Navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar on Monday flagged concerns over growing geo-political power play in the Indo-Pacific, and noted that the US-China rivalry in the region is likely to be a "marathon".
In an address at the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF), Admiral Kumar highlighted the growing centrality of the Indo-Pacific in the global geo-strategic calculus and referred to a large number of countries coming out with their respective strategies for the region even though some of them do not belong to it.
The Navy chief said the US-China rivalry in the region has led to an arms race.
"A large number of countries have come out with their Indo-Pacific strategy and many of them do not belong to the region as well. The Indo-Pacific as a geostrategic reality is also accompanied by the return of great power competition," he said.
Admiral Kumar said the US-China rivalry is here to stay and opined that it would be a "long marathon that they are engaged in".
"This has led inevitably to an arms race between the West and China quite similar perhaps to the pre-World War I era between the allied and the central powers," he said.
"For instance, China has inducted 148 warships over the last 10 years which is, I would say, nearly the entire Indian Navy's size and the process still continues," he said.
"So this arms race has made our resource-rich region an arena for jostling for influence, markets, resources and energy among others," he said.
The navy chief said notwithstanding the jostling, the intricately interwoven matrix of economic relations also mandates a certain level of cooperation among these very states.
"The simultaneous competition and cooperation accentuate the complexities of security. While much has been said about the ongoing conflict in Europe, the fact is that despite extensive sanctions by the West on Russia most of Europe continues to receive Russian energy which underscores that even during conflicts, it is unlikely that States can be completely devoid of mutual dependencies," he said.
The chief of the naval staff also delved into the ongoing modernisation of the three services.
Admiral Kumar said the Indian armed forces are preparing to enhance their strength to deal with future challenges. The Navy chief said the armed forces have set themselves on the path of "reorganising and reorienting" for the future.
He cited the establishment of the department of military affairs, the appointment of the chief of defence staff, the rolling out of the Agnipath recruitment scheme, and the theaterisation initiative to ensure jointness among the three services as steps in the correct direction.
"However, notwithstanding the continued evolution of the services and the overall national security architecture, I must say that silos still exist," he said.
Admiral Kumar said the imperative has been to overcome such organisational inertia.
"Time is at a premium and we need to move fast," he said.
The chief of the naval staff also highlighted India's maritime character.
"I feel the maritime character of our nation is now shaping our overall outlook and is probably gaining the recognition that it deserves," he said.
"The interplay between maritime security and India's prosperity is becoming probably more clear to the polity, policymakers and the people of India," he said.
"Thus maritime India is on the rise and the tides of time demand that we grab this opportunity to sail out in these high waters," he said.