A Pakistani navy proposal to hold joint naval exercises with China, involving the special forces of the two countries, is being closely tracked by the Indian military establishment, a senior government official said.
Pakistan has made a proposal to China to get their marine forces to conduct exercises annually, with the first edition to be conducted next year in the Arabian Sea. The proposal comes at a time when China is expanding its naval powers to waters dominated by the Indian Navy, raising hackles in New Delhi.
A senior navy officer said the development could have “long-term implications” for India and was being monitored. “We are aware of it and working on measures to counter it,” he said.
The Pakistani and Chinese navies have conducted joint exercises in the past, but this is the first time they are looking at creating an institutionalised mechanism for deepening the engagement between their special forces.
The proposed exercises will coincide with China kicking off the first sea patrols of its new strategic missile submarines equipped with JL-2 missiles next year, a symbol of Beijing’s growing craving for naval supremacy.
India’s first nuclear-powered submarine, Arihant,will also kick off deterrent patrols, armed with nuclear warheads, in 2014. It will complete the sea-leg of India’s nuclear triad --- ability to launch strategic weapons from land, air and sea, giving it enduring nuclear strike and counter-strike capabilities.
New Delhi is wary of the Chinese navy building up “expeditionary maritime capabilities” in the form of nuclear-powered submarines and area denial weapons (anti-ship ballistic missiles) with deployment focus in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
An increasing number of Chinese submarines venturing into the IOR --- at least 22 contacts were recorded with vessels suspected to be Chinese attack submarines last year--- pose a grave danger to India's security interests, a classified defence ministry document had revealed in April, as reported by HT.
The proposed joint exercises between Pakistan and China will come on the heels of China’s first aircraft carrier Liaoning, which was bought as scrap from Ukraine, completing critical sea trials last month.
“The Chinese navy is on the cusp of an important transformation, and Pakistan wants to benefit from it,” said another navy officer.