India is not surprised by the pace of development of the Chinese PLA Navy because they have the intent and the means, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh has said.
He also said that India has noted consistent Chinese military presence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) for the past decade.
Speaking at an event on April 14, he said these developments are not surprising because “flag follows trade.” Enterprise is generally followed by state attempts to safeguard it, especially in a communist state where there is no distinction between the two.
Modernizing the PLA Navy has always been on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s agenda. Massive investments in shipyards and technology followed after Xi undertook a sweeping project to turn the PLA into a world-class fighting force in 2015.
In April 2018, Xi attended China’s largest naval exercise involving 48 warships and 10,000 military personnel in the South China Sea.
“The task of building a powerful navy has never been as urgent as it is today,” Xi said that day. And the communist country today boasts the largest navy in the world.
On China’s development of the third aircraft carrier, Singh seemed unperturbed stating that “we are not surprised by the pace of Chinese Navy development. They have their wherewithal, they have the intent.”
Thus, the Chinese navy’s steady presence should not be considered a deliberate move against India.
China “looks west for its energy, markets and resources” so it has to go through IOR to get to them, Admiral Singh said. On China’s east is the Pacific, high incursions into which will trigger US military maneuvers in the region.
India, however, would not allow China to have a free run in its backyard. Combat-ready Indian warships patrol the IOR all the time, monitoring any suspicious movement of ships.
Besides, India has been building coastal radar networks and ports in collaboration with other South Asian countries. Last year, there were reports of India setting up a “sound surveillance sensors chain” in the Andaman sea with the help of the US and Japan to surveil submarine activity in the region, The Eurasian Times reported.
India is also keeping a close watch on China’s aggressive moves in the disputed South China Sea and taking steps to ensure that the Chinese Navy doesn’t muscle its way into the Indian Ocean.
Admiral Phil Davidson, commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command, who was also present at the event, called India a “vital partner”.
“A strong US-India strategic partnership is indispensable for peace, prosperity, and security in the Indo-Pacific” and to stand against “an emboldened Communist Party of China [that] seeks to exploit the current global pandemic with increased military aggression throughout the Indo-Pacific,” Davidson said.