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Chinese activities in IOR are monitored 'minutely': Navy Chief

NEW DELHI (PTI): The Indian Navy on Thursday said it "minutely" monitors the activities of its Chinese counterpart in the Indian Ocean Rim even as it downplayed China's assertive white paper on defence which talks about enhancing its naval reach for the first time to "open seas protection" far from its shores.

Underlining that India's maritime resources are directly linked to the country's economy, Navy chief Admiral R K Dhowan said Chinese ships have been deployed in anti-piracy operations since 2008 in the Indian Ocean along with some submarines.

"PLA Navy's activities are minutely monitored by Indian Navy and our belief is that the responsibility of protecting Indian Ocean and our coastline lies with the Navy. Our ships, aircraft carriers are always on alert so that our security is maintained," he said speaking to reporters on the last day of the Naval Commanders' Conference being held in Delhi.

Asked about China's white paper on defence, Dhowan said every navy makes out its plan as to what it is supposed to do.

"There would be aspects related to defensive operations, surveillance, and all kinds of operations which spread out during the period of peace and during hostilities. So it is natural for any Navy to have its plans which covers the spectrum of entire operations. That (Chinese white paper) is a normal activity for any white paper of any navy," he said.

On Tuesday, China has unveiled an assertive military strategy enhancing its naval reach for the first time to "open seas protection" far from its shores which could pose a challenge to the Indian Navy, especially in the Indian Ocean.

The 9,000-word paper has warned of threats to China's maritime rights and interests, citing the provocative actions of some offshore neighbours, including reinforced and illegal military presence in Chinese territory, and outside parties involving themselves in South China Sea affairs.

From India's point of view, the white paper highlights four critical security domains, including the ocean, outer space, cyberspace and nuclear weapons including plans to make the Navy a blue water navy which could pose a major challenge to Indian Navy.

Dhowan said India has an effective maritime cooperation road map. He added that India has had a look at all its maritime neighbours in the Indian Ocean region, especially with regard to capacity building and capability enhancement.

He said the policy looks at what kind of assistance can be provided, "whether it is in terms of training, whether it is in terms of carrying out ease of patrol, whether it is to provide ships, aircraft, hydro graphic survey".

The Navy chief said everything is taken into account in the plan to see that "these littoral countries are assisted by us both for capacity building and capability enhancement".

The chief said that the Chinese Navy has been invited for the International Fleet Review scheduled for next year.

He also spoke about Navy's recently launched infrastructure development plan.

Dhowan said it has been done to "dovetail" the plan into Navy's capability perspective plan till 2027 so that the infrastructure, which is required in Naval commands, whether for maintenance, operation and training, is in sync with the planned inductions of assets.

He said the Andaman and Nicobar islands and the Minicoy Island are also part of the plan.

Talking about the scheduled MALABAR naval exercise with the US slated for later this year, Dhowan said the government would decide if Japan will also be included.

US has been pressing India to include Japan into the bilateral exercise but India is yet to decide on it.

Talking about the Indian submarines, he said the trials of the indigenously developed nuclear submarine Arihant was progressing well.

On the issue of the joint vision document India released with Vietnam, Dhowan said Vietnam was an important country.

He said the document relates to wide ranging areas which the Indian Navy and the Vietnamese Navy cooperates in maritime domain.

"These are related to training aspects, related to other aspects of defence cooperation, setting up of dockyard facilities and so on," he said adding that it was a good step which is a further take on from the earlier areas of cooperation.

"This will only strengthen the bilateral ties and open up further avenues of cooperation between the two countries," he said.

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