Closely tracking Chinese presence in Indian Ocean, says navy chief | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Closely tracking Chinese presence in Indian Ocean, says navy chief

ByRahul Singh
Dec 01, 2023 07:03 PM IST

The Indian Ocean has been in the spotlight amid China’s rising influence in the region, where it is setting up military bases, pushing countries to advance its maritime claims, and forcing strategic concessions from vulnerable States

The navy is closely monitoring China’s sustained presence in the Indian Ocean region as part of its efforts to keep under surveillance extra-regional forces operating in the vast stretch to assess the activities they are engaged in and their intentions, navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar said on Friday.

Indian Navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar (Twitter Photo)
Indian Navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar (Twitter Photo)

The navy is also keeping track of the naval cooperation between China and Pakistan and constantly revising its own plans, he said.

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“China may have a legitimate reason to be present in the Indian Ocean region for economic activity. But we, as the resident naval power of the Indian Ocean, keep an eye on what is happening there,” the navy chief said at his customary media briefing ahead of the Navy Day.

India celebrates December 4 as Navy Day to commemorate the navy’s attack on Karachi harbour during the 1971 war with Pakistan.

“We try to keep the extra-regional forces in the region under surveillance. We would like to know what their activities are, what they are engaged in and what are their intentions,” said the admiral in response to a question on China’s growing footprint.

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The navy regularly deploys its assets in the area, including warships, submarines, aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles, to keep its area of interest under observation, Kumar said.

He said Chinese presence in the region included six to eight warships at any given time, several fishing vessels, and research ships conducting surveys in the international waters.

The Indian Ocean has been in the spotlight amid China’s rising influence in the region, where it is setting up military bases, pushing countries to advance its maritime claims, and forcing strategic concessions from vulnerable States.

On October 30, Union defence minister Rajnath Singh said no single country should dominate others in a hegemonic manner in the Indian Ocean region while making a fresh call for a free, open and rule-based maritime order in the vast stretch. “‘Might is right’ has no place in such a maritime order,” Singh had said.

Responding to a question on threats in the Indo-Pacific, Kumar drew attention towards the possibility of disputes in the region “getting out of control or getting elevated” to conflict. He also listed illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing as one of the challenges in the region at a time when China is under the scanner for such activities.

The navy is cognisant of China’s assistance to Pakistan for its naval expansion, he said in response to another question. “We are looking at it. We are constantly revising our plans and our capability development programmes, keeping the developments in mind.”

The navy chief touched upon a raft of key issues in his annual pre-Navy Day briefing. These included ensuring credible deterrence, staying ready to win war at sea, the service’s unequivocal commitment to indigenisation and the importance of jointness in fighting and winning future wars.

This year’s Navy Day celebrations will be held at the Sindhudurg Fort off the Maharashtra coast. It was built by Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in the 17th century.

Last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled the navy’s new ensign at the commissioning ceremony of aircraft carrier Vikrant, with the flag drawing inspiration from the seal of the Maratha king and the Cross of St George being dropped.

The navy has also begun work on designing its next-generation destroyers.

“The next generation destroyer is already on the drawing board. We should be able to target a contract in a timeframe of about five years, and the delivery five to 10 years thereafter,” said navy vice chief Vice Admiral Sanjay Jasjit Singh.

Earlier, Kumar highlighted how the navy was tracking Chinese activities in the Indian Ocean region. He gave the example of how the navy guided Chinese warships to a remote area where a Chinese vessel sank in May.

The navy deployed its P-8I long-range maritime surveillance aircraft to the southern Indian Ocean to scan the remote waters for survivors after a Chinese fishing vessel with 39 people onboard sank there. The P-8I aircraft flew from INS Rajali near Arakkonam in Tamil Nadu and mcarried out the search in an area almost 1,000 nautical miles away.

“We do keep an eye on what is happening in the Indian Ocean, and we know what’s happening there,” he added.

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