The Agni-V, a nuclear-powered long-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), increased the military capabilities of Indian forces in 2018-19. What is the reason behind his sudden ‘public announcement of successful launch’? The question has come up in the discussion stage. According to Indian defence experts, recent global geopolitics has diverted much of India’s defence thinking and attention from Pakistan to the Chinese border. Much of the preparation has become China-centric. The successful announcement of the launch of Agni-5 is also for that purpose.

Several recent steps by China have alerted India. That’s why most of the defence focus was on the West, Pakistan-centric; Now it is gradually becoming centralized on the Chinese border. Especially on the eastern Ladakh and Bhutan-Tibetan adjoining Arunachal border, where China is constantly challenging the Indian military.

After the new land boundary law was passed in the Chinese parliament on October 23, India has been forced to rethink its defence preparations. Within hours of formally opposing the implementation of the law, India announced the successful launch of the Agni-5 missile. The nuclear-powered missile covers Chinese territory.

Doklam was the first sign of India’s scepticism about China’s conspiracy. India has had to keep busy with the border with China every year since China’s activities centred on Doklam on the Sino-Bhutan-India border in June 2016. After Doklam, Indo-Chinese troops became involved in the bloody clashes at Galwan in eastern Ladakh. After that conflict in 2020, there have been repeated tensions at the border.

For some time now, China has been making new demands in various areas along the Line of Actual Control. The country has formally objected to the visit of Indian leaders to Arunachal Pradesh. Most importantly, despite the 13-point meeting at the military level, Beijing has left the dispute in East Ladakh unresolved. In this context, two recent developments have given India the impetus to rethink its defence readiness.

Both incidents happened this October. The first is in the middle of the month. At that time, China signed a memorandum of understanding with Bhutan to resolve the border dispute. Bhutan has a security agreement with India. Now with the border agreement with Bhutan, it is clear that China, with the exception of India, is now seeking a direct border dispute with Bhutan.

Less than 15 days after the agreement was signed, the Chinese parliament passed a land boundary law. This law will empower the Chinese Red Army in the border areas. As a result of this law, the Chinese military will accelerate the development of military infrastructure in the border areas. It will rebuild the necessary infrastructure for defence. The border will build villages (there are already 600 such villages in Tibet) and provide defence training to those villagers.

India has objected to the law’s passage, but Indian defence officials do not know how much work it will do. According to a source in the ministry, “there are good reasons for India’s growing lack of trust in China.” Which could lead to conflict and clashes between the two countries in the future.

For these reasons, most of India’s defence preparations are now directed at its northern neighbour. The lion’s share of state-of-the-art Raphael warplanes purchased from France have been deployed in eastern India. US-built Chinook combat helicopters, state-of-the-art artillery, state-of-the-art L-70 air defence systems and supersonic cruise missiles have been deployed along the Arunachal Pradesh border. Surveillance system has been strengthened. The new Mountain Strike Corps, which was formed to fight in the snow-capped mountains in winter, has now begun work after completing a war preparation training session. Infrastructure construction work has been intensified along the 1,350 km border. This includes the construction of bridges, roads, tunnels and military bases.

Jagannath Panda, a researcher and China expert at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA), told Prothom Alo, the largest circulated newspaper in Bangladesh: “China has always been alert and vigilant about India. It has increased lately. In Asia, India is not only a strong opponent of China but also one of the major powers of the Western alliance. Beijing thinks the quad’s main goal is to thwart China’s progress. And India is one of the members of this alliance. The Chinese government also believes that China is the real target of the newly formed Tripartite Strategic Security Alliance (AKSA). For these reasons, China wants to put pressure on India.

In this regard, Jagannath Panda added, “India’s defence threat is far greater from China’s side than from Pakistan’s. That is why Delhi is so prepared.

Defence experts believe that the expansionist attitude of the current Chinese ruler could pose a serious challenge to world peace in the days to come. In the next 15 to 20 years, China seeks to unleash its dominance in three areas. The first thing they notice is the attachment of Taiwan. They want to achieve this goal by 2025. Then there are the small islands in the South China Sea, which are considered to be militarily important. China does not want to give up control of these islands. The third goal is to take control of the whole of Arunachal Pradesh, including parts of eastern Ladakh.

Retired Major General Dipankar Banerjee of the Indian Army told Prothom Alo in this regard, ‘Arunachal Pradesh is sensitive along with China. The country has agreed to bring Bhutan closer as a first step towards achieving that goal. Shakti is also asserting itself in various ways, one of which is the hypersonic missile test.

Dipankar Banerjee further said, “India is now capable of dealing with China. India has qualified itself over the last few years. China has drawn defence attention to the border. Pakistan is on India’s neck. But China has become a headache. The relief is that India has realized this in time.