India has been fretting for months that it could be pushed into the background by the United States' economic dependence on China and by the renewed focus on Pakistan by President Barack Obama's administration. That anxiety appears to have increased lately -- perhaps because the end of the country's lengthy election campaign has opened up space to think more about the external environment -- and is focusing on China.
In an interview with the Hindustan Times, Indian Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major said China posed a greater threat than Pakistan. “China is a totally different ballgame compared to Pakistan,” he was quoted as saying. “We know very little about the actual capabilities of China, their combat edge or how professional their military is … they are certainly a greater threat.”
The Mint newspaper followed up with a editorial calling China "perhaps the gravest external threat" to India's security. "That India is in an unstable neighbourhood is clearer than ever this summer," it said. "But troubles from Pakistan, Sri Lanka or Nepal pale when compared with China."
The increased anxiety has been driven by the end of the war in Sri Lanka, where the government's victory was attributed partly to a supply of Chinese weapons, and where China has been building a new port on the island's southern coast.
"This is part of a broad move by China into the Indian Ocean, which India has traditionally considered its sphere of influence," said British newspaper The Times. Chinese engineers are building another port at Gwadar in Pakistan; roads are being cut or improved through Burma to help trade routes between Yunnan province in China and the Indian Ocean; ties are being improved with island nations such as the Seychelles; surveillance stations are being sited or upgraded on Burmese islands."