NSC meet discusses China, agrees India needs to keep an eye in long term

After virtually agreeing there was no need to "demonise" Beijing as a potential threat, the National Security Council meeting last Saturday emphasised the need to watch China carefully in the context of its recent actions vis-a-vis New Delhi in the Nuclear Suppliers Group on the Indo-US nuclear deal, ADB funds for Arunachal Pradesh and UN action to designate Pakistani Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) founder Masood Azhar a terrorist.

Chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the NSC discussed China for nearly three hours a broad consensus emerged that Beijing was not a short-term threat to India but its actions needed to be watched from the long-term perspective. The NSC emphasised that India needed to grow at 7-8 per cent in the next decade to become a global economic powerhouse and match up to the challenge posed by Beijing.

The Ministry of External Affairs updated the meeting on China's behind-the-door action against India while seeking NSG waiver for the 123 Agreement, the impediments it put against India over an ADB loan for development in Arunachal Pradesh and the hurdles it put up in the UN declaring Masood Azhar a global terrorist.

This indicated that Beijing saw New Delhi as a competitor for the high table and would use every opportunity to put India down. Newly appointed Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao spoke at length on China and National Security Advisor M K Narayanan summarized at the end of the meeting.

The essence of the discussion indicated that China would concentrate on Arunachal Pradesh or South Tibet as it calls it after it sorted out the Taiwan issue. The meeting noted that progress on upgradation of infrastructure on the Indian side was slow with environment hurdles in building roads in Arunachal Pradesh.

The chiefs of the Armed Forces briefed the meeting on India's defence preparedness and indicated the need to overcome delays in weapons acquisition. The Army chief made it clear that artillery modernisation was long delayed since the 155 mm Bofors howitzers had been bought way back in 1986. The Air Force talked about the need to increase and modernise the two-decade-old air defence radar network. The Navy spoke on delay in acquisition of the aircraft carrier Gorshkov.

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