On Wednesday, April 11, 2018, I spoke on India's Evolving Strategic Response to China at the Institute of Chinese Studies' Wednesday Seminar. I focused on the following issues: Why India worries about China and these include China’s increasing military budget, lack of transparency around its military spending as well as the strategies, impact of this military spending on the military balance between India and China, especially on the Sino-Indian border, China’s nuclear force deployments in Tibet and China’s ambitions in the Indian Ocean region. This was followed by India's evolving posture and response -- its evolving nuclear posture, its naval policies, strengthened strategic partnerships with the US, Japan, Australia, India outreach to Southeast Asia. While dealing with China, India has so far adopted a twin policy, it appears that focuses on beefing up its defence capabilities and diplomatic manoeuvring that would result in certain deterrent capability against China.
Clearly, the shifting balance of power in Asia and beyond is an important reality. Given this changes including in Asian military balance, there is a renewed emphasis on hard power. Other important contextualising factors include the declining US power, North Korea’s nuclear and missile advancements and future Japanese reactions, Internal factors in each of these power centres - but different for each power. The implications of all of these are difficult to predict but certainly of strategic consequence.
As for the way ahead, here are some of my thoughts:
1. China’s rise a source of significant concern and its aggressive behaviour over the last decade intensified these concerns
2. Hedging is no more a strategy; open balancing
3. US remains a critical factor; all else put together will not have the capacity to balance China without the US
4. India – building up its military strength incl. strategic capabilities and engaged in diplomatic manoeuvring
5. Troubling phase in Asian strategic matters – phase of competition, rivalry and conflict cannot be ruled out – land and maritime spheres
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