Regional Sea Power Balance Shifting To Delhi
Aug. 14 – India has shown off its new aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, which was unveiled at the Indian naval shipyard in Cochin, Kerala, on Monday. The successful unveiling of the carrier means India has beaten its regional rival China to join the four states able to design and build their own aircraft carriers. India currently deploys Russian built aircraft carriers in its fleet.
Analysts have stated that the vessel will not only be a symbol of Indian power but also of national pride as the Indian government is anxious to counter China’s growing influence in the Indian Ocean. Furthermore, an Indian built nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is believed to be in development and a Russian-built carrier is expected to be handed over to the Indian Navy later this year.
INS Vikrant will continue to undergo tests until it becomes fully-operational in 2018. It is larger than two football pitches, weighs just under 40,000 tonnes, and will carry MiG29 and home-made Tejas fighter planes.
According to Mohan Guruswamy of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, India’s focus will be on asserting its reach and power in the Indian Ocean, reflecting its need to open a new theatre in its rivalry with China.
“The great significance of this is that India is willing to up the ante in the Indian Ocean and to project its power against China. We have to neutralise China’s advantage on the Tibetan plateau by opening another theatre and that is what this is,” he said.
Over the past 60 years since Indian dependence, India has enjoyed a maritime superiority over China, however over the past decade that has been eroded. With China still to catch up with India’s home-grown development of its naval capabilities, India’s achievements are viewed by many nations in Southeast Asia as a welcome balance to perceived threats by China in the South China Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean.
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