India and China are fuelling mutual suspicion by their ongoing military build-up,even though neither of them currently appear to seek to overturn the strategic balance on their borders,US spy chief said today.
“Neither India nor China currently seeks to overturn the strategic balance on the border or commit provocations that would destabilise the relationship. However,India and China are each increasing their military abilities to respond to a border crisis,” James R Clapper,Director of National Intelligence,said during a US Congressional hearing on global threats.
Testifying before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence,Clapper said both India and China consider these moves to be defencive,but they are probably fuelling mutual suspicion and raising the stakes in a potential crisis.
“As a result,periodic,low level intrusions between forces along the border could escalate if either side saw political benefit in more forcefully and publicly asserting its territorial claims or responding more decisively to perceived aggression,” he said.
“However,existing mechanisms,as well as a shared desire for stability by political and military leaders from both sides,will likely act as an effective break against escalation,” Clapper said.
In his testimony,Clapper expressed strong concern over the Chinese military build-up,which he said is raising the anxiety and security concerns among its neighbours.
“China’s military investments favour capabilities designed to strengthen its nuclear deterrent and strategic strike,counter foreign military intervention in a regional crisis,and provide limited,albeit growing,capacity for power projection,” he said.
In 2012,China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) introduced advanced weapons into its inventory and reached milestones in the development of key systems,thereby sustaining the modernisation programme that has been under way since the late 1990s.
Clapper said developments in Chinese military capabilities support an expansion of PLA operations to secure Chinese interests beyond territorial issues.
“To expand operations-specifically in the Indian Ocean,China is pursuing more effective logistical support arrangements with countries in the region,” he said.
“Beijing is also maintaining a multi-ship antipiracy task force in the Gulf of Aden for the fourth straight year to protect commercial shipping. The task force operates independently of international efforts,but is making a tangible contribution to protecting shipping through this heavily pirated area,” he said.
China is also supplementing its more advanced military capabilities by bolstering maritime law enforcement (MLE) activities in support of its territorial claims in the South and East China Seas,he said adding that in the territorial disputes with the Philippines and Japan last year,the Chinese Navy stayed over the horizon as MLE vessels provided Beijing’s on-scene presence and response.
According to Clapper,in 2013 Beijing adopted strong,uncompromising positions in maritime territorial disputes with several of its neighbours.
In each case,China sought to expand its control over the relevant territories and obstructed regional efforts to manage the disputes.
“Beijing’s regional activities appear to be,in part,a response to the US strategic rebalance toward Asia-Pacific,which Chinese leaders believe is aimed at undermining China’s position in the region,” he said.
“Globally,Beijing has both assisted and hindered US policy objectives on such issues as Iran,Syria,Afghanistan,and North Korea,and it continues to expand its economic influence and to try to parlay it into greater political influence,” Clapper said.