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Thanks to increased Chinese presence in Bay of Bengal and Lankan coast Navy intends to strengthen Chennai establishment

The Indian Navy is in talks with the Tamil Nadu government and the Chennai Port Trust for expanding its naval base in the city to boost its capabilities on the east coast as well as the Indian Ocean region. The Navy has a base in Visakhapatnam on the eastern coast and the plans for expanding in Chennai have been on the cards for some time now. The Chennai base at present has eight ships and some fast interceptor boats.

“We aim to make an important naval base at Chennai by creating the required naval support infrastructure. It is planning to add more ships, helicopters, fixed wing aircrafts and expand its presence in the region

We are confident of complete support from the State government for allotting the required land,” said Rear Admiral Alok Bhatnagar, Flag Officer Commanding, Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry Naval Area.

“This in turn will also contribute to the economy of Chennai and Tamil Nadu in the long run,” he told reporters here at a function held to commemorate Navy Day on December 4.

Rear Admiral Bhatnagar said they have asked for land on the northern side of the Chennai port under the port’s Outer Harbor Project that would handle various kinds of commodities. The space may be used to dock the proposed second aircraft carrier along with fifty planes. The Indian eastern naval command has no space at present to dock the aircraft carriers.

He said it was important for the navy to have an operational base in the south to quickly respond to threats in the Indian Ocean.

Extra-regional powers are operating in the Indian Ocean region. Our two naval bases are in Mumbai and Vizag. We are well north of the area of the Indian Ocean where we find these extra-regional powers. So it is only logical to have the navy’s centre shifted towards the south so that we can have our forces ready for quick reaction in the Indian Ocean region,” he said.

Rear Admiral Bhatnagar also said that the Indian Navy was aware of increased Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean region.

“The good part is that we are aware of it. We know their movements in the region; we are observing cautiously,” he said. Earlier reports said the navy is interested in setting up establishments near Point Calimere in Central tamilnadu coast close to Sri Lanka and at Kanyakumari. The Sri Lankan coast has become important in view of the increased Chinese presence in Colombo port and takeover of Hambantota port right at the Southern tip of the island.

Maritime sources however emphasized the importance of revival of Sethusamdram ship canal project for free flow of naval assets from west to East coast.

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