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'Chinese Navy modernisation cause of concern'

China commissioned its first aircraft carrier 'Liaoning' in September 2012. A file photo

NEW DELHI (PTI): Viewing the rapid modernisation of Chinese Navy as a "major concern", Indian Navy Chief Admiral D K Joshi has made it clear that India will protect its interests in the disputed South China Sea, even if it means sending forces there.

"Yes you are right. The modernisation (of Chinese Navy) is truly impressive... It is actually a major cause of concern for us, which we continuously evaluate and work out our options and our strategies," he told a press conference on Monday.

The Navy Chief was replying to a question on contingencies in South China Sea (SCS) to protect Indian interests there and impression about the Chinese Navy's modernisation.

Answering a volley of questions about the South China Sea over which India had a tiff with China last year, he said although India's presence in that maritime region was not on "very very frequent" basis, it had interests like free navigation and exploitation of natural resources there.

"Not that we expect to be in those waters very frequently, but when the requirement is there for situations where country's interests are involved, for example ONGC Videsh, we will be required to go there and we are prepared for that. Are we holding exercises for that nature, the short answer is yes," Joshi said.

Talking about Indian interests in the SCS, he said the first of it included freedom of navigation.

"Not only us, but everyone is of the view that they have to be resolved by the parties concerned, aligned with the international regime, which is outlined in UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), that is our first requirement," he said.

Asked about the Dong Feng series of missiles developed by China to target aircraft carriers, Admiral Joshi said, "That certainly is a very significant capability and we are evaluating it in our context and taking whatever action as may be appropriate -- either acquire a similar capability or to think of a counter -- should a context arise."

On China rapidly moving ahead in readying its aircraft carriers, he said though it has produced the vessels and aircraft, the integration between the two is still awaited.

"Their aircraft carrier programme certainly is very ambitious and at a very credible speed they are churning out the platforms only at this point in time. But they are only making the aircraft carriers. Its integration with aircraft has yet not taken place," the Navy Chief said.


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