New Delhi: The Indian Navy will play a key role in India’s drive to become a $5-trillion economy, with a fleet of three aircraft carriers, submarines, aircraft and drones to ensure that sea lanes for trade are always secure.
Speaking ahead of Navy day on Friday, Navy Chief Karambir Singh made a strong pitch during a press conference for a third aircraft carrier to secure trade and commerce in the Indo-Pacific region.
“If you want to be a $5-trillion economy… you will have to go outwards. The Navy does not want to be tethered to the shore. For that, aircraft carriers are absolutely essential,” Admiral Singh observed, pointing out that without exercising carrier-based sea control, a rising India’s trade lifelines cannot be safeguarded.
The navy chief noted that China’s assertiveness had “significantly increased the complexities in the security situation”, but Beijing’s forays in the Indian Ocean so far had not disturbed the naval balance of power in these waters. He pointed out that Chinese fishing and research vessels were operating in the Indian Ocean, but none of them has violated India’s maritime boundaries. Only three warships of China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) have been present in the Gulf of Aden in the Indian Ocean region for anti-piracy operations since 2008.
However, analysts point out that the navy’s responsibilities were likely to surge in the coming days, as military tensions between India and China rise. Analysts point out that the navy can leverage its dominance over the 10 degree and six-degree channels in the Andaman sea, which is used by Chinese commercial ships for trade. India’s growing relationship with the Indo-Pacific Quad, comprising India, the United States, Australia and Japan can be a factor in beefing up the Navy’s heft along these channels at the gates of the Malacca straits-the point of entry for international shipping, including that of China, into the South China Sea and the broader Pacific Ocean.
The navy chief also stressed that the force was engaged in bolstering its aviation arm, with an eye of using its assets, wherever possible, with its sister services.
Stressing jointness, he said that The Navy’s P-8I maritime surveillance aircraft and Heron unmanned aerial vehicles had been deployed in the Ladakh sector bordering China following requests from the Army and Air Force.
“Air operations are integral to naval operations. Air power at sea is required here and now. The Navy is all about reach and sustenance,”Singh said. He pointed out that the Navy is working with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to build a multi-role carrier-based combat jet to replace the existing fleer of MiG-29 K.
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