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India deploys the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya in the Arabian Sea, even as China-Pakistan conducts a major exercise. Indian News

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NEW DELHI: With Pakistan and China conducting a major joint naval exercise in the northern Arabian Sea, India has also deployed its INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier on its west coast to send a clear strategic signal to its neighbors about its combat capacity in the maritime field.

The Navy’s Deputy Chief Admiral, Vice Admiral M S Pawar, personally reviewed the “intense air and sea operations” aboard the 44,400-ton InS Vikramaditya, which operates MiG-29K supersonic fighters from its deck in the Arabian Sea. “Admiral Pawar expressed confidence that INS Vikramaditya will be at war and will always remain victorious in battle,” one officer said.

The Navy, of course, is closely monitoring the nine-day “Guardians of the Sea 2020” exercise between Pakistani and Chinese warships and submarines, which began Monday to further “consolidate its strategic partnership for all kinds of weather.”

While the Pakistani Navy is not a concern to the Indian Navy, New Delhi remains concerned about Beijing’s growing strategic footprint in the Indian Ocean region. Admiral Karambir Singh, head of the Navy, last month, had said that between seven and eight Chinese warships are present at the IOR at any given time, while confirming that Indian warships had ejected an ocean warship Chinese infrequently meddling in suspicious activities strategically located Andaman and Nicobar archipelago in September.

China, with an overseas military base in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa and exchange facilities in Karachi, is rapidly increasing the size of its naval forces. It already has two aircraft carriers (two more are being built), 33 destroyers, 54 frigates, 42 corvettes, 50 diesel-electrics and 10 nuclear submarines, among other warships. China is also helping Pakistan develop its Gwadar deepwater port in the region.

The Indian armed forces, for their part, have been maintaining high operational readiness since the IAF carried out the pre-dawn airstrikes against the important Jaish-e-Mohammed training centre in Balakot in Pakistan in February of the year Past.

Shortly after the Balakot airstrikes, Indian warships, submarines and aircraft had transited rapidly since the then-on-going exercise “Tropex-2019”, which included INS Vikramaditya and nuclear submarines INS Arihant and INS Chakra, to deployment operation in the northern Arabian Sea to “lock up the Pak Navy off the coast of Makran,” officials said.

INS Vikramaditya, or the renovated Admiral Gorshkov included in November 2013 in a $2.33 billion deal with Russia, is India’s largest and most powerful vessel. With the 45 MiG-29K ordered for another $2 billion to operate from its deck, the carrier is also the most expensive single weapon platform the country has ever purchased.

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