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'I'm not trembling'

In the second part of an exclusive interview with rediff.com Deputy Managing Editor Ramananda Sengupta and Nikhil Lakshman, the commander of America's Pacific Fleet Admiral Gary Roughead looks at the role of the Indian and American navies in protecting the sea-lanes of the world.

Admiral Roughead -- who spent more than two years as a child in Mumbai -- heads the world's largest combined fleet command, covering 102 million square miles and more than 190 ships and submarines, 1,400 aircraft, 191,000 sailors and Marines and 30,000 civilians.

Part I: 'Your navy is world class'

In Washington earlier this month, when someone asked you about China, you said there were two things required for a threat, the capability to do harm, and the intent to do harm. Since your command is engaged in assessing the threat from China, does the buildup of the Chinese defence structure pose a concern for you?

It doesn't pose a concern to me. I watch it as a naval professional and as an officer in the US Navy. I have watched the development of their navy over the last 10 plus years, since I have been serving in significant positions in the Navy.

It clearly is a navy and a military that is increasing in capability, increasing in complexity of the systems which they use. So I have seen that capability rising at a level that is commensurate with the economic growth and the resources they can apply to building a navy.

The point that I continue to make is that we are very limited in our ability to determine the intent, and that's why we seek greater transparency with the PLA (People's Liberation Army) navy and the PLA. We want to be able to engage them, for them to be open in their discussions with us, to look at ways that we can begin to gain some insight into what is the navy they are building really for, and in the long term, how do they intend to use that navy.

So when I am asked what I call the 'China threat' question, I can see the capability that is there, but I am very interested in what the intent is. The only way that one can be clear on that intent is to be able to engage and discuss these things with out counterparts in the PLA.

But the Chinese are known to be cryptic about their intentions. They rarely let us know what they are thinking, unless it is something like what General Zhu said last July, when he warned that China could launch hundreds of ballistic missiles to destroy hundreds of American cities.

Again, I come back to the basic premise that we have to be able to engage, and when we engage, and offer opportunities for that dialogue, I believe it is important for the PLA navy and the PLA to be forthcoming and have open discussions that we seek.

For example, we are doing a significant exercise in the vicinity of Guam next month, we have extended an invitation to the PLA to visit and observe that exercise. And indications are that they have accepted that invitation. I think it is appropriate that there be some reciprocity down the line.

So you think the world is some way from the Napoleonic prophecy that when China awakes, the world will tremble?

I am very comfortable with the view that we have, and I'm not trembling.

Also see: India concerned about Chinese navy's activities

Photograph: Jewella C Miranda

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