China Shifts Its Strategy Towards India- From Friend To Foe

China does not believe that the mainstream narrative about India’s nuclear program—that India built nuclear weapons in reaction to China’s own nuclear program—is complete without mentioning India’s own desire to become a great power. China also feels that India’s domestic politics have always played a significant role in defining India’s policy options when dealing with other international entities such as Pakistan and the US. Due to the capability (particularly technology) imbalance and the no-war bottom-line intention barrier, China does not regard India as a security danger when examining its capabilities and intentions statically. With the evolution of India’s strategic interaction in the Asia-Pacific region, the enhancement of India’s conventional weapons capability, and the ascendance of the Tibet and border factors, a multidimensional scenario of security challenges would be possible in the midterm if India’s capabilities and intentions were examined dynamically. To tackle this threat, traditional nuclear logic focused on counterforce targeting and flexibility should be replaced with a crisis-management-oriented, deficit-targeted approach. International efforts should be made in this process to address the disconnect between India’s great power recognition and its nuclear weapons modernization; to encourage policy consolidation between the US and China on strategic stability in South Asia; and, to increase trust, to foster economic and development cooperation between India and China.

Introduction

Despite having nuclear weapons, India is not recognised globally as a nuclear weapons state under the rules of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). India tested its first nuclear weapons in 1998 after detonating its first plutonium device, which is labelled a “peaceful nuclear explosion” in 1974. Both its nuclear programme and missile arsenal have advanced dramatically since 1998. However, because India has not joined the NPT, its potential to create nuclear weapons does not qualify it as a nuclear weapons state in international terms.

Due to India’s growing might and the changing geopolitics of the Asia-Pacific area as a whole, India’s status as an unofficial nuclear weapons state is beginning to generate concerns. From a geopolitical standpoint, if India rises to become a big power, its exclusion from the NPT framework will keep it on the margins of the world nuclear order. This situation will exacerbate the power imbalance between India and China, perhaps jeopardising US efforts to rebalance Asia.

Given the high levels of tensions over the unresolved Sino-Indian border issue, as well as the presence of the “Pakistan factor” in Sino-Indian security relations, China’s perception of India as a nuclear weapons power is critical not only for the future evolution of the international nuclear regime but also for the current Sino-Indian security situation. This paper examines how China’s conceptions of India as a nuclear power have influenced the country’s contingency planning for a nuclear-armed India, as well as the implications of China’s perceptions for future international nuclear and security relations.

This article is based on two assumptions. For starters, China has always considered that it is not required to respond to India as if it were a nuclear state. Second, despite the fact that India’s nuclear weapons are aimed towards China, China does not consider India to be a security threat at this time. If India’s nuclear capacity is combined with other elements, such as more aggressive objectives, it might represent a security threat in the future. The paper aims to explain why China believes it does not need to respond to India’s nuclear weapons based on these assumptions. It also seeks to sketch out scenarios in which China might decide that a response is necessary, as well as what that response might look like.

There are a few standard arguments that Chinese researchers make about India as a nuclear power, according to the literature that exists. India’s argument for becoming nuclear, that the programme was a response to China’s nuclear weapons development, is widely agreed to be oversimplified by Chinese writers. India’s reasons for getting nuclear are also related to its domestic politics and aspirations to be a great power. China’s perceptions of nuclear deterrence, strategic stability, and security threats have been unaffected by India’s nuclear programme. It makes no difference to China’s nuclear strategy, which is centred on the United States.

What Was The Impact Of India’s Nuclear Test On China’s Security Situation?

First, it prompted Pakistan to test nuclear weapons. Second, it made the security situation in South Asia more problematic.

On the other hand, the experts disagree about what has generated India’s sense of insecurity. According to one theory, putting China in India’s shoes will make it simpler for China to comprehend India’s sense of unease. India has been concerned for a long time about preparing for a two-front war with Pakistan and China. India’s security concern about Pakistan stems mostly from the difficulty it has in gaining an overwhelming conventional advantage over Pakistan, especially given Pakistan and China’s close security cooperation. Given these considerations, India is likely to view nuclear weapons as the most cost-effective means of resolving its conventional balance issues and strengthening its strategic posture.

According to a second Chinese narrative, India’s sense of uneasiness is primarily a self-fulfilling prophecy. China has stated that its nuclear forces are solely focused on the US, and that “the goal of China’s strategic nuclear force is to guarantee the US is properly alarmed by its retaliatory strike capabilities.” 1 How could India still believe China is a security danger, ask these authors?

Chinese aggression in Ladakh also a message for domestic and external  audience: Experts

According to a third narrative, determining whether India’s insecurity is founded on fact or not is pointless. Instead, it’s more vital to comprehend why such uneasiness persists as a political force in India. Some Chinese literature claims that India’s sense of insecurity is being used to overcome domestic resistance to the nuclear programme. “For India, the development of nuclear weapons is inextricably at odds with its diplomatic non-nuclear policy,” Song De Xin writes. As a result, security threats from China and Pakistan, particularly the threat of nuclear weapons, have become the ideal pretext for India to justify its nuclear weapon development momentum, and the international community has been partially bought.” 

China sees India’s sense of uneasiness as partly grounded in reality and partly based on fantasy. India’s fears about its own capabilities constraints are justified; but, India’s fears about China’s malevolent intentions are unfounded. Some say that whether India’s perception of uneasiness reflects reality or not, it is still necessary for the country to rally public support for its nuclear programme.

China’s Concern

China is concerned about India’s defence capabilities, but it shows the rest of the world that it dismisses India.

When India was distracted a year ago by implementing the world’s harshest coronavirus lockdown, China took advantage to penetrate critical border areas in India’s high-altitude Ladakh region, which is currently fighting a deadly second COVID wave.

After the severe Himalayan winter, thawing ice restored access routes, and a surprised India realised the People’s Liberation Army had captured hundreds of square kilometres of frontiers, defended by strongly armed bases. The finding sparked the region’s first deadly conflicts since 1975.

The invading PLA forces are still dug in, with Beijing showing no signs of backing down or accepting more buffer zones like those established in two other conflict zones to prevent additional armed engagements.

The standoffs, which include tens of thousands of Chinese and Indian troops in several locations, represent the longest period of military confrontation between the two countries since China established itself as India’s neighbour in the early 1950s by invading then-autonomous Tibet. Even China’s military strike on India in 1962, which was the only foreign war won by communist-ruled China, lasted only 32 days.

Now that India is dealing with a COVID outbreak, there are fears that China would spring further military surprises. This idea prompted India’s army chief to visit the front lines in Ladakh recently to assess operational readiness.

Meanwhile, China’s aggression has put an ugly light on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was mostly focused on courting China and so failed to see the aggression coming. Modi was blinded to the multiple warning signs, including China’s combat exercises and new military installations along the Himalayan border, during his 18 meetings with President Xi Jinping during the previous five years.

In October 2019, Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi raise their hands in Mamallapuram, India, during Arjuna’s Penance: the Indian Prime Minister was keen on embracing China. Indian Prime Minister’s Office/Associated Press

Friendship with China is unavoidable for India

Since China’s land grabs, the normally outspoken Modi has remained deafeningly quiet, never mentioning China by name in public or acknowledging the loss of territory. Worse, no army general has been punished responsible for the costly security failings that allowed India to be caught off guard. The defence minister also refused to assume moral responsibility and quit.

India’s efforts to hide the reality in order to save face, such as its euphemism for requesting China’s removal from the borderlands, “complete restoration of peace and tranquilly in the border areas,” have become grain for the Chinese propaganda mill. Officially manufactured euphemisms abound in Indian media coverage, with places held by the PLA frequently referred to as “friction points.”

All of this only adds to China’s obstinacy. Beijing recently urged that the two countries meet “halfway” in order to promote its “10 miles ahead, five miles back” approach. Meeting in the middle would be a “win-win” situation for China; it would win twice.

China would not only keep its key land grabs, but it would also force India to justify its annexation by China. This strategy exemplifies Beijing’s interpretation of “give and take”: the opposing side gives, while China takes.

India, to Modi’s credit, has refused to budge. India has more than matched China’s Himalayan military deployments and has made it clear that bilateral ties would not normalise as long as there is “friction, coercion, intimidation, and killing on the border,” as Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar put it.

China was barred from India’s fifth-generation, or 5G, wireless network trials earlier this month. And, unlike the 15 tonnes of medical supplies, it sent to Wuhan during the peak of the pandemic, India has refused to accept any official Chinese help during the current COVID outbreak.

The long-term consequences, on the other hand, are alarming. Consider China’s frantic development of new military facilities along the treacherous frontier. This massive buildup either indicates that Beijing believes conflict is inevitable, or that it plans to maintain long-term pressure on India.

More fundamentally, China’s actions, which include the deployment of artillery, missiles, and bombers in advance, threaten to turn what was once a lightly monitored border into a perpetually volatile border. The Tibetan Plateau has grown into a massive military base for China, which also benefits from a comparatively flat topography in comparison to India.

A heated border for India implies more resources will be diverted to border security, including increased mountain-warfare personnel. Not only will such a scenario make it more difficult for India to focus on its broader strategic confrontation with China, but it will also reinforce China’s Pakistan alliance.

By tying India down along the lengthy Himalayan border, China may be able to gain a stronger presence in the Indian Ocean. Opening a seafront against India would effectively encircle the country.

It is possible, though, that China’s measures will prove singularly unproductive, as they did during the 1962 war. That battle broke India’s illusions about China and accelerated the country’s move away from pacifism. India handed China a bloody nose in military engagements along the Tibet-Sikkim border in 1967, while still recovering from the 1962 war and another war with Pakistan in 1965.

China’s Ladakh attack may have been a success in terms of the area conquered. However, it has backfired politically, drawing India closer to Washington and necessitating a large military buildup in India. The relationship between Beijing and New Delhi is at an all-time low.

This appears to be a repeat of 1962 when China set out to “teach India a lesson,” as then-Premier Zhou Enlai put it. The war was won by China, but the peace was lost. The difference now is that China is turning its largest neighbour into a permanent foe.

Chinese, Indian troops in stand-off at Leh over construction of irrigation  canal | India News – India TV

Evaluation Of China’s Perception

Despite differences in opinion on India’s intentions, Chinese estimates of India’s nuclear capacity are widely accepted. Chinese experts did not understand that China has a distinct technological advantage over India in the nuclear field until years after the commencement of their country’s nuclear programme, owing to India’s nuclear development starting far later than China’s. After reading Western literature on India’s nuclear weapons, Chinese scholars arrived at this conclusion. The large gap between China’s and India’s nuclear debuts calls into question both the Western and Indian justifications for India’s nuclear development: that India’s bomb was created in response to China’s nuclear weapons acquisition. Why did India wait so long if this was the case? India’s “peaceful nuclear explosion” came a decade after China’s first nuclear weapons test, and India’s first nuclear weapons tests were more than 30 years later.

Was this a result of India’s strong anti-nuclear Nehruvian tradition in domestic politics? Or was it because India had trouble obtaining weapons-grade plutonium and couldn’t figure out how to make the weapons? Nehruvian pacifism cannot be the reason, because Indira Gandhi, Nehru’s daughter, permitted the peaceful nuclear explosion in 1972 after succeeding Lal Bahadur Shastri as Prime Minister. This Nehruvian explanation is also called into question by some examples from American literature. As George Perkovich argues, it took a group of technocrats persuading India’s political leadership from 1964 to 1974 to convince them to execute a “peaceful” nuclear explosion. 

The second hypothesis is that India’s sluggish nuclear development is due to capability limits rather than strategic considerations. “The reason why India did not follow up the 1974 test with more tests is mainly because India required more time to develop its nuclear explosive device, as well as more time to assimilate the 1974 test data,” according to Chinese research published in 2007.  According to Indian researchers, New Delhi’s scientists had major problems running the Phoenix plutonium reprocessing facility in the 1960s, and they didn’t have any fissile material to test with. One probable explanation for Homi Bhabha’s request that the US assist India in the development of a Plowshare peaceful nuclear explosive weapon is this. Indian articles imply that strategy plays a far larger role than Chinese academics typically believe.

The fact that China has not replied to India’s nuclear arsenal is largely due to China’s view that India has major capacity limits. China did not reply publicly after India’s nuclear tests in 1998, as it did after India’s 1974 explosion. According to a review of the People’s Daily’s coverage of nuclear issues, China’s public discourse on nuclear issues centred on China’s no-first-use doctrine in the 1960s attempts to establish a nuclear-free zone in South Asia in the 1970s, the peaceful use of nuclear energy in the mid-1980s, and then U.S. and Russian nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation initiatives in the late 1980s. China has hardly mentioned India’s nuclear programme in public for nearly three decades.

Similarly, given the fact that India has not signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, joined the Nuclear Suppliers Group, or taken any other steps to be globally recognised as a legal nuclear state, China has not felt pressured to respond diplomatically to India’s nuclear weapons. In terms of reciprocity, China believes that an official response is inappropriate. “It is critical for China to carefully select the topics and structure of Sino-Indian interaction to ensure that both sides feel equal and that their exchanges do not jeopardise their nonproliferation commitments,” says China. 

US warns India of Chinese 'aggression' at border, says it has to be  resisted - The Economic Times

China’s perception that India is not a security danger is based on assumptions about India’s weak capability and its assessment of India’s objectives. In terms of capability, even if the number of missiles pointed at China is large, China is still capable of dealing with the threat because it has “the technology edge and… the right deployment methods of nuclear weapons,” not to mention that India and China have formulated strategic stability based on the No First Use doctrine. 

In terms of objectives, China does not believe India is seriously considering a nuclear or conventional war with China. The following is a summary of India’s strategic culture: “India’s foreign policy was mainly defensive for a long time.”  China believes that India will be more careful and will not engage in any aggressive behaviour that could lead to a conflict with China.

In brief, China assesses India’s capabilities by examining the rate of development and the relative technological gap between the two countries. The belief that India and China will never engage in a full-scale conflict, whether conventional or nuclear, is at the heart of China’s understanding of India’s goals.

The Nuclear Agreement Between The Us And India, As Well As Changes In Chinese Perceptions

China replied to the 2008 US-India nuclear accord with its first remark about India’s nuclear programme, expressing alarm over a violation of the international nonproliferation regime. However, India and the US insist that the agreement is solely for civilian purposes and will not assist India to strengthen its nuclear weapons capability. The agreement had no impact on India’s intentions, nor did it reduce the number of nuclear-armed states in Asia. The only thing that changed was India’s nuclear program’s legitimacy. Why did China react so badly in light of the stakes?

In this scenario, a static framework of intentions and capability explains little about China’s perspectives. Some Chinese research argues that, aside from intention and capability calculation, China prefers to focus on risky dynamics and dangerous situations in which China is more vulnerable than before. In short, the nuclear deal between the United States and India altered a lot more than it appeared to do. Although India does not pose a security danger to China, it has already presented China with additional issues as a result of the nuclear pact.

First, when the international nonproliferation regime clashed with geopolitical interests, the nuclear deal signified a waning US commitment to the regime. “The administration’s own antipathy to nuclear arms control agreements such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty,… combined with its strong expectation of an eventual renewal of great-power competition, allowed both realist and neoconservative factions within the administration to take a more relaxed view of nuclear arms control agreements,” Ashley Tellis wrote at the time of the deal. This factor has also been underlined in Chinese literature, with one source stating that “the 2008 nuclear deal had importance to the China factor in US-India strategic relations in their collaborative attempts to actualize the so-called Asia-Pacific balance of power.” 

The United States’ arbitrary breach of the current international nonproliferation consensus is a second issue posed by the US-India nuclear pact. How can the international nuclear framework maintain its credibility if the United States, as its leader, applies double standards to it? 13 And, given that China invested enormous resources in changing itself from a regime outsider to a contributor within it if the regime’s credibility is eroding, it is not good for China’s international image.

“Though each country is allowed to have access to peaceful uses of nuclear energy, the U.S.-India Nuclear Agreement should be consistent with the provisions of [the] international nonproliferation mechanism,” said Liu Jian Chao, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry. At the same time, appropriate nuclear cooperation should aid worldwide nonproliferation efforts.”  This emphasised China’s worry about nonproliferation agreements being broken.

China’s reaction to the nuclear pact between the US and India stems from its concerns about the shifting dynamics of international nuclear commitment and the looming threat of geopolitical competition. Such competitiveness could lead to an arms race, in which the international nuclear regime’s credibility is eroded, reducing both states’ motives to comply with nonproliferation duties and their desire for future disarmament.

“China is not concerned about India’s civil and peaceful use of nuclear energy,” according to Chinese researcher Zhang Li, “but rather about the grey area between civil and military nuclear use—particularly fissile material production—that is not regulated by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers Group technical control procedures.” 15 This concern has also been expressed in recent American literature in the context of the Nuclear Suppliers Group considering India’s, and possibly Pakistan’s, membership applications, with the statement that “if transfers, particularly of dual-use goods, are made to non-safeguarded facilities or activities, how can Participating Governments have confidence that transfers will be consistent?”

According to China’s assessments, the underlying inconsistencies in dealing with the international nuclear system, along with geopolitical competition, will almost certainly lead to an arms race, putting current strategic stability on the subcontinent and in the Asia-Pacific region at risk. Many Chinese believe India’s initiatives to create an intercontinental ballistic missile and a strategic nuclear triad have progressed beyond the minimal deterrent requirements. From a technical standpoint, Chinese researchers argue that “it is unlikely that India would seriously negotiate with the US or other countries on [the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty], the Australia Group, and [the Missile Technology Control Regime] until it has the capability to assure its prevailing nuclear weapon edge to deter potential enemies.”

India-China Relations: Any Way Forward?

In a conventional battle with another nuclear-armed state like Pakistan, India will most likely wish to maintain its ability to employ nuclear weapons. China interprets this as a reversal of India’s no-first-use policy. Since 2010, India’s no-first-use policy appears to have morphed into one of “no first use against non-nuclear-weapon states.”  This promise excludes the prospect of a limited war against Pakistan in retaliation for a terrorist assault, in which India would contemplate deploying nuclear weapons to attack Pakistan’s nuclear facilities.

The growth of India’s nuclear programme poses two major security risks, according to China. First, due to the difficulty of certifying dual-use goods, India’s expanded civil nuclear capabilities may help India’s nuclear weapons modernisation. Second, India’s relaxation of its commitment to no first use might jeopardise deterrence and break the nuclear taboo by communicating to other non-NPT nuclear weapons states that nuclear weapons could be used in a war.

There is relatively little mention of Pakistan’s influence in moulding China’s opinions of India’s nuclear weapons programme in current Chinese literature. This is crucial information for understanding what influences India’s perception of insecurity, as well as how China views India’s objectives. Pakistan’s position is also important in the dispute over whether India’s nuclear weapons development is motivated by security, local politics, or international prestige considerations.

The security danger that India may perceive from Pakistan must be viewed in the context of the Cold War, which may have inflated India’s sense of vulnerability. The war with Pakistan in 1965, which followed China’s nuclear weapons test in 1964, frightened India much more. India was “enraged by China’s vocal backing for Pakistan during the conflict, and frustrated by what it saw as insufficient Western attention to its security needs,” according to Joyce Battle. “During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the United States offered tremendous amounts of economic and military aid to its partner, Pakistan,” she says. This “commitment has been questioned since it appears to put nonproliferation strategy on the back burner in favour of other concerns.”  During Jimmy Carter’s presidency, the US reversed the sanctions it had imposed on Pakistan.

It’s likely that Pakistan and China were merely pretexts for India’s nuclear programme, and that the programme was truly driven by US actions. “American policy…served as an accelerant in terms of the nuclear decision,” writes Stephen Cohen. Washington seems to be attempting to block off certain critical Indian alternatives, allowing proliferation hawks to conduct tests and weaponization. Recent governments had the option of conducting a test without weaponization or declaring weaponization without testing, but the [Bharatiya Janata Party] did both.” 20

In this perspective, India’s nuclear programme was intended not just to relieve foreign security pressure on the country, but also to force the US to recognise India as a major power. As a result, in addition to China, the real target audience for India’s proliferation should be the United States. This rationale was based on mimicry: great powers all have nuclear weapons; India wanted to be a great power, so it needed to have a major nuclear programme, even if it put New Delhi in jeopardy in many ways.

India’s evolving nuclear trajectory at the dawn of the twenty-first century will have significant implications for India-China nuclear relations in the medium future. An increasing worldwide acknowledgement of India’s goal to be a great power, India’s shifting interactions with other major countries, and changes in the outlook of India’s leadership are all contributing to this evolving trajectory. The strategic relationship between India and the United States and its allies in the Asia-Pacific area is the most important of these. The nature of this contact will be a key signal for China in judging India’s intentions in the future. What will be the criterion for India to be recognised as a major power, in India’s opinion? How does China fit within India’s definition of big power? And, in terms of geography, economics, and institutions, how could the area accommodate India as a great power?

India and the United States announced their aim to “invest in making trilateral consultations with third nations in the region more strong” in the 2015 Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region.

The current trilateral maritime debate between India, the United States, and Japan, to which Australia was just added, is one example of this investment. The Defense Technology Transfer Initiative, another hallmark of US-India cooperation, aims to move away from “securing speedy, monitored closure of outstanding defence deals to [transcend] the conventional buyer-seller relationship that has previously distinguished all bilateral military sales.” The transfer project gave India the opportunity to participate in collaborative research and development on a variety of new defence systems, partially avoiding India’s complex procurement bureaucracy.

All of these projects help India achieve its big power ambitions while also improving India’s technical capabilities. This capabilities expansion is accelerated by what Ashley Tellis calls India’s leaders’ new intention: “Modi’s desire to make India a great power will mark the beginning of the third epoch in Indian foreign policy when India’s weight and preferences will affect outcomes in the global system.”

India And China Both In Rat Race To Mordanise Military

How should China see India’s increased military capabilities, as well as the shifting ambitions that prompted it? India is currently developing a nuclear triad, which includes strategic bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles. India, according to its own assessment, already has a fully operating triad.

The 6,000-ton INS Arihant, India’s indigenous nuclear submarine, was completing its last trials in the Bay of Bengal in early 2016. Though the Arihant is a significant step forward in India’s military development, its design lacks the technical complexity to go underwater undetected by its foes. This could possibly make deterrence between India and China more risky and unpredictable. As a result, some in China argue that “now is the right time to conduct China-India nuclear talks and communication, considering the rapid development of India’s nuclear power as well as the long-absence of official or track 2 channels for nuclear communication, and the following possible nuclear arms race between India and PRC.” All of this would have direct security implications for China, and China must seriously evaluate how to maintain the stability of bilateral nuclear relations with India based on defined national interests.”

Floating island: Onboard INS Vikrant, India's first indigenous aircraft  carrier - India News

Finally, the shifting dynamics of strategic stability in the Asia-Pacific region point to new developments in India-China boundary disputes and Tibet relations. How do India’s unusual actions in Tibet and on border issues, such as establishing a contingency force for military action in Tibet, affect China’s overall assessment of India’s intentions? What impact would a crisis in this area have on India-overall China’s strategic stability? To what extent is the border issue linked to China’s and India’s maritime capacity competition? Some Indian literature claims that the two crises are inextricably linked, stating, for example, that “Delhi must also more thoroughly discuss the possible choices that the navy may generate in deterring land-based threats from China and Pakistan and in resisting the rising cooperation

“China is not concerned about India’s civil and peaceful use of nuclear energy,” according to Chinese researcher Zhang Li, “but rather about the grey area between civil and military nuclear use—particularly fissile material production—that is not regulated by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers Group technical control procedures.”  This concern has also been expressed in recent American literature in the context of the Nuclear Suppliers Group considering India’s, and possibly Pakistan’s, membership applications, with the statement that “if transfers, particularly of dual-use goods, are made to non-safeguarded facilities or activities, how can Participating Governments have confidence that transfers will be consistent?”

According to China’s assessments, the underlying inconsistencies in dealing with the international nuclear system, along with geopolitical competition, will almost certainly lead to an arms race, putting current strategic stability on the subcontinent and in the Asia-Pacific region at risk. Many Chinese believe India’s initiatives to create an intercontinental ballistic missile and a strategic nuclear triad have progressed beyond the minimal deterrent requirements. From a technical standpoint, Chinese researchers argue that “it is unlikely that India would seriously negotiate with the US or other countries on [the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty], the Australia Group, and [the Missile Technology Control Regime] until it has the capability to assure its prevailing nuclear weapon edge to deter potential enemies.”

In a conventional battle with another nuclear-armed state like Pakistan, India will most likely wish to maintain its ability to employ nuclear weapons. China interprets this as a reversal of India’s no-first-use policy. Since 2010, India’s no-first-use policy appears to have morphed into one of “no first use against non-nuclear-weapon states. This promise excludes the prospect of limited war against Pakistan in retaliation for a terrorist assault, in which India would contemplate deploying nuclear weapons to attack Pakistan’s nuclear facilities.

The growth of India’s nuclear programme poses two major security risks, according to China. First, due to the difficulty of certifying dual-use goods, India’s expanded civil nuclear capabilities may help India’s nuclear weapons modernisation. Second, India’s relaxation of its commitment to no first use might jeopardise deterrence and break the nuclear taboo by communicating to other non-NPT nuclear weapons states that nuclear weapons could be used in a war.

There is relatively little mention of Pakistan’s influence in moulding China’s opinions of India’s nuclear weapons programme in current Chinese literature. This is crucial information for understanding what influences India’s perception of insecurity, as well as how China views India’s objectives. Pakistan’s position is also important in the dispute over whether India’s nuclear weapons development is motivated by security, local politics, or international prestige considerations.

China, Pakistan have more nuclear weapons than India: Study | Latest News  India - Hindustan Times

The security danger that India may perceive from Pakistan must be viewed in the context of the Cold War, which may have inflated India’s sense of vulnerability. The war with Pakistan in 1965, which followed China’s nuclear weapons test in 1964, frightened India much more. India was “enraged by China’s vocal backing for Pakistan during the conflict, and frustrated by what it saw as insufficient Western attention to its security needs,” according to Joyce Battle. “During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the United States offered tremendous amounts of economic and military aid to its partner, Pakistan,” she says. This “commitment has been questioned since it appears to put nonproliferation strategy on the back burner in favour of other concerns.” 19 During Jimmy Carter’s presidency, the US reversed the sanctions it had imposed on Pakistan.

It’s likely that Pakistan and China were merely pretexts for India’s nuclear programme, and that the programme was truly driven by US actions. “American policy…served as an accelerant in terms of the nuclear decision,” writes Stephen Cohen. Washington seems to be attempting to block off certain critical Indian alternatives, allowing proliferation hawks to conduct tests and weaponization. Recent governments had the option of conducting a test without weaponization or declaring weaponization without testing, but the [Bharatiya Janata Party] did both.” 20

In this perspective, India’s nuclear programme was intended not just to relieve foreign security pressure on the country, but also to force the US to recognise India as a major power. As a result, in addition to China, the real target audience for India’s proliferation should be the United States. This rationale was based on mimicry: great powers all have nuclear weapons; India wanted to be a great power, so it needed to have a major nuclear programme, even if it put New Delhi in jeopardy in many ways.

India’s evolving nuclear trajectory at the dawn of the twenty-first century will have significant implications for India-China nuclear relations in the medium future. An increasing worldwide acknowledgement of India’s goal to be a great power, India’s shifting interactions with other major countries, and changes in the outlook of India’s leadership are all contributing to this evolving trajectory. The strategic relationship between India and the United States and its allies in the Asia-Pacific area is the most important of these. The nature of this contact will be a key signal for China in judging India’s intentions in the future. What will be the criterion for India to be recognised as a major power, in India’s opinion? How does China fit within India’s definition of big power? And, in terms of geography, economics, and institutions, how could the area accommodate India as a great power?

India and the United States announced their aim to “invest in making trilateral consultations with third nations in the region more strong” in the 2015 Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region.

The current trilateral maritime debate between India, the United States, and Japan, to which Australia was just added, is one example of this investment. The Defense Technology Transfer Initiative, another hallmark of US-India cooperation, aims to move away from “securing speedy, monitored closure of outstanding defence deals to [transcend] the conventional buyer-seller relationship that has previously distinguished all bilateral military sales.” The transfer project gave India the opportunity to participate in collaborative research and development on a variety of new defence systems,22 partially avoiding India’s complex procurement bureaucracy.

All of these projects help India achieve its big power ambitions while also improving India’s technical capabilities. This capabilities expansion is accelerated by what Ashley Tellis calls India’s leaders’ new intention: “Modi’s desire to make India a great power will mark the beginning of the third epoch in Indian foreign policy when India’s weight and preferences will affect outcomes in the global system.”

India is increasing its conventional military capability at the same time that China is modernising its military.

How should China see India’s increased military capabilities, as well as the shifting ambitions that prompted it? India is currently developing a nuclear triad, which includes strategic bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles. India, according to its own assessment, already has a fully operating triad.

The 6,000-ton INS Arihant, India’s indigenous nuclear submarine, was completing its last trials in the Bay of Bengal in early 2016. Though the Arihant is a significant step forward in India’s military development, its design lacks the technical complexity to go underwater undetected by its foes. This could possibly make deterrence between India and China more risky and unpredictable. As a result, some in China argue that “now is the right time to conduct China-India nuclear talks and communication, considering the rapid development of India’s nuclear power as well as the long-absence of official or track 2 channels for nuclear communication, and the following possible nuclear arms race between India and PRC.” All of this would have direct security implications for China, and China must seriously evaluate how to maintain the stability of bilateral nuclear relations with India based on defined national interests.” 

Finally, the shifting dynamics of strategic stability in the Asia-Pacific region point to new developments in India-China boundary disputes and Tibet relations. How do India’s unusual actions in Tibet and on border issues, such as establishing a contingency force for military action in Tibet, affect China’s overall assessment of India’s intentions? What impact would a crisis in this area have on India-overall China’s strategic stability? To what extent is the border issue linked to China’s and India’s maritime capacity competition? Some Indian literature claims that the two crises are inextricably linked, stating, for example, that “Delhi must also more thoroughly discuss the possible choices that the navy may generate in deterring land-based threats from China and Pakistan and in resisting the rising cooperation

In the subcontinent’s waterways, there is increased cooperation between Beijing and Islamabad.” 

Under the Bharatiya Janata Party government, the importance of Tibet and border disputes have grown. Narendra Modi welcomed Lobsang Sangay, the leader of Tibet’s government-in-exile, to his inauguration in May 2014. Modi visited Arunachal Pradesh in 2015 and vowed additional infrastructure investment in areas claimed by both India and China. Prior to Indian President Pranab Mukherjee’s 2016 visit to China, Indian media reported that China had increased army deployments along the Indian border. 

“China and India continue to accuse each other of repeated intrusions and military build-ups along with the disputed territories,” the Department of Defense wrote in its Annual Report to Congress, attempting to maintain an unbiased view of the India-China territorial disputes.

 “China and India agreed to speed up the dialogue on the framework of a border settlement, and make concerted efforts for an early solution to this problem left over from history,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in response to this particular characterisation. 31 This shows how India’s domestic policies have influenced China-India relations on border conflicts and Tibet.

Conclusion

China does not believe that the mainstream narrative—that India developed nuclear weapons in reaction to China’s nuclear program—is complete without also including India’s own desire to become a great power as a primary driving force behind the nuclear weapons programme. India’s domestic politics have always played a significant influence in influencing its foreign policy engagements, particularly with Pakistan and the US.

India is still not considered a legal nuclear weapons state by China. China, on the other hand, does not see India as a security danger. China has recognised a significant technological gap between India and itself, and China believes that India lacks the competence to threaten it as a result of this disparity. Furthermore, China’s appraisal of India’s war readiness implies that India has no intention of threatening China. China believes it does not need to respond militarily or diplomatically to India’s nuclear development for grounds of reciprocity and its own security.

Cultural Fallout Of India-China Border Standoff: Events To Mark 70 Years Of  Diplomatic Relations Put On Hold

However, significant ambiguities emerge when considering India’s potential future capabilities and intents, raising the likelihood that India might offer substantial security challenges to China. Although it is difficult to predict India’s future intentions with certainty, recent evidence reveals that its previous starting point of Nehruvian pacifism is no longer valid. In view of its new strategic engagements with the United States and its allies in the Asia-Pacific region, India’s capabilities need to be reexamined.

In the medium term, China’s perception of India’s threat is influenced by three factors, all of which have uncertain outcomes: foreign support for India’s great power ambitions, the development of India’s conventional military capability, and the nature of China’s interactions with India regarding border disputes and Tibet. “Multiple China-India disagreements starting at almost the same time is a possible, if improbable, scenario throughout the next twelve to eighteen months,” according to Daniel Markey. Unilateral revisions of the ‘rules of the road’ for tactical military operations… and new military construction projects or deployments along the border, whether of troops or equipment, would be specific warning markers of growing land-border tensions.” 

Of course, low-intensity armed clashes are not the same as full-scale warfare. However, tensions between India and China could rise as a result of border conflicts, especially if tensions between India and Pakistan rise as well. Toby Dalton and George Perkovich write in a recent study that “China is unlikely to intervene with its own nuclear forces, especially if India has not begun the use of nuclear weapons in the battle…. Beijing’s stakes in a potential Indo-Pakistani nuclear conflict will expand significantly.” 33 This also explains why China is apprehensive about India breaking its promise not to use nuclear weapons first. The chance of a confrontation remaining “limited” can never be guaranteed as long as nuclear weapons are an option.

Based on the aforementioned variables, the Asia-Pacific region’s nuclear future will be far more problematic than previous and current capabilities and aspirations suggest. The classical nuclear logic of flexible response and counterforce targeting may become less useful in the multidimensional threat scenario that is projected to emerge in the future. Instead, building a framework of nuclear cooperation and de-escalation could benefit from a crisis-management-oriented, deficit-targeted logic.

To separate India’s great power ambitions from its nuclear weapons programme, a concerted international effort is required. To become a great power, India will require much more than military prowess. It must also foster economic strength and flexibility, as well as a focus on long-term growth, in order to acquire the capabilities required to become and act as a great power.

China and India have lately forged a tighter development partnership that can be leveraged to boost both countries’ economic development while also easing India’s security concerns. Though economics and nuclear weapons are two distinct issues, economic cooperation will make it more difficult to organise public opinion that China is a threat to India if ordinary Indians see their lives improving as a result of their country’s dealings with China. Economic cooperation makes the “China menace” more difficult to sell in India since it demonstrates China’s good intentions and helps to build trust over time.

Finally, in order to ensure strategic stability in South Asia, the US and China should coordinate their approaches. For starters, China and the US should agree on whether India or Pakistan should be at the centre of their respective South Asia strategies. They should then achieve an understanding of how to respond in the event of another India-Pakistan confrontation. This type of collaboration will aid in the containment of regional crises in South Asia and will avoid interested parties such as the US and China from exacerbating problems through uncoordinated action.

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