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India’s second aircraft carrier INS Vikrant has China in its sights

International Desk, Rtv
|  05 Jul 2021, 16:03
India’s second aircraft carrier INS Vikrant has China in its sights
The Indian Navy is to begin sea trials of its first domestically-built aircraft carrier. The carrier will enhance India’s ability to counter thriving China in the Indian Ocean. INS Vikrant will be India’s second aircraft carrier. The first one was the INS Vikramaditya, a 35-year-old warship that previously served in the Russian Navy.

Sea trials of the INS Vikrant are anticipated to start as early as subsequent month, with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh saying last week that the warship was set to enter active service in the first half of 2022. The Indian government has called its new carrier its “most potent sea-based asset” and an “incomparable military asset”.

With this new carrier, India will be able to project power in a region that has come increasingly under China’s influence. In May, Kenya inaugurated a Chinese-built port on Lamu island, on the country’s Indian Ocean coast, while last week, Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan said the country might revive a plan with China to build a US$10 billion port in Bagamoyo.

The carrier will operate Russian-built MiG-29K fighter jets and Ka-31 early warning helicopters, US-built MH-60R multi-role helicopters and domestically-built Advanced Light Helicopters.

Ben Ho, a naval analyst at the Singapore-based S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said the new aircraft carrier would provide New Delhi with more options “for a wide range of scenarios, including another crisis with Beijing”.

“Having a larger carrier fleet should make for a more confident and robust maritime strategy, and this is likely to be in response to Beijing’s inroads on Delhi’s turf in the Indian Ocean,” Ho said.

Yogesh Joshi, a research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Institute of South Asian Studies, said that while the INS Vikrant would “boost India’s naval presence and offensive capability”, that did not necessarily mean India would start sending warships to the South China Sea.

“But, aircraft carriers allow India to achieve some sea control in the Indian Ocean and therefore, would prove instrumental in any economic blockade of China during crisis situations,” said Joshi.

Analysts said the new aircraft carrier would also help New Delhi pursue strategic and foreign policy goals, such as stepping up engagement with the other three members of the Quad (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue) – the United States, Japan and Australia – following the joint Malabar exercises held in November last year.

A former naval pilot, Mohanan felt India should now consider building a third aircraft carrier, an idea that is popular among navy officials but that has received a lukewarm response from the highest levels in the past.

On the other hand, China also has two aircraft carriers already in service – the Liaoning and the Shandong. According to Chinese news agencies, the third carrier is being built by the Chinese Navy domestically, which is expected to be launched by this year.

Surveillance abilities are becoming increasingly important to India as China ramps up its presence in the Indian Ocean. In December 2019, a Chinese research vessel was expelled from Indian waters, while a month later between four and six Chinese vessels were once again spotted in the Indian Ocean. In September 2020, just months after Chinese and Indian troops clashed along their disputed Himalayan border, the Indian Navy claimed it had tracked a Chinese vessel collecting sensitive information about Indian waters.

Source: South China Morning Post

B.M./ Rtv

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