More churning in South Asia : India bolsters defences on China border

June 12, 2009

Power play in South Asia is always a delicate dance and anything that happens between India and China will likely play itself out across the region, not the least in Pakistan, Beijing’s all weather friend.

And things are starting to move on the India-China front. We carried a report this weekabout India’s plan to increase troop levels and build more airstrips in the remote state of Arunachal Pradesh, a territory disputed by China.  New Delhi planned to deploy two army divisions, the report quoted Arunachal governor J.J. Singh as saying.

Other reports in the Indian media said the air force was beefing up its base in Tejpur in the northeast with Su-30 fighter planes, the newest in its armoury. The HIndustan Times said it was part of a decision to move advanced assets close to the Chinese  border.  The IAF base in Tejpur which is in the state of Assam is within striking distance of the border with China in Arunachal Pradesh.

Arunachal evokes especially painful memories for India – for this is where the Chinese advanced deep inside, inflicting heavy casualties on poorly-equipped Indian soldiers in the 1962 war. The Chinese retreated but have refused to recognise Arunachal as part of India, and that along with other disputed stretches of their 3,000 km border has remained at the heart of more than four decades of distrust.

Indeed the renewed Indian defence deployment comes days after the air force chief said China posed a bigger and more potent threat than Pakistan.

And what of the Chinese? What do they have to say to the noises coming out of India?  While official China hasn’t appeared to react publicly,  the Chinese media has responded. The Global Times said in a hard-hitting editorial the Indian government’s tough new posture ”is dangerous if it is based on the anticipation China will cave in”.

China is in a different league, it says, by way of international influence, overall national power and economic scale and India’s politicians don’t seem to have realised this. On the contrary, they seem to think that they would be doing China a huge favour simply by not joining the so-called  “ring around China” established by the United States and Japan, it says.

China is not going to compromise on its border dispute with India, and it was up to New Delhi to figure out why it can’t have stable relations with many of its neighbours such as Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka while Beijing can, the Global Times says.

The Global Times is a popular tabloid and has been taking a strident tone on foreign policy issues. But it is published by the Communist Party mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, and can’t really be ignored.

Are we seeing the beginning of a more open, declared rivalry  between the world’s two most populous countries? Where does Pakistan fit in all this? Is New Delhi going to organise its energies and defences to meet the perceived threat from China and leave Pakistan to figure out its own troubles?

And what of the Chinese? Are they going to turn up the heat on India? As this analysis notes, New Delhi is already wary of China’s role in Pakistan, and now reinforcing its fear of strategic encirclement are Beijing’s expanding ties with India’s smaller neighbours such as Sri Lanka and Nepal.

 [Indian troops at the Indian-China trade route at Nathu-La; an Indian and a Chinese soldier also in Nathu-La] 



Rohit:Thanks for the links. Nothing much to comment on the rest.Umair:@Both 1965 and 71 wars cannot be termed as defensive on part of India. In both wars India tried to inflict maximum blow to Pakistan and vice versa.—Elaborate on why not? Your own country’s ex Air Marshal Asghar Khan says that Pakistan initiated hostilities against India each time.  /dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspape r/columnists/16-ardeshir-cowasjee-wise-w ords-from-an-old-warrior-hs-04He says “Until recently when the so-called Taliban became a problem, our defence expenditure was meant only to meet a threat from India. The fact is that in the last 60 years of our existence, India has not started hostilities against Pakistan unless provoked to do so, or until we created conditions, as we did in 1971 in East Pakistan, for India to interfere militarily….”@Regarding the question if India will loose a war with Pakistan at this stage? well, in my opinion its not a question of India loosing the war, its that India will not be able to win the war. if the opposite word for victory in english is defeat than so be it. India will be defeated, to rephrase it.-Umair, you can play with the words and become a victor on the net.@The Kashmir insurgency is just yesterday’s event. What about the Mukti Bahni insurgents entered in East Pakistan?-What about the raiders of 1948 to occupy Kashmir. It started from there in reality. Screwed the whole thing.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

China acts like a cat, “while drinking milk, Cat thinks that nobody could see the cat since the cat is deep down into the container. China tried to isolate India from every angle. They have no interest in Pakistan other than to keep India on the bay using Pakistan’s soil, resources. Similarly they have tried to do the same using Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar. The total GDP, purchasing power and per capita income of Pakistan is so low that in never came to the radar of the investors to invest in that country. The FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) in Pakistan is negligible in compare to India and China. Still China pours billions in to Pakistan. The competition for future super power is getting fierce between china and India. A war between China and India will be a lose lose situation for both India and China. As India cannot afford to have a war with Pakistan due to Nuclear, so does China. India can also wipe Sanghai and Beging from the map. Historically Communist talks tough. Though India needs to look at its approach to deal with her neighbor, it’s time for Pakistan to wake up to the ground reality.

Posted by Saurav Mohanty | Report as abusive

Saurav Mohanty,China may be moving for global supremacy and given the fact that US is on decline, China has brilliant chance of becoming a superpower.But what makes you believe that India is becoming or on way to become superpower? India has a growing population which cannot be contained and therefore, poverty, corruption, ineffective judiciary etc cannot be removed. This population is not in a state to face even one season of calamity. The natural resources of India are not enough to sustain 1 billion people.

Posted by Rohit | Report as abusive

Failed State Index Rankings:1. SOMALIA2. ZIMBABWE3. SUDAN4. CHAD5. CONGO6. IRAQ7. AFGHANISTAN10. PAKISTAN13. BURMA17. N KOREA19. BANGLADESH22. SRI LANKA25. NEPAL57. CHINA87. INDIAAll friends of China are topping the list. Aspiring failed state can use this as a reference. Copy this link quickly before china blocks this blog or links! les/2009/06/22/the_2009_failed_states_in dex

Posted by tony | Report as abusive

In fact,in the Chinese eyes,Pakistan is the brother contry because of the help from them in the Great Earthquake.

Posted by Reminding M.J | Report as abusive

Indians are too obsessed with Pakistan to worry about China, that is why the bulk of the Indian military is deployed against Pakistan.


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