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China will be one of our primary challenges: Navy Chief

China will be one of our primary challenges: Navy Chief

Author: Special Correspondent
Publication: The Hindu
Date: August 11, 2009
URL: http://www.hindu.com/2009/08/11/stories/2009081160771000.htm

The Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Sureesh Mehta, on Monday underscored the primacy of challenges posed by China as India draw its national security plans to keep pace with its rise to global prominence.

"It is quite evident that coping with China will certainly be one of our primary challenges in the years ahead. China is in the process of 'consolidating' its comprehensive national power and creating formidable military capabilities. Once that is done, China is likely to be more assertive on its claims, especially in its immediate neighbourhood," Admiral Mehta said in his lecture "India's national security challenges - an armed forces overview" organised by the National Maritime Foundation.

Admiral Mehta acknowledged that India's trust-deficit with China could never be removed completely till the boundary issues are settled and flagged that Beijing's propensity for intervention in space and cyber-warfare would also be major planning considerations in New Delhi's strategic and operational thinking.

He said cooperation rather than competition or conflict with China was preferable since it would be "foolhardy" to compare India and China as equals in terms of economy, infrastructure and military spending.

The Navy Chief said both in convention and non-conventional terms military terms, India neither does have the capability nor the intention to match China force for force. According to some American studies, China spends anywhere between $70 billion to $200 billion even though the official figure by Beijing is under $40 billion, he said.

A military conflict, he said, would have grave consequences on the economic front for both nations and therefore it would be in the interest of both the countries to cooperate with each other in mutually beneficial endeavours and ensure that the potential for conflict is minimised.

The military strategy to deal with Beijingshould include reducing the military gap and counter the growing Chinese footprint in the Indian Ocean region, and harness modern technology for developing high situational awareness and creating a reliable "stand-off deterrent."

Another significant challenge, flagged by the Navy Chief was that of cyber warfare and web espionage. He quoted a 2007 report of McAfee that warned that international espionage was set to be the biggest single threat to national security in 2008 with some 120 countries on web espionage bandwagon.

Overall, he painted on the broad canvas the other aspects including the growing challenge from non-state actor and the country's responses to it. The policy of engagement in shaping India's neighbourhood; securing the country's long maritime border; dimensions of internal security, need to have cohesive working of different intelligence agencies, and the need for integration among the tri-services.

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