China is likely to establish military bases in Pakistan and other countries with which it has longstanding friendly relations, a report by the United States Pentagon has said, according to The Guardian.
China spent $180 billion [Rs 11,581 billion approximately] on the People’s Liberation Army last year,which is much higher than its estimated defence budget of $140 billion [approximately Rs 9,007 billion]. Last year, China began to build its first overseas military base in Djibouti, which is likely to be just the first of many such bases.
The Pentagon report singled out Pakistan as another likely location for a Chinese military base. Pakistan is already the largest buyer of Chinese arms. Notably, China is developing the strategically located Gwadar port in Balochistan, which many experts in the US say is aimed towards having a military presence.
China depends largely on continued strong arms sales to Pakistan and demand for its armed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to remain among the top five arms suppliers in the world, the Pentagon report said. Last year, China signed an agreement with Pakistan for the sale of eight submarines. Four of them will be built in China, and the other four in Pakistan.
Last month, India had boycotted the One Belt One Road summit in Beijing, stating that a part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor being built by its neighbour would pass through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, which was unacceptable.
China claims that the Djibouti facility is designed to help the Navy and Army participate further in UN peacekeeping operations and carry out escort missions in the waters near Somalia and the Gulf of Aden, but regular naval vessel visits to foreign ports indicate China’s intention to extend the reach of its armed forces. In 2016, China had conducted counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden by deploying its 24th naval escort task force to the area since 2008.
China also continues to send submarines into the Indian Ocean, ostensibly to support counter-piracy operations. But in May 2016, a nuclear-powered attack submarine docked in Karachi port in Pakistan, during a visit by the People’s Liberation Army Navy Commander. The Pentagon report said that these actions signal China’s intent to protect its critical Sea Lines of Communication, and project its power into the Indian Ocean – a development that could worry India.
China also sold armed unmanned aerial vehicles to several states in West Asia and North Africa, including Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates, the Pentagon report said.
Meanwhile, even as the world’s most populous country seeks to expand its military influence, it continues to block India’s bid to enter the Nuclear Suppliers Group. China on Monday said India’s bid to enter the Nuclear Suppliers Group had become “more complicated” under the “new circumstances”, but did not specify what the new circumstances were.