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India Slips Further Behind China During First Five Years of Modi


-Beijing’s reforms, economy have fueled inroads in South Asia
- ‘It’s impossible to keep pace’ with Beijing: former official



Modi addresses the nation on March 27 about destroying a low-orbiting satellite. Photographer: Narinder Nanu/AFP via Getty Images

(莫迪3月27日就摧毀一顆低軌道衛星發表全國講話。攝影師:Narinder Nanu/法新社,蓋蒂圖片社)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a rare national address on live television last month to boast that India had destroyed a satellite in low orbit, establishing itself as a “space power” alongside the U.S., Russia and China.


India Falling Behind
China continued to pull ahead of India in defense spending since Modi took office


Source: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
Note: Currency is constant (2016) USD


“It’s impossible to keep pace with China,” said Vishnu Prakash, a former Indian ambassador to South Korea and consul general in Shanghai. “We cannot get into checkbook diplomacy with China. We don’t have that kind of economic muscle.”


Whether Modi returns to power or not, India’s next government will still be saddled with aging equipment like Soviet-era MiG warplanes, a bureaucracy that hinders military upgrades and an undersized diplomatic corps. To fend off China, it’s likely to continue shifting toward the U.S. and other like-minded countries in Asia while seeking to protect its periphery.


“A major long-run test for India is to ensure that China does not turn India’s own geography against it by encircling it with a string of military bases in the Indian Ocean,” said Rory Medcalf, who heads the National Security College at the Australian National University. “Delhi will play a long game. As India’s economy grows, this will still eventually translate into the world’s third-largest defense budget.”


‘Falling Further’


Asia's Great Power Gap
China scores higher than India on a range of important geopolitical metrics


Source: Lowy Institute Asia Power Index
Note: Resilience gauges reliance on energy imports and other factors, while future trends measures demographics, growth forecasts, etc.


Modi’s injection of personal enthusiasm into Indian foreign policy hasn’t led to more resources at the severely short-staffed Ministry of External Affairs, said Happymon Jacob, associate professor at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University’s School of International Studies. India only has roughly 940 diplomats compared to China’s estimated 7,500.


That lopsided situation is echoed in the armed forces. Xi has overseen China’s most sweeping military reforms since the 1950s, cutting back non-combat personnel and modernizing its military technology with space and cyber operations. Meanwhile, India maintains a sprawling 1.4-million strong army and spends the bulk of its defense money on salaries and pensions, rather than new equipment.


“The three arms of the Indian military continue to believe they’ll fight a war separately,” Jacob said.


Diplomatic Disadvantage
Despite a population of 1.3 billion, India has barely more diplomats than Singapore


Source: Foreign ministries of India, Australia, Japan, U.K., U.S., and a New Delhi Institute of Chinese Studies working paper on Indian and Chinese foreign services by former Indian diplomat Kishan Rana
Note: Some countries do not officially declare size of foreign service


“China sees real risk in India’s strengthening security ties with a formidable array of Indo-Pacific partners including America, Japan, Australia, Indonesia, France and Vietnam,” ANU’s Medcalf said. “The U.S. and others do not need India as a formal ally or as a full rival with China. They simply need India to be itself -- a capable and growing power in the Indian Ocean, whose navy can complicate life for China and whose diplomacy proves every day that China does not speak for Asia.”

“中國認為印度加強與包括美國、日本、澳洲、印尼、法國和越南在內的印度-太平洋伙伴的安全關系存在真正的風險,” 澳大利亞國立大學的梅德卡夫稱。他說:“美國和其他國家不需要印度成為美國的正式盟友,也不需要印度成為中國的完全競爭對手。他們只是需要印度做好自己——一個在印度洋上有能力且不斷發展的大國,其海軍能讓中國的生活變得復雜,并且其外交政策每天都在證明:中國并不代表亞洲。”

(From China's intrusions to Pakistan's ambushes- UPA Government has been absolutely lax in securing Indian borders. When will Centre wake up?)


Beijing has also kept India out of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which controls the export of nuclear materials, and recently blocked Indian and Western efforts at the United Nations to list as a designated terrorist the leader of a group that claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed 40 Indian paramilitaries.


“In some ways, India is better off strategically than it was five years back,” said Alyssa Ayres, a former U.S. diplomat and senior fellow for South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. “But you could, of course, also argue that India is falling further behind China instead of slowly closing the gap.”