During discussions at the esteemed Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Chinese military delegates expressed the view that India’s defense industry and military modernization efforts are still insufficient to pose a threat to China’s security. The delegates, representing the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), highlighted India’s weak industrial infrastructure in comparison to China’s robust and sophisticated defense platforms. They questioned the extent of indigenous development in India’s tanks, aircraft, and warships.
India’s reliance on arms imports was also emphasized, with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reporting that India was the largest global importer of major arms between 2018 and 2022, with a significant portion acquired from Russia.
While India has been actively pursuing military modernization to establish itself as a prominent power, according to Senior Colonel Zhang Chi, a member of the PLA delegation, this will not impact cooperation between Beijing and New Delhi in multilateral forums like BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, known as “the Quad,” an informal alliance consisting of the United States, Japan, Australia, and India aimed at countering China’s influence, was also discussed. However, Senior Colonel Zhao Xiaozhuo of the PLA Academy of Military Sciences suggested that the Quad and India’s military modernization efforts would not affect the cooperation between China and India in multilateral platforms.
The border clashes between China and India in the Himalayas, resulting in the tragic loss of Indian soldiers and PLA troops, were referenced. Zhao conveyed China’s belief that India would not align as a “loyal partner” with the American Indo-Pacific Strategy due to its independent diplomatic policy. The Chinese delegation acknowledged India’s historical association with the non-aligned movement (NAM), which opposed colonialism, imperialism, and foreign intervention during the Cold War. However, an Indian expert, Yogesh Gupta, countered that NAM’s relevance had diminished in light of China’s aggressive and hegemonic actions towards India. Gupta emphasized that if China failed to correct its stance in bilateral talks, it would hinder progress in improving relations within the SCO and BRICS.
The PLA delegation asserted a preference for the “Asian model,” promoting dialogue, exchanges, and negotiation, to resolve territorial disputes with its Asian neighbors. Meanwhile, the PLA, with its ambition to become a modern fighting force by 2027, has set goals to build a blue-water navy by 2035 and achieve a first-class military comparable to the United States by 2049. However, Senior Colonel Cao Yanzhong dismissed speculation that China would attack Taiwan in 2027, emphasizing that it was part of China’s ongoing military modernization efforts. He stated that China’s deployment of aircraft and warships around Taiwan aimed to exert pressure on pro-independence forces rather than directly challenge Washington’s deterrence strategy.