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Navy to deploy aircraft, warships to check China along critical sea lanes

The Navy is understood to have given its stamp of approval to a new deployment pattern that seeks to position warships and aircraft along critical sea lanes of communication and choke points in the Indian Ocean Region in the light of continued presence of Chinese naval assets in the area for the past several months. The prominent choke points in the Indian Ocean Area include Malacca straits, Gulf of Oman, Gulf of Hormuz and areas around Andaman Nicobar Islands.

The decision to scale up Indian navy's maritime footprint is understood to have been taken at the opening day of the Naval Commanders’ Conference which commenced its four session at the National Capital on October 24, amid reports of growing sightings of Chinese naval ships in the Indian Ocean region.

The Conference – a biannual event - is aimed at taking stock of navy’s combat readiness with focus on operational effectiveness of combat platforms, logistics and development of shore support infrastructure for sustaining high tempo operations.

The deployment of Chinese naval units in the Indian Ocean is being closely monitored by the Indian Navy. It has sighted more than a dozen Chinese warships in the Indian Ocean in May-June including submarines, destroyers and intelligence-gathering vessels.

Anti-piracy patrols and freedom of Navigation were the reasons cited by China for its rising presence in the region though piracy activities in the region has come down drastically in the Indian Ocean region for the last one year. In fact there have been no piracy activities in the seas adjoining Somalia, an area known of acts of piracy for over a decade. Ironically, China objects to freedom of navigation for other countries in South China Sea but demands the same facility elsewhere including the Indian Ocean Region.

Under the new deployment model likely to be implemented soon, around 15 Indian warships would be deployed from as far as the Persian Gulf to the Strait of Malacca and Northern Bay of Bengal to the Southeast coast of Africa.

In July, China began deploying troops to its first overseas naval base at Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, as part of its expansion plan in the region which triggered concerns in India. The Djibouti base will boost Beijing’s ability to sustain naval units in the Indian Ocean Region.

The Indian Navy’s deployments are part of an effort to meet any eventuality across the spectrum of operations including maritime terrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR), human trafficking, piracy and narcotics trade.

India has emerged as first responders in humanitarian relief situations in the region on numerous occasions,” Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said at the 4th ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM Plus) in the Philippines recently.

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