Shangri-La Dialogue: India no threat to Chinese military says PLA
India will not pose a security threat to China because it is still incapable of challenging Beijing in defence manufacturing and modernisation of its military, said Chinese military delegates to Asia’s premier security forum.
Speaking to media on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, which closed on Sunday, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) delegates said India was still a long way from catching up to China’s military, especially in the defence industry.
“India is unlikely to catch up to China in the coming decades because of its weak industrial infrastructure, while China has built complex and systematic defence industrial platforms,” said Senior Colonel Zhao Xiaozhuo of the PLA Academy of Military Sciences.
“When you look at the Indian military’s weapon systems, what types of tanks, aircraft and warships were made and developed by Indians themselves?”
India was the world’s biggest importer of major arms from 2018 to 2022, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, with 31 per cent of its total arms coming from Russia in that period.
“India has spared no effort in military modernisation in a bid to become an impressive superpower as other countries have done,” said Senior Colonel Zhang Chi, an associate professor at the PLA National Defence University and a member of the delegation.
However, Zhao said the modernisation of India’s military and its role in the US-led Quadrilateral Security Dialogue – an informal alliance better known as “the Quad” that also includes Japan and Australia and is aimed at countering a rising China – would not affect cooperation between Beijing and New Delhi in multilateral platforms such as BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
BRICS is an acronym for a bloc of leading emerging markets consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, while the SCO is a Beijing-led group focused on regional security, including fighting terrorism, separatism and extremism.
China and India have faced off along their border in the Himalayas, with a deadly clash that killed 20 Indian soldiers and four PLA troops in 2020.
Zhao said Beijing believed that India would not be a “loyal partner” of the American Indo-Pacific Strategy because of its independent diplomatic policy.
Zhang said India was an early advocate of the non-aligned movement (NAM), which shared common ground with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s new security initiatives.
Founded during the Cold War, the NAM is a grouping of countries, mainly in the Global South, that are not formally aligned with a major power and that oppose colonialism, imperialism and foreign intervention.
However, Yogesh Gupta, a former Indian ambassador to Denmark and expert on India-China ties, disagreed, saying the NAM was relevant when New Delhi joined during the Cold War, but it was now outdated.
“India is under no compulsion to follow the ideals of [the] NAM when China has adopted an aggressive and hegemonic posture towards India,” he said, referring to the two countries’ unsolved territorial disputes.
“If China is not willing to correct its wrong attitude in the talks at [the] bilateral level, how will the two countries improve relations at SCO and BRICS? These groups are not making much progress due to obstinacy in Beijing’s position.”
The PLA delegation said China and its Asian neighbours would prefer to use dialogue, exchanges and negotiation – the “Asian model” – to solve their territorial disputes.
As the world’s biggest army, the 2 million-strong PLA has set a goal to become a modern fighting force by 2027, the centenary of its founding, prompting the US and many defence think tanks to suggest that Beijing might attack Taiwan as early as that year.
Senior Colonel Cao Yanzhong, a research fellow at the PLA Academy of Military Sciences, rejected such speculation, saying the 2027 deadline was just part of China’s efforts to modernise its military, and its other goals included building a blue-water navy by 2035 and having a first-class military on par with the US by 2049.
Cao said when it came to Taiwan, Washington’s “deterrence strategy” could not deter the PLA from scaling down its deployment of aircraft and warships around the self-ruled island, and the drills were aimed at putting pressure on pro-independence forces in Taiwan and elsewhere from splitting the island from China. Shangri-La Dialogue: India no threat to Chinese military says PLA Shangri-La Dialogue: India no threat to Chinese military says PLA Shangri-La Dialogue: India no threat to Chinese military says PLA Shangri-La Dialogue: India no threat to Chinese military says PLA IgMp