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Posted at: Jan 20, 2016, 1:30 AM; last updated: Jan 20, 2016, 1:28 AM (IST)

Chinese sub lurks close to India

India conducts sorties over Bay of Bengal

  • The vessel is in international waters and India has conducted specific sorties over the Bay of Bengal using aircraft capable of spotting submarines lurking under the waters
  • The submarine accompanied by three warships was part of the anti-piracy task force on duty off the coast of Africa which is now returning to China after a four-month deployment
  • On its return journey, the flotilla is at present docked in Colombo, Sri Lanka, from January 17 to January 21

Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 19

A Chinese submarine is reportedly lurking in waters around India and the security establishment has been informed about the development.

The vessel is in international waters and India has conducted specific sorties over the Bay of Bengal using aircraft capable of spotting submarines lurking under the waters.

The submarine accompanied by three warships was part of the anti-piracy task force on duty off the coast of Africa which is now returning to China after a four month deployment. On its return journey, the flotilla is at present docked in Colombo, Sri Lanka, from January 17 to January 21. It was in Pakistan earlier and even did a day-long drill with the Pakistan Navy frigate PNS Zulfiqar.

A Chinese flotilla comprises guided-missile frigates Liuzhou and Sanya and a comprehensive supply ship, Qinghaihu. Indian authorities are tight-lipped about the nature of the submarine — nuclear powered or conventional diesel-electric. The nuclear powered one has greater endurance to remain submerged hence remain undetected.

The Chinese anti-piracy escort force departed from the Gulf of Aden on January 3 on its way back to China. Colombo is its second stop which will be followed by a stop-over at Chittagong, Bangladesh. Two of these warships (not the submarine) will then arrive in India for the international fleet review on February 6-7 at Vishakapatnam on the east coast.

Submarines are the favoured platforms of naval commanders when tasked to launch attacks, deter enemies or for securing the vital sea lines of communication (SLOCs) — used by merchant ships carrying goods, crude oil, equipment and produce for trillion dollar economies like China or India. Technology still does not effectively track or locate undersea vessels, more so in waters around India which have high suspended particle or salt content. A submarine is capable of “pinning down” six-seven warships of the enemy just by installing the fear of the unknown.

The US has been vocal about the “lack of transparency and intent” on the part of China and the very fact that a submarine is deployed for anti-piracy operations. US Pacific Fleet Commander, Admiral Scott Swift, who was in India on January 9, had told mediapersons: “It’s hard for me as a maritime commander to understand how can a submarine support anti-piracy operations.”

New Delhi is equally concerned. Just yesterday, Indian Navy’s anti-submarine warfare capable Boeing P-8I aircraft ended a special week-long deployment to snoop around in the Bay of Bengal and be stationed at the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC).

A report to the US Congress presented on December 21, 2015, and titled “China Naval Modernisation: Implications for US Navy” says: “As China’s global footprint and international interests grow, its military modernisation programme has become progressively more focused on investments for a range of missions beyond China’s periphery, including power projection, sea lane security, counter-piracy, peacekeeping, and humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HADR).”

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