India's Evolving Border Security Strategy : Daily News Analysis

Date : 23/09/2023

Relevance: GS Paper3 - Internal Security - Boarder Security Management

Keywords: Salami Strategy, Tibet Autonomous Region, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor


Over the past decade, India has faced increasing challenges related to Chinese aggression along its northern and northeastern borders. It discusses how a prolonged period of apparent peace allowed China to enhance its border infrastructure, changing the security landscape. Despite ongoing talks, there is no immediate resolution in sight, making it crucial for India to maintain peace on the border while continuing engagement with China.

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Changing Dynamics of Border Security

  • Escalation of Chinese Aggression: China's continuous non-normative behavior and "salami slicing" strategy, exploiting gaps between negotiations, have created new challenges. China's development of border defense villages, military-controlled civilian settlements across Uttarakhand, Eastern Ladakh, and the North-East regions near the Sikkim and Arunachal borders, and its demands for broader buffer zones in the Depsang Plains deny India patrolling rights highlights its efforts to establish new norms in the region.

What is the Salami Strategy?

  • Salami strategy refers to the practice of achieving a significant action or outcome by breaking it down into numerous small, often imperceptible actions, making it difficult or unlawful to execute the larger action all at once.
  • Salami slicing is a strategy coined by Mátyás Rákosi during the 1940s, involving dividing and conquering to acquire new territories and overcome opposition. China has been employing this tactic post-World War II, expanding both territorially and maritally, including actions like acquiring Tibet, capturing Aksai Chin, and annexing the Paracel Islands.
  • India's Response: India's stance seeks to restore the status quo and maintain patrolling rights, but the complexities of the border issue and trust deficit suggest that negotiations will continue. The challenge lies in balancing the need for diplomacy with maintaining a robust military posture.

Strategic Consequences

  • Peace and Preparedness: India's prolonged peace on the border allowed both nations to strengthen their positions. China expanded its communication networks, permanent infrastructure, and military capabilities. The recent massive deployment of Indian forces signifies a robust posture in response to China's destabilizing actions.
  • Logistical Challenges: However, maintaining this level of alertness and troop deployment in high-altitude regions presents logistical and acclimatization challenges. This includes airlifting troops, tanks, artillery, combat equipment, and vehicles, which require meticulous planning and infrastructure development.

The Need for a Comprehensive Approach

  • Diplomacy and Military Response: While diplomatic and military talks are essential, they may not suffice to resolve the border issue comprehensively. A firm military response and robust diplomacy have historically been effective in dealing with China, the common thread that runs between the face-offs of the past in Nathu La and Sumdorong Chu, to the more relatively recent Doklam and Galwan. However, the ongoing standoff differs from previous incidents due to a hardening of positions on both sides, impacting various facets of the relationship.
  • Complexities of the Border Issue: India's prolonged peace on the border allowed both nations to strengthen their positions. China expanded its communication networks, permanent infrastructure, and military capabilities. The recent massive deployment of Indian forces signifies a robust posture in response to China's destabilizing actions.

China's Strategic Shift

  • Global Image and Ambitions: China's global image and its reluctance to enhance India's status on the international stage have complicated negotiations. Xi’s marked absence in the G20 Summit, possibly with the intention of undermining a New Delhi-led consensus, has demonstrably failed. While the summit has gone to underscore India’s position as a serious regional and world player.
  • Strengthening Military capability near Boarder: The latest geo-intelligence imagery of the underground military infrastructure and subterranean facilities by China close to Depsang in East Ladakh, underscores the air threat perception in the sensitive region, as much as it reveals their future military perceptions. It is making every effort that any asymmetric military advantage in India’s favor is mitigated, if not neutralized. For a long time, military development in the Tibet Autonomous Region was a low priority with Taiwan being China’s primary security concern. The recent transfer of PLA Navy aviation assets to the PLAAF emphasizes the significance of land-based air power in China's regional strategy. China's efforts to create "new normals" on the border, coupled with a growing military presence in Tibet, demonstrate its long-term ambitions.
  • Escalation Scenarios: The outcome of any future conflict with China could escalate beyond a localized skirmish, affecting India's military deterrence posture and international standing. This underscores the need for a comprehensive national security strategy.

A Holistic National Security Strategy

  • Involvement of All Elements of Power: To address these challenges, India needs to develop a comprehensive national security strategy for its continental threat. This strategy should involve the Army, Air Force, Navy, and other elements of national power to strengthen conventional deterrence.
  • Focus on Conventional Deterrence: The historical omission of air power in the 1962 war with China necessitates the recent inclusion of air power in India's continental threat strategy. This joint approach leverages all elements of India's military power, emphasizing the need for multi-domain joint exercises. But it will not be enough, but it must be further reinforced. China's growing capabilities require India to focus on filling inventory gaps, improving technology, and addressing the military capability differential.
  • India's global leadership in BRICS reflects confidence. To secure its position, it should adopt a comprehensive security strategy with clear red lines. Leveraging territorial issues, including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, even the sovereignty of Tibet, its one-China policy with respect to Taiwan, and domination of the SCS, is crucial as more nations turn to India for leadership against China. New Delhi's shift from domain-specific strategies to a holistic approach is encouraging.

Balancing Priorities

  • Balancing Economic Growth and Security: India's commitment to economic growth and development is commendable, but it should not come at the expense of military strength. Economic growth alone cannot mitigate security threats.
  • Budgetary Reallocation: Delaying the strengthening of India's military capabilities will make it more challenging and costly in the future. China's budget, officially over three times that of India has serious implications. The technology gap and inventory disparities pose a risk to India's conventional deterrence as China advances toward its military objectives, further widening the capability gap. China's relentless pursuit of military modernization and its significant budget advantage necessitate a reevaluation of India's defense budget.
  • Maritime and Continental Security: India's maritime security and continental security present distinct challenges. While maritime security allows for regional cooperation, continental security requires immediate attention.
  • Enhancing Conventional Deterrence: To deter the continental threat, India must enhance its conventional deterrence through joint multi-domain approaches, which include leveraging its air power capabilities.


India's evolving border security strategy must adapt to the changing dynamics of its northern and northeastern borders. A comprehensive national security strategy that prioritizes conventional deterrence, strengthens the military and balances economic growth is essential. As India rises on the global stage, maintaining a robust defense posture remains imperative, especially given its strategic position in a region marked by shifting geopolitical dynamics and contested borders.

Probable Questions for UPSC mains Exam-

  1. How does China's "salami slicing" strategy impact India's border security, and what are the key challenges it poses for maintaining peace and security along the border? (10 Marks,150Words)
  2. What are the strategic implications of China's growing military capabilities and infrastructure developments in Tibet for India's national security, and how should India's defense strategy evolve in response to these challenges? (15 Marks, 250Words)

Source- The Hindu