No axe to grind with India: Chinese navy

While the confrontation with the Chinese army has entered into the second month, leading to hot words in Beijing, its navy says it has no axe to grind with India because the Indian Ocean is a “vast region”. At the sprawling base of the South China Sea Fleet in this hot and humid south China port city, its officers said they anticipated more cooperation with the Indian Navy in cleansing the oceans of drug running, piracy and arms trafficking.

Addressing a concern in India over China rapidly inducting aircraft carriers in its armada, Chinese naval officers sought to be conciliatory. “The number of aircraft carriers is not critical. Our role in China’s National Defence Policy is defensive. We will never intrude into other countries, nor will we endure obstruction by other countries,” said Capt He Luyang. “All our major weapon systems are not toys,” interjected his colleague. This is the first time Indian journalists were given monitored access to the sword arm of the Chinese navy.

It is South China Fleet’s ships and submarines that cause consternation in India when they make restocking pauses at Colombo and Karachi on way to anti-piracy duties in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia. But Capt Hu feels the Indian media overreacts to the docking of Chinese submarines in nearby countries. Their movement does not compare to manoeuvres of the US navy destroyers near the tightly contested islands of South China Sea.

Capt Hu drew attention to a vital difference. Chinese ships transit through international navigation areas, not in the waters of “your country”. But US battleships come inside the 12 nautical mile (nm) boundary of islands claimed by China.
“It will be different if our ships do that. It is all right for the US navy to go through SCS but we won't tolerate their crossing of the red line of 12 nm,” he emphasised.

Equipped with bombers, submarines — both nuclear and conventional — besides UAVs, destroyers and reconnaissance planes, the Indian Navy is keenly tracking this fleet’s expanding footprint in the Indian Ocean.


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