A Monthly Journal of the IDSA
Russia-China Military-Technical Cooperation:Implications For India
By Jyotsna Bakshi *
Relations between Russia and Chinathe worlds two largest states from the point of view of territory and population respectivelyhave always had a strong impact on the course of global and regional politics. During the past half century, there have been sharp ups and downs in their relations. Soviet pilots fought on the side of the Chinese when China was attacked by militarist Japan. During the Second World War, thousands of Chinese helped the Soviet Union both at the front and the rear. 1 The history of Moscow-Beijing military-technical cooperation goes back to the 1950s when the two Communist giantsthe Soviet Union and the newly formed Peoples Republic of China, signed the treaty of alliance. Moscow extended massive aid to its Communist ally that laid the foundation of the latters heavy industry as well as defence industry. However, in July 1960 thousands of Soviet technicians and experts were suddenly withdrawn from China in protest against their political education by the latter. The following two and a half decades were marked by intense political and ideological rivalry and antagonism between the two coupled with a serious border dispute which erupted in bloody conflict over the Ussuri river islands in March 1969. CPSU General Secretary, Mikhail Gorbachev, who introduced epoch-making changes in the countrys domestic and foreign policies that ultimately culminated in the very fall of the mighty Soviet Union itself, took a bold initiative in 1987 to improve relations with China.
In fact, military deliveries to China were resumed before the Soviet collapse. China was keen to buy Soviet military equipment for its own reasons. Deng Ziaopings economic reforms introduced in 1978 had brought multi-billion dollar foreign investments, as well as the Western and the Japanese technology to China. However, as the Russians saw it, Chinas cooperation with the West in the military-technical field had remained rather limited and did not result in the induction of strategically important weapon systems and technology into the PLA. Following the events of Tiananman Square in 1989, the Western countries stopped military-technical cooperation with China. Although China had acquired through indigenous efforts a nuclear missile arsenal comparable to Great Britain and France, it was lagging behind other industrialised countries in the development of conventional military equipment and technology. So much so that it was apprehended by the Chinese leadership that its fighting forces could not successfully fight even with its east Asian neighboursthat were equipped with Western weaponryin aerial warfare and on the sea. Therefore, following the improvement of Sino-Soviet relations, China decided to turn to the latter for the import of modern military hardware after a gap of thirty years. In June 1990, Admiral Liu Huaqing. Vice-Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) visited the Soviet Union. Admiral Lius visit was followed by extensive and frequent dialogue between the two sides on the transfer of advanced weapon systems regardless of the collapse of the USSR and the domestic crisis in Russia. 2 In 1990 China ordered from the Soviet Union 24 Mi-17 helicopters, which it received in 1990-91. In 1991 an order was made for the supply of 288 AA-II air-to-air missiles, which were received in 1991-92. In the same period it also received 96 AA-8 air-to-air missiles. 3 The important deal for the delivery of 24 Su-27 fighter aircraft was signed during the Soviet period. China received the aircraft after the fall of the Soviet Union from Russia.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia-China military-technical cooperation further expanded and took a regular form. Today China, along with India, is one of the two biggest customers of Russian military hardware.
Why Russia Decided to Sell Weapons to China
Russias decision to sell sophisticated weaponry to China has resulted from its view of its own national interests of the time as well as its overall economic and geopolitical compulsions. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Moscows geopolitical weight in world affairs as well as power and influence projection capability had greatly reduced. Moscow now could not muster together the requisite force structure and sustain a policy framework dictated bywhat Professor Vasily Mikheev (Institute of Far Eastern Studies, Moscow) has referred tothe traditional Russian apprehension of China as a potential enemy. The Chinese political, economic and military power as well as relative geopolitical weight in regional and world affairs was on the ascendance, while that of Russia was on the decline. No wonder, Moscow needed to evolve a fresh perspective vis-à-vis China. China began to be seen as a great and prosperous neighbour with whom Russia could enter into multifarious and mutually beneficial cooperation and even partnership. 4
Moscows total orientation in the initial post-Soviet period was towards the West. However, by the end of 1992, certain disenchantment with the West set in. President Yeltsins December 1992 visit to China, preceded by a visit to South Korea and followed by a visit to India in January 1993 were presented as an attempt to pursue a more balanced policy towards the West and the East. After his visit to China, President Yeltsin promised to sell the most sophisticated armaments and weapons to the latter. 5 Earlier, in August 1992, Chinas Minister for Defence, Qin Jiwel, led a defence delegation to the Russian Federation. Two months later in October the first deputy Minister of Defence of Russia, Andrei Kokoshin had visited China and signed the agreement for military-technical cooperation.
Moscows need to sell weapons was almost compulsive. It had inherited a huge military-industrial complex from the former Soviet Union comprising 1,600 defence enterprises that had a staff of nearly two million people. 6 In fact, Russias first-rate defence industry, besides its impressive fuel and energy complex, was one of few areas where it could successfully compete for a share in the world market. Because of decline and malaise in its conventional forces caused by budgetary cuts and sharp economic decline and other difficulties, domestic defence orders could no longer sustain the huge MIC. Russia needed to export arms for the very survival of its defence industries and R&D facilities even at the minimum level. Speaking on August 4, 1999, Sergei Stepashin, Russias Prime Minister at that time, said that arms exports allow Russia to keep up its potential to provide a defence capability for Russia without additional investment. According to him, military-technical cooperation with foreign countries is very important for Russia for several reasons. It plays a major role in strengthening Russias military and political influence in the world. It is important for Russias social and economic development, especially so in sustaining the people working in the military-industrial complex. 7 In fact, Ilya Klebanov, Russias new Vice-Premier, has emphasised that the sale of weapons is the life buoy for our defence industries now that the defence budget is so small and military state orders are so few. 8
According to Pavel Felgenhauer, Russia-China arms trade is a case of the seller and the buyer finding each other. 9 If in the 1950s when the Soviet Union generously shared weapons and military technology with the PRC, its motive was largely strategic and ideological, Russian arms deliveries to China are believed to be heavilyalthough not totallymotivated by economic considerations.
Moreover, there has been a pressing need for reforming and modernising the countrys defence forces. In keeping with the changed security requirements of post-Soviet Russia it was decided to reduce the size of the army to 1.2 million and make it a more mobile and well-equipped professional fighting force. These military reforms could be implemented only in conditions of peace and security on the long border with China. In its present situation of military, political and economic weakness, Moscow is seeking to promote a belt of friendly non-threatening neighbours around itself. All this requires a policy framework that views China as a friend, good neighbour and partner with whom Russia can enter into mutually advantageous business relations, including military-technical cooperation.
It has been pointed out that Russian defence plants put great pressure on the government to permit an arms deal with Taiwan. However, Russian leadership decided against it as it would have done great damage to Russias relations with China. 10 One of the declared principles governing Russias military-technical cooperation with foreign countries is that it would not give arms to the two sides involved in a dispute or in a manner that would destabilise the existing balance of forces. Moscow has openly declared that it would not give arms to Pakistan in view of continued tension in Indo-Pak relations. Delivery of arms to both India and China is justified in the name of confidence building measures taken by the two countries in order to maintain peace on their common borders.
Sino-Russian friendshipfostered by their mutually advantageous military-technical cooperationgives both the countries an opportunity to counter Western pressure and press for the much-heralded multi-polar world. It gives Russia greater manoeuverability in its relations with the USA-led West and NATO as well as Japan, which has a claim on the four Kurile Islands in the Asia-Pacific region.
While justifying their growing military-technical cooperation with China, the Russians have particularly noticed that unlike the West and more particularly the USA, China has not tried to make use of Russias current difficulties to extract advantages or put pressure on Russia. As Professor Mikhail Titarenko, the Director of the Russian Institute of Far Eastern Studies, has remarked, China is acting in this way not out of Platonic love for Russia, but proceeding from its own interests. 11 In fact, a certain coincidence of strategic interests has developed between the two countries. China supports Russias unity and territorial integrity and its position as one of the great powers and a pole in the multi-polar world. Unlike the Western countries, Russia does not harp on the human rights issue while dealing with China. China does not see Russia as a threat in the foreseeable future. The two countries have solved the border dispute and demarcated the long common border. Along with the three Central Asian states the two have entered into confidence building measures, reduction of troops and creating a 100 km zone of reduced military presence on both sides of the border. In 1994, the two signed a bilateral agreement on non-targeting their missiles on each other as well as nuclear no-first-use against each other.
No doubt, there do exist deep-seated and historical apprehensions in the Russian mind regarding China. There are those who believe that by selling arms to China, Russia is feeding the tiger. It is argued that it would jeopardise Russias own security in future. China is advancing on the course of building up the aggregate state might through its policy of four modernisations, including military modernisation. The possibility of China indulging in muscle flexing and getting involved in limited local wars with a view to achieving its foreign policy objectives cannot be ruled out. According to the doctrinal concept of strategic frontiers and living space (lebensraum), the real frontiers of a state are determined above all by economic and political power and in keeping with its strengthening may expand absorbing the territories of other states. 12 It is argued by those opposing arms deliveries to China that the latter is Russias strategic enemy, which is capable of attempting different forms of northward expansion, including economic and demographic expansion and the realisation of Chinas historical territorial claims.
It would seem that the two extreme fringes in the spectrum of the Russian view of China are represented by the two opposite views expressed by two of Russias defence ministers, Pavel Grachev and Igor Rodionov at different points of time. Thus, in an enthusiastic outburst Pavel Grachev in 1995 called for a Moscow-Beijing alliance as in 1950. On the other hand, Defence Minister Igor Rodionov in December 1996 mentioned China among Russias potential adversaries. However, the policy-makers in both Russia and China seem to have opted for a middle course. Driven by their mutual national interest, they have decided to establish a relationship of friendship, good-neighbourlines, and extensive multifarious cooperation, including military-technical cooperation. However, a relationship of alliance that restricts the freedom of the sides is totally ruled out. The two countries describe their current relationship as an equal, trust-based partnership aimed at strategic interaction in the 21st century.
Those who favour military-technical cooperation with China argue that the latter has shown considerable maturity and goodwill in not seeking to make use of Russias current problems. They urge that China should not be provoked. Major-General Anatoly Boliastko of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies (Russian Academy of Sciences), Moscow, cautions that by harping on the image of China as an enemy, an imaginary threat may be turned into something perfectly real. 13
While Moscows decision to extend military-technical cooperation with China has been largely driven by financial considerations, policy makers in Moscow appear to have thoroughly analysed various pros and cons and implications of supplying weapons and technology to China. Thus, A. Mazin in a significant article in Mirovaya ekonomika i mezhdunarodnie otonoshemiya, entitled Chinas Fourth Modernisation and Russian MIC, has opined that taking into view the past experience of China in the creation of strategic nuclear missiles as well as the fact that China has one million scientific researchers out of which around one-third are involved in defence research, and nearly fifty per cent of Chinas expenditure on scientific research and development is in the defence field. China may be able to undertake in the middle term, any task of military building. In the circumstances the supply of arms and military technology to a certain extent can help in acquiring control over defence production in that country. It would result in Chinas behaviour becoming more predictable from Russias perspective. 14 It is also argued that it would help Russia to create a security window in China.
Moreover, in the present extremely competitive arms market it is possible that someone else will legally or illegally supply those products and technologies, which Russia would refuse to supply. A. Mazin has come out with another interesting argument. He says that according to one hypothesis, there is a 110 or 120 years cycle of military-technology after which there is a paradigm shift in the military technology. If it is so, then already in the first third of the 21st century new techniques may replace the existing warfare techniques. Thus, it is likely that the weapons based on the physical annihilation of the opponent may be replaced by technologies aimed at psychological principles of defeating the enemy, rendering into disuse the computer network of the opponent through powerful electro-magnetic waves. In such a case the present composition of the armed forces of the leading powers of the world will hardly exercise influence on the world geopolitics after 2025-2030. In such a situation, Russia would not lose much but would only gain financially and in terms of exercising influence on Chinas military-political strategy by entering into the Chinese arms and military technology market. 15
Military-technical cooperation is also expected to boost bilateral economic cooperation and trade, which is estimated at a little over the 6 billion mark and remains much below the target of 20 billion dollars annually, set by the leaders of the two countries.
It is widely argued that the current technological level of the Chinese defence forces and equipment is at least two generations behind the advanced Western states and Russia. Therefore, the supply of Russian military equipment, while taking due care of protecting Russias own interests, would not pose any threat to Russias own security in the near future. It is pointed out that China has shown restraint in its military build-up. It has kept its nuclear-missile arsenal limited. A limited build-up and modernisation of the Chinese military potential keeping in view its legitimate security interests may not work against Russian interests. In fact, it could strengthen the spirit of constructive strategic interaction in both the countries. The two countries could engage in a broad and frank discussion of their respective military doctrines and military policy. 16
In a 1997 article in Far Eastern Affairs, Vassily Likhachev, Vice-Chairman of the Federation Council of Russias Federal Assembly, takes a more hard-headed and less romanticised view of Russias relations with China and comes out with a solution in keeping with undiluted realpolitik. He emphasises that the Chinese demographic factor on the Russian border is an objective factor and that China is the only country among Russias neighbours which possesses an appropriate military capability to pose a military threat to Russia. China is seeking to move the border northward. In view of the rising power of China and the declining power of Russia, the weaker strategic partner becomes the underdog. According to him, Russias objective interests would be served by trying to channel Chinas expansion towards Taiwan, Singapore and all of southeast Asia and in having a permanent US-China and Japan-China standoff, with Russia acting as a good neighbour or a third party taking the sweepstakes 17
Even while going in for military-technical cooperation with China, all the Russian policy-makers and analysts emphasise that Russia should maintain due caution in order to protect its own security interests. Thus, the highly placed officials of the Russian ministry of defence are reported to have expressed the view that in key defence sectors Russia is ahead of China at the most by 15 years. From this point of view the export of Russian armaments to China does not pose an immediate security threat to Russia itself. 18
In August 1998, Federal Law of the Russian Federation on Military-Technical Cooperation with Foreign States was adopted which laid down basic goals and principles governing such a cooperation. The document said that one of the main goals of Russia is to strengthen the military-political positions of the country in different regions of the world. One of the principles guiding such a cooperation is the priority of the interests of the Russian Federation and the inadmissibility of harming the defence capability and security of the Russian Federation in the process of military-technical cooperation. 19 Observing international commitments, avoiding disturbance of the existing regional balance of forces and maintaining the transparency of these relations have also been mentioned as some of the principles guiding Russias military-technical cooperation with foreign countries. 20
Chinas Conventional Military Capability Before the Delivery of Russian Arms
It is widely agreed that the Chinese military equipment was two generations behind those of the advanced countries before the delivery of sophisticated Russian hardware. The bulk of the Chinese hardware was based on the model of Soviet equipment of the fifties. Thus, Chinas large inventory of nearly 10,000 tanks was based on the Soviet T-54/55 series and was regarded to have become obsolete. The bulk of Chinas armoured personnel carriers corresponded to the standard of the 50s and the 60s and could not fulfil the requirements of modern warfare.
Before resuming military cooperation with Russia, PLA Air Force (PLAAF) had a fleet of 5000 obsolete combat aircraft. Most of them were based on the old Soviet designs such as MiG-19 and MiG-21 and Tu-4 bombers. The Chinese helicopters were also based on Soviet designs, the Mi-4 and Mi-8/17 series. 21 It has been pointed out that prior to acquiring more modern air defence system S-300 from Russia, Chinas air defence system was formed by more than 600 anti-aircraft missile complex Huntsi-2 at the base of which was the Soviet complex S-75 Volkhov made in the fifties. Despite attempts at partial modernisation, this air defence system has become clearly outdated and cannot face the enemy attack with modern radio-electronic means. In the beginning of 1990s, China developed a number of mobile air defence systems of medium and small radii of action analogous to Soviet RLS P-15, French complex Krotal and American Chaparel. They can be used for the defence of specific areas like the aerodromes or naval bases etc. However, they are believed to be lagging behind modern Western and Russian variants at least by one generation. Besides, China has not succeeded in developing its own military transport aircraft of the world class. This weakness of China was exposed during the 1979 China-Vietnam war. 22
It has been pointed out that until recently the Chinese navy (PLAN) had a large number of hulls that were not equipped with sophisticated sensors or weapons. 23 The Chinese naval strategy was largely defensive. It was based on the policy of building a powerful submarine fleet, light forces and shore-based missile-carrying aviation. However, in their war-fighting capability the Chinese submarines were behind the Russian submarines of Kilo class and similar Western submarines. 24 This trend is reported to have begun to change in the 1990s with high priority attached to the modernisation of the Chinese navy. It is believed that the objective of this programme is to move from a brown-water coastal navy to one that is capable of projecting power into the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. 25
The 1991 Gulf War caused a thoroughgoing revision of military doctrine of the PLA. The earlier doctrine was characterised by emphasis on man over weapons. The new doctrine places greater value on technology and fighting skills. 26
Following the demise of the Soviet Union, vast opportunities appeared to have opened up for China to modernise, plug pressing gaps in, and upgrade its defence-industrial base through the purchase of off-the-shelf systems from Russia as well as acquiring licence to produce them within the country at a relatively low cost.
Russia-China Military Transactions
Russia-China military-technical cooperation includes purchase of military equipment and its production under licence in China, technology transfer, exchange of visits by high-level defence officials of the two countries and training of Chinese defence personnel in Russia.
The first and most significant contract between Russia and China was regarding the supply of 26 Su-27 fighter aircrafts, including 2 Su-27UB trainer versions, which were delivered in the year 1992. 27 The Su-27 deal was concluded while the Soviet Union was still there. In keeping with the agreement, around 200 Chinese airmen began studying the management of Su-27 in the Krasnodar Aviation Institute in February 1992. 28 The Russian government announced in 1992 that it was selling Beijing $1.8 billion worth of Su-27, II-76 transport aircraft and other weapons for air defence purposes. 29
On December 18, 1992, Russia and China were reported to have signed an inter-governmental memorandum on military and technological cooperation outlining its guiding principles. 30
In 1992, the PLA became the first export customer to receive the Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile. 31 In 1992 China ordered from Russia 4 SA-10c/SA-s-300 PMU SAM systems, which were received between 1993-97. Between 1993-97, China also received 144 SA-10 Crumble/5V55R SAMs for the SA-10c/SA-300 PMU SAM system. In 1993 China received 1 II-28 Beagle from Russia. 32
In 1992-93, PLA received 3 complexes of S-300 air defence surface-to-air missile complexes. One was apparently deployed near Beijing; the other at Wuhu air base in Anhui province and the third was kept for training purposes.
Between 1992-96, China also received from Russia 6 Ilyushin-76 long range transport aircraftthe likes of which it did not possess earlier, as well as 4 Tu-22 Backfire bombers. China is reported to be getting the Russian and Israeli early warning systems fitted in IL-76 freighters that would convert them into AWACS. 33
As Chinas huge tank inventory was largely obsolete, in the year 1992 China decided to purchase about 50 T-72 tanks. It was also decided to buy 70 BMP-I armoured infantry fighting vehicles. The tanks were delivered at the end of 1993. In 1993, China was reported to have made a bulk order of 200 T-80U main battle tanks. The order was received in 1996. 34
Pavel Felgenhauer writes that in the year 1993 a closed exhibition-demonstration of Russian military technology took place in China about which the press was not informed at that time. Many types of latest weapon systems were exhibited, including air defence missile complex S-300 PMU-1 and others. The achievements of the Russian military industrial complex (MIC) made a good impression on the Chinese and important agreements followed for the delivery of those weapon systems to China that the PLA did not possess so far, above all diesel submarine of kilo class (project 877) and modern strategic air defence complex S-300 PMU-1 of longer operational range. 35
Several high-level military visits took place between Russia and China in 1993. In April 1993, the Commander of the PLA Navy, Zhang Lianshong visited Russia, and during his visit inspected Admiral Kuznetsov, the aircraft carrier of the Northern Fleet, and the shipyard that produces Severodvinsk nuclear submarines. In June 1993, Admiral Liu Huaqing, Vice-Chairman of the CMC again visited Moscow and discussed with the Russian leaders military-industrial cooperation and conversion of the defence industries to civilian use. 36 In the same year the two countries also reached an agreement about expanding cooperation in the field of conversion of the defence industry. 37 General S.P. Seleznev, Commander of the Leningrad Military Region, led a delegation to Beijing in May. In August of the same year three ships of the Russian Pacific Fleet visited Qingdao. It was the first visit by Russian ships to China since 1996. In November 1993, the Russian Minister of Defence, Gen. Pavel Grachev visited China and signed a five-year Agreement on Military Cooperation, which provided for consultations on ministerial and military regional levels and exchange of information and experience in the military field. 38
It appears that the Russian scholars and defence specialists were earnestly trying to study and analyse Chinas security requirements and gauge the possibility of Russia being able to fill the gaps. They were also trying to calculate the possible financial gains that such deliveries would bring to Russia without jeopardising Russias own long-term security and strategic interests. For instance, it was felt that if Russia could fulfil some genuine security requirements of China like the development of the latters rapid action forces, she could not only gain financially, but also win Chinese trust and acquire a degree of influence and control over the Chinese security set-up. 39
In 1993 1200 AT-II sniper anti-tank missiles were ordered and received in 1995 for use in T-80 U tanks.
It was reported in July 1994 that Chinas State Council approved an additional $5 billion worth of armaments import from Russia. The report also said that China was keen to purchase Su-30 MK and Su-35 fighters. It was subsequently reported that Russia was not prepared to sell more advanced Su-35, but was prepared to sell Su-27 and Su-30. 40
Earlier in the year Russia and China were reported to have signed a contract for the purchase by the latter of 100 Klimov RD-33 aircraft engines, which Russia used in its MiG-29 fighters. China hopes to use them for upgrading its export-oriented Super F-7 fighters. 41 This report is also confirmed by the Russian sources in the Russian language material. A. Mazin, for instance, writes about the prospect of the use of Russian aircraft engine RD-33 in the multi-purpose fighter plane FS-1, which is being jointly developed by China and Pakistan and whose entry into service, is expected by the year 2000. 42 The report is particularly significant as Russia has repeatedly assured India that it would not give military equipment to Pakistan. The above report suggests that the Russian technology can, thus, indirectly reach Pakistan via China.
In February 1994 the Mashzavod plant in Nizhny Novgorod signed a contract with the PLA Navy to supply three ship-borne 77-mm calibre automatic artillery systems. In March 1995 Chinese specialists were trained at Mashzavod plant to use these guns which were to be delivered by the end of the year. 43
In 1996 China received another 22 Su-27 Flanker B aircraft. 44
The Sino-Russian joint statement issued at the time of President Yeltsins visit to Beijing in April 1996 did make a special mention of their military-technical cooperation. The sides pledged to further friendly exchanges between their military forces at various levels and further strengthen their cooperation in military technology.
Soon after Yeltsins visit, a high-powered Chinese military delegation led by General Fu Quanyou, Chief of the General Staff of the PLA, visited Russia from May 1 to 8, 1996. The delegation made an extensive survey of Russian facilities in different parts of the country. 45
In 1996 Russia agreed to produce under licence in China 300 Su-27SK Flanker B fighter aircraft, including assembly from kits. Their Chinese designation is J-11. The first two were delivered in 1998-99. 46 Russia justified licensed production of the fighter aircraft in large numbers in China on the ground that it would allow Russia to have some control over the number of aircraft manufactured along with significant monetary benefits. It is feared that supply of military hardware in large numbers may in any case result in unauthorised production of that equipment even without licence. The case of Kalashnikov rifles and AK-47s is cited in this regard over the production of which Russia has lost control. Moreover, by giving the licence to produce a particular weapon system in large numbers Russia can create certain dependence in China on itself. For instance, it has been reported that China wants to buy an aircraft engine repair and maintenance facility for AL-31F engine used in Su-27 as well as Chinas F-10 fighter. But so far no agreement has been reached and the engine was sent back to Russia for repair. The Chinese military chiefs are said to be unhappy about this dependence. 47
Su-27s are being produced in Chinas Shenyang Aircraft Industry Group. Reports vary regarding the number of aircraft assembled from kits or manufactured in China so far. Janes Defence Weekly (February 24, 1999) has reported that the Shenyang Aircraft Industry Group has been struggling to cope with the advanced technology and industrial management methods needed to produce state-of-the-art fighters and that Chinas first two locally assembled Su-27 fighter aircraft made their first flights in December 1998. According to the report there are more than 100 Russian engineers at the Shenyang plant to ensure quality control. Six or seven Su-27s are planned to be assembled annually over the next three years. Their production is scheduled to increase to 15 aircraft annually from 2002.
Between 1995-97, Russia gave China 30 Mi-17 helicopters. In 1996-97, China was given approximately 144 AA-10 Alamo air-to-air missiles and approximately 96 AA-8 Aphid air-to-air missiles. In 1997-98, China was given 15 SA-15 SAM systems as well as approximately 255 SA-15 Gauntlet/9M330 missiles. Russia agreed to give 10 Kamov Ka-28 Helix helicopters between 1997-99. Two were delivered in 1997 and the rest were scheduled to be delivered by 1999. In 1998-99 China received from Russia/Ukraine technology for the DF-31/41 ICBMs, which were displayed for the fist time at the military parade in October 1999. 49
Although the Chinese shipyards are believed to be capable of producing ships of all classes, it has opted for purchasing naval equipment from Russia also to provide a qualitative boost to PLAN. In 1996 Russia-China military-technical cooperation significantly expanded. China ordered 2 Sovremenny class destroyers for the navy. This deal includes associated weapon and electronic fits, such as 4 SDS-N-7 Shtil missile systems and approximately 50 SS-N-22 Sunburn/P-80 anti-ship missiles, as well as 4 Sa-N-7 Shtil missile systems and approximately 132 SA-N-7 Gadly missiles. 50 The first destroyer was delivered to China in February 2000. And the second is scheduled to be delivered by the end of 2000.
In August 1997, a Chinese delegation visited Urals city of Yekaterinburg, to discuss military equipment purchases and upgradation programmes with the local defence industry. The officials at the Urals Optical-Mechanical plant in Yekaterinburg were quoted as saying that the Chinese delegation would be sold gyrostable electronic optical systems, which is intended for use on planes, helicopters and ships and ensures stable image under rolling conditions and in case of impact. 51
Between 2000 and 2005 Russia would deliver to China 60 Su-30MKK multi-purpose aircraft. The deal is likely to provide a very significant qualitative boost to the Chinese air force. The Sino-Russian Su-30 MKK deal is particularly significant because in 1996 India had ordered 40 Su-30s. Russia is upgrading them to Su-30 MKI according to Indian specifications with Indian, French and Israeli avionics. During Indian Defence Secretary Ajit Kumars visit to Moscow in November 1998, Russia had given an assurance that Su-30MK multi-role fighter aircraft would not be sold to China or any other country in Indias neighbourhood. China was reported to be interested in the aircraft. 52 However, subsequently Russia has decided to go ahead with the sale of similar aircraft to China, which is named Su-30MK and is being fitted with avionics according to the Chinese specifications. The delivery of the first Su-30 aircraft to China is expected in the year 2000. Russia is also slated to transfer technology to China for licensed production of 200 Su-30 MKK aircraft. The acquisition by China of an aircraft similar to the state-of-the-art aircraft in the Indian Air Force is bound to have security repercussions for India. In the year 2000, Russia will give to China Ka-31 AEW helicopters. Between 2000 to 2005, it would also give 4 SA-300 PMV Sam systems and missiles. 53
Transfer of Technology: China is particularly keen to avoid dependence on any one supplier for its defence needs. The memory of 1960 when the Soviet Union withdrew thousands of technicians and experts is fresh in its memory. Again in 1989, USA and other Western countries stopped military contacts with China in protest against the Tiananman Square events. No wonder, China is more keen to buy defence technology and production licenses from Russia rather than mere bulk purchase of weapons. The import of a large variety of modern weapon systems by China from Russia is, in fact, regarded by some observers as a reflection on the shortcomings and failures in Chinas own defence industrial base and its inability to satisfy Chinas requirements of frontline modern weapons. 54
It seems, as compared to the West, China has found Russia today to be a more willing partner in its pursuit of modern defence equipment and technology. Military technology transfers from Russia to China have increased along with exchanges of defence personnel and experts. Russia has also undertaken the training of the Chinese personnel in the use of equipment supplied by it.
Over 4000 Russian scientists and technicians are reported to be working in Chinas defence industry. They have been attracted to work in China, in view of the difficulties faced by Russias own defence industries after the Soviet fall. These scientists and technicians provide China access to Russian technology unofficially. China is also known to be trying to master foreign technology through reverse engineering. There have been stray reports of theft of Russian technology with the connivance of some Russian nationals in the Far East. According to one report, seven people including two Chinese and five Russians were sentenced to imprisonment for smuggling into China equipment from the military aircraft factory at Komsomolsk-na-Amure, which has been producing Su-27 aircrafts. The incident is seen as an act of industrial espionage. 55
Nuclear Technology, Power Plant, Submarines: Reports have also appeared regarding the supply of dual use technology from Russia to China. According to Pavel Felgenhauer, the officials of the Russian ministry of nuclear energy have admitted to the author about the supply of centrifugation technology for the enrichment of uranium. However, the concrete conditions of Russia-China uranium contract, says the author, continue to remain confidential at present. According to the author, the construction of centrifugal uranium enrichment plant could not but change the strategic potential of China. Earlier, the Chinese produced enriched uranium for nuclear reactors and weapon grade uranium through the significantly more expensive and uneconomical method based on the principle of gas defusing enrichment. Now China has acquired cheaper and more productive technology of enrichment of natural uranium through uranium-235-isotope. 56 Incidentally, the gas defusing technology was also believed to have been supplied to China by the former Soviet Union.
Russia is building two VVER-1000 nuclear power plants in China near the city of Lianyungang in the northeastern province of Jiangshu, now known as Tianwan nuclear power station. The construction on the first VVER-1000 unit began in October 1999. The second unit will follow one year later. The power generation is expected to commence by the year 2005 and 2006. 57 Russia is also participating in a joint venture to build a gas centrifuge uranium enrichment plant in Central China. Russias Minister for Atomic Energy Yevgeny Adamov during his four-day visit to Beijing in June 1998 soon after Indias Pokhran II tests, was quite outspoken on this issue when he remarked. We will build as many uranium enrichment plants in China as the Chinese want, in keeping with the interest of both sides and with the international agreements which we have signed, but, he added, Russia will build no such plant in India. He stressed that the centrifuges, which Russia is delivering to China, were designed to produce enriched uranium for nuclear power plants. He told ITAR-TASS that the Russian Ministry for Atomic Energy is engaged in rather extensive works in China, primarily linked with the construction of uranium enrichment plants, which are being built successfully and sometimes even ahead of schedule. He referred to competition offered by the US firms, but added that Russia is Chinas natural partner in this field. 58 Thus, the fact that both Russia and China belong to the privileged nuclear club of the P-5, various international treaties and rules regulating the transfer of nuclear technology drafted largely with the purpose of serving the interests of the exclusive group of P-5 or N-5 countries, do not come in the way of enhanced cooperation between Russia and China in this field as is the case between Russia and India.
In August 1999 Hong Kong press published reports of a deal regarding the sale of two typhoon-class nuclear-powered submarines valued at a billion dollars between Russia and China. The deal was reported to have been reached during the Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanovs visit to China and endorsed by President Yeltsin and President Jiang during their meeting in Bishkek on the occasion of the summit of Shanghai-5. According to the report, the nuclear-powered submarines capable of launching nuclear warheads are aimed at deterring the US Seventh Fleet from intervening in any cross straits clash between China and Taiwan. 59 The Russian Foreign Ministry spokesmen have denied the report as an absolute falsehood. However, the main arms exporting agency of Russia, Rosvooruchenie refused to comment on the subject. It spokesman told Interfax, we customarily do not comment on military-technical cooperation with China. 60
Veil of Secrecy: The Chinese seem to be more keen in contrast to the Russians, to maintain a veil of secrecy around their military deals with Russia. Izvestia (June 9, 1999), for instance, reported that the sources in Rosvooruzhenie say that the contracts for the delivery of special purpose equipment to Beijing traditionally include a complete confidentiality clause at the request of China.
Cooperation in Space Research and Technology; Common Stand on TMD and NMD: Russia and China have a cooperation programme in space research, including exchange of technology and training of personnel. The Western sources apprehend that under the guise of buying space launchers, the Chinese are enhancing the technological level of their strategic missile arsenal and that much of weapons related technologies, including intercontinental ballistic missile technology, flow from Russia to China outside official channels. 61
Russia and China have jointly opposed the US plan to revise the 1972 US-Soviet treaty and build a National Missile Defence (NMD) system. Russia regards 1972 ABM treaty as the cornerstone of maintaining the strategic stability in the world and is strongly opposed to its revision or violation by the USA. Russia and China are also opposing the US-Japan plan to build a Theatre Missile Defence system in East Asia. The TMD provides protection against small-scale nuclear attack. 62 Ostensibly, the proposed TMD system is directed against the North Korean missile threat, but China regards it as being directed against it and is vehemently opposed to the idea of including Taiwan in the proposed system. The security experts from foreign and defence ministries of China and Russia are reported to be meeting every two months to exchange information about the anti-missile system. The talks between the two began in late 1998 at Chinas request. 63 Recently, the Russian press has commented that if the USA persists in its decision to build a national anti-ballistic missile system in contravention of 1972 ABM treaty, Russia and China may cooperate in creating a joint strategic air defence system to counter US ABM programmes. 64 Izvestia (January 20, 2000) report entitled Moscow-Beijing: Friendship in the CosmosThe Militarymen of the Two Countries Prepare for Star Wars' is particularly sensational. According to Yuri Golotyuk, Russia has repeatedly warned that the US withdrawal from 1972 ABM treaty would be followed by certain asymmetrical measures. It seems that Russia would not take these measures alone, but China may also join them. In the course of the Moscow visit by the Defence Minister of China, Chi Haotian, Russian Vice-Premier Ilya Klebanov proposed to China to become a partner in joint utilisation of Russias navigational satellite system GLONASS. In the words of Golotyuk, it is already clear that the talk is not about the offer to China of the commercial conditions of the use of cosmic navigational system, but actually of the possibility of joint use of GLONASS in the interests of military establishments of the two countries. Similar US satellite navigational system NAVSTAR is also commercially selling its films. But there is a fundamental difference in their commercial and military use. For commercial use the space navigation system works with the exactness of images by several tens of metres, but for military purposes, the exactness is of several metres. The Russian proposal to China to become a full-fledged co-owner of GLONASS would allow it to have not only adapted for commercial purposes, but exact military information. Such information can be extremely useful in precision bombing of targets, manoeuvering of ships in coastal zones, including in carrying out landing operations in conditions of minefields, guiding rocket and artillery attacks, and movement of troops in land warfare. The terminator system working with GLONASS is mounted on the state-of-the-art Russian ballistic missiles Topol-M. It is proposed to attach all the other strategic nuclear weapons delivery vehicles with these systems. GLONASS also gives a possibility of making nuclear attacks on the objects of the adversary more effective, while controlling the situation on ones own territory. It is believed that in view of Russias aging missiles, that will have to be scrapped any way and its lack of resources to replace them with new missiles. Washington has less to fear from Russia than from a joint Russia-China missile defence system. 65 If these state-of-the-art technologies are passed on to China even partially, they would give a tremendous boost to Chinas war-fighting capability both in conventional and non-conventional warfare. This may be a cause of deep concern to all the neighbours of China, as well as to the West. Nonetheless, these are still conjectures and not concrete agreements concluded and acknowledged by the two sides. It is also possible that such reports are motivated and are aimed at warning the USA about the consequences of going ahead with the building of a National Defence System (NMD) in violation of 1972 ABM treaty. Another possible objective could be to strengthen its bargaining position in case of seeking a compromise agreement with the USA on partial revision of the 1972 ABM treaty. In this game that the great powers are playing, Russia and China have similar interests.
On November 21, 1999, China launched its first spacecraft. It demonstrated Chinas capability to launch a manned sapcecraft in future. Izvestia (November 22) noted that the design of the Chinese spacecraft was a near copy of the Russian Soyuz and that Wang Youzi, Chinas general designer of rockets and spacecraft, was a graduate from Moscow Aviation Institute in the 1960s. Wang Youzhi is quoted to have remarked that he was not provided with adequate funds to experiment with a new and different model. Moreover, the Russian model is tried and tested and performs perfectly well.
Chinas Thinking: Chinas emphasis has traditionally been on fostering self-reliance and avoiding dependence on outside sources for arms imports. However, in view of growing military-technical cooperation with Russia, which the Chinese find quite rewarding both in terms of comparative costs and technological upgradation of all branches of its armed forces, the Chinese thinking on this subject has thus crystalised: It is argued that as the technology of modern weapons and equipment is complicated, the cycle of its development is long and a large amount of funds is needed, importing advanced technology from abroad may be an effective way to learn from others strong points and to make up for the Chinese shortcomings, shorten the cycle of development of weapons and equipment and reduce expenses. At the same time, equal importance should also be attached to local development and manufacture of defence equipment. 66
The general tenor of the Chinese writing on Sino-Russian relations is to impress on the Russians the value of having good-neighbourly relations with China. It is emphasised that whenever in the past Moscow has had antagonistic ties with China, the former has suffered heavily. For instance, the Chinese writers claim that Moscow lost in the Cold War with the West because its relations with China were also simultaneously hostile.
Russia appears to be more interested in fostering closer military to military contact with the PLA and not mere military-technical cooperation. 67
Mode of Payment: Russia is broadly believed to be selling around one billion dollars worth of arms each to India and China annually. In some years the figure may be more and in the others, less.
The exact figures regarding the total value of the Russian military equipment given to China are not available, but certain broad estimates are there. Reports say that Russia has supplied around $6 billion worth of armaments to China between 1991 and 1997. 68 Leonid P. Moiseyev, Director, First Asian Desk (China) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, whom the author happened to meet in New Delhi on March 27, 2000, put the total cost of military equipment supplied by Russia to China at $7 billion so far.
Russians are keen that the payment is made in hard currency. But the Chinese insist on payment in kind or barter deals, at least partially. According to Sergounin and Subbotin, China usually pays in hard currency for only 20-30 per cent of contract value. The rest consists of payment made in the form of consumer goods. For example, Russia received hard currency payments to cover one-third of the value of the first Su-27 Flanker fighter aircraft. Sometimes Russia succeeds in signing more advantageous contracts, where the ratio of hard currency to barter is 50:50, for instance, in case of Kilo class submarines. 69 Y. Paniyev remarked in Delovoi Mir (July 1, 1997) that everybody remembers in Russia that the Chinese managed to buy 26 Su-27 jet fighters through sneakers and anoraks, a great deal of which have never been sold because of poor quality. Felgenhauer has particularly emphasised that Russia has given tanks, airplanes and uranium centrifuges away to China in return for tea, jogging shoes, vodka and other trifles. This is one of the causes of discord between the Chinese and the Russians. 70
The Projected $20 Billion Arms Deal from 2000 to 2004: The Hong Kong newspaper Tai Yang Pao (November 1, 1999) has reported on the basis of information given by an informed source following a high-level meeting of defence officials of Beijing in mid-October that in the coming five years from 2000 to 2004, Sino-Russian military cooperation may be further elevated and China may purchase from Russia or cooperate in producing high-tech naval and air weapons worth $20 billion. The comprehensive promotion of Sino-Russian military cooperation may include annual exchange of 8 to 12 military delegations of various services, joint military exercises, invitation to the other side to observe each others military exercises in order to improve each others military technology, setting up a mechanism of exchange of military intelligence as well as setting up of a mechanism for cooperation in the production of naval and air weapons. A breakthrough has been already made in this direction. For instance, in late September 1999, senior Russian and Chinese military officers went to northwest China to inspect the development of a high-speed airship and an airborne laser weapon. According to Tai Yang Pao, China will import 72 improved Su-30 fighter jets, five modern missile destroyers, eight improved Kilo-class submarines from Russia in the next five years. Also, parts of two nuclear-powered missile submarines to be launched by 2005 were imported from Russia. 71 If this report is correct, the coming five years would witness almost a four-fold increase in arms and technology sales from Russia to China. Leonid P. Moiseyev, the Director of the First Asia Desk of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs had denied the report of a $20 billion deal. As the events unfold in the course of the next few months it would be clear whether the report is correct or not.
It is also likely that in the present situation of flux in the world political equilibrium, China is playing the Russia cardeven as Russia is playing the China cardin its dealings with the West. It may be presumed that Russia is going to be governed in further extending its military-technical cooperation with China mainly by the twin considerations of immediate financial gains and ensuring its own security and geopolitical interests.
The Limiting Factors: The limiting factors in Russia-China military-technical cooperation is a) the Chinese desire for avoiding dependence on any single source, including Russia, b) Russias disinclination to accept low quality Chinese products at least as partial payments for the Russian military exports, c) possible lag in Russias own defence R&D owing to continued economic crisis and its inability to divert adequate resources to this sector.
Russian Exports Add to Chinas Military Muscle
In present-day Russia, China has found a cheap source of modern military hardware and related technologies, with the addition of which China hopes to make a big stride in reducing its technological lag in the defence field behind the developed countries of the world. Defence imports from Russia have helped China to acquire a capability that it did not possess earlier. According to Felgenhauer, in the summer of 1993 the deputy of the Chinese military attache in Moscow told him that earlier we (the Chinese) did not have the aircraft that could dominate the airspace above the waters of the South China Sea, and now we have. And it is very good. 72 It is widely commented in the media that Su-27s provided the Chinese air force (PLAAF) an instant qualitative boost. These aircraft have a longer flight radius of 2200 kms from their base, coupled with refueling facility in the air, they can undertake offensive and defensive tasks covering a very long range, although they are basically regarded as interceptors, Dr. John W. R. Taylor, the Emeritus Editor of Janes All the Worlds Aircraft, has remarked that few combat aircraft have acquired such awesome respect as the Sukhoi Su-27. He also notes that so far only China has been equipped with export of Su-27s. 73 And now China has also entered into a deal to purchase more superior Su-30 MKK from Russia. China has also acquired air defence system S-300 PMU, the like of which it did not have earlier. The range of S-300 PMU is 80 km. The long-range fighters coupled with the air defence systems acquired from Russia provide effective air defence to Chinas vast territory. The long-range fighters also add to the offensive capability of the country, which the neighbouring countries will have to take into account while dealing with China. This accretion to the capability of PLAAF is mainly seen by the media in the context of Chinese ambition to dominate the South China Sea and the Taiwan Straits. Enhancement in Chinas military capability is particularly important in the context of its dispute with neighbouring countries over oil rich Spratly and Paracel islands. Countries like the USA and Japan apprehend that any increase in the military capability of China would add to the cost for them to provide security to the countries of the region. Thus, the US defence secretary, William Cohen has remarked that the Chinese interest in buying Russian Sovremenny class destroyers lies in the fact that they are armed with Moskit anti-ship cruise missiles, which can successfully counter the US navy warships equipped with the latest Aegis target acquisition and fire control systems. With its growing economic and military might, China is emerging as a challenger to the USA. Its partnership with Russia strengthens Chinas position in the international arena and weakens that of the USA. 74
Significantly, the press and media in India have not raised much alarm at the increase in Chinese conventional military capability as a result of Russian arms exports. Russians themselves have justified their arms sales to both India and China, in the name of Sino-Indian confidence-building measures on the border.
Similarly acquisition of Russian kilo-class submarines which are a more advanced version of conventionally propelled submarines and are regarded by the NATO as black hole in the sea, greatly adds to the Chinese defensive as well as offensive capability. Su-27K is the naval version of the Su-27. They can be used on board an aircraft carrier. Russian sources suggest that China could consider buying them as well as the naval version of S-300. China has acquired from Russia two Sovremenny class destroyers and state-of-the art Moskit cruise missiles, which has aroused considerable concern in the Western as well as regional countries. The navies of Southeast Asian countries like Philippines and Malaysia are rather weak. China does not need expensive and modern naval equipment to counter them, but, in fact, to acquire blue water capability'.
All branches of Chinas conventional forces have gained from imports from Russia, including land forces through the accruing of T-80 tanks and armoured personnel carriers. As most of the Chinese equipment is based on the Soviet models of the fifties, Russia also hopes to gain financially by undertaking their modernisation programme.
Russian sources invariably add a note of caution that more modern technology should not be given to China. Russia should keep up its scientific and technological edge. It is significant that after supplying S-300 air defence system to China and other countries, Russia itself is seeking to develop and put into service more modern version S-400. 75
Mere acquisition of modern weapon systems by China may not lead to much. These weapons have to be duly integrated into the overall military system of China through adequate training and other related measures, which may take some time and considerable effort.
A. Mazin best expresses Russian thinking when he says that in the course of the next ten years Russia-China military-technical cooperation is likely to be stable. After that it would be governed by the geopolitical situation of the time. What seems to be governing Russian thinking is the calculation that for the next ten years or so Russia would be able to maintain its technological edge over China and military deliveries to China would not adversely affect Russias own security. In the meanwhile military exports would bring much-needed revenues needed for the upkeep and continuation of Russias MIC and R&D facilities. It would cement Sino-Russian ties, allow Russia to have a foothold in Chinas vital defence sector and thus promote mutual trust and confidence between the two countries. Friendly relations with China would provide much-needed peace and respite while it puts its own house in order. Above all, close Sino-Russian cooperation aimed at strategic partnership in the 21st century provides both the countries a bargaining chip to counter Western pressure.
NATO Bombing of Yugoslavia Brings Moscow and Beijing Together
China and Russia are both opposed to the domination of the world by the sole surviving superpower and are calling for the establishment of a multi-polar world. Being permanent members of the UN Security Council, they opposed unilateral action by the USA-led NATO in bombing Yugoslavia over the question of Kosovo autonomy without an UN mandate. India also opposed the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. China also stoutly supports Russia in opposing NATOs eastward extension. The NATO bombing of Yugoslavia is seen as laying a very dangerous precedent. The public opinion in Russia was greatly incensed over the bombing of Yugoslaviaa sister Slav country. It was seen as a direct blow to Russian interests in the region. Russia suspended its contacts with NATO, but abstained from military intervention on the side of Yugoslavia and sought to play a peacemakers role. The bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade aroused large-scale protest demonstrations in China.
Following the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, the pro-West forces in Russia suffered a serious debacle. Dmitri Trenin, the Deputy director of Moscow Carnegie Centre, which has a pro-West orientation, told me in Moscow in November 1999 that after the Yugoslav events, he does not hope that Russia would be able to join NATO for another fifty years. However, it is significant that just a few months later, in early March 2000, Russias Acting President and now the President Vladimir Putin, while replying to a question regarding the possibility of Russia joining NATO, shot back why not? Be that as it may, NATO bombing of Yugoslavia tended to bring Moscow and Beijing demonstratively together at the time. NATOs new strategic doctrine extending its area of responsibility beyond the territory of alliance partners further aroused concern among Russia, China as well as India.
A number of high-level meetings between the defence officials of the two countries took place in quick succession. In May the Director of the Russian General Staffs Main Intelligence Agency (GRU) Valentin Korabelnimov went to China, which was regarded as an unprecedented occurrence. In early June 1999 the Vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission of China, Zhang Wannian paid a ten-day visit to Moscow. Even if the visit was planned prior to the developments in Yugoslavia, it provided an opportunity to Russia and China to demonstrate their unity before the world and especially so in the military sphere. Both President Yeltsin and Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin received Zhang Wannian prominently. Yuri Golotyuk of Izvestia, thus, commented on the visit.
It seems Russia sends a thinly veiled message to the West: China and Russia are brothers forever again. And the military sphere is pivotal to their brotherhood.
NATOs military adventure in the Balkans, he said, has amply fueled the formation of a new eastern bloc in the full sense of the word. He referred to the idea of a Eurasian triangle of Russia, China and India. But further added:
And while doubts persist about Indias participation in itthere are too many mutual grievances in the relations between Beijing and Delhi and the timing is inopportune, for India is fully occupied with the conflict with Pakistanthe Moscow-Beijing axis is strengthening each passing day. 76
During Zhang Wannians visit, an agreement was signed to admit the Chinese defence servicemen to the educational institutions run by the Russian ministry of defence. The Russian media was particularly enthusiastic. Nezavisimaya gazeta, for instance, talked of adoption of common standards in the defence field between the two countries, which symbolises a military bloc between our countries. Some scholars, however, remain more sceptic. They believe that because of its economic compulsions, Chinas relations with Russia can at the best remain only those of a limited partnership'. 77 During my conversation with Professor Mikheev of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies in November 1999, he emphasised that for some time past the Chinese economy was not doing well. The Yuan is due for devaluation. China hopes to solve its economic problems with the help of the USA, which is one of the largest trade partners of China and enjoys a decisive say in the multilateral financial institutions. China, he said, would never allow Russia to play the China card against the USA, while it itself would like to play the Russia card in its dealings with the West. Nonetheless, the fact remains that during Gen. Zhang Wannians visit very important decisions were reported to have been taken for further expanding Russia-China military technical cooperation, including the decision of far-reaching importance of supplying China Su-30 MKK jet fighters. The agreement was signed in August 1999 at the time of Vice-Premier Ilya Klebanovs visit to China. It was also reported that the Russian side expressed its agreement in principle to allow the production of these aircraft in China under licence. During his China visit, Ilya Klebanov was reported to have said that the Russian delegation had taken to Beijing a number of very serious new proposals, including proposals for military-technical cooperation, The Russian press commented that China is becoming the most important market for Russian high-tech weapons. 78 On its part, China is also greatly in need of importing Russian hardware, as sharp reaction in the USA over the reports of alleged Chinese nuclear espionage from Los Alamos National Lab in the late 1980s is reported to be threatening planned military exchanges between the USA and China. 79 Although USA-China military exchanges have always remained rather limited, leaking out of reports of alleged nuclear espionage by China tend to further reduce their prospects.
Vice-Premier Ilya Klebanovs visit in August was followed by Defence Minister Igor Sergeyevs visit in October. While in China, Igor Sergeyev told his hosts that Russia intended to further reduce its troops in the three eastern provinces bordering on China.
In January 2000, the Chinese defence minister, Haotian visited Moscow, where the Acting President and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin also received him. Nezavisimaya Gazeta significantly remarked that given the current foreign policy situation, Russian-Chinese accords alone are being filled with real content to a greater extent than other similar accords. 80 China unequivocally supported Russia on the Chechnya issue, while Russia supports China on Taiwan. In response to the Western pressure on the Chechnyan issue, President Yeltsin deemed it important to visit China on December 9, 1999, and deliver a stern warning to the USA against seeking unilateral domination by reminding that Russia has a full range of nuclear weapons and that it would be we, meaning Russia and China, who would dictate to the world and not he (President Clinton) alone. President Yeltsins impromptu outburst in China was a reply to President Clintons warning that Russia would pay a heavy price for its war in Chechnya. However, it is significant that Vladimir Putin as the Russian Prime Minister at that time was quick to soft-pedal Yeltsins warning. He asserted that Russia has very good relations with the US and its leaders and that it was not correct to give an impression of a cooling in Russian-American relations. 81 Early moves of the new Russian President give an impression that he is seeking to re-open the window to the West. Pragmatism in contrast to sweeping declarations made by the former President Yeltsin, is regarded to be the hallmark of President Putins foreign policy.
Implications for India
The answer to this question lies in a realistic assessment of Indias current relations with China, future possibilities in the short, medium and long term, a hard-headed and incisive understanding of Indias own short, medium and long-term interests and objectives, various alternatives before the country, the compulsions and constraints of Russia, the overall Western strategy and designs and the broad regional and world political scenario. There is little doubt that an all-encompassing and comprehensive view should be taken of Indias security objectives. India needs to promote a non-threatening environment around itself in order to pursue higher rates of economic growth to be able to solve outstanding socio-economic problems in a pluralistic democratic set up.
China is also pursuing a policy of four modernisations; it has been registering significantly high growth rates. Its declared policy is to maintain peace all along its borders in order to concentrate on acquiring military and economic strength and maintaining peace and order in the country within its present system. The Chinese ruling elite would like to ensure that any systemic changeif at allis incremental, gradual and not to its disadvantage. Analysts apprehend that a significant increase in its economic and military might may lead to China throwing its weight around in its bid to seek an advantageous position and settlement of disputed issues in its favour. It may be presumed, however, that in the short and medium term, China may pursue a policy of peace. It would be in Indias interest to cultivate mutually advantageous, peaceful, good neighbourly relations with China but at the same time take due care to protect its vital national interests and strengthen its defence preparedness both in conventional and non-conventional spheres in order to deter China from any adventurous action against India. Accelerated rates of economic growth coupled with the strengthening of the democratic institutional framework would provide the basic sinews of overall national strength that would enable India to deal with other great powers, including China on equal terms.
Russia also has a similar interest in maintaining peace in order to ensure the countrys resurgence and revival. The three countries are of continental proportions encompassing a huge chunk of the worlds territory and population each with remarkable heterogeneity and diversity. Although India and Russia do not have contiguous borders, but both these countries share a long border with China. Russia has solved its complicated and long-standing border dispute with China with the exception of a few Ussuri river islands. Even with regard to these islands, it has signed maintenance of status-quo agreement with China pending their final settlement. The India-China border dispute is yet to be resolved. The absence of contiguous borders and any border dispute between Russia and India and the two countries respective geopolitical positions account for the fact that their basic geopolitical interests do not clash. The same cannot be said with equal degree of certainty regarding long-term prospects of both Sino-Indian and Sino-Russian relations. However, the fact remains that at present and in the near future, all these three countries need peace on their borders in order to be able to concentrate on their economic development.
The three countries also need to maintain their strategic autonomy and independence in general and more particularly so vis-à-vis the West (industrialised countries, including Japan, led by the USA) that has a predominant control over the investible surplus financial resources as well as the state-of-the-art technology. All these three countries are experiencing Western pressure to a varying extent, Russia because of NATOs eastward extension, on the Chechnyan issue and broader US designs on former Soviet republics, including the Central Asian and the Caspian Sea region; China is experiencing Western pressure on the human rights issue and India is experiencing ill-concealed Western propensity to try to get involved on the Kashmir issue and its relations with Pakistan as well as the Westernmainly the USattempts to limit, cap and, if possible, eliminate the countrys nuclear and missile programme. The countries belonging to the P-5 or N-5 club are keen to retain their monopoly over nuclear weapons and continue to further improve and upgrade their nuclear missile arsenals while putting pressure on India to restrain and ultimately shelve its nuclear-missile programme. On this issue at least the Western countries, Russia and China share a common platform. It is important for Indian diplomacy to ensure that the country is not isolated on this issue and a joint pressure on her is not exerted by the P-5 in unison.
The equations between Russia, China and the West have always influenced the nature of world political order in a significant way. In present day corelation of forces, Russia and China are coming together to counter Western pressure. But for both of them the West remains the major trading and economic partner. They are both seeking integration with the global economy where the West occupies a predominant position. The same may be said about India also. India is emerging as the fourth important player. It appears that it would be in Indias interest if a polycentric balance of power takes shape and mutually exclusive alliances do not form in the region. In such a situation India can acquire maximum leeway to manoeuvre and exercise deft diplomatic savoir-faire in protection and promotion of its vital national and security interests.
China traverses on Indias security interests by providing covert assistance to Pakistan in the sensitive nuclear and missile field in the hope of keeping India locked up in a stand-off with Pakistan and remain confined to South Asia. At the same time, India and China as two large and ancient countries with huge populations, have realised the importance of maintaining peace and tranquility and adopting confidence-building measures on their border. However, a relationship of mutual trust and lasting peace and cooperation is possible if Indias security concerns as well as legitimate interests and aspirations are also given due recognition along with those of China.
As a major supplier of military hardware to both India and China, Russia has a vested interest at present in promoting the triangular cooperative relationship. Such a triangle can also work as an effective counterweight to the Western dominance of the world. There is no doubt that India, Russia and China have a common interest in building a multi-polar world, in strengthening the norms of international law, promoting respect for national sovereignty, opposing unilateral actions by the only military-political bloc NATO without the UN mandate. In strengthening the role and authority of the UNO also the three countries have a common interest. However, the fact remains that certain legitimate aspirations of India have not been fulfilled. Russia certainly supports Indias demand to be granted permanent membership in a reformed and enlarged Security Council that would fully reflect the realities of the present day world. It is not clear whether China would also support Indias case for permanent membership of the Security Council. It is also not clear whether in the Chinese scheme of a multi-polar world, India is accorded due place as one of the poles. India can set these objectives in its diplomatic engagements with China, while at the same time seeking to acquire multiple leverages vis-à-vis China by developing cooperative ties with the countries all along the Chinese borders as well as the West. Simultaneous constructive engagement as well as due balancing of China may best serve Indian interests.
India cannot adopt an ostrich-like position and not take note of the weapons systems provided by Russia to China and their contribution to the growth of Chinas military capability. An addition in Chinas military capability in conditions of continued boundary dispute, its known ambitions and activities in the Indian Ocean region and other neighbouring areas do tend to have implications for Indias security and larger geopolitical interests. The fact cannot be ignored that from the beginning of the sixties to late eighties for nearly two decades, Moscow did not supply military equipment to China. During this period, the former Soviet Union was the single largest source of sophisticated military hardware to India so much so that 60 to 70 per cent of Indian military equipment is of Soviet origin. The table provided by Ian Anthony in a SIPRI book entitled Russia and the Arms Trade is significant. Thus, between 1982-86, Iraq ranked first as a recipient of the Soviet weapons while Syria and India ranked second and third respectively. During the years 1987-91, India ranked first followed by Afghanistan and Iraq. Significantly, in 1992-96, China ranked first followed by India and Hungary (appendix I). India and China have become the two largest importers of Russian hardware since the Soviet fall. In some years China has imported more, while in the others, India has imported more. Thus, in the year 92, 93 and 96 Chinas share was more than that of India, while in 94 and 95 Indias share was more appendix II).
Table I. Recipients of Soviet/Russian Weaponry
From the book Ian Anthony (ed), Russia and the Arms Trade, SIPRI, OUP 1998, p. 30.
There is a need to take into view objective facts and reality so that surprises are not inflicted on us, when the time of reckoning comes. India had a certain qualitative edge over China in the conventional weapons till the resumption of the Russian weapons supplies to China despite the latters numerical superiority. However, now China is modernising and upgrading its conventional forces with the help of the very same Russian weapon systems that are the mainstay of Indian defence forces. A general impression is given to the Indian interlocutors by the Russian side that India is given more modern aircraft, tanks and other weapon systems as compared to China as India does not even remotely figure in Russian threat perceptions. But of late there is clear tendency to give similaror in some cases even more advancedweapon systems to China along with the rights for their production under licence in large numbers. India has ordered for the purchase of 40 Su-30s in 1996, a more advanced multi-purpose jet fighter than Su-27basically an interceptorthat were given to China earlier and subsequently China was also sold the right to produce 200 such aircraft under licence. India has financed the R&D cost of upgrading Su-30s into Su-30 MKI according to Indian specifications. Significantly, in August 1999 a deal was signed by Russia with China to sell Su-30 MKK according to Chinese specifications. There have also been reports that China may be given licence rights to produce the aircraft in larger numbers. The same defence enterprise the Sukhoi Bureau seems to be producing the aircraft according to respective specifications of the two countries. It may be kept in view that India financed the R&D cost for the upgradation of the Su-30s the benefits of which may be shared by China also. The same Kilo class submarines of project 877 are being supplied to both India and China. In fact, China has taken the delivery of two submarines of more advanced version known as project 636. China is the first country to get these submarines. 82 China is also the first country to receive from Russia Moskit cruise missiles to be deployed on Sovremenny class destroyers received from Russia. China has taken possession of S-300 and more advanced S-300 PMU air defence systems from Russia, which India is contemplating to buy.
It should also be noted that in Russian foreign policy formulations China is mentioned before India. Because of global geopolitical compulsions, Russia is placed in a situation when it must necessarily balance between the West and China, both of whom retain a priority position in Russian calculations. India as a friendly power that is emerging as a significant player is important but comes next to the West and China.
Russias R&D establishments and design bureaus have developed many new weapons that cannot be put into serial production because of paucity of funds. The report of Russias Mikoyan-Gurevich design bureau experts having designed a fifth generation multi-role fighter (MLF) plane with stealth requirements is particularly significant. The plane is reported to be a match for Americas latest F-22 Raptor. However, owing to economic difficulties, it is not possible to produce the plane on a large scale for the Russian air force. China is reported to have proposed joint development of the plane and subsequent delivery of such fighters to China. 83 Reports like these are a pointer to the likely future course that cannot but arouse security concern among Chinas neighbours, including India.
India cannot also afford to ignore certain other discomforting reports regarding the re-export of Russian conventional arms and technology through China or other former Soviet republics to Pakistan, despite repeated and categorical Russian assurance to India that it would not sell military equipment to Pakistan. It has been mentioned above that Russian engine RD-33 may be used in multi-purpose fighter plane FS-I, which is being jointly developed by China and Pakistan. A report published in Yaderny Kontrol (Nuclear Control) published by PIR Centre, Moscow entitled Re-Export of Russian Conventional Arms May Intensify, says that although political interests and bilateral commitments impede Moscow to sell arms to Pakistan, Taiwan and Iran, but in view of decreasing contracts and increasing competition in the world arms market, Russian defence industry may resort to re-export of arms to the above-mentioned through third countries. According to the report in the Ukraine-Pakistan tank deal (320 T-80 UD tanks), $150 million out of $650 million went to Russian enterprises under inter-firm cooperation agreement. Russia got another bonus from the deal as the acquisition of T-80 UD tanks in large numbers by Pakistan forced India to order for more modern T-90 tanks from Russia. The report further adds that as the French fighter planes are too expensive and the Chinese planes of low qualitythe two alternatives available to Pakistan, it is possible that Pakistan buys Su-27s or MiG-29s from Ukraine or Belarus. They, in turn, may replenish their inventory of fighter planes by importing them from Russia. 84 PIR Centre is partly funded by a Russian joint stock company Tekhsnabeexport and partly by foreign funding, largely Western. Its reports need to be taken with a pinch of salt. Nevertheless, the whole issue needs further careful investigation.
While expanding military-technical cooperation with China, Russia does not want to lose India as the other major customer of its military hardware. India and Russia have a long term programme of military-technical cooperation upto the year 2010. By becoming the single largest source of sophisticated military equipment to both India and China, Russia has presented India with a fait accompli, which is not easy to ignore, change or accept. With the bulk of Indian defence equipment being of Soviet/Russian origin, it is not easy to bring about a sudden and radical change in the countrys weapons procurement policy. It is significant that writing in Rossiskaya Gazeta, Vsevolod Ovchinnikov remarked that Moscow-Beijing-New Delhi triangle may still be a geopolitical goal for the diplomats, but it is already a fact of life for the participants in military-technical cooperation. 85
As India and China are receiving arms from the same sourceRussiait may have several implications:
a) It may promote greater transparency and confidence among the concerned countriesRussia, India and China.
b) It may lead to competitive purchasing of military equipment by the recipient countries that may go to the advantage of the supplier.
c) India and China may seek to develop self-reliance and diversify sources of arms purchase to avoid dependence on a single source. Considering all factors, they may succeed only partially in this in the near future.
In the circumstances, India seems to have no other option but to try to achieve greater self-reliance, diversify sources of weapons purchases and avoid overwhelming reliance on any single source. At the same time it would be in Indian interests to ensure that Russia is not pushed into an even closer embrace with China in the military-technical field due to the formers financial compulsions in case of being edged out of the Indian arms market. There is a need to put every arms deal of Russia with China and India to a very careful scrutiny by both technical and strategic experts and study the likely impact on Indias security. A more proactive diplomacy may be required to collate Indian and Russian interests and compulsions and seek a mutually agreeable solution. A mechanism may be evolved to ensure that Russian arms deliveries to the third countriesabove all Chinado not endanger Indian security. It would be in keeping with the provisions of the Indo-Russian Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation signed in January 1993. India can prevail on Russia to ensure that Russian weapons and technologies are not passed on to Pakistan by China. At the same time it should be kept in view that Russia can still be a valuable source of defence equipment and advanced technology for India that may not be easily available elsewhere.
The West would do everything to put a spanner in the wheels of the emergence of a triangulareven if partialrelationship between India, Russia and China, although it is claimed that the triangle would not be directed against the West. While relations with the West are extremely important for each of these three countries, India, Russia and China also have a common interest in strengthening peace and stability in this region. They also have a common interestalong with the rest of the worldin countering the growing menace of cross-border terrorism and Islamic extremism and militancy in the region. What is of particular importance from the point of view of India is that within the triangularalthough not exclusiveframework Indias interests are determinedly protected and promoted by activating the countrys potential, policy options and multiple leverages available to her. This involves first of all, peace, stability and confidence-building measures on the borders leading to settlement of long-standing border dispute in keeping with Indias national interests. To begin with, India, which shares a long border with China may be invited as an observer in the meetings of the Shanghai Five (Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) that have settled their long standing border dispute and are trying to promote peace and tranquility on their common border.
Major nations of the world are pursuing a policy of hardheaded realism and determined pursuit of their perceived national interests. Goodwill and friendship help to create the necessary atmosphere in which nations can seek to collate mutual interests. But euphoria generated by them should not be allowed to obfuscate a hardheaded pursuit of national interests.
In the era of globalisation inter-dependence of nations, removal of barriers by information technology, exclusive relationships are no longer possible. However, power politics on the world chessboard and scramble for resources and advantageous positions continue. None of the three major Eurasian countries should keep their eggs in one basket as the saying goes. Indias interests lie in securing maximum leeway to manoeuver in the emerging situation with a view to avoiding isolation as well seeking the realisation of its legitimate interests and rightful place in world politics.
Note 2: Alexander A. Sergounin and Sergei V. Subbotin (Professor and assistant Professor of Political Science respectively at the University of Nizhny Novgorod), Sino-Russian Military Cooperation: Russian Perspective, Spotlight on Regional Affairs, (Islamabad: Institute of Regional Studies, vol. XVI, no. 10 & 11, October-November 1997), p. 19. Back.
Note 3: Alexander A. Sergounin and Sergey V. Subbotin, Sino-Russian Military-Technical Cooperation: A Russian View, in the book (ed.) Ian Anthony, Russia and the Arms Trade, SIPRI (Oxford University Press, 1998) p. 208. Back.
Note 4: Vasily V. Mikheev, Russian-Chinese Strategic Cooperation: Scenarios, Perspectives and Consequences for Global and Asian Security, The Korean Journal of Defence Analysis, vol. IX, no. 2, winter 1997, p. 166. Back.
Note 9: Pavel Felgenhauer, Oruzhie dlya Kitaya I natsionalnaya bezopasnost Rossi, in the book eds. A.T. Pierre and Dmitri Trenin, Rossiya v mirovoi torgovle oruzhiem: strategiya, politika, ekonomika, (Moscow: Moscow Carnegie Centre, 1996) pp. 123-125. Back.
Note 18: Sherman W. Garnett, Ogranichnoe partnerstvo, Rossisko-Kitaiskie otnosheniya v izmenyayusheisya Azii (Otchet gruppy po izucheniyu Rossisko-Kitaiskikh otnoshenii) (Moscow: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1999) p. 27. Back.
Note 33: Swaran Singh, op. cit., p. 197, Yuri V. Tsyganov, Russia and China: What is in the Pipeline? in the book (ed.) Gennady Chufrin, Russia and Asia, The Emerging Security Agenda (SIPRI, OUP, 1999) pp. 311-312. Back.
Note 56: Felgenhauer, op. cit., p. 130. According to the author, Russia-Iran agreement to build centrifugation plant for the enrichment of uranium is based on similar conditions as concluded by the Russian organisations with the firms of the third countries. When the author asked the special assistant of the Russian minister of nuclear energy, Valery Bogdan as to which third countries are kept in view, he replied China. Back.
Note 65: Yuri Golotyuk, Moskva-Pekin: Druzhba v Kosmosevoennie dvukh stran gotovyat k zvezdnym voinam, Izvestia, January 20, 2000. Translated by the author. Also, Strategic Digest, March 2000, p. 328. Back.
Note 71: SWB, FE/3681 G/3, November 2, 1999. According to the report the plan for a comprehensive elevation of Sino-Russian military-technical cooperation was discussed at a high level defence meeting in mid-October 1999 involving PLA General Staff Headquarters, the General Logistics Department, the General Armaments Department, and the State Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence. Back.