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80 new warships in 5 years: Indian Navy’s concern at China’s growing marine reach

Senior army leaders of India, Australia, France, Japan and the US on Wednesday batted for freedom, a rules-based order and strategic alliances in the Indo-Pacific to counter China’s growing reach and assertiveness.

The Chinese Navy added 80 warships in last five years and is “a force which is here to stay”, Indian Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba said during a session on Indo-Pacific at Raisina Dialogue.

“No navy has grown so rapidly in the last 200 years as the Chinese Navy,” he said, adding the force has six to eight warships in the northern Indian Ocean.

The Chinese Navy has had a permanent presence in the Indian Ocean, in the form of an anti-piracy escort force, since 2008, he said. “There is no doubt that they are spending a huge sum of money in developing their military capabilities. They are modernising their forces and command structure,” he added.

French Navy chief Admiral Christophe Prazuck said his country is monitoring the change in the strategic landscape as the Chinese Navy is growing very fast in an area where it has not been present for centuries.

Admiral Philip Davidson, head of the US Indo-Pacific Command, said his country is focused on capabilities that will allow it to dominate in all domains, including alliances and partnerships.

Admiral Katsutoshi Kawano, chief of joint staff of Japan’s Self-Defense Force, said his country was engaged in a “severe conflict” with China in East China Sea, while Gen Angus Campbell, chief of Australia’s Defence Force, acknowledged China’s growth and expanding capability had caused uncertainty.

Australian foreign minister Marise Payne said her country and India both support “an open and inclusive Indo-Pacific”. She added: “Our respective futures are intertwined and heavily dependent on how well we cooperate on the challenges and opportunities in Indian Ocean in decades ahead.” Australia wants to develop a “deep strategic partnership with India, supporting its role as an anchor” and welcomes “India’s leadership in Indian Ocean”, she added.

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