Developing Nodes of Excellence on China
Maj Gen (Retd.) P K Chakravorty


India does not have clear perceptions of China and our thinking is based on the 1962 War and also from opinions of research findings of other countries. Thus despite all efforts, China remains an enigma with regards to its behaviour in the political and security arena. It is imperative that India develops its own insight on China. We need to create specialists in every field to deal with China. This starts from the knowledge of Mandarin among the technologists and the armed forces who constantly analyse China. Accordingly, there is a need to develop nodes of excellence that could visualise and comprehend Chinese policies and plans.

What are these Nodes?

China has been a united civilisation under a single government with little opposition for over 2000 years. The core theme of China has been to maintain a single united country in its domestic and foreign policy. The Central Government tightly holds on to the reins of power when it comes on to national security and diplomatic relations. The People’s Liberation Army does not report to the top Government officials but to the leaders of the Communist Party and the Central Military Commission which again is a part of the party. The same is not applicable to the Chinese economy where local autonomy and experimentation have catalysed China’s rapid economic growth. Beijing provided local leaders with basic resources and guidelines. Local leaders determine how best to achieve growth.

It is almost four decades that China started liberalisation and realised how much local freedom to allow. It is clear to the Central Government of China that national success depends on local success. The back and forth between the Central Government and local Government is intentional. The Central Government manages a formal planning process that includes national and province by province five year plans. Those plans are ratified by the people’s Congress. Actual implementation is another matter. For China’s local Governments, laws, regulations and contracts are often the beginning of business. William Antholis in his book, ‘Inside Out India and China’ mentions that bargaining between the Central Government and provinces, the provinces and localities and the localities and the business is the essence of governance. Some have called it fragmented authoritarianism, others as consultative authoritarianism and more recently,as de facto federalism or behavioural federalism. Accordingly power is spread across a number of authorities within the Communist Party and the various bodies of the Chinese state.

It may be pertinent to note that China’s system of governance is not based on the rule of law. Instead power is constantly being negotiated. Different authorities within the Communist party and the Government debate one another, behind the scenes and the final policy outcomes emerge from that back and forth. It is often difficult to determine who actually has made a decision or how long that decision stands in the public’s mind. While this system has witnessed a surge of economic growth, it also generates frustration for citizens, private companies, nongovernmental organisations and the world at large. The total lack of transparency makes the system difficult to analyse. Accordingly there is a need to develop nodes of excellence.

Nodes that need to be developed have to be focussed on Chinese ‘Comprehensive National Power’. These have to be concentrating on Chinese language, literature, strategy, economic planning, political thinking, their build up of forces in specialised fields of warfare and what is their vision for the present, short term and long term. This will entail China specialised groups in selected universities, the armed forces, the Ministries of Defence and External Affairs and the think tanks.

Developing Nodes

Nodes would ideally come up if they are focussed on to the need to analyse China. There could be perspective planning cells in the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Defence which focus on the developments related to Chinese political vision and strategic plans, and the impact of these on India. Dedicated think tanks looking at China should be suitably tasked to work for these two ministries. Ideally, the National Defence University should house, staff and undertake comprehensive studies of issues pertaining to China and focus on China’s Comprehensive National Power and as to how it impacts China and its policies. The University should establish links with the Chinese as well as other think tanks who observe developments in China.

The Headquaters Integrated Defence Staff, Army, Navy, Air Force and the Command Headquarters should have cells with Chinese interpreters to analyse the Chinese strategy as it impacts their domain and analyse likely trends which would enable us to respond to Chinese strategy, tactics, weapon development and its attitude towards India. TheseCells should also be allowed to develop to a stage when they would be able to assess events in the future, particularly in the domains of continental, maritime and outer space.

The next area would be the academic institutions. The proposed Indian National Defence University and all Universities dealing with issues pertaining to China and the Chinese language should be given guidelines to work on this subject and to provide suitable inputs leading to answers to many of the queries regarding China’s courses of action to build up Comprehensive National Power.

We are lucky that a large number of think tanks are gradually taking shape in our country. These think tanks, suitably assisted by the Government, can be allotted a specific areas for research and so develop their expertise on that subject. These areas should be coordinated by the Ministry of External Affairs and suitable discussions and feedback be given.

Own Excellence in Hard Power

China is currently focussing on its special forces, ‘assassin’s mace’ weaponry, cyber warfare and fighting in Outer Space. The Indian Armed Forces need to focus on all these areas in great details. Special forces must be trained in operations behind enemy lines particularly in Tibet. We need to focus on Tibetans and other hill tribes and work out suitable modus operandi for such operations.

As regards the so described ‘assassins mace’ weapons, the DRDO should expedite development of Direct Energy and Electro Magnetic Pulse weapons which would be useful in destroying hard and soft targets; these have yet to undergo development trials and needs to be expedited. Our entire fighting with China would be in mountainous regions. Our war worthiness wold improve if our equipment weighs less. To that extent, we must apply Nano Technology to our equipment. It would be prudent for each service to identify items for such application and work with Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, the Indian as well as National Institutes of Technology, as also the private sector to have light tanks, guns, small arms and other associated equipment. This would ensure that we can move and fight against the Chinese attacks in high altitude.

The next aspect is the development of our capability in outer space. It is a well known fact that weaponisation of outer space is being undertaken at a rapid pace by China. We must ensure that development of surveillance and weaponry, including anti-satellite weapons takes place without delay. To get all this going it would be sensible to introduce the Special Forces Command, Cyber Command and Aerospace Command.
China is straining it every sinew to become a super power. We have to leave no stone unturned to develop our own pockets of excellence to match China’s galloping modernisation of its strategic capabilities.

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