India has taken note of China’s virtual conference of Indian Ocean Region nations last Monday in Kunming. The Indian Navy intends to lease a jetty north of Chennai in the future to dock one of the two aircraft carriers for speedier reaction to any military emergency.
With India’s first aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, expected to resume sailing and fighter operations by mid-December following a major refit, the Indian Navy is actively considering leasing a jetty at a private port north of Chennai to berth an aircraft carrier as part of its plans to deploy one of the two aircraft carriers on the eastern seaboard.
Today, French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu will board India’s newly commissioned aircraft carrier INS Vikrant off the coast of Kochi, as the Modi administration works to finalise the deal for the indigenous aircraft carrier’s 26 marine fighter fighters. Dassault’s Rafale-M fighter is one of two competitors for the contract, with Boeing’s F-18 fighter being the other.
Meanwhile, China has pushed its Indian Ocean agenda by hosting a virtual gathering of 19 countries and three organisations in Kunming, Yunnan Province, on November 21, albeit the extent of participation is unknown. According to reports, Beijing has established the China Industrial Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCO) to compete with USAID in the development of Indian Ocean region littoral governments.
During his most recent visit to Sri Lanka, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi discussed the establishment of a forum to promote Indian Ocean islands. Another issue is whether nations like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Maldives, and Myanmar, who are already saddled with high-interest Chinese loans for Belt Road Initiative infrastructure projects, will be interested in taking on further debt from the communist state.
Given China’s decision to expand its naval presence in the Indian Ocean region, the Indian Navy is also advocating for the deployment of big warships along India’s eastern shoreline to provide a speedier reaction to any growing scenario in Southeast Asia.