A high-level of distrust continues to strain bilateral relations between India and China despite deepening economic ties, said the U.S. military in its annual report on China’s military capabilities to the congress on Wednesday.
While taking note of China’s arms build-up, the U.S. military said it believes the pace of it is “potentially destabilising for the region”. But it’s not yet a threat to the U.S. as its ability to strike at a distance remains limited, its newly acquired aircraft carrier notwithstanding.
This report by the Pentagon, which irritates China no end, is an annual exercise. While Beijing has not yet reacted, state-owned news service Xinhua called the U.S. report “an utterly cock-and-bull story”.
This is what got the Xinhua upset apparently. “The pace and scope of China’s sustained military investments have allowed China to pursue capabilities that we believe are potentially destabilising to regional military balances, increase the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculation, and may contribute to regional tensions and anxieties,” said deputy assistant secretary of defence Michael Schiffer, while briefing reporters.
“Such capabilities could increase Beijing’s options for using military force to gain diplomatic advantage, advance its interests or resolve military disputes — resolve disputes in its — in its favour,” he added.
Should India worry?
In a sub-titled section, the Pentagon report discusses India-China relations with no apparent alarm or concern, noting the high level of distrust between the two countries, despite ballooning trade and economic ties. The border dispute is referred as an “irritant”.
But, the report noted, “To strengthen its deterrent posture relative to India, the PLA has replaced liquid-fueled, nuclear-capable CSS-2 IRBMs with more advanced and survivable solid-fueled CSS-5 MRBM systems.” And that both countries are urgently ramping up infrastructure in their areas adjoining the border.
Referring to the Chinese road under construction in the Aksai Chin area, the Pentagon paper said, “Although this construction is primarily aimed at facilitating economic development in western China, improved roads could also support PLA border defense operations.”
India is doing the same in its northeastern parts, it added. A continuing concern for India was China’s close military relationship with Pakistan. As also, China’s “growing footprint in the Indian Ocean, Central Asia and Africa”.