New Delhi: China’s intention is to replicate carrier battle groups like the US Navy with the addition of more aircraft carriers and accompanying them with a fleet of support ships and destroyers, Indian Navy chief, Admiral Karambir Singh, said on Wednesday, pointing out the rapid expansion of naval power by Beijing.
Replying to a query during the Raisina Dialogue 2021 on China adding more aircraft carriers to its fleet and its plans to deploy them in the Indian Ocean Region, Admiral Singh said, “We have seen regular naval Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean Region for over a decade now. If China looks West from where it is, its energy, markets and resources are located to the West. So, it won’t be surprising if it soon comes into the Indian Ocean, as there is a saying that the flag follows the trade.”
The Navy chief was speaking on the topic ‘Samudra Manthan: The Indo-Pacific in Churn’.
Currently, China is building its third and largest aircraft carrier to take forward military modernisation plans amid a number of territorial and maritime disputes. In 2019, China had launched its second aircraft carrier, the Shandong, the first to be built at home. It joined the Liaoning, which was developed by retrofitting a Soviet-era cruiser commissioned in 2012.
The PLA Navy is working towards six aircraft carriers, with two likely to be deployed in China’s near seas, including for the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea, two for the Western Pacific and two for the Indian Ocean.
The Navy chief said that in the Indian Ocean Region, Indian Navy’s aim is to be a ‘Preferred Security Partner’. “Be credible and forward-leaning in our engagements, be first responders,” he said.
Admiral Singh also talked about shunning transactional nature of engagements, working with regional navies to build their capacities to secure their interests, as also working with like-minded navies to build interoperability and trust.
Talking about Quad, an informal security forum comprising India, the US, Japan and Australia, Admiral Singh said that as far as the military part is concerned, navies of Australia, Japan, the US and India already enjoy a high degree of interoperability.
“If an opportunity arises, we have the capability and capacity to come together in an almost plug and play mechanism,” he said.
On Indo-Pacific, the Navy chief said: “Given the expanse of the Indo-Pacific, no one can do it alone. Expanse is an incentive for nations to work together. Indian Navy is ready to do its bit to contribute to security and stability. We can build collective maritime competence, and learn from each other.”
He said that there is also a natural desire among most nations in the region to cooperate and collaborate for greater prosperity. “Indo-Pacific provides tremendous opportunities for issue based convergences. Convergence, as you know, can lead to cohesion,” he said.
The Navy chief said akin to the mythological ‘Samudra Manthan’, “we can work together and extract many treasures and ultimately extract the ‘Amrit’ (heavenly nectar)”.
“There exist many avenues for maritime nations in the Indo-Pacific to come together and ensure that the ocean churn should benefit all,” he said.
“So I remain positive of what the churn in the Indo-Pacific would bring to the region, and to the world at large,” said the Navy chief, adding, “When we look at the Indo-Pacific, what stands out is its predominant maritime character, and we know that oceans connect, they don’t divide.”
“And, therefore, the opportunities for cooperation, to my mind, can outweigh the challenges that we face. There is also a natural desire among most nations in the region to cooperate and collaborate for greater prosperity,” he concluded.