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September 30, 2023

Naval Commanders’ Conference: Can India Deal With Increasing Chinese Maritime Threat?

On October 31, the second Naval Commanders’ Conference of the Indian Navy got underway in New Delhi. In addition to other topics, the high-level meeting, which ends on November 3, will concentrate on Chinese maritime activity. The meeting, according to the Ministry of Defense, is extremely important given the quickly evolving and dynamic security needs in the Indian Ocean region (IOR).

One of the Indian Navy’s main worries has been the IOR’s geostrategic environment. India faces a significant challenge in the region from an aggressive and expanding China, according to Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar’s remarks in September. At any given time, we have anything from five to eight Chinese Navy units, including battleships, research vessels, and a plethora of other vessels, he stated.

He said, “At any point, we have anything between five to eight Chinese Navy units, be it warships or research vessels, and a host of Chinese fishing vessels operating in the IOR. We keep an eye on them and see how they are undertaking their activities in the IOR”.

The Indian Navy has a considerable interest in the IOR, which also includes West Asia and the eastern coast of Africa in addition to South Asia. Over 70% of the nation’s imports and exports travel along sea lanes in this area. The Indian Navy is crucial to anti-piracy operations off the coast of eastern Africa.

China is known to use its anti-piracy efforts as a distraction strategy while also engaging in illegal activities on the high seas. India’s crucial security interests are being threatened by the steadily growing aggressive Chinese naval presence in the IOR. A few recent events in the IOR served as a Chinese display of force directed at the Indian defence establishment. Some of them involved Chinese participation in a port in Sri Lanka.

In regards to a variety of issues, many of which entail Chinese loan funding, China and India’s island neighbour have maintained bilateral ties.

In August, a Chinese ship ‘Yuan Wang 5’ docked at the strategically critical Sri Lankan port amid opposition from India and the US. It is a signals intelligence (SIGINT) ship, commonly known as a ‘spy ship’.

Strategically, the vessel’s presence in India’s maritime neighbourhood posed a concern because it might have collected electronic signatures from missile tests, military communications, army, air, and naval bases, as well as the Strategic Forces Command (a nuclear command).

China’s assertive behaviour in the IOR has not gone unnoticed by New Delhi, either. India has been pushing for a rules-based order in the region, and the Indian Navy has been acting strategically to support this position.

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