Chinese Xingkong-2 (Starry Sky-2) hypersonic wave-rider glide vehicle

NEW DELHI: China continues to rapidly modernise its war-fighting capabilities, ranging from nuclear-capable missiles and submarines to cyber warfare and anti-satellite weapons, even as it looks to set up military bases around the world to project hard power as well as guard its multi-billion-dollar One Belt, One Road (OBOR) infrastructure projects.

“China will seek to establish additional military bases in countries with which it has a long-standing friendly relationship and similar strategic interests, such as Pakistan, and in which there is a precedent for hosting foreign militaries,” said the Pentagon, in its latest report presented to the US Congress on China’s expanding military power.

After setting up its first overseas military base at Djibouti on the Horn of Africa in August 2017, apart from its submarines regularly using Karachi, China’s target locations for military basing could include West Asia, south-east Asia and the western Pacific, says the Pentagon.

China’s expanding military capabilities are as of now mainly geared towards preventing any US military intervention in the Taiwan Strait, South and East China Seas as well as protecting its energy supply routes in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

India, however, has no option but to keep a close watch on China’s strategic moves in the IOR and along the 4,057-km long line of actual control, stretching from eastern Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh, as well the ever-expanding military clinch between Beijing and Islamabad. “China effectively uses Pakistan to bog India down in south Asia,” said an official.

The Pentagon report says China has sold arms worth over $5 billion to Pakistan, which range from the Caihong armed drones and precision-strike weapons to eight Yuan-class submarines and four Type-054A multi-role frigates.

Taking note of the 73-day troop face-off between India and China at Doklam in 2017 and another confrontation at Demchok in 2018, the Pentagon says Chinese leaders are adroit at employing tactics short of armed conflicts to pursue their country’s strategic objectives in dominating the Indo-Pacific region. “These tactics are particularly evident in China’s pursuit of its territorial and maritime claims in the South and East China Seas as well as along its land borders with India and Bhutan,” it said.

Talking about the People’s Liberation Army’s expanding military might, the ICBMs (inter-continental ballistic missiles) now being developed by China “represent a significant improvement” in its nuclear-capable rocket forces, apart from its already large arsenal of cruise and ballistic missiles, said Pentagon.

“China continues to improve its ground and submarine-based nuclear capability, and is pursuing a viable nuclear triad with the development of a nuclear-capable air-launched ballistic missile,” said the Pentagon.

China is also developing hypersonic missiles, which can travel more than five times the speed of sound. “In August 2018, China successfully tested the Xingkong-2 (Starry Sky-2), which it publicly described as a hypersonic wave-rider vehicle,” said the report.