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China should be alert to India's new arms potential: Think tank

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BEIJING (PTI): With India pitching for self- reliance in defence sector, Chinese strategic analysts have cautioned the government about India's new arms potential especially its growing military cooperation with Vietnam and the Philippines in China's backyard.

"(Prime Minister Narendra) Modi has ambitions to strengthen his country. Keen to ramp up India's economy, Modi launched the 'Make in India' campaign in a bid to attract international businesses to invest and manufacture in his country. But his vision of forging a strong India goes beyond that," an article by a think tank in state-run Global Times recently said.

Modi made a strong pitch for a comprehensive self-reliance in national defence production while dedicating India's second aircraft carrier INS Virkamaditya in June last year.

"What's more, even given the fact that India is the world largest arms importer accounting for 14 per cent of the global arms imports, Modi thinks big and is trying to reverse the trajectory and turn India into an arms exporter," the article titled 'Stay alert to India's new arms potential' said.

"Toning up India's muscle for self-defence is one thing, but perhaps Modi has other motives by selling made-in-India weaponry," it said, referring to the sale of India's first indigenously made warship to Mauritius which it said has evoked interest to Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam and the Philippines.

Both Hanoi and Manila are currently pitted against China over the South China Sea dispute.

While keeping a wary eye on India's forays into East Asia, Chinese strategic analysts play down China's big push into South Asia, especially the Indian Ocean where Beijing built up significant influence in Sri Lanka and Maldives with aid and military assistance.

"Kolkata-based defence shipyard is gearing up to build four offshore patrol ships for Vietnam, a new step of military cooperation beyond submarine and fighter training.

"What's more, it is bidding for a USD 400 million project to build two frigates for the Philippines. Targeting its potential consumers in Southeast Asia, India is trying to kill two birds with one stone," the article said.

The think tank said that "New Delhi's 'Look East' policy is shifting to 'Act East', and it wants to pivot to the Asia-Pacific region."

India's growing military cooperation with Vietnam and the Philippines, though still at a low level and without solid strategic purpose at present, is part of its effort to seek such a pivot, it said.

"However, given that it is exporting less advanced weaponry to these countries, India is being prudent in increasing its military presence in this region. India must have realised that the export of highly advanced arms such as strategic missiles will pose real threats to China's security," it said.

The article said that so far "India has no capability to get seriously involved in the South China Sea issue.

Otherwise, such an aggressive push will only meet China's countermeasures."

"Therefore, for now, India's arms export, although directed to Hanoi and Manila, is fundamentally a business-driven activity. It sees developing countries needing to update their weaponry as the biggest potential customers," it said.

"As ambitious as it is, India is much less qualified as a real arms exporter compared with the US, Russia and even China. The crux rests on its vulnerable industrial system and manufacturing capability. But it doesn't mean that India won't be a competitive player in this field in the future," the article said.

"In this case, China should stay alert to India's moves in the South China Sea because of the possibility that India can transfer the business-oriented arms trade into a strategic action aimed at China," it said.

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India  China  Military  
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