Indo-Pacific Disputes Can Escalate into Conflict, Says Chief of Naval Staff

On the Indo-Pacific, the Chief of Naval Staff said all like-minded nations must work together to ensure peace and stability in the region

New Delhi: The disputes in the Indo-Pacific do have the possibility of getting out of control and turning into conflict, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral R Hari Kumar said on Friday against the backdrop of growing global concerns over China's increasing military assertiveness in the region.In a media briefing ahead of Navy Day on December 4, he also said India has been closely monitoring Chinese activities in the Indian Ocean and that his force deployed surveillance assets, ships, aircraft, submarines and drones to boost its presence.

"We try to keep the extra-regional forces which are present in the region under surveillance as we would like to know what are their activities and what are the intentions," he said, referring to Chinese forays into the Indian Ocean.

"That is why we deploy our surveillance assets and ships, submarines, aircraft, UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) etc. They are deployed regularly to keep our area of interest under observation to see that we are aware of all the happenings that are taking place."

On the Indo-Pacific, the Chief of Naval Staff said all like-minded nations must work together to ensure peace and stability in the region.

"In the Indo-Pacific what we see -- there are disputes. These disputes do have the possibility of getting out of control or getting elevated and then they can go into conflict," he said.

"That is one end of the spectrum. But at the other end or in the middle, I would say you find all other challenges like illegal migration, fishing, piracy, drug trafficking and the challenge of climate change," he said.

Admiral Kumar said "dialogue" is essential to ensure that "we maintain peace and tranquillity in the region besides working for use of the oceans based on a rules-based approach.

The Navy Chief said all like-minded nations must work unitedly towards a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific, adding no force irrespective of size alone can tackle the challenges in the region.

He said oceans can be used for the legitimate economic aspirations of any nation.

"China may have a legitimate reason to be present in the Indian Ocean region for economic activities. But, as the resident naval power in the Indian Ocean, keep an eye on what all is happening there," he said.

Admiral Kumar said six-to-eight Chinese ships generally operate in the Indian Ocean besides a large number of fishing vessels and research platforms. "We monitor their activities," he said.

"First and foremost, maintaining credible deterrence, while remaining ready to win war at sea will remain our principal priority. Our vision of being a 'combat ready, credible, cohesive, and future-proof force' underpins this aspect," he said.

"As an associated element, we will keep a close tab on the intention, messaging, behavioural characteristics and transparency with which actors and forces are operating in our areas of interest," the Navy Chief said.

He asserted that the Indian Navy is committed towards the government's 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' (self-reliant India) approach.

"In comprehension of the government's view that Aatmanirbharta is not merely an economic necessity, but increasingly a strategic one, Bharatiya Nausena has made an unequivocal commitment to be fully Aatmanirbhar by 2047 in capabilities, capacities as well as concepts," he said.

The Navy Chief said his force aims to become 170 ship-Navy by 2035.

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