19 September, 2020

Blog

No Sleep Need Be Lost In Delhi About The Rajapakse Sleeping With Beijing

By Kumar David

Prof Kumar David

The Indian Ocean power balance: China, India and the USA

The befuddlement in Delhi regarding the procedural resolution on Sri Lanka to be tabled by the US at the March UNHRC meeting is seen as a reaction to its Indian Ocean strategic funk. I will address this in this essay; the UNHRC-Lanka dimension is marginal to today’s topic. The legendary pusillanimity of Manmohan Singh, above all on Sri Lanka related matters, is not explanation enough. That Indian decision makers have taken fright at a Chinese strategic threat in the Indian Ocean, if true, signals bad judgement, and if untrue, what on earth lies at the root of Delhi’s state of flummox?

To begin at the beginning, my title includes three elephants and quite intentionally omits a mouse, Sri Lanka, because, notwithstanding Colombo’s delusions, it is not of itself a vital consideration. This piece advances two propositions. The first, to put it bluntly, is that China is not, and will not for three more decades be a naval or air power that can fling its noose far away into distant oceans and continents. Its strategic obsession is the littoral waters of the motherland and its southern and westerly land borders. Indian policy makers seem to be misreading this, obvious as child’s play, reality.

Though this is my first proposition let me begin by speaking against it. The Chinese defence budget in 2012 was huge at $150 billion (US $700 billion, India $50 billion) and spending was probably larger since defence related expenditure is concealed under other headings. A more important factor is that a dollar in China goes a longer way than in the US; what a scientist costs in the US, will buy, say five scientists of corresponding standing in China, albeit with less experience and somewhat inferior education. A dollar spent on research or manufacturing in China delivers what it would cost, say three dollars, to assemble in the US. I grant all this; but notwithstanding, China is nowhere near floating a blue-water fleet or flying an air-force that can make a serious indent in the world’s great oceans and distant continents. I will focus on sea power in the next paragraphs. I will also not deal with cyber warfare, the real, not science fiction, struggle of the future, where the gap between the US and China is not as big as in naval and air capability.

China’s strategic priorities

A nuclear powered (101,000 ton) carrier of the super-Nimitz class costs $8 billion for ship alone, $5 billion for a complement of 70-odd aircraft and a fleet of 10 to 15 escort and support vessels to make a battle group, and say $2 billion for training a crew of hundreds of airmen and 7, 500 sailors. This is what it takes to float a carrier strike group or a larger carrier battle group. China’s first nuclear-powered carrier is expected in 2020 and it may take a decade to commission an operational blue-water battle group; but still without combat experience. Contrast this with the US navy which, over the years, has built 80 carriers and acquired active experience in the Pacific Theatre in WW2 and in post-war imperialist exploits in Korea and Vietnam. The US currently has 10 carriers, all super-carriers; most are in port but two or three are always out in far flung seas with strike groups. Those in port can be fitted out with escort fleets and floated quickly.

The purpose of all this is to make the point that Chinese military planners are no fools. They will not tangle with the US Navy or more seriously a US-Indian naval presence, in the Indian Ocean anytime in the foreseeable future. Furthermore, and this is the key, the Chinese have no strategic motivation for sailing out in strength into the Indian Ocean. What for, to give military support to Gothabahaya Rajapakse! On what planet do these people live, expecting Chinese sampans to come sailing in to rescue them from the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group?

China’s naval priorities are crystal clear; assertion of power in the littoral waters of the Mainland and Taiwan. The perspective is defined by the first and second island chains. These seas include the South China Sea, the East China Sea, Sea of Japan, the Philippine Sea and the Yellow Sea (Korean Sea). China has no strategic interest in looking over the Straits of Malacca and into the Indian Ocean or the Arabian Sea. This remark does not refer to the protection of oil import and trade routes where the Chinese Navy has an interest in protecting shipping from pirates and nuisances. This is a one or two ship operation and China has the naval resources for this; it involves no entanglement with America or India. Hambantota is insignificant for naval purposes, but useful as a bunkering point for commercial shipping which is another matter.

Delhi’s paranoia

It is hard to understand Delhi’s paranoia with a Chinese threat in the Indian Ocean when it should be turning its attention to its northern and eastern land borders and sorting out its relationship with Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Is there a struggle for resources between the Indian army and the navy – I don’t know? Typical of the paranoia is the string of pearls theory where China is seen to be encircling India by building harbours in Burma (Sitwe), Bangladesh (Chittagong), Hambantota, Pakistan (Gwadar), and Puerto Sudan in the eponymous country. To be best of my knowledge Chittagong, Gwadar, Puerto Sudan and of course Hambantota are nothing but commercial facilities. True, Chinese investment is indispensable but there is no pressure for housing naval facilities and commercial considerations are an adequate motivation.

To go further, if Hambantota were to become a strategic threat to India it will be taken out in a few hours, even without American assistance, and there is bugger all Colombo can do. Washington decided it faced a strategic threat in 1964 when the Soviet Union moved to place nuclear missiles in Cuba, and nothing short of a comparable adventure would constitute a threat to Indian security. Beijing is far too intelligent to land itself in a confrontation with the Americans or the Indians about military facilities in Hambantota (or heaven forbid Trincomalee); these are but wet-dreams the Rajapakses lust after.

China will not enter a strategic stand-off with the Indo-American alliance on anything to do with Sri Lanka. Hence my second hypothesis is this: China’s interests are in access to economic resources and protecting trade routes. Sure, economic competition puts a political squeeze on India, but thoughtful Indian policy makers should aim at enhancing economic cooperation with China to mutual benefit.

Since Delhi’s boneheads are familiar with the a-b-c case that I have argued thus far there has to be another reason for its paranoia. I think it’s to do with the Great Game (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Central Asia) and India’s wider relationship with the USA, or more exactly its limited place in the relationship. China is a threat in Indian eyes in this generic context. No sleep need be lost in Delhi about the Rajapakse sleeping with Beijing; if the fruit of these loins grows strategically troublesome it will be squashed by overwhelming exercise of power. I am repeating, so let us move on, but it would be politically savvy for Delhi to put across a tough message and bury Colombo’s illusions, than to coddle the Colombo regime.

What is it in the new relationship with America that could trouble Indian strategic thinkers? I think it is America’s political promiscuity, its admitted strategic philandering. Obama’s shift to an Asian pivot courts three wives (Japan, India and Australia) and a bunch of minor concubines (S Korea, Indonesia, Singapore and Pakistan). This is not a grand alliance but a collection of separate bi-lateral alliances between a patriarch and a bevy of subordinate partners. Areas of influence are farmed out as follows: Japan keeps China in check within the Island Chains (if Japan rearms it has the resources and technology to overtake China), India sails in the littoral seas, and Australia will suckle the South Pacific and Indonesian Archipelago. India is a subordinate partner; it is not consulted on strategy relating to China, Pakistan and Central Asia.

India is aware of this unequal relationship; Delhi knows that it must think on its feet, but it is dim-witted in so doing, hence befuddlement writ large on Delhi’s countenance. This is clear; however it’s not my business, nor do I have the competence, to say how Delhi should address its larger conundrum. If it takes a hard line with Colombo, reads the riot act as Kennedy did to Cuba in 1962, and acts firmly, it will settle accounts with a pestilential gadfly to which there will be no Chinese strategic response. It will also clear the decks in preparation for turning Delhi’s mind to the real issues vis-à-vis China: building economic relations and smoothing strategic concerns in the Himalayas and Central Asia. 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    Wishful thinking .

    India to read the riot act for what?.

    Give Sambandan separate homelands , grow more LTTE bases in Tamil Nadu,make Vaikos, Nedus and Seemans, Nadu heros and ultimately make Madras the capital of TNGTE?.

    China takes three decades to be a Naval Power ?.

    Chinese can’t afford to build Nimitz Class ships,

    No wonder Solheim and his Royal Norwegian Govt. told Dr Kumar to get lost, when he posted the Invoice for the balance 75%.

    • 0
      0

      Sumane, Are you a racialist. If the majority is not willing to allow the Tamils to live peacefully, they should be given th right to secceeded

    • 0
      0

      Tsunamisekera:
      How many contributions do you think it will take before even you realize that you are the closest thing to a village idiot writing to CT? You are SOOOO fortunate that lunacy is not a disqualification where contributing to this web publication is concerned!

  • 0
    0

    Our ‘konde bandapu chinu’ like to associate with the powers that be. Hence China is in the vogue, being an asian country, nominally buddhist, anti imperialistic, experts in the martial arts. All our local heros fancy being a bruce lee or jackie chan to kill as many unpatriotic rascals as possible.

    So our local politicians who haunt the local chinese restaraunts and eat chinese fried rice, fancy china as a true friend and ally. Also there are so many deals to be done and money to be made, under the table; Chinese trick so so.

    High interest rates not withstanding and of course the many chinese courtesan services available around kollupitiya for the discerning taste of our politikka emporers.

  • 0
    0

    Since China started building ports in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, India was concern as to china’s inner motives to surround India.

    But mostly is is Rajapakse administration that seek to play China card for balance of power and to seek China’s protection in case of Indian invasion similar to the air parippu drop in 1987.

    It is mere Rajapakse political power play to keep it’s dynasty been protected by China and send a message to both Local opposition parties, population who are against MR administration and Indian Govt. to show that there is a third force to protect Rajapakse Government. This is the message it gives even to it’s parliament members.

    It is mere a MR face saving tactic and nothing more if it comes to International players coming into play.

    That’s why USA said that nobody could break it’s relationship with Sri Lanka, when Rajapakse’s try to isolate west and embrace China as it’s new economic and stratgic partner.

    Of couse China itself admits that they are 20 to 30 years behind USA when it comes to navel and Air power.

  • 0
    0

    Sri Lankan has no conflicts interest with that Hegemony of US, and Reagional power of Expansion of Indian politics power and China Fast growth of national economy development Gobally, that which is general trend present Gobal phonomena.
    Ours is still developing nation,that national economy BASE in SIMPLE COMMOIDITY PRODUCTION OF CAPITALISM,IS OBVICE SINCE 1956 POLITICAL CHANGES HAD BEEN OCCURE,BUT NATION ECONOMY-POLITICAL -SOCIAL ORDER MOVING IN VERY SLOW MOTION.
    NEEDLESS TO SAY PATH OF CAPITALISM IN SRI LANKA AND POLITICAL CLASS IN POWER IS WEAK, DISORDER OF MINDSET AND MISSIONLESS TASK HAS UNDERTAKEN BY SINCE TWO MAJOR POLITICAL PARTIES past 65 YEARS incompleated.
    By that UNACCOMPOLISHED AND UNFUNISHED TASK OF DEMOCRTAIC REVOLUTION AHEAD BEFORE OUR NATION CHALLENGE BY DEVELOPEMENT OF CAPITALISM.
    In this order having Ethenic anomaly ,Rural poor, Working class, and Natioanl bourgeoisie are suffering from Under-devleopment of Productive Forces of capitalism; suffering of POVERTY RURAL POOR OF LARGE POPULATION is vital social problems remain unaddress by Ruling Class long years.
    Even after the end of WAR against Tamil Terrorist 2009 May by Mahind Rajpkakese Govt having oustanding problems, REMAIN AT LARGE in our society.
    In such a background Tiny Island of Sri Lankan, as whole having no Stretagic interest to be challange for US, or India or China.
    Our urgent and immediate task is to seek soulation for DEVELOPENT OF GROWTH OF NATIONAL ECONOMY AND REBLANCE OF SOCIAL ORDER, UNDERMINE BY WAR,TERROISM AND ANARCHAISM BY LTTE AND JVP POLITICS IN SRI LANKAN LAST 45 YERAS.
    Put the House into Order is Our National priority of POLITICS TIME TABLE OR ROAD MAP OF PEOPLE OF SRI LANKA.That is task of is belongs to Democrtaic Developement of Capitalism.
    I stronly feel WHAT IS GOOD FOR POLITIACL PARTIES ARE NOT GOOD FOR THE COUNTRY,NATION AND PEOPLE OF SRI LANKA.
    Dr Kumar David humbly request Indin Authorities by on behalf of Tamil Community take ‘HARD LINE WITH COLOMBO’of from Sri lanka nation!
    “If we take hard line with Colombo read riot act Kenndy did with Cuba 1962 act firmaly ,it will settle with pestilential gadfly to which there will be no Chinese Stratrgeic response”( Qouted KD)
    Dr David you are NOT ONLY AGAINST MAHINDA RAJAPAKESE GOVT,BUT MUST REMEMBER THAT YOU TOLTLLY AGINST WILL OF PEOPLE OF SRI LANKA (including Sinhalese Tamils Muslims and other communites) TO SURREANDER, THIER COUNTRY SOVERGENITY, TERROTRIOAL INTREGERITY, INDEPENDENCE AND DEMOCARY OUR NATION PROTECATED SINCE 1948 DAY OF INDEPENDENCE TO AFTER END OF TYRANNICAL REGIAME OF 435 YERAS BY COLONIAL RULES,INCUDING BY BIRISH EMPIRE..
    How are you going to slove Tamils Problems in Sri Lanka?Did you want surreandered our Natioanl Sovegernity in shake of seek soulation Miniority Tamils Community in Sri Lanka?
    Dr David,…. we are an Indepenedence Nation,holding Sovergenity though, we are weak and bully nation by power of West Hegemony and Reagional power of India,we had been able to STAND BY on OWN feet to protected and safeguard Our Civillzation 2600 years.We are not PUPPET of any Big Nations.
    Your humble request “hard line with Colombo” AGIANST TREND OF ONGOING NEW GOABL ORDER COME INTO BEING.
    That is not SOcialism,but even not CAPITALIST DEOMCRACY.

  • 0
    0

    Excellent analysis Prof. You have provided the best explanation for India’s paranoia.

  • 0
    0

    This blithering idiot is confusing the author with Kumar Rupesinghe.

  • 0
    0

    N.Wimaladasa….. This K.David …

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 0
    0

    It is true. China cannot win a war with the West, at least not yet. That is why China is hell-bent on stealing top-secret Western technology; China knows that it’s ships and planes will not last half an hour in any war with the West. What is China really good at then? It is a master of mass producing tons and tons of low-cost junk. Unfortunately, there is always a buyer for low-cost junk, and Sri Lanka is one of them. We have already seen Norocholai fall apart; that is only the beginning.

  • 0
    0

    The Rajapaksa’s will be the key players to cretae a seprate state in Srilanka for Tamils. They are making money from each and every corner and they will be gone. Two will go back to their base USA and rest will settle down in China or Cuba and will return to Srilanka after few years. The Rajapaksas are rubbing the west, the european’s and the Indians. The people in Srilanka think China will safe them. China’s main export is for Notrh America and Europe. Do you think China is going to mess with USA/Canada/Europe and India for Srilanka?? Never.

    The people of Srilanka are the Prime owners of their country. You guys need to questioned the politicians. Your money is going in to one family bank account. The acounts are in Swiss bank/China/Singapore/USA.

  • 0
    0

    I have been commenting on the Indian dimension in Sri Lankan affairs and I am not sure how many Sinhalese diehearts agree with my take on this. But I am glad that some one agrees with me and who better to endorse it other than a Proff.
    Sri Lankas sovereignty is limited to Indias security which is an inalienable fact and there is a parallel with what happened in Cuba.
    India has total jurisdiction over Sri Lanka and I will sum up the Indian role and how the current corrupt Indian leaders have chosen to be complacent for a number of reasons which must be obvious to any intelligent reader as follows.

    1) India is a regional power which is surrounded to the north by hostile nations such as China & Pakistan with whom has fought wars over border disputes.
    2) Sri Lanka is an ideal post from where they can threaten Indian Security if they can gain a foothold.
    3) I remember when we had the Cheguvera insurgency Indian soldiers arrived with pots and pans without waiting for an invitation and I learnt this from an army officer.
    4) Americans wanted to use the facility at Trinco harbour but they pulled out when India objected to it.
    5) The only army which set foot on Sri Lankan soil since independance was the Indian army and who objected to it, only a lone Sri Lankan Solider who tried to hit Rajiv Gandhi with a gun.
    6) India can with a phone call make the Sri Lankan leaders toe the line which both sides are aware of.
    7) As soon as there is a change at the top in India things will begin to fall into place. We are already seeing the the change in India with the election in the offing and MRs time is very limited and with the airing of the Channel 4s latest chilling evidence of the Sinhalese brutality on defenceless Tamils no one will be able or be
    prepared to come to the rescue of MR and his henchmen.
    8)Americas military might is second to none and there is no need for India to be paranoid about the Chinese threat in the Indian Ocean as America and India have a mutual interest. China too shares this interest as the American market is vital to the Chinese economy.
    9) Sri Lanka is like a dog on a chain ( Indian Chain) which will only stretch thus far and no further. The master will allow the dog to pis on a post ( China ) but will pull it back violently if it gets to any hanky panky.
    1) I disagree with the Proff that if Hambanthota were to become a strategic threat to India it will be taken out in hours. It will be done with a phone call.
    In order to bring Sri Lanka back in to the league of civilised nations Accountablity is a pre requisite before recociliation and that means bringing those responsible for the Genocide to books. India has a vital role in this respect as any resolutions passed at UNHCR will be meaningless if they cant be enforced.
    8) The Ghost of MULLIYAVLAIKAL will haunt MR and his henchmen forever and the sooner they surrender the better for all concerned without prolonging the agony and killing more in pursuit of hanging on to power.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 7 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.