Navy mobilisation to check China that now faces Japan on its eastern front

The Indian Navy has increased the number of ships to check Chinese movements in the Indian Ocean. Besides the surveillance mission, the navy and the Japanese Navy conducted a joint exercise in the ocean amidst the escalation in eastern Ladakh with China.

The Japanese Navy reported that JS Kashima and JS Shimayuki of the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force conducted manoeuvres with INS Rana and INS Kulish of the Indian Navy.

The manoeuvres between India and Japan yesterday and today are clearly meant to be a message to China about the kind of force it could confront if it wishes to escalate the situation along the Line of Actual Control (LoAC) in Ladakh. Chinese naval ships and submarines have been frequent in the Indian Ocean for some time.

The Indo-Japanese joint naval exercise coincided with the incident of a Japanese military aircraft intercepting Chinese H-6K strategic bomber flying through international airspace between the Japanese islands of Okinawa and Miyako in the East China Sea on 28 June.

Japan‘s Defence Minister Taro Kono in a statement expressed concern not only at China’s defence capabilities but also its intentions in the Indo-Pacific region. For the first time, Japan reacted to China’s aggression in parts of Asia in the last few months.

The Indian Navy and its Japanese counterpart performed the joint exercises following the statement of the Japanese defence minister.

To counter China’s repeated efforts to expand military influence in the resource-rich Indo-Pacific region, the navies from the US, India, Australia, Japan and France have been increasing their mutual cooperation.

In the wake of aggressive posturing by the Chinese Navy in the South China Sea and Indo-Pacific region and the border standoff between India and China in Ladakh, these exercises have gained major significance.

Tension has been growing meanwhile between India and China in Ladakh even as the latter has been keeping an eye on the important island of East China Sea for a long time. Japan is determined to capture it.

Both China and Japan have been asserting their claims on the islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaos in China. Tensions over the rocky chain 1,900 km southwest of Tokyo have simmered for years. The claims of the two sides over the chain date back hundreds of years.

Senkaku Islands: Navy mobilisation to check China that now faces Japan on its eastern front

Both Japan and China consider this territory their national birthright.

“An unexpected flare-up in the Senkaku/Diaoyus could trigger a military confrontation between China and the United States. That’s because the United States has a mutual defence treaty with Japan. If Japanese territory is attacked by a foreign power, the United States is obligated to defend it,” reported CNN.

Before the incident above, a Japanese “destroyer” (helicopter-carrier Kaga) along with a P-1 patrol plane had detected a Chinese submarine within 24 miles of the Amami-Oshima island near Okinawa in southern Japan on 18 June. For two days, Kaga and patrol planes tailed the submarine until the Chinese fled the Japanese waters.


China leverages trade to force partners into submission: US NSA

US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien has alleged that China, in addition to propaganda and influence operations, uses trade to “coerce” compliance with its diktats. In his address to a group of people at Phoenix in Arizona, the Trump administration official said that the efforts of China to control people’s minds beyond its borders is well underway.

“In addition to propaganda and influence operations, the Chinese Communist Party uses trade to coerce compliance with its dictates,” O’Brien said. The White House released this transcript released on 26 June.

When Australia called for an independent investigation of the coronavirus’ origins and spread, the Communist Party of China (CPC) threatened to stop buying Australian agricultural products. Beijing threatened Canberra to also prevent Chinese students and tourists from travelling to Australia, O’Brien said.

When Australia refused to relent, Beijing put executed these threats, imposing an 80% tariff on Australian barley exports, the NSA said. He said that China has sought leadership positions within many global bodies — noting that international organisations are part of China’s plan, too.

China heads 4 out of 15 UN specialised agencies, which it uses to force the international bodies to parrot Beijing’s talking points and also install Chinese telecommunications equipment in their facilities, O’Brien alleged. For example, since Zhao Houlin of the International Telecommunications Union took his post, he began to aggressively promote Huawei sales, he said.

Secretary-General Fang Liu of the International Civil Aviation Organisation has blocked Taiwan’s participation in General Assembly meetings and covered up a Chinese hack of the organisation. The CPC has used China’s membership on the UN Human Rights Council to prevent criticism of its abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, he said.

O’Brien alleged that the Chinese reach extends to heads of international organisations who are not themselves Chinese officials.

“Under Beijing’s thumb, and at an unacceptable cost to human life, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of the World Health Organisation (WHO) dutifully used the Chinese talking points on the Wuhan virus. As late as mid-January, he claimed that there was no human-to-human transmission of the disease and opposed international travel restrictions,” he said, adding that at the same time, Tedros praised China’s own domestic travel restrictions on Wuhan residents.

The US NSA said the Chinese people could travel overseas, but they could not travel and potentially take the virus to Beijing or Shanghai. These Chinese tactics in international organisations, as we have seen with the coronavirus, are a major cause of concern not just for the US, but to the world, the NSA said.

O’Brien alleged that Beijing had used its financial might and market access to pressure Hollywood into self-censorship, incentivising directors and producers to avoid topics that might not make it past the country’s censors in China. For example, the Japanese and Taiwanese flags were dropped from Tom Cruise’s flight jacket in the upcoming Top Gun sequel Maverick. MGM digitally changed the identities, post-production of the invading military from China to North Korea in the “Red Dawn” remake.

China is seeking leverage over individual Americans as well, the NSA said. “The Party is collecting your most intimate data — your words, actions, purchases, whereabouts, health records, social media posts, texts and mapping your network of friends, family and acquaintances,” O’Brien said.

The NSA alleged that China accomplished this goal partly by subsidising hardware, software, telecommunications, and even genetics companies. Consequently, corporations such as Huawei and ZTE undercut competitors on price and install their equipment around the globe at a loss. This has the side effect of putting out of business American manufacturers of telecom hardware and has made it very difficult for Nokia and Ericsson.

“Why do they do it? Because it is not telecom hardware or software profits the CPC are after, it is your data. They use ‘backdoors’ built into the products to obtain that data,” O’Brien said, adding when the “CPC cannot buy your data, it steals”.

“How will the Chinese Communist Party use this data? In the same way it uses data within China’s borders: to target, flatter, cajole, influence, coerce and even blackmail individuals to say and do things that serve the CPC’s interests.

“This is ‘micro-targeting’ beyond an advertiser’s wildest dreams. China, unlike advertisers, will not be stopped by government regulations. The CPC simply wants to know everything about you — just as it likes to know almost everything about every individual living in China,” O’Brien added.


How US plans to help India, corner China and the real story of Tibet’s repression

In order to counter China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the US is reviewing its global deployment of forces in Asia by reducing them from Europe

New Delhi: Amid India-China border standoff along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, a threat of the Third World War appears to be looming large. The global community seems to have realised this but the United States is the first country to openly criticise China’s aggressive policies.

The US has officially stated that it is reviewing its global deployment of forces to counter the growing Chinese military threat to countries like India, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said this in response to a question during the virtual Brussels Forum 2020 of the German Marshall Fund on Thursday.

In order to counter China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the US is reviewing its global deployment of forces in Asia by reducing them from Europe. American military bases in many European countries were established to deal with the threat of Russia for years. Now, China and its Communist Party have emerged as the biggest threat to the world. Under the force posture review, the US is reducing the number of its troops in Germany from about 52,000 to 25,000. 

China has been fast expanding military and economic influence in the strategic Indo-Pacific region, triggering concern in various countries of the region and beyond. China is currently engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea. It has built up and militarised many of the islands and reefs under its controls in the region. 

Pompeo also said that China’s PLA was indulging in provocative military actions, while referring to the ongoing military standoff in eastern Ladakh where the PLA killed 20 Indian soldiers on June 15 during a violent face-off, and also cited China’s continued aggression in the South China Sea.


Imran Khan calls Osama bin Laden ‘shaheed’, slammed

Barely a day after the US called out Pakistan as one of the “safe havens”, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday called al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden a ‘shaheed’ or martyr. PM Khan was speaking in the national assembly, elaborating how Pakistan has been humiliated across the world despite having sacrificed lives in the war against terrorism.

“The way we helped America in the ‘war on terror’ and the humiliation that my country had to face. I don’t think there has ever been any other country that supported war on terror and had to face criticism from them. If they are not successful in Afghanistan, Pakistan is held responsible for that too. Openly,” Prime Minister Khan told the National Assembly in a widely-circulated video.

Describing his foreign policy as his government’s biggest achievement, Imran Khan related two instances that he said had deeply embarrassed the people of Pakistan. “One was when Americans killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. Shaheed kar diya (was martyred). But what happened after that. The entire world hurled abuses at us. Our ally (US) entered our country and killed someone without even telling us. It was a big humiliation,” Khan said.

The prime minister of Pakistan then described the drone attacks on Pakistan as the second set of incidents that embarrassed the country.

The US Navy Seals in a military operation in 2011 at the Garrison town in Abbottabad had killed Osama bin Laden. The Pakistan prime minister’s description of Osama bin Laden as a “shaheed” had many a social media user turn around and take notice.

the opposition leaders from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Peoples Party panned Imran Khan immediately. “Remember that Osama Bin Laden can be the prime minister’s hero but not the nation’s. He was and will remain a criminal of the state and the people,” PPP’s Senator Sherry Rehman said, adding that Imran Khan’s words will go down in history.

PML(N) senior leader Khawaja Asif slammed Imran Khan too. Asif said Osama bin Laden “brought terrorism to our lands, he was a terrorist through and through and he [PM Khan] calls him ‘shaheed‘?”

Imran Khan, who has defended Osama bin Laden in the past, issued no clarification till the end of the day. Earlier once, he had argued that one person’s freedom fighter could be terrorist of another. Indian diplomat Vidisha Maitra had pointed to such statements from Khan in the United Nations General Assembly where she exposed Pakistan’s duplicity before the world. She asked Khan if he would deny that “he was an open defender of Osama bin Laden” — putting the spotlight on Pakistan’s track record of supporting and creating terrorists.

Khan has made repeated controversial statements over the years — even during a trip to the US in 2019. He had claimed there that the ISI had tipped off Washington in a way that helped them find and kill bin Laden. His opponents have slammed the cricketer-turned prime minister time and again for his sympathies for militants. His political rivals refer to him as “Taliban Khan”.

Imran Khan’s remarks on Thursday followed the United States State Department act of calling out Pakistan for its continuing support to terrorists targeting India and Afghanistan.

In its report that classified Pakistan as a safe haven for terrorists, the state department underlined that Jaish-e-Mohammad founder Masood Azhar and 2008 Mumbai terror attacks mastermind Sajid Mir were “widely believed” to be living “under the protection of the state” in Pakistan. The report had echoed the sentiment of New Delhi on numerous occasions about Pakistan’s complicity in sponsoring, promoting or supporting terrorists operating from its territory.

But what to talk of a Pakistani, even Indian National Congress’s politician Digvijaya Singh is infamously recalled for referring to Osama bin Laden with an honorific. In Uttar Pradesh in May 2011, he had referred to Osama bin Laden as “Laden ji“. Singh says he was being sarcastic but few bought his explanation, as he had gone on to demand a proper burial for the terrorist who was then the world’s most wanted man until killed by US Navy SEALs in Pakistan.

Singh had said on the occasion, “However big a criminal one might be, his religious traditions should be respected while burying him.”


Pakistan still a safe haven for terrorists: US

Pakistan continues to be a safe haven for terrorist groups, especially the regionally focussed. Also, India’s western neighbour permits outfits including the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed to operate from its territory, the US State Department said in a new report released today.

The US indictment of the track record of Prime Minister Imran Khan in fighting terrorists follows Islamabad’s brazen support for terrorists killed in encounters with security forces in Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan’s foreign office counts them as “innocent”, says the US.

The 24 June assessment by the US State Department, which counted Pakistan as one of the countries that provide safe harbours for terrorists, is unlikely to go down well with Islamabad. Pakistan faces a review by the anti-terror financing watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in October. Islamabad was given a four-month reprieve after the FATF had to put off a scheduled review of Pakistan due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The State Department has noted in its Congress-mandated annual report 2019 “Country Reports on Terrorism” that Pakistan had taken modest steps to counter terror financing and restrain India-focused terror groups following the Pulwama suicide bombing in February 2019. That terror attack on India had landed Imran Khan in a spot when the Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility for the bombing. However, it didn’t go far enough. “Thus far, however, Islamabad has yet to take decisive actions against Indian- and Afghanistan-focused militants who would undermine their operational capability,” the report said.

The report noted further that Pakistan’s pledge under its 2015 action plan to dismantle all terrorist organisations without delay and discrimination was still unfulfilled.

Pakistani authorities had indicted Lashkar founder Hafiz Saeed and 12 of his associates in December last year but had “made no effort to use domestic authorities to prosecute other terrorist leaders such as JeM founder Masood Azhar and Sajid Mir, the mastermind of LeT’s 2008 Mumbai attacks”.

Both of them, the report said, “are widely believed to reside in Pakistan under the protection of the state, despite government denials”.

“Several terrorist groups that focus on attacks outside the country continue to operate from Pakistani soil in 2019, including the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, and Jaish-e-Mohammed,” the state department report said.

The report indicted the Pakistan government and military for their inaction, underlining that they “acted inconsistently with respect to terrorist safe havens throughout the country”. They did not take, the US says, sufficient action to stop certain terrorist groups and individuals from openly operating in the country.


US to restrict Chinese media outlets deemed propaganda

The Trump administration added four Chinese media outlets Monday to a list of organizations that should be considered “foreign missions” because of their ties to the government and the Communist Party, a move that could force some to cut staff in the US and is likely to further aggravate relations between the two countries.

State Department officials said the four organizations, including state-run CCTV, would be required to submit a list of everyone who works for them in the US and any real estate holdings just as they would if they were foreign embassies or consulates.

None are being ordered to leave the US and no limits on their activities were announced. But five other Chinese organizations were directed to cap the number of people who could work in the United States in March — a month after they were designated as foreign missions.

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State Department officials said the organizations are essentially mouthpieces for the Communist Party and Chinese government, not legitimate news outlets.

The four Chinese media outlets designated as foreign missions on Monday are China Central Television, China News Service, the People’s Daily and the Global Times, taking the total number to nine.

This could add up to the increasing tensions between the US and China as President Donald Trump has repeatedly blamed Beijing for the coronavirus pandemic that has wreaked havoc across the world and accused Beijing of suppressing the details of the contagion.

The US is the worst-affected country by the virus. According to Johns Hopkins University data, there are over 2.3 million coronavirus cases in America with more than 120,000 deaths.

Also read: Visas to US denied means higher wages to existing migrants, outsourcing to India

However, China has denied all allegations levelled by the US on the outbreak of the pandemic.

This follows the 18 February designation of Xinhua News Agency, China Global Television Network, China Radio International, China Daily Distribution Corporation and Hai Tian Development US.

“These nine entities all meet the definition of a foreign mission under the Foreign Missions Act, which is to say that they are “substantially owned or effectively controlled” by a foreign government.

In this case, they are effectively controlled by the government of the People’s Republic of China,” Ortagus said.

President Donald Trump highlighted the dispute over the coronavirus when he spoke to a rally over the weekend in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and used a racist term for COVID-19, calling it the “kung flu.”

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended Trump’s use of the term Monday, telling reporters that the president was merely pointing out that the origin of the virus is China. “It’s a fair thing to point out as China tries to ridiculously rewrite history,” she said. “What President Trump is saying, ’no China, I will label this virus for its place of origin.”

US officials say the designated media outlets should be considered foreign missions under American law because they are “substantially owned or effectively controlled” by the government of the People’s Republic of China and shouldn’t be treated like traditional news organizations.

“These aren’t journalists. These are members of the propaganda apparatus in the PRC,” Stilwell said in a conference call with reporters.

Asked about potential Chinese retaliation, Stilwell noted that American journalists working in China already faced tight restrictions on their activities.

China announced in response that it would revoke the media credentials of all American journalists at The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.


China A Treacherous Nation: Deal With Pact Of Tact

While the people of India associate the treachery of China with the 1962 war where India faced humiliation under a romantic Jawaharlal Nehru, another maudlin personality before him had earlier received a royal snub from Chinese revolutionaries in 1924: Rabindranath Tagore. The history of Chinese non-interest in cooperation with India — let alone to tackle the West — never changed its course as far as the policy of the thinking heads of India’s northern neighbour is concerned. Nevertheless, naive that Indians are, the effort to cosy up to China never ended, be it during the 1979 visit of Atal Bihari Vajpayee to that country, Rajiv Gandhi’s photo-op with Deng Xiaoping, PV Narasimha Rao’s extended hand of cooperation with Beijing with the concern that the US should not be the sole superpower post-Cold War, UPA government’s attempts to woo Hu Jintao. While an India still suffering a socialist hangover in the 1990s was concerned about a unipolar world, a much free-er democracy is now struggling to fit itself in a unipolar Asia. If at all there was ever a change in India’s China policy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi or any colleague of his in the government never stated the expansionist communists must be embraced while cleverly refraining from making provocative statements like George Fernandes who had awkwardly stated in a public forum that China was India’s “enemy number one”. Notwithstanding the optics of Wuhan, Ahmedabad and Chennai, Modi and Xi Jinping in one frame never quite looked photogenic. But now that, in the wake of the Galwan Valley skirmish, nobody is accusing the current political heads of India of unduly trusting the instinctively imperial power, Modi must take the next logical step that all his predecessors either did not even contemplate or were too inhibited about: forging an international alliance against the dangerous force.

If the concern has been the lives of Indian soldiers, the country’s successive governments can barely justify supporting the hardly effective United Nations with peace-keeping forces. Whereas sending the IPKF to Sri Lanka was foolhardy too, shying away from playing an active role in international affairs, especially in south-east Asia, has not helped our geopolitical interests. Thankfully, India can expect better from a flamboyant US President Donald Trump. But we have been so docile, even a sober Barack Obama had got agitated during his speech in the Indian parliament, asking us why, as a democracy, we never did anything about the junta in Myanmar. Then Modi has Japan to look up to, where Shinzo Abe has made his discomfiture with Xi obvious.

Nobody is itching for a war most certainly. Even China, for all its adventurism, isn’t — as capitalistic as a communist that the country is, wary of losing the Indian market for its substandard goods. It will but not stop needling India from the Line of Actual Control up to the MacMahon Line. India must prick it back. To make the balance effective, raising with vehemence the issues of Tibetan independence and Hong Kongers’ democratic self-determination, New Delhi needs Washington as well as Tokyo. Pushing for a fresh WTO regime, countries across the world can also compensate for the rise in cost caused by a global boycott of Chinese products, which can be proposed in the aftermath of the coronavirus mischief. This should go hand-in-hand with the arrival of Russian S-400, French Rafale and America’s superlative surveillance systems.


Visas to US denied means higher wages to existing migrants, outsourcing to India

Are you an Indian who is a wannabe emigrant to the United States who was hit by the news of revised rules of H-1B Visa? Your concern is but a matter of jubilation for someone else. The suspension of fresh non-immigrant visas by the US is expected to benefit the 3 lakh visa holders from India currently residing in the US. Sources in the government say the Donald Trump administration’s move on 22 June to stop new workers from entering the country till the end of this year may turn out to be more beneficial to the existing H-1B visa-holding Indians in the US.

The US has revised the rules for categories H-1B, H-2B, L-1A, L-1B, J-1 visas, disallowing people seeking entry on those visas into that country for the first time between 24 June and 31 December.

The government sources said US policy could result in the shortage of skilled workforce and the existing H-1B visa holding Indians can command higher remuneration and higher remittances. Studies by several organisations — like the Federal Reserve, National Academy of Sciences and Brookings Foundation — have shown that the contribution of non-immigrants have been invaluable for the US. However, due to the rising unemployment and weak economic conditions resulting from the global coronavirus pandemic, the US would sooner or later issue far fewer visas. Hence, the proclamation will have limited effect, sources said.

The US policy will cause a diversion of more services to India, sources said. They pointed out that the new policy would impose new challenges in the absence of local talent. Outsourcing will be inevitable, they said.

Sources said further that India would benefit from the retention of the highly skilled individuals, who were planning to leave for the US after receiving H-1B visas. These highly skilled individuals are in high demand in the science and technology sector in India. They can directly contribute to India’s progress by staying back, the sources said.

Meanwhile, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said he was disappointed by US President Donald Trump’s proclamation that suspended work visas till the end of 2020, stating that Google will continue to stand with immigrants and work to expand opportunity for all.

“Immigration has contributed immensely to America’s economic success, making it a global leader in tech, and also Google the company it is today. Disappointed by today’s proclamation – we’ll continue to stand with immigrants and work to expand opportunity for all,” Pichai tweeted.


China ordered attack on Indian soldiers in Galwan Valley: US intel

More than a week after at least 60 Indian and Chinese soldiers were killed in a barbaric hand-to-hand fight in the Galwan Valley on the night of 15 June, a US intelligence report has said that China had ordered the attack on the Indian troops. The incident has heightened tensions between the two Asian nuclear powers although the region is no nuclear flashpoint.

The report confirmed the casualties on the Chinese side, which China has today dismissed as “fake news” — days after admitting it had suffered casualties without breaking up the numbers.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said, “China and India are in dialogue, in talks with each other to resolve this issue through diplomatic and military channels.”

Like in the case of the coronavirus pandemic, statements of China regarding the Ladakh standoff are changing every other day. Zhao failed to explain what Chinese military helicopters were lifting from the Galwan Valley the morning after the skirmish.

The Global Times, the mouthpiece of the Community Party of China (CCP) in Beijing, had yesterday admitted that it had lost “less than 20” troops during the faceoff along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh. Indian estimates of the total casualties of China is 50 dead or seriously injured, with 18 of them permanently disabled due to fractures in the necks and spinal cords.

Citing “Chinese experts”, the Global Times had said that “the reason why China did not release the number” of its casualties is that Beijing “wants to avoid an escalation”. “If China released the number which is less than 20, the Indian government would again come under pressure,” it had said.

On 17 June, news agency ANI had mentioned military intercepts that suggested the Chinese army had suffered 43 casualties during the clash in eastern Ladakh’s Galwan Valley. Citing US intelligence reports, the official sources had added that the figure could be a combination of the total number of soldiers killed and seriously injured.

Twenty Indian Army personnel, including a colonel, were martyred on 15 June in the biggest ever military confrontation between the two sides since 1967.


Harvard school, CNAS: India has military edge over China

The memory of the war between an Indian Army left to fend for itself by the then Jawaharlal Nehru dispensation and a dogged People’s Liberation Army of China under Mao Zedong in 1962, where the former expectedly lost in the Himalayan region, troubles the collective memory of Indians. They worry about the possibility of another war with the same enemy that has not ceased to be expansionist. This is perhaps because a repeat of Chinese aggression in 1967, where the enemy ended up with a bloody nose, is not played up in media or books of history in this country. The troubling memory of ’62 revisited the democracy when 20 soldiers were killed in the night of 15 June, with the unarmed Indian Army personnel ambushed by the PLA that is not revealing its own toll. However, two think-tanks in the US believe China has more reasons to worry than India in the changed circumstances. While even 58 years ago China lost about 700 troops and India lost approximately double that, the conventional wisdom of a superior China has been challenged by the Belfer Center at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in Boston (“Harvard school” hereafter) and the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) in Washington.

The Harvard school and CNAS hold India is better off in high-altitude mountainous environments, such as the one the 2020 face-off is witnessing. While the fresh tensions are not expected to explode into a nuclear war, the two American institutions have considered the fact China has approximately 320 nuclear warheads and India has 150 (estimate by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute or SIRPI). Nevertheless, in an unlikely nuclear war, hundreds of atomic bombs are not required to devastate the target, thus ruling out the Chinese edge in this domain, which it increased by 40 warheads last year when India raised the number by 10, according to SIRPI.

The Harvard school and CNAS note that both countries have a triad of delivery systems — missiles, bombers and submarines — and ascribe to a “no first use” policy. This, they say, sidelines the first factor.

Indian Air Force better than PLAAF, says Harvard Kennedy School of Govt

Then the Harvard school notes India’s 270 fighters, 68 ground-attack aircraft and a string of small air bases near the Chinese border, which authors Frank O’Donnell and Alexander Bollfrass believe would come in handy for the democracy. The communist country has 157 fighters and a small fleet of ground-attack drones in the region, the Belfer study observes.

What puts China at a disadvantage is the fact that the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has eight bases in the region, mostly civilian, and they have awkward elevations. “The high altitude of Chinese air bases in Tibet and Xinjiang, plus the generally difficult geographic and weather conditions of the region, means that Chinese fighters are limited to carrying around half their design payload and fuel,” the study says.

The PLAAF not having enough aerial tankers to get the job done would mean that aerial refuelling, which could give the Chinese planes more payload and combat time, would happen in fits and starts, the Harvard school opines.

The institution says that the Indian Air Force (IAF)‘s Mirage 2000 and Sukhoi Su-30 jets are superior to China’s J-10, J-11 and Su-27 fighters. The Indian Mirage 2000 and Su-30 jets, Harvard school notes, are all-weather, multi-role aircraft, which only the Chinese J-10 can match. CNAS had noted in an October 2019 report that India had constructed bases in the region with China in mind. “To weather a potential PLA attack, India has placed greater emphasis on infrastructure hardening; base resiliency; redundant command, control, and communications systems; and improved air defence,” the report had said.

The Belfer study at the Harvard school suggested that China was too occupied tackling the perceived threats from the US on its eastern and southern flanks and, therefore, strengthened its bases there. This, the centre says, left the Himalayas neglected and at least four PLA airbases vulnerable. “Indian destruction or temporary incapacitation of some of the four above airbases would further exacerbate these PLAAF operational inflexibilities and weaknesses,” the Harvard school says.

China inexperienced, lost not only to Russia but also to Vietnam

Also in terms of experience, “recent conflicts with Pakistan give the current IAF a level of institutional experience in actual networked combat,” the Harvard school says, adding that the Chinese lack such experience. The PLAAF pilots may find conceiving a dynamic aerial battlefield difficult, according to the Belfer report. “Recent PLAAF exercises with unscripted scenarios have found that pilots are excessively reliant upon ground control for tactical direction,” it says. “This suggests that PLAAF combat proficiency may be significantly weaker than often estimated.”

As for the main force that occupies territories, India is hardened on the ground too, fighting in terrains like that of Kashmir and in skirmishes along its border with Pakistan, CNAS notes. “India is by far the more experienced and battle-hardened party, having fought a series of limited and low-intensity conflicts in its recent past,” the CNAS says. “The PLA, on the other hand, has not experienced the crucible of combat since its conflict with Vietnam in 1979,” it notes.

Even when faced with a less formidable opponent, notes the Harvard school and CNAS, China lost the month-long border war it had initiated in response to the military intervention in Cambodia by Vietnam that had a smaller but more experienced army, seasoned by the fight against the US forces.

Where China scores as much as India, the Harvard school and CNAS say, is in the numbers of ground troops. Belfer reckons there are about 2,25,000 Indian ground forces in the region while the estimate for the Chinese strength ranges from 2,00,000 to 2,30,000. But then, the Harvard school points out, China has to contend with a possible insurrection in Xinjiang or Tibet and also Russia with which it has lost a seven-month-long battle in 1969 — barely two years after being pushed back while trying to intrude into India again through Nathu La and Cho La where they were pushed back by 3 km, losing 350 soldiers.

The Harvard school has observed that the Chinese positions along the Russian border are intact and moving them to the Indian front in the event of large-scale hostilities presents a logistical problem. This is because, if or as they try to do so, Indian airstrikes could target high-speed rail lines on the Tibetan plateau or chokepoints in the mountainous terrain closer to the border. “By contrast, Indian forces are already largely in position,” the report says.

The disadvantage of India here, the CNAS says, is that its forces operate in rough terrain in steep valleys. Indian jawans cannot be easily moved to plug the breaches a Chinese incursion might make. When they try to move, Chinese artillery and missile attacks on the Tibetan plateau on choke points below in the mountains can as effectively stop their advances.

But the Harvard school doubts China has enough missiles to take out all the targets it would need to hit in India in the event of a large-scale conflict. It cites a former IAF officer’s estimates, by which China would need 220 ballistic missiles to knock out one Indian airfield for a day. China has only 1,000 to 1,200 missiles available for the task, which cannot be exhausted in one operation.

PLA supported by better technology, larger budget

If the analysis so far suggests that the conventional wisdom about the outcome of a potential India-China conflict is all wrong, the communist country does have an advantage in technology and new weapons. It has a much larger defence budget than India and it rapidly modernises military. And it has the money to sustain this momentum. “China’s economy is five times the size of India’s and Beijing’s defence spending far outstrips New Delhi’s defence budget by a factor of four to one,” said international adviser at the National Center for Dialogue and Progress in Afghanistan Nishank Motwani, adding, “The power differential between China and India is in Beijing’s favor and this asymmetry is only widening.”

Then, to keep its enemies from adventurism, Chinese state media flexes muscles by publishing articles and broadcasting videos its new weaponry deployed in Tibet for exercises. These weapons include the Type 15 light tank and the new 155-mm vehicle-mounted howitzer, both introduced to the people of China at last year’s National Day military parade in Beijing. “The weapons were specifically designed with advantages for plateau regions and can play important roles in safeguarding border areas,” military experts told the Communist Party of China’s mouthpiece Global Times. “These kinds of drills demonstrated the PLA’s capability to win a regional, high-elevation conflict in its early stages by decisively eradicating the hostile headquarters and commanders, a PLA veteran who was once deployed in Tibet and asked not to be named told the Global Times,” the mouthpiece read.

How India can counter Chinese edge in technology

India’s way to negate this Chinese edge is ever-strengthening defence relations with countries wary of an imperial Beijing’s rise — like the US. Washington called India a “major defence partner” while increasing training facilities for Indian troops that are already world class but for the lack of adequate technological support. In the event of a large-scale Himalayan conflict, US intelligence and surveillance could help India get a clearer picture of the battlefield, says the Harvard school, using an example like what might happen if China were to move troops from its interiors to the front lines in the mountains. “Such a Chinese surge would also attract attention from the United States, which would alert India and enable it to counter-mobilize its own additional forces from its interior,” it says.

India participates in joint military drills with countries like the US, Japan, France and Australia. “Western troops participating in such war games and exercises regularly have expressed a grudging admiration for their Indian counterparts’ tactical creativity and a high degree of adaptability,” the CNAS report says. “China’s joint training endeavours, on the other hand, thus far have remained relatively rudimentary in scope — with the notable exception of its increasingly advanced military exercises with Pakistan and Russia.”