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Not surprising that China operating in Indian Ocean: Navy Chief

NEW DELHI (PTI): Indian Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh on Wednesday said it is not surprising that China has been making forays into the Indian Ocean region (IOR) as its energy sources, markets and resources are located to the west.

In an address at the Raisina Dialogue, he also said his force is ready to do its bit to contribute to the security and stability of the Indo-Pacific, and referred to India's emergence as a more confident nation on the global stage.

Asked about the possibility of military cooperation among the QUAD countries, Admiral Singh did not give a direct reply but said there is no dearth of issues that it can handle and that there has been a robust engagement among the navies of the member nations of the grouping.

Last month, the top leadership of the QUAD grouping of India, the US, Japan and Australia vowed to expand cooperation in the Indo-Pacific at a time China was increasing its military assertiveness in the region.

Admiral Philip Scot Davidson, Commander of the US's Indo-Pacific Command, said the QUAD has tremendous potential for cooperation, going far beyond the security sphere.

Admiral Singh said there is a "natural desire" among most nations in the region to cooperate and collaborate for greater prosperity, adding the Indo-Pacific provides tremendous opportunities for "issue based convergences".

"Convergence, as you know, can lead to cohesion," he said, adding Indo-Pacific is going through churn.

Admiral Singh said the opportunities for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific can outweigh the challenges that are being faced, noting that the "oceans connect and they don't divide".

Referring to China's attempts to expand presence in the Indian Ocean, the Navy Chief said its energy sources, markets and resources are located to the west.

He said it is not surprising that China has come into the Indian Ocean as it is often said "the flag follows trade".

The Indian Ocean, considered the backyard of the Indian Navy, is critical for India's strategic interests. China has been making concerted efforts to increase its presence in the region.

Indian Navy has been ramping up presence in the Indian Ocean to keep a hawk-eyed vigil over Chinese activities.

Admiral Singh said most threats in the maritime domain are transnational in nature and that there has been a realisation that it is not possible for one nation to go it alone.

He said India has several areas of convergence and alignment with other nations in the Indo-Pacific.

The Navy Chief said Indian Navy has been working with regional navies to build their capacities to secure their interests and also cooperating with like minded navies to build interoperability and trust.

Admiral Davidson also said that the US has an interest in peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, adding China is looking at militarily threatening and diplomatically isolating Taiwan.

He said the US’ engagement with Taiwan is commensurate to China's actions.

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