By Chaitanya Mallapur | PUBLISHED: 20, Jul 2015, 17:09 pm IST | UPDATED: 20, Jul 2015, 17:58 pm IST
New Delhi: A recent visit by an advanced Chinese Yuan-class submarine to Karachi, Pakistan, after traversing the Arabian Sea, worried Indian authorities concerned about China's growing undersea-warfare capabilities more than four times as large as India's.
The submarine, with 65 crew, spent a week in Pakistan, refuelling and restocking, before sailing back to China. Yuan-class submarines are diesel-electric, but unlike Indian conventional submarines, which must surface to “breathe” and charge batteries, they are capable of staying submerged for weeks.
India now plans to lease a second nuclear attack submarine from Russia and the government has just approved a Rs 90,000-crore ($14 billion) plan to build six nuclear attack submarines in Vishakapatnam. But as Admiral P Murugesan, vice chief of naval staff, told The Economic Times last week: “We have started work, but we are still at the pen-to-paper stage.”
India is rushing to counter China by building conventional and nuclear submarines with German, French and Russian help. But China’s lead is large, growing and it plans to export its undersea expertise.
Particularly disconcerting for India are reports that China plans to sell eight Yuan-class submarines to Pakistan, at a time when Indian submarine forces are, according to this report, in “a state of crisis” and the country jittery about Chinese submarine power.
A conventional Chinese submarine berthed at Colombo’s port twice during 2014, sparking concern in India, leading to a Sri Lankan assurance it would not do anything against Indian interests.
Chinese Navy clearly ahead of India
India has 14 submarines—including one nuclear attack submarine, INS Chakra, leased from Russia in 2012 for 10 years—against China’s 68 and Pakistan’s five.
Most of India’s conventional submarines are more than 20 years old and are reaching the end of their service life, according to this report by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence (2014-15), which said it was “dismayed” at the “snail-pace” of commissioning naval vessels.
The Indian Navy has commissioned two submarines and decommissioned five submarines over the last 15 years, Defence Minister Manohar Parikkar said in a reply to the Rajya Sabha.
China launched or commissioned more than 60 naval ships and crafts in 2014. A similar number is expected through the end of 2015.
The Indian Navy has 141 vessels, including 127 surface ships and 14 submarines. The Chinese Navy has more than 300 surface combatants, submarines, amphibious ships and missile-armed patrol craft.