force personnel speak very good of China’s intentions, they do recognize their motives w.r.t India & South East Asia in general.
    Does that mean none of these people constitute the CSC? If no, who does then; what credentials are needed for getting in CSC? If yes, do these people say one thing on TV & opinion something else to GOI?

  10. whatsinitanyway says:

    @Bharat Ji The yanks have close to 10k nukes with megaton order yields and yet the Hans do not kowtow to them. Our arsenal may grow to 1k but will always lack the key factor which determines success- ‘will’ take the example of Vietnam. Moreover, Chinese are too big to be taken head on. I think your proposition about trying to find and exploit their fault lines like Tibet, Xinjiang Mongolia + almost every other state on its periphery. Also any chances that China can order N Korea to drop bombs on India (We will loose way more than N Koreans) or let them loose against Japan/ Taiwan. This way they can get their work done without getting their hands dirty. In case of Japan even South Korea won’t bother.

    • whatsinitanyway@ — Absolutely correct. Indeed, the lack of political will is what I analysed at some length and rated as the main reason for India not being a great power in my 2015 book — Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)’.

      • Ayush says:

        Do you think India can withstand a Chinese attack at the moment?I think we need to test A-5s warhead ASAP.It will display our willpower and capability.Its perhaps the only way to stall a Chinese attack.We need to buy time build up our capabilites.Its worth the sanctions.My Grandfather is having high BP thinking about an India-China war.

      • Sankar says:

        @Professor Karnad:
        In my book it goes beyond that. The ruling class, I mean the so-called mainstream of India, do not consider Arunachalis or Ladakhis as “true” Indians, that is they are the peripherals of the Indian stock. Thus, their interest, livelihood and other matters are secondary to the interests of say Gujjus, Upiwallahs, and so on. Hence it does not concern whether China builds a village in remote parts of Arunachal which is in reality a PLA camp as exposed by Pentagon recently. Modiji, as well as Rajnath et al, as all previous rulers with the exception of Indira Gandhi were, has the least concern for Indians there and is more in his world of “development”. For them, the real India is the Gangetic plain and they are least interested in safeguarding India’s sovereignty in that part of the subcontinent. I guess this is true for most of India’s masses, no wonder that Arunachalis get beaten up in Delhi, Bangalore, and other parts of the country. Perhaps the same for Ladakhis, only that they are closer to Delhi. Modiji is more interested in Chinese investment in India, borrowing money from the China-financed ADB bank to introduce bullet trains. And that is the crux of the problem.

  11. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    @Debanjan- Your analysis about India at a heavy disadvantage now due to Taliban’s rise to power in Afghanistan is relevant.

    India is hosting a conference about Afghanistan. China and Pakistan both have refused to attend it. This clearly indicates that India has no clout left in Afghanistan, whatsoever.

    However, if there’s a will there’s always a way.

    Farkhor Air Base is a military air base located near the town of Farkhor in Tajikistan, 130 kilometres (81 mi) southeast of the capital Dushanbe.

    It is operated by the Indian Air Force in collaboration with the Tajik Air Force. Farkhor is India’s first military base outside its territory.

    The above 2 paragraphs are excerpts from a Wikipedia link.

    Tajikistan can be utilized for operations in Afghanistan and POK since, it shares a border with Afghanistan.

  12. Gaurav Tyagi says:

    @Ayush- Your Grandpa needn’t worry. Tell him to relax. China has no immediate plans of initiating a military confrontation with India in the near future.

    The present ‘salami slicing’ strategy is working fine for them. They won’t change it.

  13. Amit says:

    Many people in these columns keep saying that the US does not share good technology etc. etc. But recent facts do not support this view. We have the P8is which are the top anti submarine and recon aircraft, predator drones, which are also top notch, multi role helis for the Navy, Apaches, Chinooks, Howitzers etc. so how is the US not parting with good tech? We even got high altitude gear from the US. There is no tech transfer, but like I have mentioned in my past comments no US company will do that without getting something in return. There is a lot of US bashing that goes on as if the US now is like the US of 20 years back.

    Things have changed and frankly India can manage US pressure. In fact, India can put pressure on the US and get it to do things it’s way – our politicians should be judged on this basis. Not on the thin skinned talk that goes on about how the US behaved in the past and how we should not collaborate with them now.

    • Amit@ — Just an observation, but every post cannot keep repeating or reproducing evidence of US holding back on advanced miltech sales/transfer. You have to read books, blogs, etc can only top of your tank, as it were. My last 2 books — ‘Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)’ — 2015 and ‘Staggering Forward: Narendra Modi and Inda’s Global Ambition’ (2018) dealt with pecisely the sort of hardware you are talking about to buttress my arguments. For instance, the P-8I is only a Boeing 737 passenger aircraft you may have flown in but with a suite of sophisticated anti-subamarine detection, surveillance and targeting sensors and tech, and high-speed data processing systems. Except, there are levels of tech sophistication. The Indian Navy’s P-8Is are not equipped with the same top end equipment that’s on board the US Navy P-8s. Chinooks, M-777 light howitzers, etc. are 60+ years old tech. And, so on.

      • Amit says:

        Professor, valid point about the Chinooks and Howitzers, and also agree with your point about the US holding back advanced military technology. I am also aware of the sanctions they have imposed on India in developing rocket technologies as well as aircraft tech. While all that is true, it is also true that recently the US has been more open about selling good tech like the Apaches, MH-60R naval helis, predator drones etc. GE engines also are on the LCAs. On your point about the P8is, my understanding was that India had not signed all the ‘foundational’ agreements when those P8is were sold to India. Will the ‘new’ P8is, be the same as the ‘old’ P8is?

        Secondly, we cannot compare US stinginess with Russian openness on miltech sharing as Russia uses its military sales to gain influence – it does not have a large economy and other goods/services to offer. It has to sell its miltech to retain influence. Russia shares miltech with India more out of its compulsions than the goodness of its heart.

        Thirdly, China for all its confrontation with the US still attracts US FDI and tech. They even have a policy to do this in crucial areas through smart acquisitions – e.g., A123 Lithium battery IP, developed by US tax payer grants was bought by a Chinese company after it went bankrupt. Tesla built its largest EV plant in China in record time. Why is it that China, the US’ most formidable competitor, continues to benefit from the US, while India should not? The US India partnership is not just about miltech, but also about hi-tech and investments.

        My point is that the US still has the most advanced tech and with the right policies and business environment, India can benefit tremendously. To take on China, India needs more friends not less. The US may not be a reliable security.partner, but we can work around that. US corporations are the most efficient wealth generators and hi-tech creators and want to invest in India. Unnecessary US bashing will not help. That’s my humble opinion Sir.

      • Solution: Don’t rely on external powers. But reward entrepreneurial impulses, de-regulate the economy, and transform the current government-heavy, babu-run, system into one that faciliates and enables Indian companies to become innovatve wealth producers of the kind that US corporations are.

  14. Amit says:

    Amen to that Sir. On the military side, at least there is the China threat as a catalyst for Indian security establishments and paradigms to change. But I wonder what catalyst will change the babu culture which is a big impediment to India’s growth. I hope the ‘China factor’ is a good motivator for economic change as well. But one thing is true about Indians – I have observed that the average Indian in India is smarter than the average American (purely anecdotal, not scientific). And Indians in America are the most successful immigrant group in EVERY field they chose to enter (it seems like). So it is possible for India to flourish and grow out of its misery, leveraging its diaspora along the way.

    • Mr.Mister says:

      Amit@ — Keep dreaming! No matter how “successful” these Indians are, it has been clear since long that they have no intention of returning back in large numbers to improve the nation of their origin. This is opposite of the Chinese diaspora, who learn valuable skills and go back to improve their own nation.

      Not that I blame them. Who would wish to live in the third world? The only problem I have is… they being outwardly “leftwing” in first world nations, to protect their own hides, but firmly rightwing in their hearts, with a deep hatred for minorities when it comes to India. You know, the same kind of “minorities” they are in their adopted nations. Hypocrite __.

      But then, since most all of them believe in the pagan concept of “karma,” they should be ready for it to come bite their behinds too, at some point in their lives. If they don’t believe that, then I question their fundamental belief system.

      In other words, they wish ill on others. They act directly or indirectly to enable ill on others. They will not be affected by their ill-actions? Why?

  15. RG says:

    Mr. Karnad any info on how many precision guided munitions we have? And any directed energy tech we have to defend against these?

    Nukes apart, if our rocket forces come up in 3-4 yrs, with a lil more infra we can narrow the power differential in the Himalayas “substantially”? what do u think?

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