Saturday, January 30, 2010

Good News and Bad News

India's land frontier with China poses both problems and advantages for India.

First the problem:

India has become alarmed at the extent to which China has improved its road network along their 4,000 kilometers border. Indian military planners calculate that, as a result of this network, Chinese military units can move 400 kilometers a day on hard surfaced roads, while Indian units can only move half as fast, while suffering more vehicle damage because of the many unpaved roads.
So China will have the advantage in any land conflict by being able to mass forces on their superior road network and, if the Chinese then quickly attack into India, have the ability to grab chunks of Indian territory before Indian forces can stumble into the battle area.

On the other hand, China can't use their advantage to decisively defeat India:

The one positive aspect of all this is that most of the border is mountains, the highest mountains in the world (the Himalayas). So no matter how much you prepare for war, no one is going very far, very fast, when you have to deal with these mountains.

So, India has to improve their position on the border to avoid losing small scale battles that could be cemented in place by the fear of escalating to nuclear war. This is a fact of life that America and Russia have long been used to--conflicts can only go on so long when there is risk of escalation, so you have to win fast. Failure by India to do so will mean that the line of actual control will be pushed south at India's expense in any armed conflict.

But the need to improve their ability to win ground combat in short-duration campaigns on the border shouldn't distract India into over-building their ground forces in the mistaken belief that a rising China just means the land threat from Pakistan is moving to the Chinese border, so India needs a vast and modern army. The fact is, India cannot lose decisively on land given the geography that provides India with an impressive shield far better than any Wall of China.

Look, I'm a land power kind of guy. But India will win or lose a general war (that doesn't escalate to nukes)  and rise as a regional power at sea and in the air. India's strategic situation means they should emphasize their navy and air force.