By Dave Anand
A white paper published on October 24, 2011 by India’s prestigious Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses warns that China could try a Kargil type of operation on India to teach India a second lesson — the first lesson being the short border skirmish of 1962 high in the Himalaya’s Aksai Chin area. The analysis goes over three escalating conflict scenarios starting with su conventional/Kargil level to conventional and finally the more sinister — nuclear level.
The IDSA study suggests that similar to the Kargil infiltration in 1999 during which Pakistani soldiers and Kashmiri militants together grabbed land on the Indian side of the Line of Control, Chinese soldiers together with East India militants could take over the Tawang area in Arunachal Pradesh and provoke a larger conflict between the two Asian giants.
Should a larger conflict ensue, the IDSA-report continues, the two nations, who subscribe to the “No First Use” principle, could throw the doctrine out of the door to signal thresholds for the lower levels have been crossed. Both nations would then be free to introduce nuclear weapons into the conflict, whose outcome we all know is annihilation of both states resulting in the loss of billions of innocent lives and flattening of all those promising growth trajectories of 8 percent to 10 percent year after year for the past 10 years or more.
Several reasons are leading up to such war scenarios. There is a growing Chinese military presence along long border separating China from India, most of which is under dispute and unresolved. In October 2011, India’s Army Chief Gen. V. K. Singh raised concern about the presence of 4,000 Chinese troops of the People’s Liberation Army of China in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir and another 11,000 troops in the Gilgit-Baltistan region near the Jammu and Kashmir border. (Interestingly, China has even a longer unresolved border with Russia, but they are too scared of the powerful Polar Bear to raise the issue).
Other contributing factors for war mania include: diversion of rising political chaos in China, “balance of power” games that all nations play, India’s agreement with Vietnam for oil exploration in South China Sea, and protection of markets and resources China needs for maintaining its progress deep into the 21st Century.
To counter the growing Chinese threat on its borders, India recently approved an approximately $13 billion military modernization plan for adding 100,000 soldiers as four new divisions in the next five years to protect the India-China border from Chinese incursions, as well as for inducting more lethal offensive capabilities to their Mountain Strike Corps.
India has also been preparing for a two-front war considering threats from Pakistan. With the creation of “test beds” in the northern and western sectors, the Army’s operational transformational plan will achieve its tactical readiness for “theaterization” of combat and support services required in a two-front war during the upcoming exercise named “Sudarshan Shakti” in the Thar Desert.
If the above preparations by India fail to deter China from miscalculating, then its acquisition of the next-generation fighter jets should. India is on the verge of concluding the purchase of either 126 Eurofighter Typhoons or France’s Rafale fighter jets in a deal worth more than $20 billion by the latest estimates. Both the Typhoons and the Rafales are fourth generation fighter jets. Unfortunately, Boeing’s F/A-18 and Lockheed Martin’s F-16 did not qualify as did Russia’s MiG-35 and Sweden’s Gripen made by Saab.
Enter the F-35, the most advanced, fifth generation, all-stealth fighter jet that is also manufactured by Lockheed Martin like the F-16s. U.S. export restrictions in the past have prevented the sharing of its advanced military technology with India. However, US-India defense relationship has improved considerably in the last 10 years and there is no better evidence of that than the recent pitch by Pentagon to the U.S. Congress for the sale and delivery of F-35 fighter jets to India.
While India may have ethical reservations on reversing its decision in favor of F-35s this late in the game — the Chinese threat alone makes it imperative to go for a technology that will not only establish a qualitative military edge for India in any future conflict with China — the F-35s will extend the fighter jet replacement period to 50 years, more than the normal 30 years. More importantly, India needs the F-35s to teach China a lesson this time should it dare to engage India for settling the border issue in a non-peaceful manner as it did in 1962.
China’s 21st Century party has just begun, and no one and least of all India, would like to close out the good times for over 1 billion Chinese so soon. In fact, India’s acquisition of F-35s will assure “mutually assured destruction” and that by itself, will prevent any abrupt end to China’s rollicking party.