New Delhi: Seven Chinese Navy warships are operating in and around the Indian Ocean Region, including an over 27,000 tonnes amphibious vessel, which have been tracked closely by the Indian Navy using its American-origin P-8I anti-submarine warfare spy planes and other surveillance assets.
In exclusive pictures accessed by ANI, Chinese Landing Platform Dock Xian-32 can be seen passing through the Southern Indian Ocean Region before it entered the Sri Lankan waters earlier this month. The P-8I anti-submarine warfare and long-range surveillance aircraft have clicked the pictures and are constantly tracking activities and movements of the Chinese vessels while operating here.
Apart from the LPD, the Chinese warships include three vessels, each of its counter-piracy escort task force 32 and counter-piracy escort taskforce 33 which would exchange positions in the Gulf of Aden where they would be deployed.
“They are being constantly monitored during their presence in the Indian Ocean when they pass closer to Indian exclusive economic zone and territorial waters,” a source said.
At any point of time, the Chinese Navy deploys around six to seven warships in the region in the name of carrying out anti-piracy drills in the Gulf of Aden but looking at the requirements there, the deployment seems to be more than what is needed.
Sources added that the main aim of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s Navy seems to be power projection in the Indian Ocean Region as they want to spread their influence in the area from where a majority of their trade passes through.
To develop a stronger presence, sources said, the Chinese Navy is building its third aircraft carrier for deployments to the faraway shores, and in near future, they would also be venturing out into the Indian Ocean with their Carrier Battle Groups led by the aircraft carrier.
The Chinese Navy has also built a base in Djibouti to help its operations there.
The Indian Navy is currently operating one carrier in form of the INS Vikramaditya and the second one called the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier is under construction at the Cochin Shipyard Limited. The Navy now wants to build the third aircraft carrier which would be above 60,000 tonnes and will have the capability to be deployed for longer periods.
Sources said the Navy wants a capability where it should have two operational carriers at any point of time which would be possible only when it has three aircraft carriers. With three carriers, two can be operational at any point of time even if one of them has to go for repairs and refit.
Since 2008, there has been a permanent presence of the Chinese Navy in the Indian Ocean region in the form of an anti-piracy escort force, the source added.
The Djibouti facility was added by the Chinese two years ago with the stated aim of protecting their trade flowing through the region from piracy for which they sometimes bring nuclear submarines also, they said.
Since last year, the Navy has been deploying itself for carrying out its role of the net security provider in the Indian Ocean Region.
“Indian Navy ships were also Mission Deployed for Operation ‘GULFDEP’ in the Persian Gulf, Operation ‘CENTDEP’ in the central Indian Ocean Region, Operation ‘NORDEP’ in the northern Bay of Bengal and Operation ‘MALDEP’ in the Andaman Sea and approaches to the Malacca Strait,” Navy officials said.
The Navy starts monitoring the Chinese Navy vessels as soon as they cross over from the Malacca Straits into the IOR during deployments in the Gulf of Aden and visit by them to other ports.