Immediately after Beijing hinted that it would deploy warships and submarines at Pakistan’s Gwadar port to protect its trade and energy routes, Admiral Lanba said that India was confident of prevailing over the Asian giant. The Indian Navy chief said that although New Delhi had no plan to disrupt Beijing’s trade route, it would do so if China threatens India’s security. Admiral Lanba told the media earlier this week that India was closely monitoring movements of Chinese warships and submarines in the “strategic” Indian Ocean Region (IOR). He further advised China not to provoke India to take military action, saying that New Delhi would have to send warships to Arabian Sea, if China made such a move.
“We keep a close eye on Chinese warships and submarines, including nuclear ones, and constantly monitor their movements in the IOR. We have the capabilities, assets and plans in place to tackle any threat or challenge,” stressed Admiral Lanba. He informed China that India had no plan to turn the ongoing “competition” in the IOR into “a conflict”. At the same time, he said that Beijing should understand the fact that India could not lower its guard in its own strategic backyard. “The Indian Navy recognises the Chinese flag will go where the trade is,” added the Navy chief.
Meanwhile, Admiral Lanba admitted that India wanted a powerful three-dimensional blue-water Navy mainly to guard its huge strategic interests from Persian Gulf to Strait of Malacca and beyond. Otherwise, according to the Navy chief, it will be difficult for India to counter China’s deep inroads into the IOR. India is fully prepared to protect its daily transit of sea trade worth USD 2 billion and sprawling offshore assets, he said.
The South Asian country, which has 138 warships, including one aircraft carrier, 48 major warships and 14 submarines, and 235 aircraft and helicopters, plans to acquire 212 warships and 458 aircraft for its Navy by 2027. Admiral Lanba told the press that the Narendra Modi government recently allocated around USD 50 billion for constructing 36 warships, six conventional and two nuclear submarines. Currently, 40,000-tonne carrier ‘INS Vikrant’, seven ‘Shivalik’ follow-on stealth frigates, four Visakhapatnam-class missile destroyers, six Scorpene submarines and two nuclear submarines (SSBNs) are under construction.
As far as the proposed defence projects are concerned, India has decided to build six stealth conventional submarines with foreign collaboration. The initial groundwork for building 65,000-tonne indigenous aircraft carrier ‘INS Vishal’ is also in progress. New Delhi further plans to construct six nuclear attack submarines (SSNs) at Vizag and to purchase four Grigorovich-class frigates from Russia in the coming months to boost its naval strength.
“Even today, the Navy has over 40 warships, four submarines and 12 aircraft deployed in waters around the Indian peninsular and island territories. We are capable and ready to safeguard our national maritime interests anytime, anywhere, every time,” insisted Admiral Lanba. He claimed that it’s not difficult to track the movements of Chinese vessels lurking in the IOR. “Chinese submarines usually come on 90-day deployments to the IOR, with an Operational Turn-Around (OTR) at Karachi after 45 days or so. But they have to surface while crossing the Malacca, Sunda or Lombox Straits since the waters there are not deep enough,” explained the Indian Navy chief.
Beijing considers the Pakistani port as the gateway to the USD 46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.