According to its new military strategy, India will not just focus on denying Chinese forces territorial gains but will actively impose costs on the adversary and may even open additional fronts(Sakib Ali/Hindustan Times)
According to its new military strategy, India will not just focus on denying Chinese forces territorial gains but will actively impose costs on the adversary and may even open additional fronts(Sakib Ali/Hindustan Times)

Reading the signals: India has a new military strategy against China

The earlier defensive posture is no longer sustainable with Beijing possessing the capability to launch an assault without any warning leading to depletion of Indian resources in quick time
By Kunal Singh
UPDATED ON DEC 27, 2018 09:04 AM IST

Earlier this month, as a part of Exercise Bahubali, the Indian Air Force (IAF) used its C-17 Globemasters to carry, as this newspaper reported, tanks and armoured personnel carriers to Leh airport. The objective was to demonstrate capability to move men and equipment rapidly to border areas. Other than eight C-17’s, IAF also deployed four IL-76’s and four AN-32’s to showcase its strategic lift capability.

Meanwhile The Indian Express has reported that the IAF is planning to deploy, in the eastern sector, six units of Akash missile systems along with a squadron each of Apache and Chinook helicopters and Rafale fighter aircrafts once they are inducted. An additional squadron of Sukhoi Su-30MKI may also be deployed in the eastern sector. Besides, India is speeding up its infrastructure projects in the border regions close to China.

What is prompting this flurry of activity?

A recent paper titled “From Denial to Punishment: The Security Dilemma and Changes in India’s Military Strategy Towards China” in Asian Security by Anit Mukherjee and Yogesh Joshi may provide the answer. Before 2005, the duo argues, the power asymmetry between India and China was manageable. The terrain near the border on the Chinese side was a major barrier to offensive operations. However, now China has not just massively improved the infrastructure in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), but has also undertaken an impressive military modernisation programme and adopted a more aggressive posture on the India border. Especially after Doklam, as Colonel (retired) Vinayak Bhatt has pointed out, TAR has seen a sharp jump in Chinese air force activity and construction of new airstrips and heliports.

These developments have forced the Indian security establishment, conclude Mukherjee and Joshi, to shed its earlier ‘defensive’ military posture of ‘deterrence by denial’ to a more ‘offensive’ posture of ‘deterrence by punishment’. According to the new strategy, India will not just confine itself to denying Chinese forces territorial gains but will actively impose costs on the adversary and may even open additional fronts. The earlier defensive posture is no longer sustainable with China possessing the capability to launch an assault without any warning leading to depletion of Indian resources in quick time.

Su-30MKI is a long range fighter aircraft that provides much deeper penetration capabilities compared to Mig-21 which provided interception ability. While C-17s, C-130 J’s and Chinooks will provide strategic lift capabilities, Su-30 MKI’s, Rafales and Apaches will provide the offensive firepower.

Mukherjee and Joshi also suggest that India is moulting its Pakistan-centric focus for a China-centric one. The shift actually is in line with other developments beyond the conventional realm. Most incremental additions in the nuclear domain including the induction of longer range ballistic missiles and nuclear propelled, ballistic missile-armed submarines (SSBNs) are being made with China, not Pakistan, in mind. The range of Agni series, extending till 6000 kilometres, is a clear giveaway.

In fact, India has been criticised for pursuing ‘credibility’ of nuclear deterrence at the cost of ‘minimality’ while tenuously hewing to the concept of ‘credible minimum deterrence’. But as Vipin Narang of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology had elaborated in a 2013 paper titled “Five Myths about India’s Nuclear Posture” in The Washington Quarterly, any ‘credible’ deterrence against China will easily surpass the ‘minimum’ for Pakistan. Narang added: “India’s security managers had to choose whom they envisioned their primary deterrent adversary to be, and against whom they wanted to build and maintain a credible minimum deterrent. All the observable indicators, such as the range and numbers of their strategic missile programs, suggest unsurprisingly that they chose China.”

It is true that the range of the K-15 missile that Arihant is armed with is merely 750 kilometres. However, Arihant should just be seen as a demonstrator of triad capability. India’s three planned submarine-launched ballistic missiles (K-4, K-5 and K-6) will have a range upwards of 3000 kilometres.

The growing conventional asymmetry vis-à-vis China is not just prompting a rethink over conventional military strategy but also nuclear strategy. As Joshi along with Harsh Pant has argued in a recent book ‘India’s Nuclear Policy’, the debate over India’s no-first use (NFU) of nuclear weapons is partly stemming from a growing gap on the conventional front.

It is too early, however, to press the panic button and discard the NFU pledge. A review of conventional military doctrines, on the other hand, is definitely welcome. A shift from Pakistan-centric approach was also long overdue. The review process should keep in mind that internal balancing of China alone will not achieve much because: a) China is way ahead of India already, and b) India is a developing country with multiple competing demands on scarce capital, leaving little for a focused military build-up. Partnerships, especially with the US, will be key to not just providing external balancing as a complementary approach but also helping strengthen India’s capabilities and boost its defence manufacturing potential.

kunal.singh@htlive.com
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
Elections in Kerala are punctuated by several controversies, both past and present (File Photo)
Elections in Kerala are punctuated by several controversies, both past and present (File Photo)

Espionage to smuggling, scandals spice up every poll in Kerala

By Ramesh Babu, Thiruvanathapuram
PUBLISHED ON MAR 03, 2021 07:26 PM IST
  • controversies and scandals were part of the state polity in the last three decades and mushrooming digital media also played its part in amplifying them, said a political observer.
Close
The 1962 baggage at the turn of century was such that for 40 years, subsequent governments did not dare build border roads on the ground that these could be used by the Chinese army to enter the hinterland in case of a conflict.(PTI)
The 1962 baggage at the turn of century was such that for 40 years, subsequent governments did not dare build border roads on the ground that these could be used by the Chinese army to enter the hinterland in case of a conflict.(PTI)

Why 2021 political rhetoric is no match for 1962 fighting in Ladakh

By Shishir Gupta, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 03, 2021 02:15 PM IST
  • India and China came close to war last year after Indian army commanders atop Rezang La-Rechin La ridge threatened to fire at the advancing PLA tank regiment that sought to dislodge the Indian troopers.
Close
Approximately half of the countries use population for delimitation, while another third use registered voters. Nowhere is it based on area and for good reasons (HTPHOTO)
Approximately half of the countries use population for delimitation, while another third use registered voters. Nowhere is it based on area and for good reasons (HTPHOTO)

J&K delimitation: Go by the population rule

By Haseeb Drabu
PUBLISHED ON MAR 01, 2021 06:39 PM IST
Having already decided on the number of electors as well as the number of elected, the only part of delimitation that has been left to the Commission is the electoral cartography — the redrawing of boundaries and enclosing people within the constituency framework. Notwithstanding these debilitating infirmities in the context of J&K, the redrawing of the constituencies is an extraordinarily complex and highly contentious exercise. It can potentially alter the electoral demographic balance.
Close
Representational image. (AFP)
Representational image. (AFP)

Congress needs to worry more about rebels than opponents in Puducherry

By Abhishek Jha, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 22, 2021 06:32 PM IST
The only time the Congress has lost Puducherry, it has been because of a rebel. The Congress and DMK together have won over 50% seats in every assembly elections in Puducherry since 1980, except in 2011
Close
PM Narendra Modi was emotional while giving a farewell to Ghulam Nabi Azad from Rajya Sabha.
PM Narendra Modi was emotional while giving a farewell to Ghulam Nabi Azad from Rajya Sabha.

Salute to Ghulam Nabi Azad underlined PM Modi’s personal ties with rivals

By Saubhadra Chatterji | Edited by Abhinav Sahay, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2021 03:37 PM IST
  • Leaders from the Congress and other Opposition parties have many stories to show that the Prime Minister has maintained personal rapport with leaders cutting across political boundaries.
Close
Officials carry out search and rescue operation at Tapovan Tunnel, after a glacier broke off in Joshimath in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district causing a massive flood in the Dhauli Ganga river on Sunday. (File photo)
Officials carry out search and rescue operation at Tapovan Tunnel, after a glacier broke off in Joshimath in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district causing a massive flood in the Dhauli Ganga river on Sunday. (File photo)

Not just climate change, Chamoli disaster was human-induced

UPDATED ON FEB 08, 2021 12:15 PM IST
Stone quarrying, blasting of mountains and digging of tunnels in the base of the mountain system for two dams on Rishi Ganga and Dhauli Ganga rivers played havoc with the local ecology
Close
In this file photo, a man hangs on to pole holding a Sikh religious flag along with a farm union flag at the historic Red Fort monument during a farmers protest against new farm laws in New Delhi(AP)
In this file photo, a man hangs on to pole holding a Sikh religious flag along with a farm union flag at the historic Red Fort monument during a farmers protest against new farm laws in New Delhi(AP)

Perception is the truth in information warfare over farm laws

By Shishir Gupta, New Delhi, Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON FEB 04, 2021 01:42 PM IST
  • The Chinese were among the first to recognise the role of information warfare to weaken the adversary from within
Close
Union Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman. (Ajay Aggarwal /HT PHOTO)
Union Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman. (Ajay Aggarwal /HT PHOTO)

A new confidence about India reflects in a bold Budget 2021

By Monika Halan
UPDATED ON FEB 01, 2021 09:59 PM IST
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has chosen to spend on generating future income using the higher capital spending, which has gone up by 35.4% over the previous year
Close
Shaibal Gupta also made a pioneering contribution in explaining the historical roots and the evolution of Bihar’s politics, which have today become the staple of everyday political analysis. (FACEBOOK)
Shaibal Gupta also made a pioneering contribution in explaining the historical roots and the evolution of Bihar’s politics, which have today become the staple of everyday political analysis. (FACEBOOK)

The life and times of a Patna intellectual

UPDATED ON JAN 31, 2021 06:20 AM IST
Shaibal Gupta was rooted and cosmopolitan; idealistic and pragmatic; and an insider and outsider — all at the same time. Patna’s public life will not the same without him.
Close
Foreign Minister S Jaishankar's address on India-China ties is a reminder to Beijing that the bilateral relationship between the two Asian powers is not a one-way street.(AP/File)
Foreign Minister S Jaishankar's address on India-China ties is a reminder to Beijing that the bilateral relationship between the two Asian powers is not a one-way street.(AP/File)

Jaishankar yellow-cards China for violating pacts, spells out the India way

By Shishir Gupta, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 29, 2021 03:02 PM IST
  • S Jaishankar’s speech on India-China ties signals India’s determination to continue to stand up to Xi Jinping’s expansionist plans for Asia as an equal and makes it clear that nothing that Beijing does against India will be overlooked, or allowed to go unpunished.
Close
Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of China's Alibaba Group, in Chiba, Japan, June 18, 2015 (REUTERS)
Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of China's Alibaba Group, in Chiba, Japan, June 18, 2015 (REUTERS)

Jack Ma story: China’s deep strategic ambition

By Manoj Kewalramani
UPDATED ON JAN 29, 2021 04:50 AM IST
This statist vision of the future is very different from the government creating a level-playing field for private capital to compete and the market to do its job. It is about the State guiding capital and private entities towards what it believes are national strategic priorities, rather than allowing them to simply focus on generating greater revenue.
Close
A Nihang Sikh aboard a horse inside Red Fort on Tuesday.(Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)
A Nihang Sikh aboard a horse inside Red Fort on Tuesday.(Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)

Republic Day raid was pre-meditated, planned well in advance

UPDATED ON JAN 28, 2021 02:17 PM IST
With Delhi Police under firm orders not to open fire, the armed Nihang Sikhs provided the cover for the tractors to roll towards Red Fort.
Close
A video of an unruly tractor moving waywardly towards police personnel at ITO emerged on Tuesday as farmers protesting against farm laws deviated from their route and moved inside the Capital.
A video of an unruly tractor moving waywardly towards police personnel at ITO emerged on Tuesday as farmers protesting against farm laws deviated from their route and moved inside the Capital.

How unruly farmers tried to embarrass India on Republic Day

UPDATED ON JAN 27, 2021 02:09 PM IST
The tractor-borne unruly farmers were minutes away from India Gate when they were blocked by New Delhi Range police.
Close
How do we address this cyclical pattern of hailing and rubbishing financiers? It is time for an honest review of the entire issue (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
How do we address this cyclical pattern of hailing and rubbishing financiers? It is time for an honest review of the entire issue (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The policy landscape around digital and physical micro-lending

By Amol Agrawal
UPDATED ON JAN 25, 2021 06:08 AM IST
In 1870s, a similar backlash emerged in Poona and Ahmednagar districts of the Bombay presidency. The agriculture boom in the early 1860s led farmers to take loans from moneylenders
Close
A tiny tax on stock market transactions can help fund India’s vaccination drive without burning a hole in the wallets of stock market investors and give the government headroom for other expenditure to help save lives (AFP)
A tiny tax on stock market transactions can help fund India’s vaccination drive without burning a hole in the wallets of stock market investors and give the government headroom for other expenditure to help save lives (AFP)

Vaccinating all Indians, for free

By Praveen Chakravarty
UPDATED ON JAN 25, 2021 06:08 AM IST
The markets are at an all-time high. Impose a Covid-19 surcharge on transactions and use it for vaccination
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP