Background Scenario for SIMULEX 2013


GMAP SIMULEX 2014                                                                                    

 At this time we are posting background information about GMAP SIMULEX 2014. Additional detailed information about the crisis will be made available at the beginning of and during the exercise. A list of suggested readings is attached for GMAP SIMULEX 2014 background.

 Crisis in South Asia and East Asia



In the years leading up to 2017 the Asia-Pacific area, from Northeast Asia to South Asia, has been an arena of increasing conflict and crisis. This extends from the Korean peninsula (North-South Korea) through the Dokdo/Takeshima Islets (South Korea-Japan), the Diaoyu-Senkaku islands (Japan-China), Taiwan-Mainland China, and the South China Sea to South Asia. In 2017 there is also an escalating conflict in Afghanistan, in which Taliban forces now are in control of most of the country.In South Asia itself, a disintegrating Pakistan co-exists uneasily beside a more powerful India fearful of an expanding and increasingly powerful China. Both China and India see themselves as rivals and as rising powers. However, the epicenter of the 2017 crisis lies in the long-disputed Sino-India border region and between Pakistan and India and specifically the legal status of Arunachal Pradesh (which means “land of dawn-lit mountains”) located in the northeast corner of India and sharing a border with Tibet in the north and Myanmar (Burma) in the east. This conflict is exacerbated by growing Chinese concern that India will take military action against Pakistan, which is in the midst of disintegrating destabilization.Pakistan is a failed, or failing, state armed with nuclear weapons. China’s attempts to stem the downward slide in Pakistan include large military forces deployed in the disputed Sino-Indian border region and on the Sino-Pakistan border poised if necessary to intervene in Pakistan.  In 1962 India and China went to war over disputed territories, followed by military skirmishes in 1967 and 1987 as well as several rounds of talks that have failed to resolve the ongoing dispute. However, by 2017 the strategic issues between India and China extend far beyond the border skirmishes of recent years to encompass growing destabilization in Pakistan that includes the Taliban and Al Qaeda, together with Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan within an even broader strategic setting for China, which includes South Asia and the Indian Ocean.

Since occupying Tibet in 1950 and thus removing its historic buffer with India, China has not only increased its military presence over the years, but also put in place an extensive and growing military infrastructurein Tibet itself and in adjacent areas in China.  This includes at least five air bases, several helipads, an extensive rail network, and more than 30 thousand miles of roads. This gives China the ability rapidly to deploy at least 30 divisions (15,000 soldiers each) along the disputed border available to strike deeply into India and to intervene as necessary in Pakistan. The result is a Chinese conventional advantagein mobilized forces over India in the frontier region. China has also increased its military options against India with the extension and modernization of road and rail links with Pakistan, Nepal, Myanmar, and Bangladesh as well as Tibet.

The Sino-India border dispute has several important dimensions. China claims some 90,000 square km of territory under India’s control, including the province of Arunachal Pradesh, as already noted, which the Chinese call “Southern Tibet.” In addition, China has asserted control over some 38,000 km of territory seized in the 1962 war with India. This area is called Aksai Chin by India and is considered to be part of the Indian province of Jammu and Kashmir. It was the original dispute that led to the 1962 Sino-India war.

Further complicating the crisis situation, there are Chinese fears of a pan-Tibetan independence movement from across the India-China border, exacerbated by the presence of the Dalai Lama in India. Sections of Arunachel Pradesh, namely Tawang and the Upper Siang districts, contain a strong Tibetan culture leading to a nationalism that the Chinese fear is fueling the independence movement in Tibet. The movement of Chinese military forces into the border region adjacent to Arunachel Pradesh is seen as an indication that China is preparing to take action to eradicate any such threat to its continued control of Tibet and as part of its broader strategy designed to expand Beijing’s presence and influence in South Asia.

Rising tensions in recent years over disputed Himalayan borders have led the internal debate in India about nuclear weapons, nuclear testing, nuclear deterrence and military modernization in generalthat has been resolved in the development of widespread support of an expanding military capability. As its relations with China have deteriorated, India has increased its nuclear weapons program. India is alarmed that the military balance is shifting decisively to its disadvantage as a result of the growth of Chinese capabilities and the intensifying Chinese influence in Pakistan. In 2017 China is rapidly increasing its political and economic presence in South Asia as well as its maritime activity in the Indian Ocean, leading to a perception of encirclement in India. In response, by 2017, India is well into a massive military modernization program that, like China’s, includes roads, rail networks, helipads, and airfields near its disputed border. India has also deployed several hundred thousand troops as well as aircraft, helicopters, and ballistic and cruise missiles against the possibility of an invasion from China. India is determined to deter China from once again, as in 1962, launching an invasion into India from Tibet. In the decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union, India has also forged a new and increasingly close strategic relationship with the United States. This includes not onlypeaceful nuclear technology assistance, but also training exercises, military exchanges, and the sale and transfer of large amounts of conventional weapons in an effort to modernize India’s military forces. In recent years India has moved rapidly to replace obsolescent Soviet-era equipment.

China has long had a close political/military relationship with Pakistan that includes nuclear and missile cooperation and with Sri Lanka, where China has built port facilities.For PakistanChina is a counterweight to India, especially with the growing strategic relationship between New Delhi and Washington. In recent years China and Pakistan have greatly strengthened their security and economic links. China is supplying large quantities of arms and ammunition to Pakistan. Chinahas strengthened its support for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programs as well as military exchanges designed to bolster Pakistan’s defense capabilities. The Chinese interest in Pakistan is also the result of the fact that more than half of its oil imports come from the Middle East. Therefore, China is the largest investor in Pakistan’s deep-water port at Gwadar, located at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz. There are plans to connect Gwardar to Kashgar in western China. In other words, China sees Pakistan as an increasingly important geographic corridor to the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, and the Indian Ocean.Therefore, China views the disintegration of Pakistan as an unacceptable geostrategic development because, among other things, of its implications for India as the dominant power in South Asia and the growing rivalry between China and India. Beijing is also openly supporting Kashmiri separatists against India. By 2017 China has expressed growing alarm about the accelerating disintegration of Pakistan and its potential implications for destabilization in South Asia. For several decades China has viewed Pakistan both as an ally and a strategic asset of great importance in South Asia. As tensions between Beijing and New Delhi have risen, the perceived strategic importance of Pakistan to China has grown.In 2017thousands of Chinese technicians and other personnel are working closely with Pakistani teams to build transportation and other infrastructure.

As part of its tightening relationship, China has greatly enhanced its already substantial nuclear technology cooperation with Pakistan. This includes assistance from China to build additional nuclear reactors beyond the first two nuclear power plants that were constructed with Chinese help. Pakistan’s interest in nuclear power accelerated after 2005 with the nuclear agreement between India and the United States. As Pakistan’s nuclear technology base grows amid the country’s continuing disintegration, there is rising concern in the United States, India, and elsewhere about the possibility of nuclear materials falling into terrorist hands. India views Pakistan’s nuclear program, especially its weapons dimension, as a multidimensional threat to its security. In a reference to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, India’s Defense Minister, A.K. Antony, in 2011 stated that this is “a matter of serious concern for us. The main thing is that we too will have to increase our military capabilities. That is the only answer.”[1]

By 2017 the number of terror attacks in Pakistan has escalated dramatically, compared with earlier years. In 2012 the number of victims killed in ethnic, sectarian, and politically linked violence in Karachi was at least 2,284. There have been many other terrorist incidents throughout Pakistan. These include attacks against military installations and other government facilities. By 2017 this number has risen to more than 8,500 in the past year. The once promising transition in 2013 from one full-term elected civilian government to another has been followed by the rise of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), whose goal is to turn Pakistan into an Islamic state under sharia law. In 2017 Pakistan’s military focus is increasingly internal security and countering domestic TTP-led terrorism as the TTP appears to be coming closer to ousting the elected government.

As conditions deteriorate in Pakistan, there are growing challenges in Afghanistan as well. In fact, the Pakistani army has conducted intensified operations in recent years in regions such as the Tirah Valley bordering Afghanistan in an effort to wrest control from TTP and other militants. In other words, the consolidation of Taliban power in Afghanistan is spilling over into Pakistan. Although the United States has maintained a residual military presence of 9,000 personnel and some 5,000 NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) military personnel have been stationed in Afghanistan since the end of combat operations there in 2014, the Taliban have nevertheless extended their control to encompass at least 80 percent of the country.The limited number of foreign troops, including their highly restrictive rules of engagement, has not prevented the outbreak of civil war. Afghanistan is becoming once again a training base for international terrorists. The withdrawal of most foreign troops from Afghanistan has produced a security vacuum. The non-Pashtun groups in the north have felt particularly vulnerable. The central government in Kabul remains only nominally in power. The Afghan National Security Forces have proven themselves to be far from ready to replace the departing U.S. and ISAF forces. Therefore, the achievements of the last decade are vanishing as the Taliban reassert territorial control. Given the porous frontiers between Pakistan and Afghanistan, there is growing Taliban control along the vast border region extending into Pakistan.

In the South China Sea, which is one and a half times larger than the Mediterranean, there are conflicting claims focused on maritime boundaries. First, there is the Paracel Island chain in the northern part of the South China Sea. China forcibly took control of the Paracels from Vietnam in 1974. However, China, Taiwan, and Vietnam each claim the Paracel Island chain. Second, farther south there is the Spratly Island chain, claimed in its totality by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam and partially by Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Except for Brunei, each of the claimants occupies at least one of the Spratly Islands. What is important here is the potential seabed energy reserves near the Spratlys, which are largely uninhabitable. Sovereignty over the Spratlys would give rights to surrounding resources. There are also conflicting exclusive economic zones that have been drawn by claimant states for offshore energy exploration. These have resulted in conflicting claims focused in particular on the Scarborough Shoal, where there are disputes between China and the Philippines.

The growing Chinese interest and presence in the Indian Ocean and South Asia enhances the perceived overall strategic importance of the South China Sea to Beijing. There is increasing apprehension concern that a South China Sea crisis will pose a threat to freedom of maritime passage, with devastating consequences for regional economies. Countries in the immediate region have expressed such concern. Japan has also voiced alarm about such a prospect. All have called on the United States to enforce freedom of passage through the South China Sea. China has made numerous assertive moves that have resulted in several armed clashes in the South China Seabetween China and the Philippines and Vietnam. In the first several months of 2017 these naval confrontations have escalated in intensity.Another focal point for the 2017 crisis is the eight uninhabited islands and rocks called the Diaoyu Islands in Japan, and the Tiaoyutai Islands in Taiwan. They are located between Japan’s most southern island, Okinawa, and Taiwan. They have strategic importance to commercial shipping. The surrounding seas contain important fisheries and seabed energy potential. In the years since 2012, when the Japanese government purchased three of the islands from their private Japanese owner, there have been escalating tensions leading to several armed clashes between Chinese and Japanese naval craft. There is a widespread belief, both in Tokyo and Washington, that China is on a probing mission, testing the strength and meaning of the security relationship between Japan and the United States and, specifically, gauging how the United States might respond in other conflict situations in the Asia-Pacific area. Japan has repeatedly reminded both China and the United States that the Diaoyu-Senkaku Islands are covered by Article V of the U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty. In February 2017 the latest warning shots were again exchanged between Chinese and Japanese ships near the disputed islands.

In 2017 the Korean peninsula remains a major source of international tension as well. Since its third nuclear test on February 12, 2013, North Korea has conducted six additional nuclear and missile tests. By 2017 Pyongyang is a nuclear state in possession of delivery systems of intercontinental range as well as nuclear warheads. Its nuclear weapons are capable of targeting South Korea and Japan, both of which as a result are dependent on the extended deterrence of the United States.There is a growing concern that Pyongyang is also capable of launching a nuclear strike against the United States. While seeking to diminish the U.S. Asia-Pacific presence, China nevertheless seeks stability on the Korean peninsula. North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons offers reasons for the United States to strengthen its military presence in the region, including U.S. missile defenses.In light of its ongoing differences with Japan that are the legacy of the colonial period (1895-1945), South Korea has been developing increased links with Beijing.

Another major factor in the unfolding Asia-Pacific security setting in 2017 is the development of an informal alliance between China and Russia along with efforts by Russia to strengthen its relationship with Japan. Russia is engaged in its own “pivot to Asia,” designed to create a balance against both China and the United States. Russia has vast and growing energy markets in both China and Japan, including existing and projected pipelines from energy sources in Russia. Japan seeks a closer relationship with Russia as a potential opening to resolve the Northern Territories issue resulting from World War II. China seeks a closer relationship with Russia in order to strengthen its geopolitical position in South Asia and East Asia by either neutralizing Russia or by gaining Russian cooperation on issues important to China.

As recently as 2013 Xi Ping, on his first visit to Moscow as China’s president, called for the two countries to “resolutely support each other in efforts to protect national sovereignty, security, and development interests.” Increasingly, China and Russia have worked together against U.S. interests, especially as U.S. relations, respectively, with Moscow and Beijing have deteriorated. In the years leading up to 2017, therefore, we are witnessing a realignment that brings China and Russia together in the Asia Pacific area with the United States tightening its alignment with India and Japan. Both the China-Russia alignment and the Russian pivot to Asia are seen as one of the consequences of the U.S. pivot to Asia, which some critics allege has fed Chinese fears of U.S. encirclement. From Beijing’s perspective, the relationship with Russia is seen as a logical geopolitical response to the U.S. pivot strategy. From Russia’s prospective, the alignment with China, it is speculated, is designed to give Moscow greater flexibility and support in dealing with a host of issues from Eastern Europe to the Middle East.  In the Middle East Russia, with China’s backing, has been especially active in its support for the regimes in Iran and Syria. China has joined with Russia in offering security guarantees to such countries as Syria and Iran. With its growing presence in Pakistan, China has an increasing interest in neighboring Iran. The alignment between Russia and China has also emboldened China to assert itself more strongly not only in the contentious border region with India, but also in the other conflict flashpoints of the South China Sea and the Diaoyu-Senkaku disputes and elsewhere.Nevertheless, Russia, apprehensive about China’s rise, seeks also to build a closer relationship with Japan.

With these alignment patterns, it is often pointed out, we appear to be developing a newer, more complex international structure based on a higher level of competing nation-state alignment than in the early post-Cold War years, together with non-state armed groups in a volatile combination of technologies, ideological-religious fanaticism, and conflicting geographical claims. In 2014, we have an alliance pattern that includes: (1) An increasing strategic relationship between the United States and India; (2) a continuing U.S. Japan security relationship; (3) a strengthened alignment between China and Pakistan; (4) a security relationship between China and Russia; (5) a Russian effort to balance against China by a strengthened relationship with Japan; and (6) escalating tensions in the South China Sea and the Diaoyu-Senkaku Islands. This is the background and setting in which the South and East Asia crisis of 2017 will unfold.

[1] “China-Pak Strategic Nexus worries Antony,” The Times of India, 21 May 2011 at