This is a guest blog by Akhilesh Singh.
China is the world’s most populous country with a population of 1.404 billion. It has the largest standing military and is poised to become the largest economy in the future. Since the economic reforms of 1978 it has become the manufacturing hub of the world with great wealth and economic influence.
Modernizing Military has been the top priority of China and has also undertaken Military Reforms which are as follows –
- China has decided to cut the size of People’s Liberation Army by 50% & increase the Navy & Air Force to increase influence in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean.
- It has increased its military spending by 7.5% to US$176 billion in the latest budget to put pressure on US post the trade war.
- A Strategic Support Force has been established to provide intelligence and reconnaissance. This also oversees cyber and electronic warfare activities.
- At operational level,17 Army, Navy & Air Force Commands have been reorganized into 5 Theatre Commands.
- People’s Liberation Army’s Headquarter is also set to move out of Beijing with an aim to improve combat readiness.
- Combat units of five main forces are being moved to second and third tier cities.
BELT AND ROAD INITIATIVE (BRI)
It was earlier known as One Belt One Road (OBOR) and is one of the world’s most ambitious development programs.
It connects China with Asia, Europe and Africa via land and maritime networks with the aim of improving regional integration, increasing trade and stimulating economic growth.
It spans 70 countries and touches 60% of the world population and around 1/3 of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
It has two major components –
- Silk Road Economic belt (SREB) which is land based,
- 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (MSR) which is sea based.
Objectives of China
1. To increase economic influence.
2.Due to global economic meltdown the demand of products manufactured by China has significantly reduced and is expected to grow at 6.3% in the first quarter of 2019 which is the slowest in the last 27 years.
3. To secure Chinese energy needs.
4. It will ensure faster transportation of gas and oil by rail and road links and not remain dependent on using the Strait of Malacca.
5. Develop the Western region of China, particularly the sensitive Uighur populated
6. China’s fast growth rate was to a large extent dependent upon massive infrastructure development. It has large infrastructure creation capacity which it wants to continue to utilize and keep the agencies involved gainfully employed.
7.The BRI has the potential to raise the world GDP by 2-3%. Chinese infrastructure development companies and banks can earn interest on investment on these projects.
8. It will raise Chinese influence as a super power and replace the vacuum being created by receding US influence.
9. The increased infrastructure and influence created in the world by China will be conducive to selling Chinese goods and services.
Threat for India and Reason for its Objection to BRI
The China Pakistan Economic Corridor connects Kashgar in Xinjiang Province of China to Gwadar in Balochistan. It is a network of rail road and gas pipelines. It passed through the Pakistan occupied Kashmir and makes China an indirect stakeholder in the Kashmir conflict between India and Pakistan. Moreover the increased connectivity creates greater potential for military collusion between Pakistan & China.
Under the project China is developing ports in the Indian Ocean which is a threat to India which looks at it like a String of Pearls to encircle India. It has developed ports at Chittagong in Bangladesh, Coco Islands and Sittwe in Myanmar, Hambantota in Sri Lanka, Djibouti in Africa & Piraeus in Greece.
Sri Lankan Government was forced by China to lease its Hambantota port for 99 years as it was unable to repay the loan as the port did not earn enough money.
Other Issues with China
1.Doklam, a Bhutanese territory is claimed by China and is strategically important to India as it is close to the sensitive Siliguri corridor which connects North Eastern States to the rest of Indi2. China has been also blocking India’s attempt to declare Masood Azhar as a terrorist in the UN3. It has been developing dams and water diversion projects on Brahmaputra river which pose the following threats to India:
a. Reduction in water in the river.
b. Threat of floods.
c. Threat of earthquakes.
Steps Taken by India
India is developing Chabahar Port in Iran and it will give access to Afghanistan, & Central Asia bypassing Pakistan under International North South Corridor (INSC).
India and Sri Lanka have also signed an agreement for development of Trincomale Port in Sri Lanka and will also operate Mattala airport. India is also raising mountain strike corps to improve its forces along borders with China India has signed a pact with Seychelles to develop a naval base on Assumption island.
India has constructed a coastal surveillance radar station in Narcondam Island, Andaman and Nicobar opposite Coco-islands with China’s presence.
India is speeding up improvement of infrastructure.
What More India Needs to Do?
1. India needs to improve the economy and military potential at a much greater pace to counter the threat posed by China.
2. India needs to manage good diplomatic relations with all the major Asian countries which feel threatened by China, as also US and EU countries.
3. India needs to secure the energy needs in the Middle East.