Kolkata: Moving in tandem with the government''''s "Look East" policy, and also keeping a wary eye out for growing Chinese influence in this part of the world, India has said that it will build up the strength of its Eastern Naval Command, which so far has played second fiddle to the more prestigious Western Naval Command. The eastern command will add an increasing number of the latest destroyers, frigates and submarines to the eastern fleet as a consequence.
According to vice admiral Raman Prem Suthan, AVSM, VSM, Flag officer commanding-in-chief, Eastern Naval Command, the Indian Navy will induct a aircraft carrier in the Bay of Bengal, as well as at least half of the 32 new warships and six submarines that India plans to add to its fleet over the next five years or so. Vice Admiral Suthan was speaking to reporters aboard INS Sukanya at the Kolkata dockyard.
The INS Sukanya is an offshore patrol vessel that also doubles up as the presidential yacht.
According to defence analysts, the Indian Navy''''s intention to boost the resources of the eastern naval command comes just a few months after the Indian Air Force (IAF) said it would strengthen its presence in the east, and moved two squadrons of the state-of-the-art Russian-built Sukhoi-30 MKI aircraft to the region.
The IAF has also begun the process of strengthening runways at airfields, as well as upgrading other facilities in an apparent move to counter similar effort by the Chinese in the disputed region of Tibet.
"China has fuel interests of its own as fuel lines from Africa and the Gulf run through these waters, and so they are also building up their navy," said Suthan. "We keep hearing about China''''s interest in Coco Island and are wary of its growing interest in the region, and we are keeping a close watch," Suthan said.
Although Suthan said he believed China had no facilities on Coco, he said the navy could not let its guard down.
"The naval fleet in east India has long legs and, with the government''''s emphasis on the look east policy, we are strengthening the east now," Suthan added.