By Haider Abbas
No sooner the G-20 meetings ended in India came the news that China has hiked its budget to the tune of nearly 300 billion USD, which is almost more than four-times to that of India and also around half of what the world’s most powerful nation-the US has, which is approximately 777.1 billion USD. The spokesman of the Chinese communist party, Wang Chao, ‘signaled an increase in the defence budget of China, which stood at $230 billion last year after a 7.1 per cent hike, which was the second largest in the world after the US defence budget,’ informed The First Post 1 . This new Chinese formation is all set to give sleepless nights in India and ring alarm bells in US too.
What is also to be the bigger worry for India is that China does not disclose its exact figures in terms of defense budget, and what usually it declares, is only after slashing down the figures. This enigmatic feature is what baffles the US policy makers and geo-strategists as the world is ‘made to guess’ and just try to assuage the Chinese prowess. This perplexed syndrome is what seizes the strategists and Chinese have also long been regarded as secrecy-players and masters of the proverbial Chinese-Checkers! Although the game is of German origin.
US, which is being challenged by China on practically all fronts knows it well and has raised the issue ‘time and again’ from at least since 2014, that China under-reports its defense budget , reported BBC 2 in 2014. US very easily assumes that if China declared 230 billion USD in 2022, then obviously China had declared it by cutting-off at least around 40 billion USD from the official figure! Even 40 billion USD too is a hefty amount. Going by that standard it can very easily deduced that this year defense budget is set to go beyond the 300 USD mark.
The immediate worry of this Chinese strategy is for India to be followed by US. This all has to do, as analysts put, out of the Chinese policy ‘shrouded in mystery’ , which has been taken from the cue from German secretive strategy, which despite massive sanctions from European nations, after the First World War, stood-up to counter by the Second World War-obviously, after keeping everything ‘hidden’ from the prying eyes. If Germany was to display its military build-up, between the two war (1933-1939) then the neighbouring nations were to have been alerted. China does not do that. Here is what India needs to find out.
For India’s security experts, it is more than obvious, that Chinese military-build-up is ranged against India and also against US alike. China has been at odds with India since decades but the situation between the two had been escalated since the 74 days deadlock of Doklam crisis (2017) and later in 2020 when India lost 20 of its soldiers while China lost four, after fighting had broken out in Galwan valley in Lakadh. Ironically, China, which has been skeptical of G-20 summit, had sent its Foreign Minister Qin Gang to New Delhi where his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar had a meeting. But, S Jaishankar had termed ties between the two as ‘abnormal’. India also announced to willingly ‘maintain communication and coordination on multilateral affairs,’ informed The Global Times 3. The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, while in New Delhi, however, played-up the idea that Russia-India-China should work as a troika on the lines of QUAD. QUAD is a group of US, Japan, Australia and India, and Russia has long expressed its strong reservations towards India going into QUAD.
There could not be any consensus drawn in G-20 summit ( March 1-2) to slam Russia, which US and European nations wanted, on the war with Ukraine, but no sooner did the meeting ended, India inside QUAD slammed Russia on nuclear threat to Ukraine on March 3, reported Deccan Herald 4 . The QUAD also opposed China in the same vein, towards which it pointed China’s unilateral actions to increase tensions in the South China Sea, and expressed concerns about the ‘militarisation’ of disputed territories’. There has been an eyeball to eyeball between China and US over Taiwan. China, also no wonder, took the occasion that despite the ‘typical’ bonhomie at G-20, there has been an increase in Chinese military presence in Galwan again.
Since summers are now on the anvil, therefore, China shoring its military presence is quite understandable. As per ZeeNews 5, India too, has increased its activities on Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh. In fact India sneered at China as it organized a half-marathon and a cricket match close to Galwan valley. India therefore is keeping a keen watch on every action from China. In order to douse the world temperatures over the increase of Chinese defense budget, China has termed it as reasonable and not a threat. This is a straight message to US and also to India alike, as reported by CNBC 6 on March 4 . Its spokesman Wang Chao declared that China’s defense spending as a share of gross domestic product has been kept basically stable for many years, with the increases “moderate” and “reasonable”. “The modernization of China’s military will not pose a threat to any country.”
Who can throw a challenge to China if not India in Asia, but there is a wide- gap between India’s defence budget of roughly 74 billion USD, which is now around one-fourth of that of China, and to add to further nemesis Pakistan has also increased its defense-budget too, which is to add to the advantage of China only. China and Pakistan are bitter foes to India. India, is world’s fourth most powerful army, according to the World Global Firepower Ranking. India is also to face Pakistan which is seventh in the ranking. China being the third.
This is what matters the most to India. The world therefore, is waiting for the outcome of the Russia-Ukraine war, most particularly India, as India is in the middle of crisis. In case there is a disturbance between China and India. Where would Russia’s likings lie? As China has throughout the war stood by Russia. All against US. Let’s see how geo-politics shape-up in the coming days.
The writer is a former UP State Information Commissioner and writes on international politics.
5- India-China dispute: Deployment of soldiers increases in Galwan Valley