New Delhi: Over 120 warships of extra-regional forces are currently deployed in the Indian Ocean Region in support of various missions, Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat said on Friday, referring to increasing maritime presence of various countries in the strategic sea lanes.
In an address at an online conference, Gen Rawat said there has been a "race for strategic places and bases" in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) which is only going to gain momentum in times to come. The Chief of Defence Staff said an increasing number of countries are focusing on the IOR considering its geo-strategic importance.
"At present, there are over 120 warships of extra-regional forces deployed in the Indian Ocean region in support of various missions. Till now the region, by and large, remained peaceful," Gen Rawat said at the Global Security Summit. The Indian Ocean, considered the backyard of the Indian Navy, is critical for India's strategic interests.
China has been making concerted efforts to increase its presence in the region. Referring to India's aspirations to become a major global power, he said the country will have to achieve it despite living in a "tough neighbourhood" and in an "increasingly contested" region.
"We are witnessing a race for strategic places and bases in the Indian Ocean Region which is only going to gain momentum in times to come. Based on challenges we face as a rising regional power, we require structured long-term planning for capability building and capability development of our defence forces. In our quest to build a stronger India, we need a peaceful and stable security environment. We need to maintain our strategic autonomy and cooperative relations underscored by strong regional linkages," he said.
Delving into the evolving geo-political scenario, Gen Rawat said China's "economic and military rise coupled with competition increased its influence and attracted a great deal of interest. Gen Rawat said the world appears to be on the brink of a new era as new centres of power and alliances based on geo-politics are emerging putting pressure on the Bretton Woods institutions.
He said the Indo-Pacific region in general and the Indian Ocean region in particular will remain vital for transit and world trade. "Today, we are facing increasing security challenges, and to my mind, the best guarantor of peace and stability is to have dissuasive deterrence. For a nation like India, the security of land borders remained our primary concern," he said.
"Therefore, there is a need to develop integrated structures to ensure modernisation programmes to be undertaken by our armed forces based on careful assessment of the nature of threats and challenges," he added.