Navy chief on Chinese vessel: ‘Have to do anything in our zone, notify us’

NEW DELHI: Indian warships drove away a Chinese oceanic research vessel indulging in suspicious activity near the strategically-located Andaman and Nicobar archipelago recently, amidst the continuing shadow-boxing between New Delhi and Beijing for the same strategic space and influence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
“Our stand is that if you have to do anything in our EEZ (exclusive economic zone), you have to notify us first,” said Navy chief Admiral Karambir Singh on Tuesday, confirming the Chinese vessel Shi Yan-1 was forced to leave the area after it was first detected by P-8I maritime patrol aircraft a few weeks ago.
Chinese warships and research vessels have often been detected indulging in such suspected spying activities in the region. “EEZs are international waters, but if we find Chinese ships engaging in what we perceive to be military manoeuvres, we chase them away,” said another senior officer.
Admiral Singh, speaking ahead of the Navy Day on Wednesday, said there were seven to eight Chinese warships present in the IOR at any given time. The Chinese Navy is also gearing up for an exercise with its Pakistani counterpart in the north Arabian Sea soon to reaffirm their “all-weather strategic partnership”.

India, too, will conduct the “Paschim Lehar” wargames in the Arabian Sea in January-February to “simulate a conflict or contingency in the western maritime theatre”, said the Navy chief. Incidentally, China, along with Pakistan, is not among the 41 countries invited for the “Milan” multi-lateral exercise at Vizag in March because India does not want to legitimize its increasing presence in the IOR.
But while Pakistan is not a worry in the maritime domain, China is in a different league altogether. With an overseas base at Djibouti in the Horn of Africa and naval turnaround facilities at Karachi, the fast-expanding Chinese Navy already has two aircraft carriers (two more are being built), 33 destroyers, 54 frigates, 42 corvettes, 50 diesel-electric and 10 nuclear submarines, among other warships.
Grappling with a fund crunch, the 140-warship Indian Navy has just one aircraft carrier, 10 destroyers, 14 frigates, 11 corvettes, and 15 diesel-electric and two nuclear submarines as of now. The force, which has asked for an additional Rs 16,000 crore for capital expenditure in the ongoing fiscal, may be forced to settle for 175 warships instead of the 212 it wanted by 2027..
“Navy’s share of the defence budget has declined from 18% in 2012 to around 13% in 2019-2020. While we have projected our requirement to the government, and are hopeful of getting more money, we remain committed to progress force modernization using available resources optimally. Our aim is to get the maximum bang for the buck, with prioritization, rationalization and economy of expenditure,” said Admiral Singh.
“As the Navy chief, my concern is to safeguard the country’s maritime interests, and not allow any action by any other player in the region to adversely impact them. I am convinced the nation requires three aircraft carriers so that two are operational at any given time,” he added.
As was first reported by TOI, the Navy plans to take up afresh its long-standing case for a third aircraft carrier, which will have a displacement of 65,000 tonne, electric propulsion and CATOBAR (catapult assisted take-off but arrested recovery) configuration for launching fighters as well as heavier aircraft from its deck.
India currently has only one carrier in the 44,400-tonne INS Vikramaditya, while the second one – the 40,000-tonne indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-I) or INS Vikrant being built at Cochin Shipyard for over Rs 20,000 crore – will become fully operational by 2022. The IAC-II may cost around Rs 45,000 crore but the expenditure will be spread over 10-14 years, with the bulk of it being ploughed back into the country’s economy.

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