New Delhi, Feb 13 (PTI) The cyber budget of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China is “phenomenal”, but their offensive capability is still building up and “they have still some way to go”, Lt General (retd) S L Narasimhan, member, National Security Advisory Board (NSAB), said here on Wednesday.

“The cyber capabilities — though they have a huge cyber network — the kind of report you get to see in open source is actually indicating that they still have some way to go. They may be very good at getting the cyber data etc., but the cyber offensive and defensive capability are still being questioned,” he said.

“But my reading sometime back was, they were able to shut down the entire system to the outside world in about six-seven minutes. But the offensive capability was still getting built up,” the NSAB member added.

During a discussion on “China’s military modernisation: Recent Developments” at the Observer Research Foundation, he said, “The kind of funding, the number of people who are working on this (cyber) are phenomenal. I mean, half the defence budget of India is actually the cyber budget for China…. They will catch up at some point of time. But at this point in time, their capability is still being questioned.” The NSAB’s principal objective is to undertake long-term analysis and provide perspectives on issues of national security.

“After the PLA’s modernisation, it will come up as a force capable of carrying out more joint operations. A single commander in the western theatre command helps them in quick decision making,” Narasimhan said.

“If you look at the 2015 defence white paper, their (PLA) roles have expanded from the shores to beyond. The PLA was given a mandate of looking into the defences of almost 1,000 km to the east into the sea, plus also to take care of China’s national interests wherever they have. So that gave an indication that the expeditionary capability will come over a period of time,” he added.

Stating that the PLA is still evolving as a force, Narasimhan said, “Their command and control structure has totally undergone a change. The organisational structures have undergone a total change. And for a large-sized army like this, to do everything in a churn, it is not a very easy thing to do.” “They have themselves come out in the open and said they have something known as two incapabilities etc. What it clearly implies is that the command channel as well as the officers cadre are at this point of time still evolving and they are not capable of comprehending the operational situation, they are not capable of employing the troops correctly. I am not saying this, they themselves have said it.

“The basic thing that I am able to hear from all this is that there are weaknesses that are existing within the command capabilities and also the joint kind of operation that they need to plan. Those are evolving at this point in time,” he added.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.