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Don’t have capability or intention to match China force for force: Navy chief

Chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee and Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta said that 'common sense dictates' that India needs to cooperate with China rather than confront it.

Written by Manu Pubby | New Delhi |
August 11, 2009 9:44:04 am

Admitting that India neither has the “capability nor the intention” to match China’s military strength,Chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee and Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta said here today that “common sense dictates” that India needs to cooperate with China rather than confront it.

“In military terms,both conventional and non-conventional,we neither have the capability nor the intention to match China,force for force. These are indeed sobering thoughts and therefore our strategy to deal with China would need to be in consonance with these realities,” Mehta said,delivering an address on National Security Challenges organized by the National Maritime Foundation.

In his address,perhaps his last in public as Navy chief — he retires month-end — Mehta said: “Common sense dictates that cooperation with China would be preferable to competition or conflict,as it would be foolhardy to compare India and China as equals…Whether in terms of GDP,defence spending or any other economic,social or development parameter,the gap between the two is just too wide to bridge and getting wider by the day,” the officer said.

Warning that China will be one of India’s primary challenges in the years ahead,Mehta said that the country is in the process of consolidating its “comprehensive national power” and is creating “formidable military capabilities” and boundary issues between the countries could lead to mistrust.

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“Once that is done,China is likely to be more assertive on its claims,especially in its immediate neighbourhood. Our ‘trust deficit’ with China can never be liquidated unless our boundary problems are resolved,” the Navy Chief said.

Pointing out that India’s expenditure on Defence has been hovering around a low two percent of GDP in recent years,Mehta said that the strategy to deal with China on the military front would be to introduce modern technology and create a “reliable stand-off deterrent.”

“On the military front,our strategy to deal with China must include reducing the military gap and countering the growing Chinese footprint in the Indian Ocean Region,” the officer said.

However,he warned that unless spending on defence is increased substantially,the military gap could even widen further. “Let alone bridging the gap between us and our potential adversaries,without a substantial increase,the gap may widen further and dilute our operational edge,” Mehta said.

Making it clear that India needs to grow out of its Pakistan-centric approach when it comes to strategic planning,Mehta said that China’s growing power should be a major consideration in future national planning.

“China’s known propensity for intervention in space and cyber warfare would also be major planning considerations in our strategic and operational thinking,” he said.

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