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Navy monitoring infra development by China in ports around India

Indian Navy flotilla in the Arabian Sea. A Navy photo

NEW DELHI (PTI): The Indian Navy is "very closely" monitoring the infrastructure development by China in various ports around India, Navy chief Admiral R K Dhowan said Wednesday even as he played down the presence of Chinese ships and submarines in the Indian Ocean.

The Navy chief also reiterated India's position on South China Sea saying the country was for freedom of navigation in commerce and if a situation develops, the Navy would protect the nation's maritime interests.

"It is an aspect that we monitor very closely because there are certain implications," Dhowan told reporters when asked about Chinese involvement in developmental activities in ports around India.

He said one will have to see in what context the development is taking place and "we certainly monitor all activities of development in our maritime environment".

Chinese cooperation with Sri Lanka has reached an all-time high with substantial investment from China in Sri Lankan infrastructural expansion, including a major project in Sri Lankan port at Hambantota.

China has also taken over a port in Pakistan and is now developing it.

The Naval chief played down the presence of Chinese ships and submarines in the Indian Ocean saying they were for anti-piracy operations.

"The PLA Navy has been operating in the Indian Ocean since 2008 because a fair amount of their trade and oil passes and transits through these waters," he said, adding they are part of the anti-piracy escort force.

Dhowan pointed out that there are 18 Chinese vessels which are involved in anti-piracy operations.

He also said China has occasionally deployed a submarine which has been in water for last 3-4 months.

Lanka too had played down the docking of Chinese submarine in its port saying it was for replenishment.

Replying to repeated questions about South China Sea, Dhowan said the responsibility of the Indian Navy is to ensure that our maritime interests, which have relationship with the nation's economic growth, are allowed to develop unhindered both in peace and war.

"So wherever there is a requirement for the Navy to perform, the Navy will be there to safeguard our maritime interest," he said.

Speaking further about South China Sea, he said "as far as we are concerned, there should be freedom of navigation in commerce and if a situation develops, we will keep an eye on it".

He said the Indian Navy has the flexibility and manoeuvring capability to extend beyond the Indian Ocean.

The Navy chief also spoke about the ongoing submarine construction programme, the P75 Scorpenes and said the first submarine will roll out by September 2015.

Talking about P75I, he said the Government has given the go-ahead to manufacture six conventional submarines in India itself.

He hoped that India's indigenous nuclear submarine INS Arihant will be ready for sea trials "very soon".

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