American experts are of the opinion that India, the US and Russia’s defence capabilities have prompted China to modernise its nuclear force.

The Pentagon, headquarters of the US Department of Defence located in Arlington County (Virginia), recently submitted a report to the US Congress in which it has been clearly mentioned that the Asian giant strengthened its strategic strike capabilities mainly because of India, the US and Russia. According to the report, China is deploying new command, control and communications capabilities to its nuclear forces in an attempt to improve control of multiple units in the field.

Pentagon explains that China is trying hard to ensure the viability of its strategic deterrent by installing new generation mobile missiles, with warheads consisting of Multiple Independently Targeted Re-Entry Vehicles (MIRVs) and penetration aids, mainly in border areas. “Similarly, India’s nuclear force is additional driver behind China’s nuclear force modernisation,” said the Pentagon in its annual report to the Congress.

Pointing to troop build-up by China on India border, Washington said that although it is difficult to guess how much of it is driven by internal and external considerations, the increased Chinese military presence at bases around the world (particularly in Pakistan) is worrisome. As per Pentagon’s assessment, Beijing is enhancing its military capabilities along the border with India in order to ramp up its geopolitical ambitions in the region. The US Defence Department also expressed serious concern over deployments of submarines in the Indian Ocean by China.

The American defence experts believe that the Chinese ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) units enjoy better access to battlefield information because of improved communication links. Currently, Beijing works on a range of technologies to counter the ballistic missile defence systems of “enemy” countries. In 2014, China admitted that it successfully tested a hypersonic glide vehicle. It also admitted that various PLASAF (Peoples Liberation Army Second Artillery Force) training exercises featured manoeuvre, camouflage and launch operations under simulated combat conditions.

With the Chinese nuclear arsenal consisting of around 75-100 ICBMs, its nuclear force will allow the Asian giant to survive an attack and to respond with sufficient strength, apart from inflicting unacceptable damage on an enemy. “Further increases in the number of mobile ICBMs and the beginning of SSBN deterrence patrols will force the PLA to implement more sophisticated C2 systems and processes that safeguard the integrity of nuclear release authority for a larger, more dispersed force,” added the US Defence Department.

Moreover, China plans to produce the JIN-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN). As the JIN is capable of carrying the CSS-NX-14 (JL-2) SLBM (submarine-launched ballistic missile) with an estimated range of 7,200km, China’s defence activities are posing a real security threat to neighbouring India.

Meanwhile, Pentagon advised China not to flex muscle in the Indian subcontinent because of Indo-US friendship, saying that America’s engagement with India is “not in China context”, but because of India’s value as a democratic and developing nation. The Indian defence experts, too, are worried about China’s nuclear activities. According to Indian experts, the three nuclear neighbours (India, China and Pakistan) should realise the fact that they cannot afford to live in open hostility for long. They hope Beijing, New Delhi and Islamabad will try their best to secure nuclear materials and weapons as that of any civilised country in the world and to ensure peace in the region.

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog - Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]