Friday, August 21, 2009

India keeping a close watch on China's moves in Indian Ocean

NEW DELHI: With defence minister A K Antony in Male to finalise military aid to Maldives to counter Chinese inroads, the government on Thursday said it was fully aware of Beijing's strategic moves in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and was doing the needful to protect Indian interests.

"China, being a regional power, will make its moves. If we sense a threat to our internal security we will undertake some counter-measures,'' said minister of state for defence M M Pallam Raju, on the sidelines of a seminar on sub-conventional warfare and homeland security.

The minister, however, added China also obviously needs to safeguard its sea lanes of communication in the IOR due to its growing energy needs. "They are taking some steps. We have to make sure that they are not intrusive and do not come into our space. We are

conscious of what China is doing and we are taking adequate measures to make sure that our neighbourhood is not threatened,'' said Raju.

On China acquiring anti-satellite weapon capabilities, Raju was clear that India remained opposed to militarisation of space. "But space assets will increasingly be used in warfare in the years to come. We are also preparing for it to take adequate counter-measures,'' he added.

But pointing at the growing trade between the two Asian giants, Raju was quick to add, "The emphasis and focus is on (bilateral) trade, which is increasing at a rapid rate. Although we share a large border, we have not had any skirmishes.''

"So, I do not see any reason why they should be a problem on that front. As a regional power, they will take steps to increase their military prowess and we will also do so in our case,'' he said.

India, of course, is worried about the rapid modernisation of the 2.5-million strong People's Liberation Army and its expanding strategic transborder and `area-denial' military capabilities, with straight double-digit hikes in its military budget for the last 20 years.

This is reflected in the defence ministry's latest annual report. It says that China's "stated objectives'' of developing strategic missile and space-based assets, rapidly enhance its blue-water Navy and systematically upgrade infrastructure, surveillance and operational capabilities in border areas "will have an effect on the overall military environment'' in India's neighbourhood.

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