NEW DELHI: China now has the largest Navy in the world and is aggressively looking to set up logistical bases in the Indo-Pacific region to enhance its strategic reach, while also working assiduously towards at least doubling the number of its nuclear warheads over the next decade.
This is the latest assessment of China’s expanding military might, ranging from long-range missiles and nuclear submarines to integrated air defence, space and electronic warfare capabilities, by the Pentagon in its detailed report presented to the US Congress on Tuesday.
India needs to take serious note of the Pentagon report in the backdrop of the expanding Chinese naval footprint in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), which has been further consolidated after Beijing established its first overseas base at Djibouti on the Horn of Africa in August 2017, while also enjoying unfettered access to the Karachi and Gwadar ports in Pakistan.
The Pentagon report said China is actively looking at setting up military logistics facilities in Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, UAE, Kenya, Seychelles, Tanzania, Angola and Tajikistan.
With an overall force of around 350 warships and submarines, including over 130 “major surface combatants”, China has overtaken even the US Navy’s force-level of 293 warships, said the report.
The US Navy, of course, is much more technologically advanced, with as many as 11 “super” 100,000-tonne aircraft carriers (each can carry 80-90 fighters) as compared as to the two of China. But China is building two more aircraft carriers, with the eventual aim of having 10, as per Indian officials.
India also needs to worry about the fast-emerging collusive China-Pakistan threat in the IOR, with Beijing set to supply eight Yuan-class diesel-electric submarines, four Type-054A multi-role stealth frigates and other naval platforms and weapons, as was reported by TOI earlier.
For now, India has a huge advantage in the IOR due to the tyranny of logistics faced by China, and can if required exploit its “Malacca Dilemma”. But Indian Navy has a force-level of only one aircraft carrier, 10 destroyers, 14 frigates, 11 corvettes as well as 15 diesel-electric and two nuclear-powered submarines in terms of major combatants at present.
While the commissioning of the long-delayed second aircraft carrier (INS Vikrant) will only take place in September 2021, the government is yet to even approve the initial case to build a third carrier.
The Chinese Navy is “an increasingly modern and flexible force that has focused on replacing previous generations of platforms with limited capabilities in favour of larger, modern multi-role combatants”, said the Pentagon report.
Taking note of the way Beijing was pursuing a “nuclear-triad”, the report said, “China’s nuclear forces will significantly evolve over the next decade as it modernizes, diversifies, and increases the number of its land, sea, and air-based nuclear delivery platforms.”
Watch China now has world’s largest navy