Vastavam web: China’s Navy wants to join hands with India to maintain security of the Indian Ocean, amid growing concerns in New Delhi over the increasing presence of the PLA fleet in India’s backyard.Throwing open its strategic South Sea Fleet (SSF) base in the coastal city of Zhanjiang to a group of Indian journalists for the first time, People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) officials say the Indian Ocean is a common place for the international community.His remarks came as China’s Navy embarked on a massive expansion to extend its global reach.
Liang also explained the growing forays of the Chinese warships and submarines into the Indian Ocean, where China for the first time established a naval base at Djibouti in the Horn of Africa.Defending the first Chinese overseas naval base against criticism that it would amplify China’s growing influence, he said it will act as a logistics centre and support anti- piracy, UN peacekeeping operations and humanitarian relief missions in the region.”The Indian Ocean is a vast ocean. It is common place for the international community to contribute to the peace and stability in the region,” Liang said.
Interacting with the Indian media on the decks of the PLAN’s frigate Yulin about Chinese growing presence at the Indian Ocean much to the disquiet of India, he said China s military is defensive in nature and not offensive.At the same time, he made it clear that China would never “intrude into other countries” but would also not “be obstructed by other countries”.Denying any specific significance and context in inviting the Indian media delegation, whose visit is sponsored by the official All China Journalists Association (ACJA), he said it was part of regular exchanges with various countries.
The sprawling base on the coast of the South China Sea is one of the three major bases of PLAN, which now is poised to expand in a major way.Interestingly, the Sanya naval base of the PLAN on Hainan Island where a large chunk of China s submarine force, including nuclear submarines, are based also comes under the SSF which has 70,000 personnel in its ranks.Under the new plan, the PLA will increase the numbers of other services including the Navy and missile forces. Both Navy and the missile forces were expected to get the lion share of the annual defence budget which last year amounted to USD 152 billion, second only to the US.
The SSF is also responsible for keeping an eye on the resource-rich South China Sea where China is having maritime disputes with countries like the Philippines and Vietnam.Asked to comment on the challenges faced by the PLAN in the South China Sea, especially from the US Navy, commanding officer of Yulin Capt Hu Luyang said it was okay for the American navy to patrol the area in the international waters.However, if they encroach upon Chinese maritime areas, “we will not tolerate such behaviour,” he added.