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Monday, July 22, 2024

India sends a strong message to China with two aircraft carriers in Arabian Sea exercise

In a show of strength and strategic signalling to China, India has conducted a massive naval exercise with two carrier battle groups (CBGs) in the Arabian Sea. The exercise involved the old Russian-origin INS Vikramaditya and the new indigenous INS Vikrant, each around 44,000-tonne, along with several warships, submarines and over 35 aircraft.

This is the first time that India has operated two CBGs together in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), demonstrating its expanding sea control and power-projection capabilities in its primary area of strategic interest from the Malacca Strait to Persian Gulf.

A CBG is a floating air base with fighter jets and helicopters that can sanitise over 200 nautical miles around it. Capable of moving 400 to 500 nautical miles a day, a CBG can also strike targets on land and sea with precision weapons.

The Navy spokesperson Commander Vivek Madhwal said that the exercise underscored India’s commitment to safeguarding its national interests, maintaining regional stability, and fostering cooperative partnerships in the maritime domain. He also said that it marked “a significant milestone” in the Navy’s pursuit of enhancing maritime security and power-projection in the IOR and beyond.

The naval exercise comes at a time when India is facing a prolonged standoff with China along the land borders in eastern Ladakh. China has also been increasing its presence and influence in the IOR with its large navy and its Belt and Road Initiative projects.

China currently has two operational carriers, Liaoning and Shandong, and is fast completing the third, the over 80,000-tonne Fujian, with the eventual aim of having as many as 10 CBGs. China is likely to deploy its CBGs in the IOR in the near future to challenge India’s dominance.

India, on the other hand, has been boosting its naval capabilities with modernisation and indigenisation. The INS Vikrant, which is expected to be commissioned next year, is India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier. India also plans to build a third carrier, INS Vishal, which will be larger and more advanced than the existing ones.

The naval exercise also coincided with the recent long-range strike missions practised by the IAF’s Rafale and Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jets on the western and eastern seaboards. These combat manoeuvres are an unmistakable strategic signal to China about its vulnerabilities in the IOR.

India has also been strengthening its maritime partnerships with like-minded countries such as the US, Japan, Australia and France under the Quad framework and other bilateral and multilateral initiatives. India aims to ensure a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region that respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations.

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