London: China’s growing presence in the northern part of the Indian Ocean is a challenge for India but New Delhi is keeping a close eye on the deployment of Chinese ships and submarines in the region, Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba has said.
Admiral Lanba, who is on a four-day visit to Britain, also said that no nation has invested as much as China in shipbuilding.
The growing presence of the Chinese navy in the Indian Ocean where it already acquired a logistic base at Djibouti has aroused concerns in India besides acquisition of the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka on a 99-year lease.
China has maritime disputes in the East China Sea with Japan and, stakes claim on 90 per cent of the South China Sea, where Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have counter claims.
“No nation has invested as much as China in shipbuilding. It is a challenge; we keep a close eye on their presence and deployments… it is here to stay,” he said during a conversation at the Institute of Strategic Studies here on Wednesday.
Admiral Lanba described China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean as a challenge on which India is keeping a close eye.
He referred to the presence of an estimated six to eight Chinese naval ships in the northern part of the Indian Ocean at any given time as well as submarines.
Admiral Lanba, during a discussion on ‘Martime strategy and its contribution to the Indo-Pacific and global commons’, said India sees “no post-Brexit challenges” but only opportunities for greater synergies with the UK in naval cooperation.
“Over the years, our multi-faceted bilateral relations have grown from strength to strength to a sustained and mutually beneficial friendship. We have a common perspective on maritime challenges and agree to developing a cooperative framework to face them,” Lanba said.
“The maritime bonds between our two countries have been further cemented to a deepening defence cooperation. Konkan, the bilateral naval exercise, is the cornerstone of our maritime cooperation and the UK has been a preferred port of call whenever we operate in the northern Atlantic,” he said, adding that one of India’s ships will head to the UK later this year to participate in the Konkan 19 exercise.
First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sir Philip Jones hailed the leadership role played by the Royal Navy alongside the Indian Navy.
“There are obvious similarities between our two navies – a shared outlook, common goals, very clear intentions for the future, reflected in ambitious shipbuilding programmes and maritime innovation programmes.
“Britain and India are both in the list of top 10 economies and those powerful economies are built on a bedrock of global maritime trade,” he said.
Lanba will also hold talks with the UK Chief of Defence Staff as well as visit the Naval Base in Portsmouth for a tour of the HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier as part of the India-UK Carrier Capability Partnership.
Britain is likely to exit the 28-member European Union (EU) on March 29 following a referendum in favour of Brexit by nearly 52 per cent to 48 per cent in June 2016.
However, the process has not been smooth with embattled Prime Minister Theresa May suffering yet another crushing Parliament defeat over Brexit when MPs overwhelmingly rejected her plan to quit the EU, plunging the country into a further period of political uncertainty just 17 days before its divorce from the bloc.
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