Neck-Deep In Crisis, India Badly Needs S-400 Missiles As Border Conflict Lingers With China?

As India, China border conflict refuses to die down while New Delhi is engulfed with the Covid-19 pandemic, US experts believe that India urgently needs an effective air defense system, probably the Russian S-400s, to counter China at the contentious border.

The EurAsian Times has recently reported that the Chinese PLA Army and Air Force have for the first time set up a combined air defense system somewhere close to the Ladakh border.

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In February, the militaries of India and China had agreed to disengage from the Pangong Tso area in eastern Ladakh and continue their discussion to ease tensions at other friction points as well.

Despite serious negotiations, the Chinese side continues to deploy advanced weaponry near the Line of Actual Control, the de facto Himalayan border that divides the two countries.

Earlier, there were reports on China’s deployment of HQ-9 and HQ-22 long/medium-range surface-to-air missile systems in eastern Ladakh, that might pose a serious threat to the Indian military and civilian aircraft flying near the region.

So far, the deployment of the Indian air defense systems remains unclear. Still, one could speculate that India may have positioned either Igla-S short-range man-portable air-defense system (MANPADS) or Barak-8 based LRSAM system.

However, these aren’t even close to the long-range HQ-9 SAM system, which can reportedly engage targets more than 250 kilometers away.

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Even after the February disengagement at Pangong Tso lake, the Chinese PLA was hesitant to pull back from Gogra and Depsang.

China Blames India For Border Conflict

Earlier, the Chinese defense ministry said on Thursday that Beijing is not responsible for the border conflict with India and even urged New Delhi against teaming up with foreign powers.

India has consistently rejected China’s efforts to blame India for the border conflict saying PLA troops were the first to illegally trespass across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in May last year.

The Chinese foreign and defense ministries, however, have continued to blame the Indian Army for crossing the LAC. “Regarding the situations in the western section of the China-India boundary, China has explained the ins and outs in detail, and the responsibility does not lie with China,” Senior Colonel Wu Qian, Chinese defense ministry spokesperson said.

India-China Lock Horns

Also, the deployment of fifth-generation J-20 fighter jets was reported by Forbes, which cited satellite imagery to claim that the PLAAF stealth jets have been deployed near the India-China border.

To counter this, the Indian Armed Force deployed the BrahMos and Nirbhay cruise missiles, and fast-tracked the induction of Rafale jets, along with Su-30MKIs and MiG-29UPGs.

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According to US Magazine National Interest, the Russian-made S-400 air defense systems can complement the existing weaponry to ensure full protection from all types of threats. A team of the Indian Air Force is already in Moscow to undergo training on the systems.

The S-400 would be able to plug a major capability gap in the Indian armed forces for the requirement of a long-range air defense system, more capable than the HQ-9. Nevertheless, the S-400 itself has had its share of criticism for not being able to stop Israeli air attacks in Syria.

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While the reasons for this are still being speculated, Siemon Wezeman of Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said it “is among the most advanced air defense systems available.”

Even a single S-400 unit deployed near India’s western borders would be able to cover approximately most of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) forward bases and be able to pick up targets as soon as the Pakistani jets get airborne from their bases.

The 600-km detection range also means that an S-400 unit stationed near Delhi would be able to look inside the Pakistani pr Chinese territory.

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The S-400 is also said to be capable of detecting and shooting down stealth targets, a capability much needed for the IAF against Chinese fifth-generation J-20 fighter jets.

Earlier on October 15, 2016, during the BRICS Summit, India and Russia signed an Inter-governmental Agreement (IGA) for the supply of five S-400 regiments. A $5.43 billion deal was formally signed on October 5, 2018, ignoring threats of US sanctions. The deliveries are expected to commence by November 2021.