Well, the real challenge is China…
Any security analyst, political observer, international relations expert or even a person who understands global politics would say that India’s biggest security threat is Pakistan. Indian foreign and defense policies have been oriented toward Pakistan for years which is no surprise since the two nations have engaged in four wars.
The result of this focus has placed India and Pakistan on the same level as nation-states and India has directed less attention to its other neighbours like China which has created clear disadvantages for India as China’s growing power goes “unchecked.” The second problem is more significant. India hasn’t tried to act as a counter balance to China even in South Asia which is evidenced by the fact that China has much deeper economic ties with most of India’s immediate neighbours.
India and China’s journey as independent nation states started around nearly the same time. While India gained independence in 1947, the Chinese achieved theirs in 1949. The trajectory of these two countries’ growth stories is very different. China’s ‘Great Leap’ laid the foundations for the strong powerful state that it is today, both militarily as well as economically.
It has one of the largest economies in the world and Chinese products continue to flood the international market due to their competitive prices which shifts the balance of power towards China. Economy is one of the factors which acts as a ‘deterrent’ between two states in conflict. With the sheer size of the Chinese economy, the ‘deterrent’ power of China increases and India, as a huge consumer market for Chinese goods also has a deterrence power of its own.
It is debated whether there could be a full scale Indo-China war because both sides would lose financially. The question is whether extreme political disputes over the issue of borders would cause either side to take financial losses in order to wage full scale war. Indian policy makers need to understand the fact China and Pakistan are all weather allies.
That makes the situation more complex. No doubt, India has many friends in the international arena, but the question is who would be willing to side with India? In 1962, when the Indo-China war happened the Soviet Union didn’t support India against China even though it was India’s all weather friend at that time.
India of today is a much bigger power than India of 1962 and its capabilities have increased but so have China’s. India is a nuclear power state as is China. It’s high time for India to develop home grown defense technologies which will reduce India’s defense imports. India needs to invest in manufacturing defense products.
To sum up, the time has come to re-orient our defense policies; Pak-centric policies will not help India in the long run. Once India engages in order to maintain a balance of power vis-à-vis China, it will emerge as a stronger power and India’s influence will grow both in its ‘immediate’ and its ‘extended neighborhood.’