India may be engaging China to settle land border issues along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh, but New Delhi is “not in dialogue” with the Beijing to settle ripples aggressive PLA Navy’s dominating presence has caused in the Indo Pacific Region.

Chief of Naval Staff Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar made it clear on Friday on the eave of Navy Day on a query if India is in touch with China to meet maritime challenges. The Navy Day will be celebrated on December 4 off the Sindhudurg sea fort.

“We are not in dialogue with China but we are engaging with friendly countries in our region. We are in dialogue with them, we interact with them, we train with them.. we are engaging in capacity building, all working towards developing trust for security point of view and also in times of distress...,” Indian Navy chief remarked to elaborate India’s philosophy that it wants to grow together and not prosper alone.

On the capacity enhancement, Kumar also said that Indian Navy is hoping to up its fleet strength to 170 by 2030 to 2035. China outnumbered United States in 2020 to possess the world’s largest naval fleet of about 340 ships, as per the Pentagon’s 2022 China Military Power Report, and is expected to add another 50 over next two years, infusing more stealth to its military power. Not just that, China is helping Pakistan to expand the adversary neighbour’s navy.

The Navy Chief, however, reassured that India is a resident naval power in the Indian Ocean despite China may have legitimate reasons to in the Indian Ocean Region. “We try to keep the extra regional forces that are present in the region under surveillance and keep a watch on their activities--what are they engaged in, what are their intentions and so on. So, that is why we deploy our surveillance assets--ships, submarines, aircraft, UAVs and others. So they’re deployed regularly to keep our area of interest and observation.”

First Woman CO of Ship

The Chief Admiral also stated the Navy has appointed the first woman commanding officer in a naval ship in consonance with its philosophy of “all roles-all ranks for female personnel. The strength of women in Navy is also swelling as the overall strength of women Agniveers has now crossed the 1,000-mark, according to Kumar.

On the operations front, he stated that the sheer footprint of Navy’s deployments has been satisfying. Our ships have been persistently present across the Indo Pacific, submarines have undertaken OTRs at foreign ports in Oman, Australia and Indonesia, and our MR aircraft have operated from equally distant airfields at Mauritius, Seychelles, Darwin and Coco Keeling.

“In our Theatre Level Operational Readiness Exercise; in the months of January and February 23, more than 151 operational units took part in the exercise that spanned an area of 21 million square nautical miles! We also conducted ‘Twin Carrier Operations; off Goa that involved both our aircraft carries, Vikrant and Vikramaditya,” the Navy chief informed.

Besides highlighting operational achievements this year, he also also stated the Navy on the HR front has initiated a ‘360-degree’ feedback system in appraisals which is followed by civil services to assess performance of the bureaucracy. In contrast to the existing linear reporting format, in which only the superiors can comment upon their sub-ordinates, the 360-degree feedback mandates the juniors to assess their seniors as well, Navy chief stated.