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Taming the Dragon via Asymmetric Warfare

India can counter China's superior conventional military power through asymmetric warfare strategies. By exploiting Beijing’s weaknesses and utilising unconventional methods, New Delhi can enhance its security and maintain the strategic balance in the region

By Mrigank Shekhar

SPECIAL FEATURE
Courtesy: https://georgetownsecuritystudiesreview.org/

The Chinese military has made a huge leap forward in terms of quality and firepower, and is currently miles ahead of India in weapons development. The PLA is in the process of creating formidable military capabilities with new ICBMs, long-range anti-ship ballistic missiles, long-range bombers and a 600-ship PLA Navy with up to six aircraft carriers. Since Beijing’s primary adversary is the US, it is aiming to create an economic and military ecosystem that can take on the much larger American economy. Once the dragon achieves parity with the US, it will become even more assertive in its territorial claims, especially in its immediate neighbourhood.

For decades Beijing has pursued a strategy of boxing up India in South Asia so that New Delhi is unable to compete with it globally. According to strategist Subhash Kapila, “China is a compulsive destabiliser of South Asian regional stability and security, with the end aim of keeping India off-balance.” In this backdrop, it is clear that coping with Beijing will certainly be New Delhi’s primary challenge in the years ahead.

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A pivotal aspect of countering China involves economic strategies aimed at weakening its global influence. Liberalising India’s economy to attract foreign investment can draw capital away from Beijing to New Delhi. Reducing dependence on Chinese goods is another critical step

The Chinese economy is five times larger than India’s and its spending capacity is, therefore, higher than India’s. Officially Beijing’s defence budget is $230 billion but experts believe the real figure is a lot higher. In this backdrop, it is pertinent to learn from the strategic mistake of the Soviet Union, which collapsed primarily because it tried to match the US militarily weapon for weapon despite having a GDP half the size of the US.

Countering China using asymmetric warfare involves leveraging strategies and tactics that exploit the weaknesses of a stronger adversary while maximising the strengths and advantages of the comparatively weaker party. India can adopt several measures to effectively counter China.

Economic Measures

A pivotal aspect of countering China involves economic strategies aimed at weakening its global influence. Liberalising India’s economy to attract foreign investment can draw capital away from Beijing to New Delhi. By creating a more business-friendly environment, India can entice multinational companies to shift their operations from China to India, thereby eroding China’s economic base.

Collaborating with Western nations to economically isolate China is essential for a comprehensive strategy. Diplomatic efforts to isolate China can pressure Beijing. Highlighting Chinese aggressive policies and human rights abuses in international forums can build coalitions against China

Reducing dependence on Chinese goods is another critical step. Encouraging domestic production and diversifying trade partnerships will help India mitigate risks associated with over-reliance on Chinese imports. Moreover, India can take market share from Chinese companies by promoting and supporting Indian enterprises, particularly in sectors where China currently holds significant sway.

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China’s economic growth heavily relies on exports due to its relatively small internal consumption. By strategically undermining China’s export capabilities, India and its allies can initiate a slow economic strangulation that could ultimately destabilise the Chinese economic miracle. Imposing sanctions, restricting technology transfers, and creating trade barriers are potential measures that could contribute to this goal.

Cyber Warfare

One of the primary strategies in asymmetric warfare involves enhancing cyber and electronic capabilities. India can invest in offensive cyber operations to disrupt Chinese military communications, critical infrastructure, and economic activities. Simultaneously, bolstering defensive measures will protect Indian networks from potential cyber-attacks. Similarly, developing electronic warfare (EW) technologies to jam or intercept Chinese communications, radar, and GPS systems can significantly impair China’s operational capabilities. Deploying advanced EW systems along the border and integrating them with conventional forces will be crucial in maintaining a technological edge.

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India can invest in offensive cyber operations to disrupt Chinese military communications, critical infrastructure, and economic activities. Developing and deploying unconventional weapon systems, such as anti-satellite weapons, drones, and hypersonic missiles, will provide India with tools to challenge China’s technological edge

Maritime Strategy

Enhancing India’s naval capabilities to secure its interests in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is another critical component. By deploying submarines, anti-ship missiles and maritime surveillance systems, India can restrict China’s maritime movements and protect vital sea lanes. Developing and deploying unconventional weapon systems, such as anti-satellite weapons, drones, and hypersonic missiles, will provide India with tools to challenge China’s technological edge.

Coordinating with Western Allies

Collaborating with Western nations to economically isolate China is essential for a comprehensive strategy. By participating in initiatives that provide alternatives to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and strengthening alliances such as the Quad (comprising India, the US, Japan and Australia), India can help create a united front against Chinese expansionism. Joint military exercises, intelligence sharing, and strategic dialogues will enhance collective security and economic stability.

Special Operations

Utilising India’s Special Operations Forces for precision strikes, sabotage, and intelligence gathering can create significant disruption within Chinese territories. Units like the Para Special Forces and MARCOS are adept at conducting covert operations, which can target Chinese supply lines and key installations. Additionally, supporting and training local militias in disputed regions such as Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh can create a persistent threat to Chinese forces through guerrilla warfare. These small, mobile units can leverage local knowledge and terrain to carry out effective hit-and-run attacks.

Rapid mobilisation capacity

There are only a limited number of troops, aircraft, missiles and warships the PLA can bring into play against India; the rest is needed in the east where formidable American, Japanese and Taiwanese forces are arrayed. At any rate, India has demonstrated after the Galwan clashes that it has the ability to pour tens of thousands of troops trained in mountain warfare plus vast quantities of modern weapons and aircraft into the Himalayas. India’s uncharacteristic force projection has disturbed and unhinged the Chinese who are frustrated that India won’t quietly ignore their salami slicing like in the past decades. Strong and sustained force projection should be India’s default setting rather than a firefighting tool.

Utilising India’s Special Operations Forces for precision strikes, sabotage, and intelligence gathering can create significant disruption within Chinese territories. Units like the Para Special Forces and MARCOS are adept at conducting covert operations, which can target Chinese supply lines and key installations

Transfer nuclear weapons to Vietnam and Taiwan

This is not an apocalyptic scenario as it seems to your ears which are conditioned by decades of scaremongering about “loose nukes”. The fact is India will be perfectly within its right to do so because it would be payback for China’s reckless nuclear proliferation during the 1970s and 80s when it sold Pakistan the blueprints for the so-called Islamic Bomb and finally tested the weapon in the Lop Nor desert. Vietnam and Taiwan will then become invasion proof and with two extra nuclear-armed adversaries on its borders, China’s security challenges will multiply. The PLA will have to divert men and resources to deal with this new threat.

Diplomatic Engagement

Diplomatic efforts to isolate China on the international stage can further pressure Beijing. Highlighting Chinese aggressive policies and human rights abuses in international forums can build coalitions against China. India can leverage multilateral platforms like the G20. For instance, during the Bali meeting, 19 out of the world’s 20 largest economies agreed to incorporate Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement that “today’s era is not an era of war,” effectively isolating China.

Conclusion

By integrating these strategies, India can effectively counter Chinese power through asymmetric warfare and strategic economic measures, creating a more favourable strategic environment despite the disparity in conventional military capabilities.

-The writer is a keen observer of national security, geopolitics and military history. He has a passion for informing and engaging readers on critical defence-related issues through his articles. The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda