India must plug expertise gaps and work with US to expand comprehensive national power
With India and China still engaged in their LAC border standoff, the army is fine-tuning a proposal for its officers to study Tibetan history, culture and language as part of measures to counter Chinese propaganda and influence. The proposal itself is an admission that the country’s national security establishment lacks sufficiently deep understanding of China issues even though Beijing today is New Delhi’s number one strategic rival. Our army officers are well-versed with Pakistan, having treated that country as the primary national security threat for decades. But failing to cultivate enough expertise on China – which has had Islamabad’s back for decades as the latter waged asymmetric warfare against India – is inexcusable.
India’s Mountain Strike Corps (MSC) – which was to be tasked with critical operations along the Himalayan border – was envisaged back in 2000. But plans for a full-fledged MSC with 90,000 troops was put on the backburner in 2016 due to budgetary constraints. Instead, only one division was raised and the paucity of funds forced the army to look at integrated battle groups – an improvised arrangement. Which brings us to the real reason for India’s power gap with China – lack of sufficient economic growth. Therefore, to meet the China challenge India needs to rapidly expand its economy and coordinate closely on security issues with like-minded nations, particularly the US.
In this regard, it’s welcome that the new Joe Biden administration is reasserting Washington’s commitment to expanding security ties and the strategic partnership with New Delhi. During the Trump administration, the missing piece was the economic and trade relationship with the US. Thus, to strengthen both its economy and military modernization, India must quickly move both to conclude a trade agreement with the US and to work with it to build a modern Indian military-industrial complex.