Rohan Mukherjee and Anthony Yakazi have said that India has “an interest in countering China’s rise without provoking conflict or any form of escalation.” but, in spite of perceptions, India has challenged the notion that increasing a country's military power is an automatic cause to wage war.
India: Economic and Military Power
India has become an economic power through contributing factors that increased her incredible wealth and geopolitical weight [Source]: economic reforms, the obliteration of the License Raj (regulation of the private sector, between 1947-1990, where investors needed the approval of several agencies in order to set up a business legally), innovation and opening of her market to foreign direct investment.
In defence terms, until recently, India had been mainly focused on Pakistan; however, in the past six years or so, India's focus has shifted to meet the increasing challenges posed by China's rising military capabilities in Tibet [Source]. Therefore, India has also sought to increase her military might by:
- Purchasing 22 Boeing AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and 15 CH-47F Chinook helicopters (to re-supply and reinforce her forces on the Pakistani and Chinese borders); cooperating with the US to design of and build unmanned aerial vehicles, big-data systems, 127 mm naval guns and multi-role helicopters for the Indian Navy and top-end new platforms (e.g. the Boeing P-8I Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft)[Source]
- Short-listing 128 Dassault’s Rafale fighters (France)[idem].
- Purchasing Israeli advanced sensors - radars of various types (to counter the infiltration levels from hostile neighbour Pakistan), air combat manoeuvring systems, Dvora MK-2 patrol boats for the Indian Navy; arms, including ordnance, laser-guided bombs; Spyder missile systems armed with Python and Derby missiles; developing and procuring Barak 8 medium-range surface-to-air missiles [Source]; 15 Heron drones and “262 Israeli-made Barak 1 surface-to-air missiles, in a $144 million deal that will arm India's 14 battleships over the course of five years.” plus acquiring Iron Dome systems [Source]
India, the Challenger?
The expansion of India's military power accompanies an expansion in responsibilities: by acquiring weapons from the US (with whom India shares values of democracy and freedom), she is forming an alliance of sorts with America (even though she avoids being used by the US as a pawn against American challengers) while at the same time positioning herself as a challenger to a powerful neighbour. Furthermore, the acquisition of western arms places India in a better position to build alliances with Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines – themselves aligned with the US and also experiencing tensions with China, due to territorial disputes.
India is a rising naval power since she seeks to reinforce her position in the Indian Ocean Region; however, this doesn't necessary mean that this country seeks to take over the role of powers like the US, China and Japan in intervening with military assistance:
"Because of the philosophical constraints that we impose on ourselves, we don't see ourselves as a replacement for any other power. We certainly don't believe that the presence of any other power, such as China or Japan, or what have you, would necessarily contribute to the security of the region." [Source]
This is a very wise policy because while India is challenging a power (China), it is also avoiding to blatantly pose a direct threat and destabilise her region's (plus the international) order; although we can't be sure that she will be able to sustain such position for much longer, since her characteristics (e.g. democracy, very young population, freedom and combat against corruption) place her in a much better standing than China, promising thus a better future power of influence in the region. Nevertheless, not even that possibility would cause China, as a challenged power, to attack India because of the boomerang effect – i.e. both China and India maintain strong economic ties, therefore warring India to prevent her rise would endanger China's own position.
Indian Military Power: a Security Dilemma?
India is faced with tensions on two borders (Pakistan [over the Jammu-Kashmir state] and China [over Aksai Chin, a territory in the Jammu-Kashmir state; and Tawang, a district in the Arunachal Pradesh state]) and therefore it has increased its defence capabilities; however, this move does not seem to make her neighbours feel less secure to the point of carrying a full-scale offensive military campaign against India, inasmuch as her military purchases have been cleverly mixed: both defensive (e.g. patrol boats, UAVs, Missile Defence Systems) and offensive weapons (e.g. attack helicopters, fighter jets and missiles) that only slightly decrease her neighbours' security to a comfortable level.
It can be argued that given India's border realities, she realises the advantages of a defensive posture while, at the same time, adopting an offensive posture (undistinguishable from the defensive one), which despite posing a security dilemma to her neighbours, doesn't constitute a motivation for war since their security requirements may be compatible (i.e. the second of the Four Worlds explained by Robert Jervis [in Cooperation under the Security Dilemma]).
It is said that power transitions usually generate instability; however, interestingly enough, the rise of India has not generated much of an instability neither in the region nor in the international system; au contraire: by challenging China's hegemony (whose expansion in economic and military power has been perceived as a threat to the US and the rest of Asia), India is balancing things out and helping the US to keep the stability in the Asia-Pacific region.
War has been avoided because there are no conditions for it to occur. If we think of Organski's conditions for war [in Declining Power and the Preventive Motivation for War], then we will have to conclude that the rise of India's power could never produce war for, as a challenger, her military rise has not been rapid (it started 20 years ago and her expansion is planned to continue over the next 5 years); US' policies are not inflexible (neither are China's); India is endeavouring to normalise her relations with Pakistan; there is a tradition of friendship with China; and, as previously explained, she does not seek to replace "the existing order with a competitive order"[idem] of her own. Therefore, India's rise supports Jack Levy's argument that “power shifts are neither necessary nor a sufficient condition of war”[idem]
In this case, a hegemonic war has been avoided because the witnessed power transition was not translated into warfare. European nations, and many others, could clearly learn a lot from India's experience and stance.