I. The Big Story: India’s PLA Caution: Land and Sea
The Indian Navy claims that it drove away a Chinese vessel from the Andaman waters in September this year. It claims that the Chinese research vessel was indulging in suspicious activities near India’s strategically located Andaman and Nicobar tri-service command. “Our stand is that if you have to do anything in our exclusive economic zone (EEZ), then you have to notify us,” said Admiral Khambir Singh, India’s Navy chief. He confirmed the presence of the Chinese vessel Shi Yan 1, and it was spotted by India’s P-81 maritime patrol aircraft.
The Indian Navy is worried about the expansion of the PLAN’s footprints in the Indian Ocean Region. China established a “naval outpost” in Djibouti and the defence white paper 2019 hints at China’s intentions of expansion in the IOR for “protecting its interest.” In the past two decades, China’s naval fleet has expanded rapidly. It already has 2 aircraft carriers (second on sea trials), 33 destroyers, 54 frigates, 42 corvettes, around 50 diesel-electric submarines, 10 nuclear submarines (SSBNs and SSNs), and more. In comparison, India has an aircraft carrier, 10 destroyers, 14 frigates, 11 corvettes, 15 diesel-electrics and 2 nuclear submarines. The Indian Navy is also facing a severe fund crunch, as its share in the defence budget has declined from 18 per cent in 2012 to 13 per cent in 2019-20. Though the absolute defence numbers have increased, the cut highlights limited priorities given to the Indian navy. It also points at India’s land centric approach and a lack of strategic vision of foreseeing future threats.