The Commander of the US Pacific fleet said that there is a possibility of China deploying aircraft carriers in the Indian ocean. Admiral John Aquilino said that China’s intent is to operate in a much broader area and he would expect to see continued deployments in the Indian Ocean region.
Admiral Aquilino, currently in India, interacted with reporters after he met Navy chief Admiral Karambir Singh and other senior defence officials. He said that China has been assertive in the disputed region of the South China Sea and continues to bully other nations. The disputes involve both island and maritime claims by several countries in the region including Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. The strategic region of the South China Sea is vital to global trade routes but clashes with China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
“I have seen continued bullying of nations in the region. I have seen islands or rocks turned into man-made islands and militarised despite the conversations about those being for defensive purpose,” said Admiral Aquilino.
He said that increased weaponisation, including China’s anti-ship missiles and fifth-generation aircraft, are a threat to all “free and like-minded” nations. Admiral Aquilino was of the opinion that many of the Chinese bases in the Indian ocean have been categorised as economic initiatives but have “absolutely military intent”.
Admiral Aquilino raised concerns over China’s continued bullying and an increase in pressure across the region to achieve their objectives.
“They challenge and threaten all the nations in the region — our allies, partners and friends. But none of those capabilities has been removed from those islands. So I would say there has been no reduction, and only an increase in pressure from China across the region to achieve their objectives,” said the Admiral.
The United States has been firm on its demand for freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and recently, two US Navy guided-missile destroyers conducted a freedom of navigation operation near the islands claimed by China and Vietnam in the disputed region.
(With PTI Inputs)