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‘India, UK should keep eye on China military’

China’s rapid military buildup is beeping on the United Kingdom’s radar as loudly as on India’s.

delhi Updated: Nov 24, 2010 01:40 IST
Rahul Singh
Rahul Singh
Hindustan Times

China’s rapid military buildup is beeping on the United Kingdom’s radar as loudly as on India’s.

British defence secretary Liam Fox said India and the UK would have to be “vigilant” about the continued expansion of China’s military forces — it is investing billions of dollars in a range of capabilities including strategic missiles, space-based assets, anti-ship ballistic missiles, fighter jets, aircraft carriers and submarines.

China’s official defence budget for 2010 stands at $78 billion, but the Pentagon estimates its actual military spending to be upwards of $150 billion. Fox said the emerging superpower’s intentions were hard to discern.

He said there was a case to examine China’s military transformation and strategic ambitions in view of its having crossed a certain threshold. India, along with the US and the UK, is concerned about how China plans to use its expanding military capabilities.

Fox said, “China has a legitimate interest in building up its military capabilities. But when it builds up to a certain level, naturally there will be questions about intent. We’re just going to have to be vigilant and see how it uses this influence.” He is the first British defence secretary to visit India since 2005.

Shortly after meeting defence minister A.K. Antony on Tuesday, Fox said the issue of ambiguity surrounding China’s “strategic intentions” came up during discussions and the UK shared India’s assessment about the Beijing’s increased assertiveness, including activities in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

But he cautioned against jumping to “knee-jerk conclusions” about the implication of China’s growing military might. Strategic affairs experts point out that the swift rise of China as an economic powerhouse has enabled it to divert more resources for building military capacities. India is worried about the double-digit growth in China’s defence spending over the previous 20 years and its rising military engagement with Pakistan.

The defence ministry has flagged concerns about the military implications of China and Pakistan joining forces in disputed territories in Jammu and Kashmir, illegally occupied by the two neighbours.

The US is also worried about China investing in building anti-ship ballistic missiles to serve as a deterrent to American aircraft carrier-led battle groups operating in the Pacific Ocean.

First Published: Nov 23, 2010 23:51 IST