Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh on Thursday said the Indian Navy is moving towards procuring a number of key assets including six more submarines, and pitched for a third aircraft carrier even as he asserted that the force is fully ready to deal with any challenge including from China.
Admiral Singh also said the COVID-19 pandemic and attempts to change the status quo at India's northern borders have thrown up challenging situations, adding the Indian Navy aimed to stand steadfast as a "combat ready, credible and cohesive force", furthering the country's national and maritime interests.
Addressing a press conference on the eve of Navy Day, he said the Navy has put in place a standard operating procedure in the event of any infringement of its maritime domain in the Indian Ocean region by China. Asked about the rapid expansion of the Chinese People's Liberation Army(PLA) and possible challenges from it for India, the Chief of Naval Staff said the Indian Navy was cognisant of it, and was focusing on boosting its overall combat prowess including by procuring niche capabilities and unmanned solutions with available resources.
"As a primary manifestation of India's maritime power, the Indian Navy stands ready to fulfil its mandate to protect our national interests in the maritime domain." Admiral Singh also said the Navy was looking at establishment of maritime theatre command in the near future which would further buttress joint planning and application of force in the maritime domain. "The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted and permeated every aspect of our lives. The near simultaneous attempt to change the status quo at our northern borders has significantly increased the complexities in our security situation. This dual challenge scenario continues as we speak and the country collectively continues to battle the pandemic and tackle the security challenges," he said.
On acquisition of a third aircraft carrier, Admiral Singh said the Navy considers it as an absolute necessity and that it will make a formal case to the government after collating technical details. India currently has one aircraft carrier -- INS Vikramaditya, and a second one --INS Vikrant-- is under construction.
The construction of INS Vikrant is at an advanced stage and its sea trials are expected to commence in early 2021. Admiral Singh said the Navy will soon take forward the process of acquiring six more submarines as well as a plethora of other assets including six P-8I maritime surveillance aircraft.
On the Navy's overall focus, Admiral Singh said it has established a persistent foot-print in its areas of interest including at various choke points in the Indian Ocean. "Naval deployments also serve as a deterrent to inimical interests, really signalling the Navy's reach, capability and intent." Referring to the situation along the Line of Actual Control(LAC) in eastern Ladakh, the Naval chief said Indian Navy's surveillance aircraft P-8I and Heron drones were deployed in the region.
"Whatever we are doing is in close coordination and synergy with the Army and the Indian Air Force to produce desired results," he said. India and China are locked in a nearly seven-month long military standoff in eastern Ladakh. On the Quad or Quadrilateral coalition among India, the US, Australia and Japan, Admiral Singh said it is not against anybody, and he personally felt that cooperation under the grouping will grow organically depending on the challenges facing the member nations.
He also noted there were differences between the Quad drill and last month's Malabar naval exercise that featured all the four member nations of the grouping. "I would like to differentiate between Quad and Malabar because Malabar is an exercise which has been going on since 1992 and it is more of a professional exercise among the participating navies," he said.
India had invited Australia to be part of the Malabar exercise this year that effectively made it a drill by all the Quad member nations. Asked whether Australia will be part of next year's Malabar exercise, Admiral Singh said: "I am not ready to speculate. Next Malabar will be hosted by the US. We will have to look at what decision the government of India takes on inclusion of Australia.".