With China stealing a march over India in naval capability, the South Asian powerhouse plans to bolster its maritime sector.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced that India will host first-ever Global Maritime Summit in April in an attempt to strengthen co-operation with international community against sea borne terror. After witnessing an operational demonstration by the Indian Navy at the International Fleet Review in southern Indian city of Visakhapatnam earlier this week, the PM said: “Threat of sea borne terror, of which India has been a direct victim, continues to endanger the regional and global peace and stability. Given the scale and complexity of modern day challenges international maritime stability cannot be the preserve of a single nation. Navies and maritime agencies of the world need to work together and engineer virtuous cycles of co-operation.”
The premier also said that India would use seas not only to build peace, friendship and trust, but also to curb conflict. He stressed that the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is one of the Indian government’s foremost policy priorities. In the presence of Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Navy Chief Admiral R K Dhowan, Prime Minister Modi said that he discussed his thoughts on the Maritime Summit with top world leaders and received a positive response.
Although the PM avoided mentioning that China is posing a serious threat to India, defence experts are of the opinion that India is trying hard to address its naval warfare capability due to the Asian giant’s emergence as a naval power. Commodore (Retired) Anil Jai Singh believes that India should also address its undersea warfare capability in order to counter the Chinese threat. He has explained that India, an aspiring big power with a distinct maritime orientation, will have to boost its submarine fleet, saying that submarines could provide the offensive cutting-edge to the Navy. According to Singh, India’s reliance on sea trade prompts the Navy to properly guard the IOR and the Asia-Pacific region.
Describing China’s emergence as a cause for concern, Commodore Singh said that New Delhi should prepare a phased submarine construction programme, as the country is seriously short of desired numbers and capability. Even neighbouring Pakistan seems to be catching up, he stressed, adding that India’s arch rival would soon receive eight submarines from China. So, according to the naval expert, it is important for India to address the widening capability deficit in its submarine force and the entire spectrum of undersea warfare.
Commodore Singh further advised the Modi government to counter China’s “March West” approach through “Act East policy”, saying: “We need to engage countries in the Asia-Pacific as best as we can with the resources at our disposal while simultaneously not conceding our strategic space in the IOR. Perhaps, the development of a trilateral and quadrilateral with the US, Japan and Australia may send the right message.”