India is keeping “a very close eye” on China’s
presence in the Indian Ocean, whose growth in recent years includes six
submarines ostensibly for anti-piracy patrols, Admiral Sunil Lanba, chief of
the naval staff, said
Addressing policy-makers, researchers and
officers from the British and Indian navies at the International Institute for
Strategic Studies in London, Lanba said China’s presence in the Indian Ocean is
unlikely to go away.
He shared the interaction with Admiral Philip
Jones, first sea lord and chief of Royal Navy according to media reports
emanating from London.
The naval chief , on a three day visit to United
Kingdom, was speaking about the priorities of the Indian navy. Chinese navy has
presence in Coco Island near Andaman, control two port terminals in Colombo
port, taken over the Hambantota port, strategically situated on the southern
tip of Sri lanka on a 99 year lease.
Chinese companies have built the Gwador port near
the entrance of Persian Gulf in Pakistan and have built a full fledged naval
base at Dijibouti port near the entrance of Suez Canal. The Chinese also had
strong presence in the Maldives Islands.
Tracing the history of Chinese naval presence in
the Indian Ocean he said the Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean started in
2008. It has grown over the years. At any given time, there are six to eight
Chinese units in the northern part of the Indian Ocean. They are permanently
present and they have three to four survey vessels or hydrographic vessels”.
“The largest numbers were about 14 ships which
were there in about middle of 2017. They also deployed submarines; there have
been total six deployments of submarines, started in 2015…for anti-piracy
patrol, which is the most unlikely platform for them to do,” Admiral Lanba
Noting that China now has its first overseas base
in Djibouti, Admiral Lanba, who is also chairman of the chiefs of staffs
committee, said: “We keep a very close eye on their presence and their
deployments. I don’t think the Chinese presence in the northern Indian Ocean is
going to go away”.
On China’s growing naval infrastructure, Lanba
said no country had invested so much as China. In the last five years, China
had commissioned 80 new ships, he said, adding: “No nation can match the
productivity of their shipyards. So it is a challenge, we keep a close eye”.
United Kingdom has sent a strong message to the
countries in the South Asian region by hosting the official visit of the Indian
Naval chief despite the country’s ongoing tensions with Pakistan.
During Lanba’s four-day tour of the UK, he is
scheduled to hold discussions with the chief of defense staff, UK, and top navy
officers at Portsmouth. He will also visit the Royal Navy Submarine Rescue
Facility at Glasgow and interact with the organizers of the Royal Edinburgh
Official sources said the Indian Navy has
traditional links with the Royal Navy. With the constitution of the Indo-UK
Defense Consultative Group and the Military Sub Group in 1995, a two-tier
structure of cooperation was established to progress various areas of defense
The Indian Navy and Royal Navy are also partners
in the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, a maritime cooperation construct
conceptualized and pioneered by Indian Navy in 2008. The two navies conduct
regular exercises in both countries.