China has increased defence capabilities and deployed more troops along the Indian border, the Pentagon has said, as it warned of increasing Chinese military presence including bases in various parts of the world, particularly Pakistan.
“We have noticed an increase in capability and force posture by the Chinese military in areas close to the border with India,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for East Asia Abraham M Denmark told reporters during a news conference here after Pentagon submitted its annual 2016 report to the US Congress on ‘Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China’.
However, Denmark said it is difficult to conclude on the real intention behind this.
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“It is difficult to say how much of this is driven by internal considerations to maintain internal stability, and how much of it is an external consideration,” he said in response to a question on China upgrading its military command in Tibet.
Referring to US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter’s recent trip to India, Denmark said he had a very positive and productive visit.
“We’re going to continue to enhance our bilateral engagement with India, not in the China context, but because India is an increasingly important player by themselves and we are going to engage India because of its value,” he said.
The Defence Department also warned of China’s increasing military presence including bases in various parts of the world, in particular Pakistan – with which it has a “longstanding friendly relationship and similar strategic interests”.
China’s expanding international economic interests are increasing demands for the PLA Navy (PLAN) to operate in more distant seas to protect Chinese citizens, investments, and critical sea lines of communication, it said.
“China most likely will seek to establish additional naval logistics hubs in countries with which it has a longstanding friendly relationship and similar strategic interests, such as Pakistan, and a precedent for hosting foreign militaries,” the report said.
The Pentagon in its report expressed its concerns about Chinese military buildup near the Indian border.
“Tensions remain along disputed portions of the Sino-Indian border, where both sides patrol with armed forces.
“After a five-day military standoff in September 2015 at Burtse in Northern Ladakh, China and India held a senior-level flag-officer meeting, agreed to maintain peace, and retreated to positions mutually acceptable to both sides,” it said.
The Pentagon said tensions remain with India along their shared 4,057-km border over Arunachal Pradesh (which China asserts is part of Tibet and, therefore, of China), and over the Askai Chin region at the western end of the Tibetan Plateau, despite increases in China-India political and economic relations.
“China’s interests are getting more global as their economy expands and as their economy grows more sophisticated and modern. Their interests are growing more global, which we see as a primary driver for, for instance, in the announcement of establishing a facility in Djibouti,” Denmark said.
“And so naturally, it’s understandable that they would be operating in new areas. But that does not include a value statement about the intentions behind these actions or the effects of these actions,” he said.
The Pentagon said as China’s global footprint and international interests grow, its military modernisation programme has become more focussed on investments and infrastructure to support a range of missions beyond its periphery, including power projection, sea lane security, counterpiracy, peacekeeping, and humanitarian assistance.
People Liberation Army’s (PLA) global operations in 2015 included counterpiracy patrols, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, exercises, and sea lane security operations.
China’s November 2015 public confirmation of its intention to build its first overseas military support
facility in Djibouti likely reflects this more global outlook, as it will be utilised to sustain the PLAN’s operations at greater distances from China, it said.
However, China’s overseas naval logistics aspiration may be constrained by the willingness of countries to support a PLAN presence in one of their ports.
The Pentagon said Pakistan remains China’s primary customer for conventional weapons.
China engages in both arms sales and defense industrial cooperation with Pakistan, including LY-80 surface-to-air missile systems, F-22P frigates with helicopters, main battle tank production, air-to-air missiles, and anti-ship cruise missiles.
In June 2014, Pakistan started co-producing the first two of 50 Block 2 JF-17s, which is an upgraded version of the Block I JF-17, it said.
In October 2013, Chinese and Indian officials signed the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement, which supplements existing procedures managing the interaction of forces along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The report said that China and India continue to accuse each other of frequent incursions and military build-ups along the disputed territories, with the most recent incident occurring in September 2015 along the LAC at Burtse in Northern Ladakh.
After a five-day standoff, China and India held a senior-level flag meeting and agreed to maintain peace and retreat to positions mutually acceptable to both sides.
Noting that China’s use of force in territorial disputes has varied widely throughout its history, it said some disputes led to war, such as China’s border conflicts with India in 1962 and Vietnam in 1979.
In more recent cases, China has been willing to compromise with and even offer concessions to its neighbours. Since 1998, China has settled 11 land-based territorial disputes with six of its neighbours.
In recent years, China has adopted a coercive approach that eschews military conflict in order to deal with several disputes continue over exclusive economic zones and ownership of potentially rich, offshore oil and gas deposits, the Pentagon said.