Navy prepared to tackle Chinese intervention

Admiral Joshi promises protection to ONGC vessels in South China Sea

Navy prepared to tackle Chinese intervention

The Indian Navy is prepared to protect ONGC’s oil exploration vessels in the disputed South China Sea in case of any intervention from China, Navy Chief Admiral D K Joshi asserted on Monday.

Speaking here on the eve of Navy Day, Joshi said: “Our mandate is to protect Indian assets. Indian Navy stands by for ONGC Videsh Ltd’s (OVL) assets. If the Navy does not protect India's own assets, then what it is for? We will get the government's approval when the need arises.”

Joshi said Navy was ready to go beyond the Strait of Malacca – traditionally known as the eastern limit of Navy's interest zone – to take care of Indian assets.

Over the years, a vast stretch of Indian Ocean ranging from the Strait of Hormuz in the west to Strait of Malacca in the east remains Navy’s footprint area. For the first time, Joshi indicated Navy's willingness to go into uncharted territories to protect Indian interests.

Asked whether Navy has exercised for a confrontation in the South China Sea, Joshi said:
“In short, the answer is yes.”

The Navy Chief's statement assumes significance in the context of OVL's plans to explore three oil blocks in Vienam’s exclusive economic zone that falls within the controversial South China Sea.

Joshi's remarks came on a day when National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon is meeting his Chinese counterpart for border negotiation in Beijing. The bilateral meeting is the first since China announced changes in party and government leadership that will come into effect from 2013.

In the last one and half years, China has made several claims on the oil and gas rich South China Sea and declared the region as its littoral while asking India to stay away from the region. However, not only India but also Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan had contradicted China’s claims. Notwithstanding the objections, Southern Hainan province, that administers South China Sea, has recently passed a law giving powers to the local police to come on-board ships transiting through the disputed waters and search the vessel.

“Though India is not a party to the dispute at South China Sea, we are of the opinion that UN laws on freedom of navigation in international waters should be maintained,” Admiral Joshi said.

On China's rapid modernisation of its Navy, Joshi said: “Modernisation is truly impressive and is a major concern for us. We are continuously evaluating and deciding our own strategy.” The Navy Chief said almost all the new acquisitions are being placed in the eastern naval command in Vishakhapatnam to tackle emerging threats from China.

They include three new stealth frigates – Shivalik, Sahyadri and Satpura, landing platform dock Jalaswa, Russian nuclear powered submarine Chakra and India's own nuclear-powered submarine Arihant, which will go to sea trial next year.

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