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Pak's new port has strategic implications for India: Naval Chief
January 22, 2008 14:48 IST
The Gwadar port being built by Pakistan with Chinese assistance in its Baluchistan coast has serious strategic implications for India, according to Naval Chief Admiral Suresh Mehta.
"Being only 180 nautical miles from the exit of the Straits of Hormuz, Gwadar, being built in Baluchistan coast, would enable Pakistan to take control over the world energy jugular," he said while delivering the T S Narayanaswamy Memorial lecture in Chennai on Monday night.
The challenge for India was to balance relations with China in such a manner that competition for strategic significance of space in the Indian Ocean leads to cooperation rather than conflict, he said.
"The pressure for countries to cooperate in the maritime military domain to ensure smooth flow of energy and commerce on the high seas will grow even further," he said.
Talking about 'Chinese designs on the Indian Ocean,' Mehta said China had a strategy called `String of Pearls,' as per which it seeks to set up bases and outposts across the globe, strategically located along its energy lines, to monitor and saefeguard energy flows. "Each pearl in the string is a link in a chain of the Chinese maritime presence," he said.
"Among other locations, the string moves northwards up to the Gwadar deep sea port on Pakistan's Makran coast. A highway is under construction, joining Gwadar with Karachi, and there are plans to connect the port with the Karakoram Highway, thus providing China a gateway to the Arabian Sea," he said, adding that this could pose a problem for India.
"India, as a regional power with a dominant position in the Indian Ocean Region, must take the lead in initiating collaborative frameworks in the maritime arena," Mehta said.
Stating that oceanic influence on India's foreign policy would grow in the next decade, he also said that the Navy wanted a single coordinating policy making apex body, which would meet the challenges of the future.
"The Naval headquarters is of the view that a Maritime Security Board should be created, which will coordinate with 14 different government departments and agencies responsible for maritime affairs," he said.
Expressing concerns over the shipbuilding industry in the country, he said it was very small compared to present global standards.
"No nation can aspire for great power status by only buying ships.... we have to build them. Despite orders of 32 warships and six submarines with Defence shipyards, their capacity and capability to build ships is just not enough to meet our plans," he said.
The Navy would play its part in any government initiative to enhance indigenous warship construction capacity, he said.