India sees China as 'de facto competitor'

Updated: 2011-11-10 07:56

By Hu Yinan (China Daily)

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BEIJING - Recent bold moves regarding India's armed forces have political rather than military objectives, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Daily said.

India's repositioning of its national security strategy has led to the country "starting to treat China as a de facto competitor", it said in a commentary on Wednesday.

"China has always adhered to the principle of 'peaceful rise'. But this has been misinterpreted by some countries as a 'rising threat'," it said.

The response came a week after the Indian Ministry of Defense announced its biggest expansion package to date, a $13 billion military modernization plan.

Within five years, the project is set to deploy 90,000 more soldiers and raise four new divisions along India's border with China, the largest such mobilization since the Sino-Indian border clashes of 1962.

The Indian military is also in the final phase of choosing between two fighter jets in what is said to be the world's largest defense deal. For months, the Eurofighter Typhoon and the French Dassault Rafale aircraft have been competing for an Indian Air Force contract that is now worth more than $20 billion - almost double the original estimate.

These moves followed the Indian government's decision in October to deploy Brahmos cruise missiles against China, the first time it has taken such a step with offensive tactical missiles.

India is also pushing for its first joint air force and naval exercises with Japan, which Indian Defense Minister A K Antony revealed during his visit to Japan last week.

On Monday, a senior former Indian diplomat said India, as a potential "positive balancer" in East Asia, wants to see a strong Japan in the context of China's rise.

A strong Japan would play a positive role in maintaining the strategic balance in the region, former Indian ambassador to Japan Hemant Krishan Singh said in New Delhi at a discussion on the US-Japan alliance.

During the same discussion, Sheila A. Smith, a senior fellow with the US-based Council on Foreign Relations, said Japan's "strategic discomfort" has been growing amid the rise of China in recent years.

The discussion was held just weeks ahead of a proposed trilateral dialogue involving India, US and Japan that experts said was aimed at keeping China in check.

The trilateral dialogue, to be held by the year's end, will discuss regional issues, the US State Department said last week.

China has not commented on the matter.

"The West's vigilance and confinement of China's rise are increasing. One of its means is to take advantage of China's conflicts and issues with its neighboring countries, and instigate and radicalize issues to exhaust China's energy, resources and strategic projection," said Fu Xiaoqiang, an expert on South Asian studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

China should "take it easy" when outsiders feel uneasy about its growth and role in regional as well as global affairs, said Feng Yujun, head of Russian studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

China should not only remain alert of actions taken by parties to contain its rise, but also actively adjust its strategy and focus on improving its relations with neighboring countries instead of the big powers, said Jin Yinan, head of the Strategic Research Institute at National Defense University.

India and China are slated to become the world's largest trading partners by 2030, according to estimates by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India.

But analysts say India's increasingly assertive approaches, acting as a counterweight to the rise of China, are reshaping the Asian strategic landscape.

"This is largely projected as a response to India's threat perceptions of China," wrote M K Bhadrakumar, a former career diplomat who served as India's ambassador to Turkey and Uzbekistan, in the Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in Washington, US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns last week hailed India's "Look East" policy as becoming an "Act East" policy. "India's rise will reshape the international system," he said.

Kim R. Holmes, vice-president of the Heritage Foundation and former US assistant secretary of state, said closer India-US ties are the natural result of a rising China.

"I believe that growing strategic challenges presented by a rising China and continuing threats from terrorism in the region will inevitably drive the US and India to cooperate more closely on defense and other key sectors like space, maritime security and nuclear nonproliferation," he said.