'India has to cope up with China, not compete'

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Admiral Sureesh Mehta
New Delhi, Aug 17: Admiral Sureesh Mehta, Chief of Naval Staff and Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, delivered an address on India's National Security under the aegis of the National Maritime Foundation on Aug 10.

The below are K Subramanyan"s, strategic affairs analyst, comment on the Admiral"s speech as published in Dainik Jagran, Hindi language daily.

Admiral Sureesh Mehta's eminently pragmatic, strategic vision has been misinterpreted in certain sections of the media as a cry of despair that India will not be able to catch up with China militarily, although he made it clear that India has no intention to do so.

In his speech on India's National Security, he said China today has the advantage of a decade and half of head start in economic reforms and globalization and very close industrial cooperation with US and other multinational firms.

Admiral Mehta has also detailed that China has gained on this account over India. That is an inexorable reality which Indian strategists have to accept and factor in coping with China. The word Admiral Mehta has chosen to use is 'coping with China', not confronting or competing with it.

While, China was a tacit but active strategic partner of the US and NATO during the Cold War and an established permanent member of the Security Council and an accepted nuclear power of the Nonproliferation Treaty. India"s recognition as one of the rising powers and a balancer in the international system began less than a decade ago.

India presently has strategic partnerships with all great powers including China. Today India"s largest trading partner is China.

Yet, as Admiral Mehta pointed out, in China's case, India has a trust deficit because of the long standing territorial dispute and among other issues, the China-Pakistan connection. Unlike in India's case where its emergence as a power does not cause concern in the world,
that is not the case with China.

Admiral Mehta also highlighted that the economic penalties resulting from a potential Sino-Indian military conflict would have grave consequences for both sides.

China has today multiple vulnerabilities and has to consider seriously the effect of a war on its energy supply lines. In such circumstances mutual cooperation is to the benefit of both countries.

He said that he does not favor the traditional bean-counting or division for division approach, in closing the gap. Instead , he wants to rely on harnessing modern technology for developing high situational awareness and creating a reliable standoff deterrent.

What Admiral Mehta does not say in his speech is as important as what he has said. China is looking forward to emerging as the foremost power of the world. Its GDP is expected to overtake the US in the next two decades. The recent economic recession has narrowed the gap between the two and made China the second largest economy of the world.

A service chief has put on record his views on a whole host of national security issues just a few weeks before demitting office. Many of these issues have been under consideration for ages without solutions.

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