(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
We could all look at clues emanating from a two-hour meeting between India’s foreign minister S. Jaishankar with Wang Yi, his Chinese counterpart, in Moscow on Thursday. Or trust the redoubtable Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov to have hefted his weight in making them shake hands. But frankly, it’s in China’s interests to keep India in good humour.
As the two troops square up within a punch’s distance in Ladakh, where even a guttural breath could spark off World War III, analysts have a meltdown that India could be facing a multi-pronged war on its borders, none more so than on its eastern, northern and western ones from two heavily nuclear-armed enemies—China and Pakistan. Most are failing to connect the dots that it’s China which presently is more encircled and it’s India which is the centrepiece in the coordinated move.
Agreed, India hosting the QUAD (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue) later this year doesn’t sound menacing at first glance. But the enormity of the moment won’t be lost on pros who know that India now has military logistical agreement with all three other members of the grouping: the United States, Australia and Japan. The one with the US (LEMOA) has been operational since 2016. The one with Australia was signed in June. Now, on Thursday, India and Japan, riding on the visible warmth between Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and his outgoing Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe, have inked a similar military logistical deal. Who said nothing moved during the Corona?
Even as I write this, French defence minister Florence Parly would’ve left Indian shores after overseeing the official induction of 5 Rafale jets in the Indian Air Force in Ambala on Thursday. Don’t go by the innocent press releases marking the moment. In geopolitical and military sense, it carried a grave message for Beijing.
Quietly in the background, India and France have grown akin to blood brothers. It hasn’t happened overnight. As soon as the Cold War ended last century, India and France had signed a “strategic partnership.” Everyone talks of 36 Rafale jets but it isn’t much in public domain that Indian navy has already commissioned 2 of 6 Scorpene submarines being build in our own Malegaon dockyards. The third one is undergoing sea trials. India had signed a military logistics pact with France in 2018 itself. France was one of the few countries which had backed India’s decision to nuclear-test in 1998.
And this is all because like other members of QUAD, France too needs India badly for its considerable stakes in the Indian Ocean. The two countries could sign a secure communications agreement too which would allow the two navies to share maritime domain awareness. Even before Parly arrived in India, the two countries, along with Australia, had held their a trilateral foreign-secretary level dialogue on Wednesday. Surely, India-France are welcoming the likeminded in fold.
The domino effect of this all must not be lost on observers. LEMOA with the US has extended Indian navy’s reach in southwestern Indian Ocean due to French bases in Reunion island near Madagascar and Djibouti on the Horn of Africa. The logistical arrangement with Australia has bolstered Indian warships in southern Indian Ocean and the western Pacific.
There are two other logistical pacts—besides the US, Australia, Japan and France—which India has firmly secured under its belt. One is with South Korea, the other one is with Singapore. Now Indian officials are openly touting two more in near future—with the UK and Russia, the latter one possibly by the end of this year itself. Yes, Russia—you have heard it right.
And now comes something which completely has rattled the command of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). India, Japan and Australia have launched a “Resilient Supply Chain Initiative” amongst themselves. In simpler terms, it means the three countries are looking for alternatives to China in terms of relocating industries and supply chains in Indo-Pacific.
Japan, which has considerable industrial presence in China, unlike India or Australia, is even incentivizing its companies to relocate to, say India and Bangladesh. It has taken badly the recent moves by China to intensify dispute in East China Sea. Australia is badly stung by the trade spats with China. The repatriation of Australian journalists by Beijing hasn’t helped matters. India of course has a war at door.
In essence, there is an attempt to disengage supply chains in strategic areas such as telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, automobiles, semiconductors etc from China. This has potential to fundamentally alter the geographical shape of cross-border industrial network in the region. It would hurt China where it hurts most.
India and China could point fingers at each other, and not just Finger 3 or 4, for the downturn of ties between two of world’s most populous nations. China could claim that it has had enough of India’s “running with the hare and hunting with the hound” attitude. India could do likewise. After all, China backs Pakistan both on its terrorism and hostility in Kashmir. But these are no better than academic discourse. The truth is India has moved firmly on its Act East Policy. And China has to look after its back. Like Doklam, this face-off ftoo is likely to end with a loss of face for the Dragon.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
If India is attacked, it would have not just China but Pakistan also to take care of on multiple fronts.
The two enemy allies would bear down on India together, not just from the west and north but also on the north-eastern theatre encompassing Arunachal Pradesh.
There is no denying the threat as multiple talks between India and China, even involving our foreign minister and national security adviser, isn’t making Beijing see reason in Ladakh. As for Pakistan, this year alone it has made 800 ceasefire violations in Jammu and Kashmir.
Indians are acutely aware of the situation. In January itself, army chief General MM Naravane had admitted of a collusion between China and Pakistan which would push India into a two-front war. The general had pinpointed Siachen and Shaksgam Valley (see image below) where the “threat of collusion is maximum.”
India can’t wait till July 29 when it would receive the first set of five Rafale jets from France and in all likelihood would deploy them on the Ladakh theatre without much delay.
The first Rafale set would land into the 17 Squadron “Golden Arrows” in Ambala next week, taking off from Istres in France, touch the French airbase in Al Dhafra near Abu Dhabi in the UAE and after a night’s halt, Indian pilots would bring them home with at least two rounds of mid-air refuelling during its entire journey. (Midair-fuelling in itself is a spectacle you mustn’t miss watching).
Rafale, a 4.5-generation fighter jet, with its Meteor missiles could end China’s presence in Ladakh in minutes. China admittedly have 600 fourth and fourth-generation-plus jets yet Rafale is said to be a league apart than both the F-16s and JF-17s in terms of range, armaments and electronic warfare capability. Most jets in Pakistan’s inventory are US-made F-16s besides JF-17s which are China-made.
But India is hampered by a lack of central command and after decommissioning of the MiG-21 Bison, it’s down to just over 30 squadrons, far less than at least 42 required to take on China and Pakistan in air in a two-front war.
India has rushed Rafale-maker Dassault co. to make several India-specific changes in the jets which were not part of the initial agreement.
India-specific enhancements include cold-engine start in high-altitude bases; radar-warning receivers, low-band jammers, infra-red search etc but the clincher is air-to-air missile Meteor and 5.1-meter-long cruise missile SCALP which could hit targets with precision as far as 120km and 600km. India, literally, won’t have to leave its airspace to hit the target it wants to smoke out across the border.
Manufactured by European firm MBDA, the Meteor leaves no escape zone once the pilot looks at his radar and pulls the kill switch. The analysts believe there is no air missile presently which is better than Meteor.
The unthinkable Nuclear slide
Rafale jets, critically, could also deliver nuclear weapons. While India hasn’t bought a nuclear warhead delivery missile along with the jets, it could do so at a short notice. The Mirages, presently, are the aircraft for nuclear weapons with India.
Sure, we are not walking down the nuclear-war path yet. It would pop humanity out of existence. There is no point in discussing who has more nuclear weapons as Pakistan and China, put together, are way above India’s N-stockpiles. Analysts expect a conventional war, if god forbids it indeed breaks out, as a nuclear war would leave no winners.
Sure, India is pulling out all the stops. Its defence allocation for the 2020-21 fiscal year stood at Rs 471,378 crores (US$65.86 billion). The latest we hear is that defence ministry has approved the purchase of 21 Russian MiG-29 and 12 Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter aircraft, costing $2.43 billion. In the pipeline is incomparable S400 missiles, a $5.2 billion deal with Russia. And then there of course is Rafale jets, a deal worth Rs 59,000 crore (US$7.9 billion).
While on Rafale, how do they perform in real situation? Well, in 2011, Rafale operated over Benghazi and Tripoli in Libya and carried out a flawless mission. It has also taken part in operations in Mali and destroyed the enemy infrastructure without a fuss. Then it was Chad in Africa where four Rafale jets hit 21 targets after remaining airborne for nearly 10 hours, starting from their base in Saint-Dizier in eastern France. India would be the third country, besides Egypt and Qatar, to induct Rafale in its squadrons.
All this spend is to improve India’s deterrence which of course act to reduce the threat of conflicts. It hasn’t stopped Indian prime minister Narendra Modi from declaring that India could take care of Pakistan in 7-10 days. His time frame is not too off the mark: The 1971 War lasted a mere 13 days. The one against China, which we lost, all put together was a fortnight’s affair.
As for China, gone are the days when bigger countries could gulp down another nation like you would do a spoonful of honey. Saudi Arabia hasn’t been able to bring Yemen to its knees yet; Americans failed in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Soviet Union couldn’t keep Afghanistan in its palm and instead it hastened the demise of the Communist regime. India won’t be a cakewalk too if China and Pakistan were to mire it down on multiple fronts. It could only be a Looneys’ mission. But then who would’ve thought before June 15 that things would come to such a sorry pass between India and China?