Increased presence of Chinese warships and militarisation of the Indian Ocean Region are adding to the already-complex situation and raising concerns, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today said at the Goa Maritime Conclave (GMC).
The GMC is a first-of-its-kind initiative of India to get “friendly navies” on a platform to counter emerging threats in the neighborhood. At least 10 navies from the Indian Ocean Region are part of the initiative.
In a veiled attack on China, Sitharaman said, “We have also witnessed extra-regional nations maintain near-permanent presence within the region on one pretext or the other. These extra-regional nations are creating naval outposts as well as dual-use infrastructure in the region.”
China has set up or acquired stakes in the region by building a series of infrastructure facilities. It recently opened its first overseas military base at Djibouti in the Horn of Africa.
INCREASE IN NUMBER OF WARSHIPS IN INDIAN OCEAN REGION: SITHARAMAN
The minister also talked about a steady increase in the number of warships operating in the region. “This year has seen the highest deployment of Chinese warships in the Indian Ocean Region. At least 14 Chinese warships and submarines have been deployed in the Indian Ocean for various purposes like ‘anti-piracy’”, Sitharaman said.
Obliquely referring to the India-China border dispute, she said, “Land-based disputes and riparian issues, which are predominantly a legacy of the colonial rule, are a key cause for conflict. International behaviour in the maritime domain is influenced considerably by land-based imperatives. Cordiality or latent hostility prevalent among nations on land tends to reflect in the seas too.”
The Indian Navy recently decided on greater permanent deployment of warships around choke points such as narrow sea straits to counter China and project power away from the Indian shores.