Saturday, November 28, 2009

China-Pak military nexus a matter of concern: Antony

NEW DELHI: India on Friday expressed grave concern at China's continuing help to Pakistan to build its military capabilities, which for long has even covertly stretched to the missile and nuclear weapons arenas. 

"The increasing nexus between China and Pakistan in the military sphere remains an area of concern,'' said defence minister A K Antony, speaking at the 44th foundation day anniversary of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses here. 

This comes just a few days after the first JF-17 `Thunder' fighter jet, primarily designed and developed by China, rolled out of the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex at Kamra. Pakistan is going to induct well over 100 of these light-weight multi-role fighters. 

China is virtually Pakistan's largest supplier of military hardware and software but what is more worrying for India is the close cooperation between the two in the strategic weapons area. 

Pakistan's Shaheen series of solid-propellant ballistic missiles, for instance, is derived from the Chinese M-9, M-11 and M-18 missiles. Similarly, its Babur land-attack cruise missile has clearly been developed with China's assistance. 

Beijing, of course, has also helped Islamabad in its military nuclear programme, which is now geared towards supplementing Pakistan's ongoing enriched uranium-based nuke programme with a weapons-grade plutonium one. 

China, itself, remains a big source of worry. India is keeping a close-watch on the rapid modernisation of the 2.5-million strong People's Liberation Army and its expanding strategic transborder and `area-denial' military capabilities, with straight double-digit hikes in its military budget for the last 20 years. 

"We have to carry out continuous appraisals of Chinese military capabilities and shape our responses accordingly. At the same time, we need to be vigilant at all times,'' said Antony. At the same time, the minister expressed hope that China will `reciprocate the initiatives aimed at mutual trust-building and understanding'. 

Incidentally, while pointing out China's continuing military assistance to Pakistan, the latest defence ministry report holds, "The possibility of enhancing connectivity with Pakistan through the territory of Jammu and Kashmir, illegally occupied by China and Pakistan, and with other countries, will also have direct military implications for India.'' 

Competing militarily with China is, of course, just not possible for India. China has a huge missile arsenal, with both ICBMs (inter-continental ballistic missiles) and SLBMs (submarine-launched ballistic missiles), as well as 75 major warships and 62 submarines, 10 of them nuclear-powered ones.

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