Chief of Naval staff Admiral Sunil Lanba on Monday said that India has “overwhelming superiority over Pakistan at sea”, while the balance of power against China in the Indian Ocean is also in India’s favour, considering the forces China can bring upon in the area. He said that as far as the Navy is concerned, there are no two fronts — “Indian Ocean is the only front.”
Addressing the annual press conference before the Navy Day, Admiral Lanba said, “By 2050, we will also have 200 ships, 500 aircraft and be a world-class navy”. But he conceded that China will continue to have the balance of power in its favour as far as South China Sea is concerned.
Giving details of Chinese naval deployments in the region, the Navy chief said “6-8 PLA Navy ships are usually deployed at any given time in the Indian Ocean Region.” While three or four of these are survey vessels, the rest are Chinese ships deployed for anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden. He also revealed that a conventional Chinese submarine was deployed in the Indian Ocean for a month and went back.
Admiral Lanba confirmed that India has signed military logistics exchange agreement with the United States and Singapore while “a draft agreement is with the Russians and we will take it forward.” He also said India has signed White Shipping Agreement with 19 countries and operationalised those agreements with 12 of them.
As per the Navy Chief, Naval headquarters are already working on a third aircraft carrier, IAC-2, which will ensure that two aircraft carriers are available to the Navy at any given time.
This will be India’s second indigenous aircraft carrier, with IAC-1 currently under construction at Kochi. Admiral Lanba said that IAC-1 is expected to undergo sea trials in another three years, the same time period within which he expects the IAC-2 project to be started. The proposal for a third aircraft carrier has so far not found favour with the government because of the high cost involved, but the Navy chief said that “the cost is justified in the Combat Battle Group.”
Admiral Lanba, who is also the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC), revealed that the three services had agreed to have a permanent chairman of COSC and had sent a proposal to the government, which is being examined at the Defence Ministry.
On the failure of Anil Ambani’s Reliance Naval Engineering Limited (RNEL) to deliver patrol boats to the Navy, Admiral Lanba said that “no preferential treatment has been given to RNEL. Bank guarantees have been encashed and punitive action being taken. The contract is being examined as to what action can be taken.”
RNEL is undergoing Corporate Debt Restructuring and has been taken to court by its bankers, IDBI. “At the moment, a spending capacity assessment is being done,” he said.