Can India counter China’s submarine force?

Last week, India’s first conventional submarine in over a decade and a half — the INS Kalvari — finally began sea trials, amid reports of Indo-US cooperation in tracking Chinese submarine activity in the region. As sightings of Chinese submarines become more frequent in the Indian Ocean region, the Indian Navy is looking at innovative ways to gain an edge in anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capabilities. Can the Indian Navy effectively counter a modern Chinese submarine force, which is primarily optimized for regional anti-surface warfare missions near major sea lines of communication in the Indian Ocean?

India’s expenditure on defence acquisition has remained largely static in real terms in recent years, resulting in constraints on not just the navy but the armed forces in general. The defence outlay for fiscal year 2016/17 was INR 2.49 trillion (USD 36.63 billion), but according to IHS Jane’s 360, this was counterbalanced by rising inflation, and weakening of the Indian rupee against the U.S. dollar over the past two years. Furthermore, the force posture and modernization agendas of the Indian armed forces under the continued broad influence of a “two-front war” construct have left the Indian Navy with a mere 16 percent of the defense budget (excluding defense pensions). This limits the navy’s capacity to address increasing diffusion of the People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN)’s capabilities in the region.

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Amit Singh

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