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Navy Chief unveils big vision to deter China in Indian Ocean Region  

Indian Navy’s expansion and combat readiness is geared to protect country's vital interests in the Indian Ocean Region

The Indian Navy is evolving into a mixed force of men and women that can deter extra-regional powers including China in the Indian Ocean Region, relying on equipment that is completely home-grown by 2047.

In a major press conference on Saturday ahead of Navy Day which commemorates India’s audacious attack on Karachi on December 4 1971, Indian Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar said that the Indian Navy had assured the government that it will become completely “Aatmanirbhar” by 2047.

“Recent global events amply underscore that we can’t remain dependent on others for our own security requirements. Government has given us very clear guidelines on Aatmanirbhar Bharat and one of the Navy’s commitments to the top leadership is that we’ll become an Aatmanirbhar Navy by 2047,” the Navy Chief said.

He stressed that the navy’s expansion and combat readiness is geared to protect India’s vital interests in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). “We are aware it’s a vital region where there is a large amount of trade which transits, energy flows which happen. Our job is to see that India’s interests in the maritime domain are protected,” he observed.

Admiral Hari Kumar also pointed out that the Navy had to keep a watch on the movement of Chinese ships in the IOR. “There are a lot of Chinese ships which operate in the Indian Ocean Region. We have about 4-6 PLA Navy ships, then some research vessels which operate. A large number of Chinese fishing vessels operate in the Indian Ocean Region. We keep a close watch on all developments.”

The admiral spotlighted that the navy also had to keep an eye on nearly 60-odd other extra-regional forces that are always present in the IOR.

Analysts point out that India has stepped up its focus on beefing up its forces in the IOR to deter China following Beijing’s transgression across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) from May 2020 onwards. In order to dissuade China in the mountains, India needed to develop capability to dominate key sea lanes in the Andaman and Nicobar area from where Chinese commercial ships pass.  Specifically, Indian security planners are focussing on the 10-degree channel that separates Andaman and Nicobar Island chains, as well as the six-degree channel further south. International commercial shipping funnels through these channels, especially the six-degree channel before entering the Malacca strait that links the Indian and the Pacific oceans.

The Navy chief stressed that the armed forces had to maintain credible deterrence at all times. In October the Navy tested the Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) from the Arihant, its nuclear submarine. The firing took place at a time when China was holding its one-in-five year 20 th Party Congress.

Regarding force structure, the Navy chief revealed that 341 out of 3,000 Agniveer inducted in the navy are women.

“First batch of agniveers already reported, about 3000 agniveers have joined out of whom about 341 are women. Come next year, we are looking at women officers being inducted across all branches and not just the 7-8 branches they are restricted to as of today,” he said.

“It’s the first-time women are being inducted into the ranks. We are not inducting women separately. They are being inducted in the same manner as their male counterparts. It’s a uniform method of selection. They undergo similar tests.” Admiral Kumar stressed that the Navy is shaping up into a gender-neutral force that looks at the capability of the individual.

“They’ll be deployed on ships, airbases, aircraft. They will be trained for everything the way a normal sailor is trained. There is going to be no difference in training. We’re looking at being a gender-neutral force where we only look at the capability of the individual.”

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