India needs to learn that economic development comes before a naval buildup

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2017/4/24 0:23:39

"China is planning to build more aircraft carriers to bolster its maritime capabilities, which could pose a bigger threat to India," India's Economic Times reported recently. With concerns expressed by Indian media outlets about the rise of China's military strength, the two countries need to avert an arms race, especially at a time when China's first domestically built aircraft carrier is being prepared for launch in late April.

Aircraft carriers are seen as symbols of a nation's military might, but the construction of them consumes huge amounts of resources, thus requiring developing countries to learn how to keep their military ambitions in check. China had no aircraft carriers until 2012 when its first one, the Liaoning, was commissioned, adding to the evidence that China's pursuit of military development has been in synch with its overall economic expansion.

As the world's second-largest economy, China is now capable of building a strong navy to safeguard the security of strategic maritime channels. China's construction of its first aircraft carrier is a result of economic development. The country would have finished work on it several years ago if Beijing had simply wanted to engage in an arms race to have more influence in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.

India itself could be taken as a negative example for a buildup of aircraft carriers. India's first aircraft carrier was purchased from the UK in 1957, but the vessel was not adequate for modern strategic requirements, forcing India to develop its own aircraft carrier. The country unveiled its first domestically built aircraft carrier in 2015, but the Wall Street Journal said in 2016 that top US naval engineers discovered the carrier wouldn't be operational for up to a decade. New Delhi is perhaps too impatient to develop an aircraft carrier. The country is still in its initial stage of industrialization, and there will be many technical obstacles that stand in the way of a buildup of aircraft carriers.

In the past few decades, India and China have taken different paths in terms of aircraft carriers, but the different results achieved by the two countries point to the underlying importance of economic development. New Delhi should perhaps be less eager to speed up the process of building aircraft carriers in order to counter China's growing sway in the Indian Ocean, and focus more on its economy.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


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