New Delhi: Since September 2017, no Chinese nuclear or conventional submarine has entered the Indian Ocean Region, raising a question mark on the ability of the People’s Liberation Army’s Navy to deploy its underwater warships far away from its mainland.
The last time a Chinese nuclear submarine came close to the Indian waters was in August 2018, but it returned to its territory from the Sunda Straits. The submarine rescue vessel accompanying it did come to Colombo but returned from there, defence sources said here.
Before the last deployment in 2017, every three months the Chinese would alternatively send their conventional and nuclear submarines to the Indian Ocean Region and they would either go to Djibouti or Pakistan Navy base in Karachi, sources said.
The Chinese had started sending their submarines to the Indian Ocean Region since December 2013 which would cross all over from their eastern seaboard through southeast Asia before crossing the Malacca Straits and enter the Indian Ocean. They have had problems with the maintenance of their vessels in the past also and it seems that this is also impacting their long-range deployment strategy, the sources said.
The Chinese Navy has been sending its warships to the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea for deployment in the Gulf of Aden in the name of anti-piracy patrols but experts have questioned their deployment for acting against pirates who use very basic boats and equipment for hijacking merchant ships.
Sources said India has been scanning its areas of interest and have been detecting and tracking Chinese underwater fleet including its nuclear boats.
China has been in an expansion mode for its Navy in the last many years as it wants to develop long legs in the sea for protecting its sea trade and also project power through its flotilla.