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HomeOpinionHow does PLA see India's strategic ambitions? Chinese military document holds clues

How does PLA see India’s strategic ambitions? Chinese military document holds clues

In episode 682 of 'Cut The Clutter', ThePrint Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta analyses a Chinese military document to explain how Beijing perceives evolution of India's strategic thought.

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New Delhi: India has always seen itself as a regional power and has wanted to dominate the Indian Ocean Region — this is how Beijing perceives New Delhi’s strategic ambitions, according to a recently translated document on China’s military strategy.

The US-based China Aerospace Studies Institute (CASI) translated a 2013 document, which is a doctrine of China’s Academy of Military Sciences.

The document traces the evolution of India’s strategic thought — as perceived by China — and gives a broad outline of the People’s Liberation Army’s military strategy. Of note is the fact that such documents are drawn up only once in about every 13 years.

In episode 682 of Cut The Clutter, ThePrint Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta analyses the aspects of the document that talk about India, using it as a unique opportunity to look at India from the lens of its biggest adversary.

Also read: India-China disengagement, Rajnath Singh’s statement & differences of opinion

Evolution of India’s strategic thought

According to the document, China sees India’s strategic thought as having developed in multiple stages after Independence.

The first stage is ‘Limited Offensive Strategy’, between 1947 and 1960, occurring right after Independence, when India was a young, economically backward and militarily weaker nation.

According to the Chinese, India laid major emphasis on building its economy rather than defence. However, since Pakistan remained a threat, there was limited offence but increased deployment on the Western front, and movement to the northern frontiers along Tibet, which, from the Chinese perspective, is south of the McMahon line.

“Essentially, what that means is that India asserted control over new regions of Arunachal Pradesh, or what the Chinese call South Tibet. But I suspect this is also an oblique reference to the fact that it was in this period that India went up to Tawang and asserted control,” said Gupta. By 1958, according to the Chinese, India gained control over all contested areas near the India-China border.

Between 1960 and 70, the paper says India’s strategy focused on expansion on two fronts, especially after the 1962 war, when the country started building its military power. In 1964, it started a defence modernisation plan with the first defence five-year-plan, pegged at Rs 5,000 crore. The paper says this led to two things — it gave India greater strength for its operations in the West, and provided in-depth defence against China.

In the next two decades, between 1970 and the late 1980s, the paper notes, India’s objective was to maintain land and control the sea. According to it, India had contained Pakistan at this point and its focus shifted towards gaining control over the sea, particularly the northern part of the Indian Ocean. India started focusing on building its Navy to gain power in South Asia.

In the 90s, the focus shifted from regional offence to regional deterrence. By this time, the paper says, the traditional view of annihilatory war had changed. So, India tried to build influence in an entire region on the back of a strategy of regional deterrence, from the Himalayas to the Indian Ocean, from Iran in the West to Myanmar in the East.

By the 21st century, India’s economy boomed, making it stronger than its South Asian neighbours, and leading to its strategy evolving again. The paper also notes that India’s strategy became two-pronged — practising defensive deterrence against China and punitive deterrence with others.

Also read: Anonymous US paper says China’s Xi Jinping is biggest threat to US — what it means for India

Characteristics that define India’s strategic thought 

The Chinese paper notes that there are four inter-woven characteristics to India’s strategic thought. It says India has a strong geopolitical core since the nation believes it’s the heart of Asia, and its region of influence is South Asia. The paper also says Pakistan and China are India’s biggest obstacles in achieving its geopolitical goals.

Indo-centricism has been identified as another objective, one the Chinese think India has inherited from the British. India considers itself the heart of the continent, and regions at its peripheries, including Kashmir, Assam, Bangladesh, Sikkim and Bhutan, are its internal line of defence. The country also wants Tibet as a buffer zone with China. The paper says India relies on the Chanakyan philosophy, dealing with peripheral nations as rivals and regions that are far off as friends.

According to China, India wants to dominate South Asia and the Indian Ocean Region, and rise as a first rate world power for which a strong but limited offensive is needed. The paper also says India has been ‘nibbling’ away at Chinese territory in the meantime.

“Chinese say this ‘nibbling’ has been done rather carefully, to turn defence into offence during war time,” Gupta said.

Finally, the paper says, India’s strategic thought emphasises deterrence in all directions. This analysis breaks India’s deterrence strategy into two distinct halves — ambition for dominance and ambition for deterrence.

“India knows that its military power is limited, so for the second one, India has reached out to countries like the US and Japan, and improved its relations to get more people into the tent… you can see that the Chinese scholars had foreseen the coming up of the Quad in 2013,” Gupta said.

Watch the full CTC episode here:

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  1. @ TONY PUTTAR ….. LOL … the White Supremacist BULLITARD … has won laurels with Afghanistan / Syria / Iraq / Iran / Cuba … as the MIGHTY Adversaries out of home … while at home they have subdued the Non Whites and Natives … world is in shock !!

  2. China is most unreliable and aggressor country which could not be believed. The dragon has grabbed lands of all other neighboring countries including India. There was no common border with China and India before 1950 when Tibet was forcibly occupied by Dragon which was evil design to capture large chunk of Indian territory. Now India must raise Independence of Tibet in UN which will be permanent solution of border dispute with China. The other countries must fight to get release of its occupied territory by China. Otherwise all countries must boycott China economically to settle disputed territory.

  3. This studies publish in 2013, every Indian knows, how courrpt the system was and foot print are showing frustration and chest thumping of so called liberals, secular, running a propaganda.

    Recently china loose their creditabilty in last 9 month. And every one watching, how weeker army they have and china Don,t have quality hardware not even war tested.

    As far as Pakistan is concern, India is carefully waiting, Pakistan take one wrong step, then no one come here to save him this time,

    European and US white supermist are most duffer, they see India from tractors eyes , India will start making them surprise like how Indian handle the covid situation and every area. They are foolish people with fake ideology and some Indian tractors feel proud to follow them , its because they never free from the mindset of slavery, they are habitual boot licker. They forgot in WW1 and WW2 Indian people fight for them and save them.

  4. India didnot fight the British to the end of rule, they simply cannot fight the Indian resolve, look what happened to china.

    If India starts fighting there will be no sunrise for the elizabethan rulers, look what Indis will do to pakistan, you will never find the name again on the world map, I promise it will happen.

  5. Dear Editor,

    Want to assure your sceptical readers that India will remain the country it is; that their apprehensions (if we will remain after 50 years) shall never fructify!

    Cynics often believe that the decision of the “many” (not necessarily the majority) are counterproductive & ruinous; that only they possess the intellectual prowess to think straight – which, in itself, is undemocratic & ruinous!

    We, the people, voted the regime into power & there are reasons. The government (of the day) has certain mandate – reflection of the voice of a section of our people whose voice found little resonance for 70 years. We expect that the wisdom of the people will be trusted & respected, so long the government enjoys their support!


  6. Mr Tony, or whatever his name is, it seems is illiterate as far as the geopolitics of this region is concerned. ‘Coward’, ‘Bully’, ‘Parasites’ – these are very strong adjectives he uses, though before preaching others, I wonder whether what he writes does make any sense to his own eccentric mind? Confused soul!!

  7. The way India is going, I doubt it will be a country in another 50 years. Economic decline, growing population, rising religious fundamentalism and fascist notions of nationalism do not add up to a sustainable country. Democracy will not survive, and heterogeneous country cannot last out without it. Attempts will be made to govern by force, but it will not be sustainable. Nehru had himself expressed pessimism and we can see why.

  8. Great approach to information.

    We can safely presume that our establishment already studies these and such information from the world over. If SG can do it India is already doing it. We have enough personnel trained in the Chinese and other foreign languages specialized in countries and regions.

    Just to clarify…to create a symphony the orchestra has to perform in unison! And in an orchestra there are many musicians with different instruments.

    • Bullying smaller nations? Did you mean Pakistan? I don’t think you have the capability to understand this part. Now on Americans comment, the western mindset is so professional that most of the time they go to any extent to fulfill their selfish goals. Using such countries to its advantage and still staying detached is a ‘wisdom’ . But don’t forget, Indians don’t think or act in ways that harm other nations. That’s the reason India are friends with US, Russia, Israel and other nations at the same time since non of these countries trust each other especially when it comes to military and intelligence affairs. India conducts joined exercises with all the world nations and shares strategical intelligence informations when required. It’s top level management Mr. Tony. 😊

  9. Yet India will always be a c0ward nation trying to bully the smaller neighbors but biting dust when faced with an equal power. As the Americans put it, Indian by nature are parasites who only want to take advantage of their “friends” without offering anything on return but Americans know how to use their cards.

  10. There is no harm in seeking answers, only you should not ask questions you think you already have the proper answers.

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