- Backed by its growing economic, diplomatic and military clout, China is increasingly willing to employ “coercive measures” to advance its interests: US
- The 130-page report on China comes ahead of the inaugural “two-plus-two” dialogue between India and the US
- India, however, continues to chart its course of strategic neutrality
The US has sounded yet another warning about China’s expansionist designs and coercive tactics to smother opposition from rival claimants on territorial issues, pointedly referring to the Doklam troop face-off among other such incidents, even as the Chinese defence minister is set to visit India next week.
The Pentagon, in its latest report presented to the US Congress, said China does not want to jeopardise regional stability, on which its economic development hinges, by provoking full-fledged armed conflicts with its neighbours.
But backed by its growing economic, diplomatic and military clout, China is increasingly willing to employ “coercive measures” to advance its interests. China’s use of such tactics, which fall short of armed conflicts, to pursue its strategic objectives are evident in its expanding territorial and maritime sovereignty claims in South and East China Seas as well as the 73-day troop standoff with India at Doklam near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet trijunction last year, said the Pentagon.
The 130-page report on China’s expansive military modernisation, which ranges from long-range precision-strike missiles, nuclear bombers and submarines to expanding information, cyber, space, counter-space and expeditionary warfare capabilities, comes ahead of the inaugural “two-plus-two” dialogue between India and the US.
Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and foreign minister Sushma Swaraj are slated to hold joint talks with their American counterparts, Jim Mattis and Mike Pompeo, in New Delhi on September 6.
The US, of course, wants India firmly in its corner, whether it is by forging a quadrilateral along with Japan and Australia to counter an aggressive China in the Indo-Pacific region, or by weaning India away from buying Russian weapons.
India, however, continues to chart its course of strategic neutrality. Even as it strengthens military ties with Washington, New Delhi has also firmly declared its intention to ink the Rs 39,000 crore deal with Moscow for five S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems later this year.
Similarly, despite being wary of China’s assertive behaviour along the Line of Actual Control and its growing naval deployments in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), India is also set to roll out the red carpet for Chinese defence minister General Wei Fenghe’s visit here from August 21 to 24.
China’s military modernisation is primarily aimed at preventing any US intervention in the Taiwan Strait and protecting its energy supplies coming through the IOR, but India certainly needs to keep its guard up.
The Pentagon report says the Chinese air force has been “re-assigned” a nuclear mission. “The deployment and integration of nuclear-capable bombers would for the first time provide China with a nuclear triad of delivery systems dispersed across land, sea and air,” it said.
After establishing its first naval base at Djibouti in the Horn of Africa in August 2017, China is also keen on additional logistics facilities in the IOR. “PLA Navy seeks to be able to operate across the greater Indo-Pacific region in high-intensity actions over a period of several months,” the report said.
“Over the last three years, the PLA has rapidly expanded its overwater bomber operating areas, gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against US and allied targets,” it added.
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