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‘It’s not all about numbers’, says Navy chief on China’s increasing fleet strength

Navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar said during Ladakh crisis last year, Navy ships were ‘forward deployed’ while other vessels ‘were kept ready in case the situation escalated’.

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New Delhi: As China belts out one warship after another, making it the largest naval force in the world numerically, Indian Navy chief Admiral R. Hari Kumar Friday said “it is not all about numbers” as he underlined the importance of strategy and experience.

The newly-appointed Navy chief sought to allay fears of the growing strength of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) saying the Indian Navy is a well-balanced force confident of defending the country’s maritime interests.

While noting that the situation along the northern borders with China has added to the existing challenges, the Admiral said that during the crisis last year, Indian Navy ships were “forward deployed” on mission-based deployment while other vessels “were kept ready in case the situation escalated”. 

ThePrint had reported in July last year that the Indian Navy had deployed a large number of ships under the Eastern and Western Naval Commands in the Indian Ocean region to send out a clear “message” to China in wake of the Galwan Valley clash and escalating tensions.

“We had kept their ships under close surveillance, which we continue to do even now,” the Admiral said while addressing his annual press conference on the eve of Navy Day. He added that the Navy maintains good maritime domain knowledge.

‘Not just about numbers’

Talking about the scale of PLAN’s growth, the Navy chief said China has built 138 ships in the last 10 years and noted that every nation is entitled to have its share of capability development. 

“It is not all about numbers… It is the people behind it, how you exploit the weapons you have, your strategy, operational plan, all this amount of effort that you can bring to bear at a particular point of time. There are a whole lot of issues,” he said.

The Admiral added that India has commissioned 28 warships in the last seven years.

As reported by ThePrint earlier, PLAN outnumbers the Indian Navy by a huge margin when it comes to the number of ships and at the speed at which they are being constructed. 

The report of the US Defence Department on China’s military capabilities notes that PLAN has numerically the largest navy in the world with an overall battle force of approximately 355 ships and submarines, including approximately more than 145 major surface combatants.

Incidentally, China is all set to launch its third aircraft carrier, which will have the catapult technology for take-off rather than the traditional ski jump-style, even as India debates whether to have a third aircraft carrier or not. It is estimated that China may end up operating six aircraft carriers by 2030, with the first commissioned only a decade ago.

ICDP to decide to naval numbers

The Navy chief stressed on the ongoing process to come up with a 10-year Integrated Capability Development Plan or ICDP, which as ThePrint reported will act as the foundation of the procurement plans of the Army, Navy and the Air Force.

According to the ongoing Maritime Capability Perspective Plan, the Indian Navy plans to be a 170-ship strong force by 2020, which is actually a climbdown from the original goal of 200.

The navy chief said that the figure of 170 is not fixed and under the ICDP, the final numbers could be “more or less”.

Speaking on the need for a third aircraft carrier, Admiral Kumar said there has to be balance and it will never be a question of submarines or carriers.

Explaining the need for balance, the Navy chief said while an aircraft carrier brings with it the power to strike, carry out long-term surveillance and protect naval assets, the submarine is for sea denial and stealth. He said that the ICDP will work out the balance needed.

Also read: PLA ‘fully rotates’ troops as China & India both beef up presence in eastern Ladakh for winter


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