Aircraft carriers ensured India’s influence in Indian Ocean

Written by Liu Kui, a scholar from Naval Equipment Research Institute of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, the article, ‘What can China learn from India’s aircraft carrier strategy?’

China can learn from India’s strategy to maintain its influence in the Indian Ocean with early acquisition of aircraft carriers that display deterrence and protect regional and world peace, a Chinese Navy think tank said today.

“Although no large-scale warfare broke out in the Indian Ocean in the past few decades, the Indian Navy is continuously growing in strength, and the existence of aircraft carrier especially deters other countries along the Indian Ocean from violating India’s marginal islands,” an article in China Military Online said.

Written by Liu Kui, a scholar from Naval Equipment Research Institute of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, the article, ‘What can China learn from India’s aircraft carrier strategy?’, said “in peacetime, an aircraft carrier is an effective naval vessel that displays deterrence and protects regional and world peace”.

China is a late entrant and its first carrier, a former Soviet Union refit which was launched in 2012, is still undergoing its experimental drills.

With plans for big naval projection in the South China Sea and Indian Ocean, China is currently building a second aircraft carrier at feverish pace.

While it was expected to be ready and take few more years to become operational, some reports said it has begun building the third. Meanwhile, it has also developed J-15 aircraft to operate from the carrier deck but its development and mass production was expected to take a few more years.

Unlike China, India has been operating an aircraft carrier since 1961.

INS Vikrant, which was purchased as an incomplete carrier in 1957, played a key role in enforcing the naval blockade of the East Pakistan (Bangladesh) in 1971 before it was decommissioned in 1997.

Its successor INS Virat which was commissioned in 1987 has just been decommissioned this month after an eventful four decades of service. It was succeeded by INS Vikramaditya, a modified version of Russian ship Admiral Gorshikov which became operational in 2013.

The second INS Vikrant being built in Cochin Shipyard was expected to be ready by 2018.

Referring to India’s strategy with aircraft carriers, the

article said “as a major country by the Indian Ocean, India believes its security and prosperity depends on its control of the Indian Ocean”.

“As long as it controls the ocean, it will be able to dominate the ocean and countries along it, and control the vast area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Pacific Ocean”.

“Therefore, India was considering the ‘Indian Ocean control strategy’ in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In the 21st century, it is determined to build a far-sea attack- oriented navy with air control capability in order to maintain its position as the ‘regional dominator’, counter China’s far-sea naval strength build-up, and guarantee safe and smooth maritime routes in the Indian Ocean,” the article said.

It said though India opted for aircraft carriers earlier, lack of indigenous research and development (R&D) has affected its plans to have three aircraft carriers.

“The Indian Navy’s dream of having three aircraft carriers has fallen flat because it overestimated its R&D capability and the country’s overall strength, and undertook an excessively massive strategy that eventually got stranded.

“India mistook the deterrence of aircraft carrier for combat capability and was possessed with the carrier complex,” it said.

The lessons China can draw from India are that it should attach great importance and provide continuous support to the development of aircraft carriers, the article said.

But at the same time, China should continue to reinforce its innovation and R&D capability, it said.

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