A Chinese white paper on military strategy sets new ‘markers’ for India’s long-term politico-military strategy — of ensuring peace along the disputed un-demarcated 3,488-km-long frontier with China and smooth facilitation of its east-going trade through contested waters of the South China Sea.
The white paper, outlining a ‘strategic guideline for active defence’ and ‘building of Chinese armed forces’, was released by the Chinese Ministry of National Defence on May 26 in Beijing.
The Chinese document lists security of overseas interests concerning energy and resources and strategic sea lines of communication (SLOCs) as an imminent issue. The SLOC, carrying some 70 per cent of trade and oil of China, pass by the Indian coast. New Delhi dominates the northern edge of the vital straits of Mallaca and Beijing is edgy about it.
For India, this means China would increase its ship and submarine patrols in the Indian Ocean. The white paper says the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) will gradually shift its focus towards “open seas protection,” and enhance its capabilities for strategic deterrence and counterattack. It will continue regular combat readiness patrols and maintain a military presence in relevant sea areas.
This is being seen as a reference to the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean. In the past few weeks, tensions have ratcheted up with the US and China warning each other over claims in the hydro-carbon rich South China Sea. As India has oil exploration blocks in the sea, any conflict will hit Indian economic interests.
On its land forces, the white paper says People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will continue to reorient to trans-theatre mobility and adapt itself to tasks in different regions. Indian officials are aware that the PLA practices rapid mobility across its military regions of Lanzhou and Chengdu bordering India, the last one being just a few weeks ago. It has a road and railway line running all along the Tibetan plateau abutting the northern side of the Himalayas. For Indian planners this will be new point to watch and look at building road and railways on our side.
Beijing’s document talks about effective use of nuclear and conventional missiles. The PLA Second Artillery Force (PLASAF) will strive to improve the force structure featuring a combination of both nuclear and conventional capabilities.