Washington (USA) | Jagran News Desk: In what could be a huge concern for India and countries across the south-east Asia region, the United States (US) Department of Defence has warned that Beijing now has the largest Navy in the world.

In its annual report to the Congress on Chinese military power, the Pentagon warned that China has an “increasingly modern and flexible” Navy which is focused on “replacing previous generations of platforms with limited capabilities in favour of larger, modern multi-role combatants”, reported Forbes.

According to the report, China currently has an overall battle force of approximately 350 ships and submarines which includes more than 130 major surface combatants while the US has 293 ships as of early 2020.

The report, however, noted that the US is ahead of China in terms of tonnage as it has larger warships, including 11 aircraft carriers. “As of 2019, the PLAN is largely composed of modern multi-role platforms featuring advanced anti-ship, anti-air, and anti-submarine weapons and sensors,” the Pentagon report said, as reported by the Forbes.      

The Pentagon, as reported by Forbes, has warned that China will field land-attack cruise missiles (LACMs) “on its newer cruisers and destroyers and developmental Type 093B nuclear attack submarines”.

Also Read | Galwan Valley Clash: Indian Navy deployed warship in South China Sea after the bloody face-off

“The PLAN could also retrofit its older surface combatants and submarines with land-attack capabilities as well. The addition of land-attack capabilities to the PLAN’s surface combatants and submarines would provide the PLA with flexible long-range strike options. This would allow the PRC to hold land targets at risk beyond the Indo-Pacific region,” the Pentagon warned, as reported by Forbes.

The warning from the US comes at a time when tensions between India and China have escalated across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) over land disputes. Looking at the situation, India has increased its alertness across the region. India has increased its presence in south-east Asia to counter the dragon. India on September 4 and 5 will also carry a naval exercise with Russia. 

US aims for NATO-like alliance with India, Japan and Australia

Amid the dragon’s increasing presence in the region, the US is aiming to form an alliance, like the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), with India, Australia and Japan to counter China in the south-east Asia region.  

"The Indo-Pacific region is lacking in strong multilateral structures. They do not have anything of the fortitude of NATO or the European Union. The strongest institutions in Asia oftentimes are not, I think, not inclusive enough and so ... there is certainly an invitation there at some point to formalise a structure like this," US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun said.

"Remember, even NATO started with relatively modest expectations and several countries (initially) chose neutrality over NATO membership," he added.

However, Biegun cautioned that the US would keep its ambitions for a Pacific NATO "checked", asserting such an alliance "will happen only if the other countries are as committed as the US".

Biegun said the grouping of four countries are expected to meet in New Delhi this autumn and cited Australia's possible participation in India's Malabar naval exercise as an example of progress towards a formal defence bloc, according to SCMP.

"India is indicating an intention to invite Australia to participate in the Malabar naval exercises, which will be a tremendous step forward in ensuring the freedom of passage and the security of the seas in the Indo-Pacific," he said.

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma