Tag Archives: China

Jade Necklace: Naval Dimension of Chinese Engagement with Coastal Nations Across the Oceans

(Published IndraStra Global, 17 Dec 2017; for complete interactive experience visit http://www.indrastra.com/2016/12/FEATURED-Jade-Necklace-Naval-Dimension-of-Chinese-Engagement-with-Coastal-Nations-Across-the-Oceans-002-12-2016-0032.html )

“Be extremely subtle even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.”  

 Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Over a period, Chinese analysts have zeroed upon various countries/islands, which they consider inimical by being under the influence of the United States of America due to trade, military or common political goals. These include; countries/islands in Central Asian Region, Mongolia, India, and Diego Garcia in the outer periphery; Hawaii, Singapore, & Vietnam in the next closer circle; followed by Guam, Australia and New Zealand due to vicinity of second island chain; and Philippines (now tilting in favor of China), ROK & Japan within or around the first island chain. The aim of this article is to provide a naval perspective into the Chinese maritime engagements with nations having seacoasts.

Western Pacific Stand-Off Defenses-Carrier Killer DF-21 D and Guam Killer DF-26

In 2010, The US DoD acknowledged that the Dong-Feng 21D (DF-21D) Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile with a range of 1450 km had attained an initial operating capability. This missile can target a moving aircraft carrier from land-based mobile launchers and has maneuverable re-entry vehicles (MaRVs) with a terminal guidance system. It is understood that this missile is capable of destroying an aircraft carrier with a single hit. The emergence of DF-21D has led the US Navy to rework the ‘carrier support’ warfare approach with respect to China and recommence building of its ballistic missile defense destroyers.

In 2015, China displayed The Dong-Feng 26 (DF-26). It is an intermediate-range ballistic missile produced by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). The DF-26 has a range of 3,000–4,000 km, and is said to have nuclear, conventional, and anti-ship strike variants. It is capable of targeting  American military installations at Guam therefore, it has earned the tag of the “Guam Express” or “Guam Killer”. Guam provides the US a strategic base to target the Asian continent with B-52s, F-35s, and F-22s. It also provides basic operational turnaround facilities for carriers and submarines.

Security Concerns-East China Sea

“China’s long-term goal is to build a real ‘blue’ water navy with global reach” – Song Zhongping, Military Commentator

China has built a pier for warships near a military base site close to the disputed Senkaku Island [2] in the East China Sea. A new 70 to 80-meter long pier for warships has been constructed on one of the islands in the Nanji island chain. It lies close to Wenzhou and is nearer to China than the nearest base of Japan. It is understood that a Coast Guard base is being constructed at Wenzhou, which would lend effective support to vessels for monitoring the Senkaku islands.

Security Concerns-South China Sea and Indian Ocean Region

The naval strategy of countries with large coastlines and hostile maritime neighbors invariably factors in submarines and anti-submarine warfare. A modern submarine is a potent multi-role asset that can carry out ISR, special ops, offensive missions, sea denial, and SLOC protection among others. In case it carries strategic weapons, it acts as an important leg of the nuclear triad. Undersea warfare by deploying submarines and/or other unmanned underwater systems is considered crucial in anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) environments. Considering the offensive capability a submarine bestows upon the nation operating it, there is some merit in also examining the likely basing /sale by China of conventional submarines and its associated high technology in the IOR.

South China Sea (SCS) – In early 2016, Satellite photographs had revealed that China had deployed two batteries of eight HQ-9 surface-to-air missile launchers as well as a radar system, on Woody Island.[3] HQ-9 is a new generation medium-to-long-range, active radar homing, track via missile SAM. Infrastructure for aircraft, runways, and missiles is visible on Subi reef, Fiery Cross reef, and Mischief reef as well. China has continued building a network of artificial islands and turning them into mini military bases.

Submarine Operations: It is understood that complete control of SCS is considered essential by China to provide its expanded submarine fleet unrestricted and unobserved access to the Pacific Ocean from their base in Yulin, Hainan. The underwater channels and straits in SCS facilitate clandestine movement of the submarines through the first and second island chains. It is also understood that China State Shipbuilding is likely to construct the “underwater great wall” a sonar surveillance system with ship and submarine sensors for effective monitoring of foreign vessels in the SCS.

Indian Ocean Region

Djibouti Naval Base – China’s support facility for PLA Navy at Djibouti about 8 km from the US military base is it’s most ambitious and first of its kind foray in having a military base outside of China. The facility would have ship and helicopter maintenance facilities, weapon stores, and support infrastructure for a small contingent of PLAN personnel [5]. This development is of prime importance for India in view of Djibouti’s vicinity to Gwadar as well as the fact that it has been placed under the Western Theatre Command [6] at Chengdu, which would have integral naval assets as well as assets from the PLA Rocket Force  (which controls strategic assets) of China.

Pakistan – In August this year, it was reported that Pakistan is likely to acquire eight attack submarines [8] from China. They are probably export versions of Type 039 and Type 039A/041 (with Air Independent Propulsion). Primary weapons for these submarines are the 533 mm Yu-4 torpedoes, it is also possible that they can fire the Yu-6 wire-guided torpedoes. The torpedo tubes are capable of firing the YJ-8 anti-ship cruise missile, AScM, with a range of 80 km. The submarine can carry a mix of torpedoes, missiles, and mines. The Type 041’s weapon package includes the YU-6 wire-guided torpedoes, mines, and the YJ-8 AScM. It could in the future field the supersonic YJ-18 missile.

Bangladesh –  First of the two Chinese submarines [9] was delivered to Bangladesh on 14 November 2016. The Type 035G diesel-electric submarines, carry torpedoes and mines and are capable of attacking enemy ships and submarines.

Thailand – The Royal Thai Navy is likely to finalize [10] the purchase of three Chinese submarines after dithering over it for some time.

Malaysia – The Royal Malaysian Navy, RMN is planning to buy up to ten littoral mission ships [11] (patrol craft) from China. It is also likely that Malaysia may consider Chinese submarines as a replacement for its HDW submarines in future. It is expanding the RMN Kota Kinabalu submarine base with workshops and air defense systems [12].

Berthing Facilities for PLA Navy in IOR

Myanmar– Construction of two deep-water ports at Kyaukphyu by a consortium headed by CITIC group of China [13] would provide China access to the Bay of Bengal and hence to the IOR. The government has earmarked 1708 hectares for the Kyaukphyu SEZ, with two deep-sea ports, industrial zone, and a housing project.

Sri Lanka – Sri Lanka is trying to breathe life into the Hambantota port and infrastructure project by handing over controlling interests to a Chinese consortium [14].

Maldives – There are indications that Maldives may let the China build a seaport at Gaadhoo Island [15 in the southern atoll. The location of the island is significant as it sits at the entrance to the one-and-a-half degree SLOC channel.

Pakistan – Gwadar port was inaugurated in November 2016 [16] with 250 containers carrying Chinese goods shipped on Chinese ships to the Middle East and African countries.

Tanzanian and Kenyan Ports – Bagamoyo port of Tanzania will be operated by China Merchant Holdings. Lamu port in Kenya is being developed by the China Communications Construction Company [17], and China Roads and Bridges Company is going to construct a modern port in Kisumu [18], Kenya (Lake Victoria).

Access to IOR of Chinese Mechanized Forces

Maj. Gen Bakshi, a strategic analyst has brought out the following two important facets of CPEC in his recent article [19].

The alignment of the CPEC corridor includes two major loops that come close to the Indian borders in Punjab and Rajasthan where major tank battles had been fought during the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak wars. These loops in the CPEC grant a military bias to the otherwise proclaimed trade route.

The Chinese army in its thrust on rapid modernization has mechanized its formations to wheel/track based formations that make them very agile. It also allows them to bring their tremendous firepower to Indo-Pak borders through CPEC in the case of any conflict.

Needless to assert that the same firepower can be transshipped rapidly to Gulf, Europe and African coast if required.

Security Concerns-Elsewhere

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The following table accessed from SIPRI highlights the types of weapon systems exported by China during 2014 and 2015.

TIV of arms exports from China (Weapon Systems)-2014-2015
Generated: 10 December 2016
Figures are SIPRI Trend Indicator Values (TIVs) expressed in US$ m. at constant (1990) prices.
Figures may not add up due to the conventions of rounding.
A ‘0’ indicates that the value of deliveries is less than US$0.5m
For more information, see http://www.sipri.org/databases/armstransfers/background
Source: SIPRI Arms Transfers Database
2014 2015        Total           
Aircraft 215 409 624
Air defence systems 52 64 116
Armoured vehicles 302 384 686
Artillery 94 27 121
Engines 1 1
Missiles 197 206 403
Sensors 30 10 40
Ships 470 865 1335
Total 1360 1966 3326

The following table accessed from SIPRI provides arms export by China during 2014 and 2015.

TIV of arms exports from China to nations-2014-2015
Generated: 10 December 2016
Figures are SIPRI Trend Indicator Values (TIVs) expressed in US$ m at constant (1990) prices.
Figures may not add up due to the conventions of rounding.
A ‘0’ indicates that the value of deliveries is less than US$ 0.5 m
For more information, see http://www.sipri.org/databases/armstransfers/background
Source: SIPRI Arms Transfers Database
   2014 2015                     Total
Algeria 68 254 322
Angola 1 1
Bangladesh 245 474 719
Bolivia 20 20
Cameroon 74 74
Djibouti 8 7 14
Egypt 1 1
Ethiopia 2 2
Ghana 13 13
Indonesia 39 33 72
Iran 9 9 19
Iraq 17 17
Jordan 1 1
Kenya 7 10 16
Myanmar 267 288 554
Nigeria 57 58 115
Pakistan 394 565 959
Peru 13 13
Saudi Arabia 8 8
Seychelles 10 10
South Sudan 12 12
Sudan 32 27 59
Syria 5 5
Tanzania 26 20 46
Thailand 8 8
Trinidad and Tobago 16 16
Venezuela 77 147 223
Zambia 8 8
Total 1360 1966 3326

-It is interesting to note from the above table that 24 countries out of the 28 countries to which China has exported Arms and Ammunition have a maritime border!

-Further, the only four land locked countries that receive arms and ammunition from China have contiguous boundaries with Coastal nations, which in turn are beneficiaries of Chinese arms export. (Bolivia-Peru; Ethiopia-Kenya & Djibouti; South Sudan-Kenya; Zambia-Tanzania)

-it can be seen that the list covers nations in Asia, Gulf, both coasts of Africa, and Latin America. This intern implies ease of berthing facilities for Chinese Naval vessels in ports of these nations.

Gateway to Europe 

“The cooperation at Piraeus port is not just an economic collaboration but has strategic characteristics. Greece, via the Piraeus port, can indeed become China’s gateway into Europe to the benefit of China and Greece,”  Pitsiorlas, Chairman of the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund privatization agency.

Greece – The ancient Greek port of Piraeus and one of the largest in Europe, located in the Mediterranean basin has been acquired by COSCO Shipping of China after purchasing 51 percent stake in the port [20]. COSCO Shipping is scheduled to construct a second container terminal for Chinese exports to Europe. The sale another Greek port Thessaloniki; which is being eyed by Chinese companies; is currently put on hold.

Turkey – In September 2015, Chinese state-owned shipping, and logistics company COSCO Pacific, along with China Merchants Holdings International and CIC Capital, had acquired a majority stake in one of the largest container terminals of Turkey, namely Kumport at Ambarli coast of Istanbul [21].

Thus, China has established a critical foothold in Europe by acquiring the Piraeus port as well as the Turkish container terminal in Kumport as part of its strategic One Belt One Road strategic initiative.

Chinese Foray into, Antarctica, and the Arctic (Bering Sea)  

“China’s rapid Antarctic…expansion reflects Beijing’s desire to become a maritime, and polar, great power” – Prof Anne-Marie Brady, Antarctic specialist

China is setting up its first Air Squadron [23] in Antarctica to support its ongoing scientific explorations. China is also a signatory to the Antarctic Treaty that bans the military activity in the region, but there are many dual capability missions, which can aid military research and operations in face of contingencies.

In September 2015, in a first of its kind mission five PLAN ships sailed in the Bering Sea off Alaska [24], interestingly, the PLAN ships were in the area during the visit of President Barack Obama to Alaska. With global warming likely to open the Northern Sea Route sooner than later, China is keen to utilize this opportunity as the route cuts down the distance and passage time to Europe. However, since Canada claims sovereignty over the said waterways, this could pose “the biggest direct challenge to Canadian sovereignty in the Northwest Passage,” [25] according to Professor Rob Huebert, of University of Calgary.

Global Outlook of PLAN – Chinese Navy has undertaken modernization of its Naval fleet to meet its Global Navy focus as part of its geopolitical strategy. As analyzed in a Wikistrat report, “Chinese Navy ships have transited the Red Sea and Suez Canal, the Mediterranean, the Cape of Good Hope, the Bosporus, the Panama Canal, the Strait of Magellan, the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, and have made port calls all along both the east and west coasts of Africa, Bulgaria, Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Australia. Chinese warships have sailed into American territorial waters near the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska in the Bering Sea” [26].


“So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong, and strike at what is weak.” -Sun Tzu, The Art of War

A global strategic net has been cast by China by creating fundamental structures for sea trade and commerce. China has been carrying out calibrated development of its maritime capability in mercantile shipping, fishing, undersea exploration & exploitation, and the Navy. It is likely that by 2025 the world would have to come to terms with the global maritime status of China as also the blue water capability of PLAN. The attendant security issues and concerns would follow.

It is no longer a string of pearls in the IOR, it is a studded ‘Jade Necklace Across the Oceans’ that stares at the developed world in defiance today.


  • Preclude confrontation given the precarious global economic situation and nuclear deterrence
  • Preclude submission given the dispositions of the existing and emerging power centers
  • Preclude peaceful co-existence, as it is utopian under the existing circumstances where national interests have prevented even an internationally acceptable definition of terrorism
  • Could include rapid building up of a robust coalition to create two distinct power centers, provided the United States is able to synergize its economic might with those of the like-minded nations and tamper the perception that it is a global hegemon.

Time to act is now!

 “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”  – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

  Publication Details:

Kulshrestha, Sanatan. “FEATURED | Jade Necklace: Naval Dimension of Chinese Engagement with Coastal Nations Across the Oceans” IndraStra Global 02, no. 12 (2016) 0032 | http://www.indrastra.com/2016/12/FEATURED-Jade-Necklace-Naval-Dimension-of-Chinese-Engagement-with-Coastal-Nations-Across-the-Oceans-002-12-2016-0032.html | ISSN 2381-3652|



[2] https://sputniknews.com/world/201608201044449726-china-pier-for-warships/  

[3] http://www.news.com.au/world/ongoing-escalations-in-the-south-and-east-china-seas-has-some-analysts-daring-to-wonder-who-would-win-a-war/news-story/20da5034d2b32ff31d35242cee26b656  

[4] http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/1993754/south-china-sea-air-strips-main-role-defend-hainan   

[5] http://www.wsj.com/articles/china-builds-first-overseas-military-outpost-1471622690   

[6] http://english.chinamil.com.cn/view/2016-02/02/content_7160686.htm   


[8] http://www.ndtv.com/world-news/pak-to-acquire-8-attack-submarines-from-china-for-4-billion-report-1452729   


[10] http://thediplomat.com/2016/07/is-thailand-now-serious-about-submarines-from-china/

[11] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-malaysia-china-defence-idUSKCN12S0WA   


[13] http://www.wsj.com/articles/china-moves-to-revive-its-sway-in-myanmar-1456697644   

[14] http://www.forbes.com/sites/wadeshepard/2016/10/28/sold-sri-lankas-hambantota-port-and-the-worlds-emptiest-airport-go-to-the-chinese/#1d473d1716d8    



[17] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-36458946  


   [19] http://www.newindianexpress.com/magazine/voices/2016/nov/26/india-needs-to-seek-alliance-partners-who-are-prepared-to-contain-the-chinese-aggression-1542281–1.html   

[20] https://www.rt.com/business/355523-cosco-stake-greek-port/   


[22] https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/considering-chinas-strategic-interests-in-antarctica/   

[23] http://thediplomat.com/2016/02/china-to-establish-antarctic-air-squadron-in-2016/

[24] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-china-military-idUSKCN0R22DN20150902   

[25] http://time.com/4302882/china-arctic-shipping-northwest-passage/


Tonga and the Third Island Chain

( Published in IndraStra Global on 25 Feb 2016, ISSN 2381-3652 )

“The ongoing disputes in the East China Sea and the South China Sea mean that Japan’s top foreign policy priority must be to expand the country’s strategic horizons. Japan is a mature maritime democracy and choice of close partners should reflect that fact. I envisage a strategy whereby Australia, India, Japan, and the US State of Hawaii form a diamond to safeguard the maritime commons starting from the Indian Ocean Region to the Western Pacific. I am prepared to invest the greatest possible extent, Japan’s capabilities in the security diamond”

Shinzo Abe, 2013

Interestingly, John Foster Dulles of the US of A propounded the Island Chain Concept, comprising of three island chains, in 1951 for strategic containment of USSR and China. The key component of the First Island Chain was Taiwan (it was thereafter christened as one of the Unsinkable Aircraft Carriers); it extended from northern Philippines & Borneo, up to Kuril islands. The second line of defense was from Mariana Island to Islands of Japan. The Third Chain’s key component was Hawaii; it began at Aleutians and ended in Oceania. Now that the breakdown of USSR has taken place, the Chinese believe that this concept would be used to contain China.

General Liu Huaqing had articulated a three-tier program for modernizing the PLAN (commonly referred to as Chinese Navy),according to which the Chinese Navy is proceeding to fast pace its modernization efforts. The program essentially comprises of three time lines, namely:

Year 2020- Acquire capability to exert sea control up to the First Island Chain i.e. bracketing the South China Sea and the East China Sea.

Year 2020- The sea control capability would be extended to the Second Island Chain, which amounts to bracketing the Philippines Sea.

Year 2050- The capabilities would extend to operating Carrier battle groups globally.

The phenomenal economic growth followed by upgrading of military capabilities of PLA and the subsequent claims on islands in the South China Sea, probably led Mr. Shizo Abe, the prime minister of Japan, to articulate the “Asian Security Diamond” in 2013. It called upon India, Australia, and Hawaii (US) to form a strategic coalition for safeguarding the maritime commons comprising the Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific. The Japanese Prime minister has also approached France and United Kingdom to join this Asian Security Diamond keeping in view the significant strategic presence of these two countries in the IOR and the Western Pacific.

The Polynesian Link in the Third Island Chain

The third Island Chain as espoused by Dulles; from the Aleutians to Oceania with Hawaii as a key component; has started to assume relevance with an assertive China militarizing disputed islands. New Zealand –Tonga – Hawaii link within this chain; could play a significant role at least as far as Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) is concerned. Whereas, New Zealand and Hawaii may not need any benign assistance, Tonga, with its 177 islands spread over an area of ~700,000 sq km in southern Pacific Ocean, is a different story.

Currently, in the maritime arena, Tonga is grappling with security of its extensive coastline as well as policing of its EEZ of 676,401 sq km. Its remote location, over 2,330 km from New Zealand and over 5000 km from Hawaii make it a fertile region for transnational crime. Tonga has insufficient physical and electronic monitoring resources to remain updated about real time situation in its vast area and is severely constrained as far as MDA is concerned. Tonga with its outlying islands is susceptible to gun running, narcotics, human trafficking and other criminal activities. In addition, unauthorized exploitation of its fisheries and marine wealth in its coastal waters as well as in its EEZ has direct impact on its national economy and security. As regards applicability of MDA to Tonga it would be prudent to take a cue from the definition and scope of MDA, as has been articulated by the US government vide their document National Security Presidential Directive 41, 2004:-

Maritime Domain Awareness is “the effective understanding of anything associated with the global maritime environment that could impact the security, safety, economy or environment of U.S. This is accomplished through the integration of intelligence, surveillance, observation, and navigation systems into one common operating picture (COP) that is accessible throughout the U.S. Government.

Unlike traditional naval operations, it is apparent that the goal of MDA is far more than simply looking for potential maritime enemies poised to attack Tonga. The implications of “Anything associated” with the maritime environment that can affect the security, safety, economy, or environment go far beyond a classic maritime threat. As per the US interpretation, these include smuggling of people or dangerous cargoes, piracy, proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), identification and protection of critical maritime infrastructure, oil spills, weather, and environmental concerns among other events. What Tonga needs today is a robust MDA along with a rapid air & sea transportation capability.

An important factor that has to be considered while discussing the Third Island Chain is that Tonga is being aggressively wooed by China, even though there are only about 300 Chinese residents as per some estimates. 

India has been participating in bilateral and multilateral strategic dialogues in the region including those involving Japan, Australia, and the US and the Indian Navy has participated in various naval exercises. However, India has not joined any group, which directly aims at containment of China.

India maintains cordial relations with nations in the Pacific; however, Tonga and other smaller nations in the South Pacific Ocean aspire for more attention from India. India could assist Tonga, benignly, in setting up of its MDA infrastructure. This would not only enhance the potency of the Polynesian Island link in the Third Island Chain, but also strengthen Tonga’s maritime security.


49. A Tale of Two Ports; Gwadar versus Chahbahar

(Published in  World news report and Tazakhabarnews on 14 May 2015)

Two important declarations in the past few days have brought in to focus the importance of the Makaran Coast to Middle East as well as the Central Asian Region.
Firstly, the Chinese president Xi Jinping launched $46bn worth of infrastructure and energy projects in Pakistan during his recent visit. The main thrust of these is to strengthen the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor CPEC between the Pakistani port of Gwadar and the Chinese Xinjiang region. This also forms a part of the Chinese one belt one road and maritime silk route programmes. Chinese government and banks like, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd and China Development Bank will provide funds to Chinese companies investing in the projects. The likely Chinese companies are China Power International Development Ltd, Three Gorges Corp, ICBC Corporation, Zonergy Corporation, and Huaneng Group. The Chinese president has linked the investments to the safety and security of Chinese assets and workers since the projects involving railways, pipelines, and roads will cross through the insurgency infested areas of Balochistan.
The second important event has been the signing of MOU between Government of Iran and Government of India to develop the port of Chahbahar. The project will increase trade links between both countries. The Indian side has pledged to commit about $85 million to construct container and multi-purpose terminals.
Due to the geographical locations of Pakistan and Iran to the Caspian region and the fact that both provide the shortest routes to Arabian Sea ports, has led both the countries to progress developing infrastructure and connectivity of their ports with the Central Asian Region(CAR). Apart from oil and gas, the ports expect to harvest other trade commodities like cotton, which currently are routed through Russia to Middle East, East Asia and South Asia.
Just over 100 km apart, Gwadar the Pakistani port and Chabahar the Iranian port are competitors for accessing the CAR markets. Both Iran and Pakistan are wooing Afghanistan by giving trade and fees incentives to favour their respective port. Pakistan however fears that “Chabahar port would inflict a huge financial setback for Pakistan”.
As far as Afghanistan is concerned, its natural resources include, 2.2 billion tons of iron ore, 60 million tons of copper, and 1.4 million tons of rare earth elements such as cerium, neodymium, and lanthanum. It also has lodes of gold, silver, aluminium, zinc, lithium and mercury. The carbonite deposits in Helmand province itself are valued at $89 billion. The US, Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Central Asian Republics have shown interest in these deposits. Afghanistan being a land locked country is currently dependent upon Pakistani ports for its international trade. If Chahbahar port starts operating it would provide an alternate port to Afghanistan without encumbrance of insurgency. In view of the above, it makes sense to look at both the ports in some detail.
Gwadar lies in the Baluchistan province of Pakistan. A province, which is rich in natural resources like oil and gas. In fact, of Pakistan’s ~28tcf gas reserves, ~19tcf are in Baluchistan. The Baloch claim that, despite being the largest gas producer in Pakistan, they get only 20% of the royalty payments received by the other two gas producing provinces. They thus subsidise the rich provinces, even though they are in fact the poorest in the country and that nothing much has been done by the government for their development from the vast revenue generated from Baluchistan. No wonder that the Sui gas fields which lie in Bugti tribe controlled region, are the ones most affected by militancy. Baloch militants pose a credible threat to the vast span of gas pipelines, which are not possible to police or monitor effectively (for e.g. The Sui Southern Gas Company has a pipeline network of over 27,500 km covering Baluchistan and Sindh).
Current Phase of Insurgency. The Gwadar port development project was commenced in 2002.Millions of dollars poured in to the quiet village of Gwadar from Chinese and Pakistani investors (~$200mn was the Chinese investment for the first phase of the project completed in 2005). The premise was that Gwadar would be converted in to major port hub on the lines of Dubai and the locals would benefit most. The Baloch soon realised that this was not to be, and that once again their natural resources were being siphoned out by the Central government. In 2006, Pakistani Cobra helicopter gunships and F-16 fighter jets attacked Baloch areas suspected of insurgency; state organised disappearances and kidnappings culminated in killing of the Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti. The Then President Musharraf told his core commanders “the writ of the Pakistani government will never be challenged. Let that be a warning… if anyone challenges the writ of the government, I will crush it.”
‘Great Land Robbery’ story was published in The Herald in Jun 2008, claiming that hundreds of thousands of acres of land had been illegally allotted to non resident military and civilian personnel and resold to builders for residential and industrial purposes. The Baloch realised that their illiterate poor had been deprived of a rightful share in Gwadar’s growth. The insurgent attacks spiralled to about 33 attacks per month in 2009 and continue to this day, Pakistan blames India and Afghanistan for fanning the tribal Baloch sentiments against military excesses and economic exploitation. Many foreign analysts have however not found any credible evidence actively linking India with the Baloch insurgency. Gwadar has thus become the lynch pin for the Baloch hatred of Punjabi elite. Towards the end of Xi’s, visit this April 2015, separatist Baluch rebels launched attacks on a coastal radar station near Gwadar, and on a security force convoy in the Awaran district of the province.
Gwadar Port. Gwadar had a population of about 5000 in 2001, mainly comprising of poor fishermen, once the Chinese assisted deep-water port development began, it has crossed a population of 125000. Apart from a network of roads, rail air and infrastructural projects, Pakistan plans include a liquid natural gas (LNG) terminal, an international airport, a cement plant, an oil refinery, and a steel mill. China’s interests at Gwadar are very clear; China is looking for monitoring of its Gulf oil supply route as well as an opening for import/ export trade from its Muslim majority Xinjiang Autonomous Region.
The first phase of Gwadar port was completed on schedule by the Chinese in 2005. The running of the port was leased for 40 years to PSA International of Singapore in 2007 by the Pakistani government. The agreement however ran into problem with Pakistan blaming PSA of not keeping their end of contract with respect to the investments promised by them. The running of the port has now been handed over to the Chinese. With Gwadar port commencing operations it has given the Chinese an opening in to the Arabian Sea, a strategic depth to Pakistan navy and some cause for worry to India. In 2008 the then Chief of Naval Staff, Indian Navy Admiral Sureesh Mehta said Gwadar could be used by Pakistan to “take control over the world energy jugular.”
Importance for China. Oil tankers from Gulf transit about 6000 nm and those from the African coast transit about 10,000 nm before they discharge their energy cargo at Chinese ports. Both the tankers routes have to pass through Malacca Straits in addition to problem zones in their respective routes. If tankers can unload at Gwadar, they would have to travel only about 680 nm from the Gulf and about 3000 nm from African coast (Angola). Pak-China pipeline from Gwadar to Kashghar in Xinjiang is likely to run parallel to the Karakorum highway and cover a distance of about 1500 miles over tough mountainous terrain. It would also provide berthing facilities to PLA Navy. Indicators that China is seriously contemplating Pak-China energy corridor are evident from the following development projects:-
-Phase II of Gwadar port and International Airport at Gwadar by China Harbour Engineering Company.
-Petrochemical city (including oil refining capacity of 421,000 bpd) by Great United Petroleum Holdings Company Limited.
-Rail link up to Xingjian by Dong Fang Electric Supply Corp.
-Upgrading of Karakoram high way.
-Construction of Kazakhstan-China and Turkmenistan – China pipelines and their eventual augmentation by feed from Gwadar-Kashghar pipeline.
– Most important of all the recent pledge of nearly $38 bn (of a total of $46 bn) infrastructure and energy projects in the region by the Chinese President.
The Chabahar port project is very important for Afghanistan since it would enable shipping goods to Middle East and Europe as well as allow inflow of key goods to Afghanistan. Economically it would imply a significant boost to its trade and investment in much needed infrastructure. This has now become a distinct possibility with the US and Iran about to reach an understanding on Iran’s Nuclear program.
The port of Chabahar is located in the south of Baluchistan and Sistan Province and it is the only Iranian port with direct access to the Indian Ocean. It has historically been a trade centre because of its access Oman Sea and Persian Gulf. Chabahar port has an area of 11 sqkm and is interestingly located at the same latitude as the Miami port in the Florida. The weather at Chabahar port is quite similar to Miami port in that it is very pleasant in summer. It is also one of the coolest ports of the Middle East. The port has been under construction since 1973 but lack of resources has resulted in delays in its completion. Shahid-Kalantary and Shahid-Beheshti are two important ports in Chahbahar. Its location outside of the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz has been very beneficial to Iran’s trade since the Iran – Iraq war. The port will be connected to the Trans-Iranian railway with the completion of the Kerman-Zahedan railway.
A trilateral agreement was signed between Iran, India, and Afghanistan In 2003. India was to build a road, known as Route 606, connecting Delaram, the border city of Afghanistan to Zaranj the Capital of Nimruz province in Afghanistan. Iran was to build a highway from Chabahar up to Delaram. Border Roads Organization of India constructed the Delaram – Zaranj highway and it was completed in 2009.
With the likelihood of West easing sanctions on Iran, India has once again stepped in with a modest investment to construct container and multipurpose terminals; this would make Chabahar operational in future. It would also provide India with ease of trade with Central Asian Republics, Afghanistan and Iran. Chahbahar does not lie in an insurgency-ridden area like Gwadar therefore, it is clear that nations would prefer Chahbahar.
India needs to keep promoting Chahbahar as a strategic port on the Makaran coast as it addresses both the ease of trading as well as India’s security needs in the region.

25.China’s Road to Reforms in the Defence Sector

(Published in Defence ProAc Biz News Sep-Oct 2013)

China’s Road to Reforms in the Defence Sector

The Chinese modernisation plan for its armed forces has made significant progress during the past decade; this is largely attributable to its defence budget which has been growing in double digits during the past two decades. The budget for the current year is ~$116 billion; the implications are a clear indicator of the Chinese will to sustain modernisation of their armed forces on a fast track. The Chinese defence industry has been able to produce armament comparable in quality with other nations in the Asia-Pacific region. It is also true that it has got tagged with copying, reverse engineering or modifying existing armament, rather than achieving inventive breakthroughs by developing weapons which can outshine or at least compete with the world leaders.

China has been pursuing a calibrated up gradation of its forces by incorporating modifications to existing weapons and selectively procuring advanced technological systems. This approach gives it sufficient margin to incrementally familiarise its forces with modern weapons as well as hone the capabilities on modernised systems. A wise move which retains the armed forces in a state of preparedness for any contingency rather than grapple with woes of ill mastered technologies in the face of adversary.

The rise of China’s military has undoubtedly raised wide spread concerns across the oceans, which also does not appear wholly justified for the simple reason that booming economies are followed by proportionate increases in armed might and the fact that benefits of acquired technologies in the civilian sector invariably percolate into to the defence sector and vice versa. Paradoxically there is a rush by the very same countries to partake the trade benefit cake offered by the growth of China. China is also planning for a revolution in military affairs spear headed by information technology in the decade to come as is borne out by their 15 year Defence and National Science and technology plans. By the end of this period China would be able to start its march to match the defence technology inventions of the world leaders like the US. It is also apparent that China is looking at a period of ‘peace and tranquillity’ and does not foresee any major conflict till it is able to match the lone super power. It is also a fact that China has carefully put in place enough weapons of deterrence in the conventional arena; be they submarines or carrier killer ASBMs; which would make the adversary think many a time before carrying out any misplaced venture. This posturing has been very effective as can be understood by the heated debates to ring in Sea Basing, Air Sea Battle concepts and a turn towards innovating counters to ASBMs as well as developing much longer range ship based missiles.


China commenced the reforms in its defence sector, in an earnest manner, in the mid nineties. At the core of the reform process is the will of the Chinese to become ‘Self Reliant’ in all sectors of defence. A two pronged strategy was adopted to tackle the woes of the defence industrial system by initiating both institutional and structural reforms.
Institutional reforms included regulated competition for defence conglomerates; thorough independent evaluation of technical and financial aspects of major weapons projects, weeding out corruption and grooming of a motivated workforce.

Structural reforms concentrated mainly on aspects of organisation and defence research. The underlying principle of organisational reforms was to integrate the defence and civilian economies so that mutual benefits accrue to both the sectors. Organisational changes included extended role of PLA in management of S&T programs, overhauling of defence conglomerates and restructuring of the Commission for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (COSTIND).


COSTIND was merged in to a Ministry of Industry and Informisation MII, and christened State Administration of Defence Science, Technology and Industry (SASTIND). The conglomerates were reorganised in to six defence sub sectors. In the space sector there are China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) and China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASTC).The CASIC is responsible for development of guided missile systems, information technology and small satellites, the CASTC specialises in strategic and tactical missiles, launch vehicles and satellites. In the defence electronics sector, complete responsibility lies with China Electronics Technology Group Corporation. In ship building sector, civilian ship building is with China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, where as China State Shipbuilding Corporation is the main supplier to PLA Navy for all types of war ships. In the ordnance sector, China Ordnance Equipment Group Corporation manufactures all civilian vehicles where as North China Industries Corporation meets the ammunition and vehicle requirements of the PLA. In aviation sector Aviation Industries Corporation One (AVIC 1) specialises in combat aircraft for PLAAF and Aviation Industries Corporation Two (AVIC 2) is responsible for civilian aircraft, helicopters and transport planes. Lastly in the nuclear sector, China Nuclear Engineering and Construction Corporation looks after construction of nuclear facilities and China National Nuclear Corporation is responsible for nuclear power generation and nuclear weapons.

Reforms in the defence research sector included, increased funding, debt restructuring, cost cutting, better financial management, competitive environment, integration of civilian and defence technologies, faster transition of research to production etc. The fundamental principle being to strengthen basic research so that transformation of the PLA in to a network centric force can take place based upon its original and unique research.

The Chinese defence industry had been grappling with serious quality related issues as its focus had been on enhancing production at the cost of quality of product, obviously the biggest sufferer was the PLA which was saddled with substandard weapons and equipment. This was also due to the fact that comprehensive technical standards and regulatory framework for implementing them was not available. Reforms addressed this aspect and the armament sector was the first beneficiary. A large number of standards and regulatory norms have been issued both by the armed forces and the civilian industry. The defence and civilian industry have realised that design, development and manufacture of complex weapon systems is not feasible without creating benchmarks, specifications and uniform quality standards. With the reforms being put in place PLA could demand quality products and reject items which did not meet its desired specifications this in turn forced the industry to adhere to laid down standards.

Acquisition of Foreign Technology. Tai Ming Chung has analysed the ways in which China has attempted to acquire foreign technology. In his analysis he brings out at least seven approaches that have been adopted by the Chinese Defence Industry. Firstly, China has been inviting large number of defence scientists and engineers as consultants for weapons projects and also for academic and professional interactions, which have provided exposure to the defence industry. Secondly, China has been purchasing complete systems for the PLA, which in turn provide detailed information about the system. Thirdly, China has resorted to import of sub-systems and units which could not be produced locally. Fourthly, it has entered in to licensed production of complete systems like aircrafts and missiles which were far ahead of Chinese technological capability. Fifthly, it has taken up joint design and development ventures of new generations of armament and defence equipment with the Russians. Sixthly, it has carried out industrial espionage at all levels to acquire technological knowhow of advanced military technologies. And lastly, it has blatantly carried out adaptation of Russian weapon platforms and indigenised them by reverse engineering or substitution. However all these efforts cannot be successful until the local industry has the capacity to absorb these in to their own R&D system and there after come up with innovation/invention at higher levels. Normally it is seen that even though countries undertake complete transfers of technology they are not able to innovate to the next level and finally go back to the foreign vendor for new upgrades.

Civil Military Integration (CMI). CMI has been a prominent thought process during the reforms of Chinese defence industry. Fundamentally it signifies the adaptation or direct use of products and technologies available in the civilian sector by the defence sector for incorporation into military equipment. Thus harnessing the capabilities of the innovative civil sector, and cutting down time frames and costs by adapting them for military use. This has some merit since a large number of IT products and software of higher generation are available commercially which can be easily inducted with minor modifications in to defence. Some low- tech commercially available hardware items can be directly assembled. However design, development and production of complex weapon systems would remain in the defence domain as it has no/little commercial application and may not be economically viable for the civil industry. There is little doubt that a harmoniously integrated civil and military industrial sector is beneficial to both sectors in leapfrogging technologies, adapting professional program management and advanced technical processes.

China has embarked on an ambitious programme of reforms by which it hopes to leapfrog technologies and eventually achieve ‘Self Reliance’ and become a world class manufacturer of weapons and armament. China was known for its aerospace and missile industry, post reforms, ship building and defence electronics appear to have made excellent progress. Whether China will succeed in its efforts or whether further course corrections would be required is difficult to say at this juncture, however what can be safely said is that China is determined to carry out reforms and achieve formidable civil military integration. The resolve is visible as during the past decade China has instituted harsh corrective measures on many occasions when it observed that the desired results were not forthcoming.

Some analysts have commented that stubborn insistence on self reliance becomes a self defeating goal, when developing/replicating weapon systems takes decades to fructify and the armed forces have to be satisfied with equipment which is generations older then what the adversary has. This has been evident in Asia -Pacific region, where state owned armament industries function inefficiently, are not cost effective, are reluctant to Implement stringent quality & manufacturing processes, and have virtually nonexistent R&D infrastructure.

India has the largest defence industrial base after China; however the successes in the weapon systems arena have been few and far between. If India is serious about becoming a reckonable technological power in the region, it is time to have a relook at the current constrictive concept of self reliance in a holistic manner and reform it to comprehensively include the Indian civil industry. With formidable indigenous space and software sectors it should not be difficult to integrate other sectors with the defence industry within the next decade, to vitalise the ailing defence Continue reading 25.China’s Road to Reforms in the Defence Sector