Submarine deployment no threat to India: PLA

Sandeep Dahiya

Shanghai: Amid India’s concerns on deployment of Chinese submarines in the Indian Ocean, a top PLA naval officer sought to justify the move saying the vessels were part of anti-piracy operations while downplaying the ‘string of pearls’ theory to contain India.

“Why cannot submarines participate in anti-piracy operations? Submarines also participate in anti-piracy operations along with other fleets,” Wei Xiandong, Chief of Staff, Shanghai Naval Garrison, said when asked why People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy sends submarines for anti-piracy operations when aircraft or surface warships are needed for such kind of operations.

Interacting with a delegation of Indian journalists at the garrison here, Wei said that different vessels have different roles in such operations and in future, navies of both China and India will extend more cooperation and visit and carry out maritime search and rescue and demonstrate a much closer relationship between the two countries.

Downplaying the ‘string of pearls’ theory to encircle India, he said that there should be no worry or concern as China’s defence policy was defensive in nature.

“No need to worry. There should be no concern about it because for China, defence policy is defensive in nature. We don’t want to play a big power just to threaten other region or country,” he said.

The String of Pearls is a geopolitical theory regarding potential Chinese intentions in the Indian Ocean region. It refers to the network of Chinese military and commercial facilities along its sea lines of communication around strategic maritime centres in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Maldives and Somalia.

PLA Navy’s increasing presence in the Indian Ocean comes in the background of the release of a White Paper published by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) recently, outlining a new military strategy enhancing its navy’s duties for the first time to “open seas protection” far from its shores.

Also the presence of Chinese submarines at Colombo port last year and most recently in Karachi sparked concerns in India.

Answering a query on increasing Sino-Pakistan relationship and its impact on India, he said Sino-India cooperation will get further boost so there should be no concern.

“We promote more close relationship between China and India. During the visit of Indian Prime Minister to China this year, China and India signed a joint statement and we will see that in future our two military navies will extend more cooperation and visit and carry out maritime search and rescue operations,” the officer said.

Wei said that communication and exchanges between the two countries is important and stressed, “we do not want any suspicions about the relationship between our countries”.

He said that he would also like India’s vessels to have exercise with the PLA Navy. (PTI)