New Delhi: A recent visit by an advanced Chinese Yuan-class submarine to Karachi after traversing the Arabian Sea worried Indian authorities concerned about China's growing undersea-warfare capabilities — more than four times as large as India's.
The submarine, with 65 crew, spent a week in Karachi, refuelling and restocking, before sailing back to China. Yuan-class submarines are diesel-electric, but unlike Indian conventional submarines, which must surface to “breathe” and charge batteries, they are capable of staying submerged for weeks.
India now plans to lease a second nuclear attack submarine from Russia and the government has just approved a Rs 90,000-crore ($14 billion) plan to build six nuclear attack submarines in Vishakapatnam. But as Vice Admiral P. Murugesan, the vice chief of naval staff, told The Economic Times last week: “We have started work, but we are still at the pen-to-paper stage.”
India is rushing to counter China by building conventional and nuclear submarines with German, French and Russian help. But China's lead is large and growing and it plans to export its undersea expertise.
Particularly disconcerting for India are reports that China plans to sell eight Yuan-class submarines to Pakistan, at a time when Indian submarine forces are, according to this report, in “a state of crisis” and the country jittery about Chinese submarine power.
A conventional Chinese submarine berthed at Colombo's port twice during 2014, sparking concern in India, leading to a Sri Lankan assurance it would not do anything against Indian interests.