Chinese indian arms race heats up

Posted in China | 26-Jan-09 | Author: Judith Apter Klinghoffer| Source: History News Network

It could have been expected. Economic downturn scares dictators and military spending is one way to stimulate an economy. There is little doubt that the worldwide economic downturn during the Thirties played a pivotal role in the rise of aggressive militarism in Japan, Italy and Germany. So, it should not surprise us to read that China is increasing military spending to meet foreign and DOMESTIC challenges nor that a worried India is determined to meet the challenge. The simultaneous rise of two nuclear superpowers is difficult in the best of times which these times are definitely not. In other words, the coming economic depression has made perilous times, much more perilous and I have yet to mention Russia, Pakistan or Iran.

In a "white paper" of almost 100 pages, prepared by the government and released yesterday, Beijing admits that "China's security situation has improved steadily," but adds that "China is encountering many new circumstances and new issues in maintaining social stability."

In the white paper, China emphasizes its intention to use military power solely in a defensive manner, and in order to maintain its "territorial integrity." But it adds that it intends to employ significant resources in order to make its army increasingly modern and technologically advanced, according to a plan of development that is not expect to be completed before the "middle of the century." This is in part in order to confront "the superiority of developed countries economically, scientifically and technologically, as well as militarily."

It should be noted that when China refers to its "territorial integrity," it is not referring only to Taiwan but also to Tibet which is tied to it's border with India (see, China: Rising Pitch for a War with India to Recover Arunachal Pradesh. with which it fought a war in 1962.

Experts observe that Beijing, after the bloody repression of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, has increased its military spending every year. China is afraid of mass protests, like the one that took place last March in Tibet, forcibly suppressed by the army. There is explicit reference to the "disruption and sabotage by separatist and hostile forces from the inside," like the Tibetans or the Uyghurs of Xinjiang.

For 2008, declared military spending was 417.769 billion yuan (about 41 billion euros), 17.6% more than in 2007. But experts estimate that actual spending was much higher.

Clearly, spending for 2009 and 2010 is sure to set new records. The same hold true for India. It should also not be forgotten that Pakistan is allied to China and India to Russia:

India defense minister, A.K. Antony, is calling for the country's military to be modernized, arguing it is operating at less than 30 per cent of the capability the nation requires.

Antony says this needs to be done as quickly as possible because India is surrounded by "inimical elements."

In this context India conducted yet another test of its advanced cruise missile systems. Unfortunately, for India, despite two previous success, it failed to achieve the expected precision parameters. The reason seems to be the reconfiguration of its guidance system to carry nuclear instead of conventional warhead.

The Army today (January 20) tested the land-attack version of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile from a firing range near Pokhran in Rajasthan, in a move to fine-tune its use as a precision-strike weapon in future battles. This comes shortly after the air-breathing missile, with a strike range of 290-km, was tested for the first time from a vertical launcher fitted on a moving warship in the Bay of Bengal on December 18.

The missile, capable of touching a speed of 2.8 times that of sound, was launched during the trial in its vertical mode, DRDO officials informed. Currently, the army has one regiment armed with the BrahMos missile which is different from the version that was test-fired today.

The test comes in the midst of heightened tension between India and Pakistan following the Mumbai terror attacks. Defence Minister A K Antony told reporters in New Delhi that the test was pre-planned and not influenced by the ongoing stand-off with Pakistan in the wake of Mumbai carnage.

The missile, jointly developed by India and Russia, was scheduled to be test-fired on Sunday from the Pokran firing range. Sources said a delay in missile's transportation to the test site also led to the postponement.

Incidentally, the Army has begun the progressive induction of its BrahMos LACM (land-attack cruise missile) version, with the first battery being handed over to it in June 2007.

Significantly, Asia Times reports that China can't stop India's missile system:

India considers its emerging anti-missile system an absolute necessity. As each day passes, the signs of instability in Pakistan become more troubling and the drum beat grows louder from Pakistan's Swat Valley, where a militant culture is taking root which is neither tolerant nor passive in nature.

Beijing cannot be happy about India's anti-missile plans and what this might mean for China's long-term strategic interests in the region. More than anything

else, it is the uncertainty of the outcome that is causing it such discomfort. The US seems determined to surround China with US-built anti-missile systems. Using North Korea as a valid excuse at first, the US anti-missile footprint could soon extend from Japan - including Japanese cruisers stationed offshore - and South Korea to Taiwan and India. . . .

Writing in World Politics Review in late November in the article "Chinese Perspectives on a Rising India", Yuan said, "Beijing is also wary of New Delhi's eastward strategy of developing greater economic and military ties with Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries. Indeed, the increasingly warm ties between New Delhi and Tokyo have been carefully watched by strategic analysts in Beijing."

All I can add is that our new president is fully briefed about this pre World War I (see, cartoon above) reminiscent witches brew which the economic downturn is bound to make increasingly more and more explosive especially as Barack Obama wishes to get the US directly involved with a tar baby called Kashmir and risk damaging the strategically important US/Indian relations.