China’s water hegemony
Tibet is the water reservoir of India. China virtually exercises control over the waters of rivers like the Tsangpo (Brahmaputra), Indus and Satluj flowing into India owing to is superior upper riparian position in the Tibet plateau. substantiated reports convey the alarming fact that China plans to unilaterally divert the waters of the Brahmaputra to its vast arid areas in the north and west. It also has commenced work to dam some other rivers flowing into India. India’s hydel project on the Brahmaputra, upstream of Pasighat, has been hanging fire for a very long time. Chinese callous attitude in its areas in water management upstream of the Indian rivers has resulted in two devastating flash floods for India. In June 2000 parts of Arunachal Pradesh were suddenly flooded due to the bursting of Yiong River Dam or release of water from the dam. In 2005 again, the Satluj river was flooded in Himachal Pradesh from the Pare Chu Lake in Tibet causing havoc to many low lying villages in some regions of Himachal Pradesh in the vicinity of the Indo-China border. In addition, its proposed construction of the 116 metres high Zangmu Dam on the Tsangpo in eastern Tibet in a high seismic zone can cause havoc to Assam in the event of a major earthquake in the region.
Though Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh himself assuaged the concerns of Indian parliamentrians in the Rajya Sabha in August 2011 regarding China’s diversion of waters from the Brahmaputra or damming it inside China, India will be well advised to ensure its satellite intelligence coverage of China’s activities in this field are zealously monitored. China has a propensity to keep its water strategies under wraps and does not allow any outsiders for on-site visits. It has disregarded UN recommendations on water and information sharing on earlier occasions.
A wake-up call for India
Notwithstanding the frequent and dozens of rounds of dialogue between India and China since the last few years to discuss many vexed issues between the two countries including the contentious border issue, Chinese actions towards India are hardly encouraging. China appears to be still suffering from the “Middle Kingdom” syndrome and resents Indian aspirations as the second Asian power. Its ‘string of pearls’ stratagem aims at the strategic encirclement of India to confining India to the backwaters of the Indian Ocean and to restrict India merely to South Asia.
China’s nuclear weapons-cum-missiles nexus with its client state, Pakistan and modernising the Pakistani Armed Forces is singularly aimed against India. For China, Pakistan is a low-cost guarantor of security against India and China now a high value guarantor of security for Pakistan against India. Since the last two years or so, the Chinese footprint in the disputed POK region is growing under the garb of engineer personnel being stationed in the region (approximately 7,000 to 10,000 personnel already there) and reports suggest that POK may be leased to China for 50 years or so. China and Pakistan appear to have decided to convert POK as Pakistani territory and in doing so, legitimise the 5180 sq km of POK ceded by Pakistan to China in 1963 as Chinese sovereign territory. With these ominous developments, India thus faces another front to secure against Pak-China collusion.
China has successfully made serious inroads into India’s immediate neighbourhood through Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka providing them subsidised arms and military training facilities besides constructing strategic infrastructure for them.
China’s further mischief in issuing stapled visas to Indian citizens from Jammu and Kashmir visiting China and laying territorial claims to Arunachal Pradesh, calling it Southern Tibet, all point towards China’s evil machinations towards India. Despite India’s continuing friendly overtures towards China, at times bordering on the submissive, it appears that China will, most likely, adopt a confrontationist policy towards India. Competition for foreign markets and global influence are likely to spur multiple challenges between the two rising Asian giants and thus India needs to factor in the myriad Chinese stratagems in the long term perspective.
Prognosis and the Indian response
The not so “peaceful rise” of China and its provocative actions vis-à-vis India — portends more competition than cooperation between the two Asian giants. China’s own stated reunification policies point to the fact that it can use military power to regain certain parts in its neighbourhood which it perceives to be its own. Thus, India as it endeavours to resolve all contentious problems with China in a mature and peaceful manner, must gear up to face the Chinese dragon squarely for China only respects strength. In order to do that we need to, firstly, correctly assess likely Chinese threats both in the short-term and long-term perspectives. In particular, the Indian government must not play down Chinese challenges in any form. Secondly, we must address with determination, the military asymmetry to counter the threat from China and ensure no bureaucratic sluggishness or procedural shortcomings in the identification and procurement of our military hardware for all the three services in a speedy time frame. The three services must be made capable for offensive operations in Chinese territory. Thirdly, we must pay adequate attention to further develop our strategic infrastructure leading to the Indo-China border. Nuclear and space assets require to be vastly improved as well as our electronic and cyber warfare wherewithal. Fourthly, under an international umbrella we need to go for either bilateral or regional water-management treaties between India and China and the other Asian lower riparian states. Fifthly, India needs to take the lead to energise all Asian groupings like the ASEAN to ensure peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region with active cooperation of the US and Australia.
It is high time that India carried out a reality check of its overall capabilities vis-à-vis China. It now needs to upgrade its military strategy from dissuasion to deterrence. For effective deterrence, India needs to enhance the capabilities of its nuclear forces by fielding 5,000 km range Agni IV and Agni V Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles and sea launched long range missiles by nuclear subs to complete the nuclear TRIAD for our forces. The synergy of the three services and India’s future military build-up to deter the formidable Chinese will only be suitably energised if the country goes in for long awaited defence reforms in India’s higher defence management structure.
About the Author
Lt Gen Kamal Davar PVSM, AVSM (retd) — The writer is a distinguished soldier having served in all theatres of operations in his 41 years of service. A veteran of the 65 and 71 operations, he was wounded in action in the 1965 ops. He was the first armoured corps officer to be specially selected to be GOC Ladakh where he implemented many innovative operational and logistical innovations. He has been Chief of Staff of a Corps HQ in Jammu and Kashmir and then as GOC 11 Corps responsible for the defence of Punjab. He was especially selected by the Government of India to raise the Defence Intelligence Agency after the Kargil War. After retirement he writes and lectures on security issues. He is widely known to passionately espouse the cause of jointness in the Indian Armed Forces. As the first DG DIA, many intelligence initiatives including abroad were taken by him.
Note by the Author:
That China will be a super power by 2025, if not earlier, will be understating a stark reality. If the 21st century has to be an Asian century, as repeatedly proclaimed by many geopolitical luminaries, China leads the way well ahead of the other players on the scene including India, Japan, S. Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia etc. China is usually bracketed with India as the lead players in emerging Asia but India merely plods along never having risen yet to its true potential because of its inner contradictions. That China sees India as its main rival, globally, regionally, economically and militarily, makes the growing asymmetric chasm between the two neighbours and Asian giants a serious cause of worry, in the foreseeable future, for India
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