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Great Game: India Falling Behind?

A story in today’s FT highlights the concern felt by India’s national security leadership at what they perceive is a widening gap between the military capabilities of China and India.

Indian commanders say the government’s reluctance to take decisions is severely hampering their ability to guard against a “collusive threat” from two nuclear armed neighbours – China and its ally Pakistan.

“Our defence budget is $32bn, China’s is $91.5bn. Their unofficial spending probably takes the total to $150bn. How are we going to match up?” said P.C. Katoch, a retired lieutenant general.

As China becomes increasingly active on the disputed border with India and unilaterally asserts its sole control over water and energy resources, Indian officials are right to be concerned.  India does not need to match China’s defense spending dollar for dollar, but it does need to develop a clear analysis of what kind of investments must be made to preserve the balance of power.

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  • Luke Lea

    Hate to reveal my ignorance, but where exactly is that disputed border between China and India? Somewhere high up in the Himalayas? What’s at risk besides a little prestige?

    The more I think about it the more convinced I am that China will agress north and west, where the space and minerals are, not south and east. For one thing, China needs to keep her sea lanes open too for all those commodities she imports from Africa, Australia, and Latin America. In a battle for supremacy of the seas she would very likely loose. So Japan can breath easier; ditto Australia. And no country in its right mind would want to conquer and rule India — well, not since the British anyway. So that leaves a lot of Stans, Outer Mongolia, and one other spacious country that need not be named.

    The U.S., hopefully, will be wise enough to heed Eisenhower’s advice. DO NOT get involved in a land war in Asia.

  • Jim.

    This is China making a play for greater global power, now that they assume that US defense budget is going to be cut significantly.

    Fortunately, there is more than enough money in our entitlement state ($2 trillion) to redirect to our military ($.6 trillion) should the need arise; but one wonders whether we would not have been far better off with a high defense budget deterring China from this sort of expansionist outlook in the first place.

  • Kris

    Jim, one wonders why China is making its move now, though. Would it not be more prudent to wait until they have built up their naval forces and the US has actually cut its defense budget?

    Some hypotheses:
    1. National honor before anything.
    2. The Chinese regime has an inflated evaluation of China’s relative strength.
    3. Contrary to almost all expert opinion, said evaluation is not inflated.
    4. Due to rising internal problems, the regime feels a need for foreign distractions.
    5. It believes that China is close to its relative apogee, as is posited by some.

    This is one of the great unknown variables in my geopolitical understanding, so I’d love to hear from the fine readership of this blog.

  • Jeff77450

    @Luke Lea: well said.

    @Jim: I’m all for dismantling the welfare-state, ultimately it creates more poverty than it alleviates, but the reality is that any savings would go to debt-reduction and not defense. The U.S. can no longer afford to be the world’s policeman (if we ever could).

    Perhaps the several nations that border China and South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines should form their own version of NATO. –Jeff in Houston, Texas; retired soldier

  • Kenny

    India will try to do what socialist Europe has done since 1945, namely expect Uncle Sap to save them.

    The Indians will argue that it is really in America’s best interest to spend our treasure and spill our blood to protect them.

    The trouble is that their timing is off.

    The U.S. is out of money. Also, the public here is making Uncle Sap realize that he cannot — nor should he — be expected to carry the burdens of an ungrateful world on his shoulders.

  • Thomas

    Kris has some great hypotheses above. I personally view #2, an inflated self-image of their relative strength, as the closest to the truth. Actions asserting control over resources are likely primarily intended to expand national power, but provide the nice side benefit of allowing them to pressure others as needed, a tool that, like nuclear weapons, provides the most benefit if never used.

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