Pentagon warns India of Chinese build-up
NEW DELHI: The Red Dragon is spreading its wings and sharpening its claws at a rapid clip. From deadly long-range nuclear missiles and an expanding blue-water Navy to potent space and cyber warfare abilities, China will have a “modern” military capable of prolonged high-intensity combat operations by the end of this decade.
Pentagon’s latest assessment of the expanding military might of China, released on Thursday, paints a scary picture of the frenetic pace at which the 2.25-million People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is being modernized, in the backdrop of uncertainty over its long-term intentions.
Though the US report holds that thwarting any American intervention in Taiwan remains PLA’s “main strategic direction”, New Delhi can ill-afford to ignore China’s increasing trans-border military capabilities, its assiduous strategic encircling of India and hardening posture in the border talks.
The report itself notes PLA has replaced its older liquid-fuelled, nuclear-capable CSS-2 intermediate range ballistic missiles with the “more advanced” solid-fuelled CSS-5 medium-range ballistic missile systems along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) to “strengthen its deterrent posture” against India.
“A high level of mistrust continues to strain the bilateral relationship…India remains concerned over China’s close military relationship with Pakistan and Beijing’s growing footprint in the Indian Ocean, Central Asia and Africa,” says the report.
All this might not startle the Indian defence establishment, which also keeps a close tab on PLA, but the fact remains that China can now move over 30 divisions (each with over 15,000 soldiers) to the LAC within a month to outnumber Indian forces by at least three-is-to-one due to the huge military infrastructure build-up in Tibet.
India has taken some steps in recent years to counter China, which range from planning a new mountain strike corps (over 35,000 combat troops) in 2012-2017 after raising two new divisions (over 15,000 soldiers each) in Nagaland and Assam to deploying Sukhoi-30MKI fighters, missile batteries and spy drones in the North-East, as reported by TOI earlier.
But a lot more clearly needs to be done. China, after all, is fast steaming ahead with its projects to build its first stealth fighter, the J-20, and multiple aircraft carriers after its first, the 67,500-tonne Varyag acquired surreptitiously from Ukraine, began sea trials recently.
Moreover, China has a hyper-active ballistic and cruise missile programme to add to its already huge nuclear arsenal. They include missiles like the DF-21D ballistic missile to kill aircraft carriers or large ships over 1,500-km away, the road-mobile DF-31A capable of hitting targets 11,200-km away, and the JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile with a reach beyond 7,200-km. “China’s nuclear arsenal currently consists of 55-65 ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles), apart from (5-20) IRBMs, (75-100) MRBMs and (1,000-1,200) SRBMs,” says the Pentagon report.
China, of course, also helps Pakistan to boost its military capabilities, with the clear intention to bog down India in South Asia. Pakistan remains China’s primary customer for weapons, with sales ranging from JF-17 and F-7 fighters, F-22P frigates and early warning and control aircraft, tanks and missiles, says the report.