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Admiral Mehta: India doesn’t have capability to match China force for force


By: Rupee News

Less than a week after India and China held what they described as fruitful talks on a long-standing border dispute, China embarked on a massive war-game designed to improve its ability to dispatch troops over long distances.

Not surprisingly, some in India are concerned.

India China border dispute. SU planes Tezpur to 3200 km or 8500 km with fuel tanksIndia China border dispute. SU planes Tezpur to 3200 km or 8500 km with fuel tanks

As China’s economy has grown, so has its offensive military capabilities, which has fueled something of an arms race in Asia, particularly with the region’s other emerging economic power, India.

As we reported in June, the Indian Ocean – the vital transport hub for the region’s goods and energy – will likely become a region of increasing strategic jockeying as the world’s two largest countries seek to secure their economic positions. China’s approach is dubbed the “String of Pearls” strategy by US military officials.

China and India fought a border war over their poorly demarcated boundary in the Himalayas in 1962, and China has at times since claimed sovereignty over territory that appears to be well on the western side of the border (this map shows the disputed area.)

On Tuesday, China began a series of military maneuvers that it is describing as its “largest-ever tactical military exercise.” The war games, called “Stride-2009,” will involve 50,000 troops form China’s more than 2 million-member standing army, and are designed to help China improve its “long-range force projection” by using high-speed civilian rail and civilian aircraft in rapidly moving troops, according to state news agency, Xinhua.

According to the PLA General Staff Headquarters, in charge of organizing the exercise “Stride-2009,” one army division from each of the military commands of Shenyang, Lanzhou, Jinan and Guangzhou, will participate in a series of live-fire drills lasting for two months. Unlike previous annual tactical exercises, the army divisions and their air units will be deployed in unfamiliar areas far from their garrison training bases by civilian rail and air transport.

China rails all the way to the Indian border. Pakistan Railways linked to Trans Asian Railway Network (TARN)China rails all the way to the Indian border. Pakistan Railways linked to Trans Asian Railway Network (TARN)

The exercise will have troops operating from up to 1,000 miles from their home bases. Though China is a vast country with significant internal dissent – rioting by ethnic Uighurs in Urumqi this July (and in Tibet last year) occurred more than 2,000 miles from Beijing – some neighbors fear it is intent on expansion.

The Times of India said strategists have long worried about the possibility that an expanding rail network in China could be used to “enhanc(e) China’s military superiority over neighboring India.”

On Monday, Indian Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta warned in rather stark terms that China’s military is outstripping India’s, according to the Hindustan Times. It was an unusually blunt admission:

“In military terms, both conventionally and unconventionally, we can neither have the capability nor the intention to match China force for force…” He said Beijing was in the process of consolidating its comprehensive national power and creating formidable military capability. “Once that is done, China is likely to be more assertive on its claims, especially in the immediate neighbourhood,” said Mehta, who as the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee, is the country’s senior most military commander.

Two months ago, India’s former Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major said China was a greater threat to India than Pakistan. India wary as China conducts biggest “long-range” war games. India’s Navy chief says his military is no match for China’s growing forces. By Dan Murphy | Staff writer 08.11.09. CS Monistor

Bangladesh map: Siliguri corridor is vulnerable to an expanding China mapBangladesh map: Siliguri corridor is vulnerable to an expanding China map

What the navy chief has projected is that our military asymmetry to China is similar to our asymmetry vis-a-vis our economies. Instead of matching China force by force we should harness technology more innovatively. It is not alarmist at all but a prudent suggestion that money allocated is spent and spent wisely,” National Maritime Foundation director Commodore (retd.) C. Uday Bhaskar said.

Terming China one of India’s primary challenges, Mehta said at a lecture Monday that “it would be foolhardy to compare India and China as equals”.

“Whether in terms of GDP, defence spending or any other economic, social or development parameter, the gap between the two is just too wide to bridge (and getting wider by the day). In military terms, both conventional and non-conventional, we neither have the capability nor the intention to match China, force for force,” Mehta told an elite audience at the India Habitat Centre.

Earlier IAF chief Major, who retired May 31, had said that China was a bigger challenge for India as little was known about its capability.

“What I meant was while it is easy to gauge the intentions of other countries, it is slightly difficult with China because it is a closed society. Moreover quantity does not matter but capability does. We need not be that overly concerned with China. We do not have to put them on such a high pedestal,” Major added.

Map Sikkim Bhutan Chumb: Chumbi Valley: Tri-state border disptute. China is negotiating with Bhuton to take most of Chumbi valleyMap Sikkim Bhutan Chumb: Chumbi Valley: Tri-state border disptute. China is negotiating with Bhuton to take most of Chumbi valley

The Chinese armed forces overrun the Indian armed forces in sheer numbers. While India has a 1.3 million strong army, China’s is around 2 million.

However, the Chinese air force and navy have been lagging behind in terms of quality platforms and vessels. However, China has increased its defence spending exorbitantly to achieve rapid modernisation of its two forces and lately has flexing muscles to spread its influence in the South Asian and Indian Ocean Regions.

The Chinese air force is at a nascent stage but the infrastructure that it is coming up with in north-eastern region is cause for concern, say Indian military experts.

Caught unawares, the Indian Air Force has also started work to revive its advanced landing grounds and upgrade its existing runways in the north-eastern states and Ladakh region bordering China.

India recently deployed its frontline fighter jets Sukhoi-30 MKI in Tezpur in Assam. Though a symbolic induction has been done, a squadron strength has not been completed yet, according to defence ministry sources.

The Chinese navy, which is currently termed as a ‘brown water’ navy with limited reach and endurance, does not operate a single aircraft carrier. The Indian Navy, which operates one aircraft carrier, is already constructing indigenous aircraft carrier and nuclear submarine, compelling China to increase the pace of its efforts to get an aircraft carrier soon. Sindh Today

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