Vice-Admiral Satish Soni, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Southern Naval Command, on Friday expressed the hope that the expansion of the Chinese Navy would contribute to maritime security operations in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

Talking to journalists on board naval vessel Sharda ahead of the annual Navy Day celebrations, the Vice-Admiral said it was clearly a good development for the Chinese that they had been able to refurbish an old aircraft carrier procured from the USSR and make it operational, with J-15 aircraft reportedly taking off from its deck.

“They have said that they will use it for training and research. The footprint of the Chinese Navy has been increasing as a result of their economic development… They are also contributing to anti-piracy tasks. We hope as their Navy develops, it contributes to the overall maritime security operations of the Indian Ocean Region and its neighbourhood,” he said.

On the Indian Navy’s carrier operation plans, he said its long-term plan envisaged operating three carriers. INS Viraat, which served the Navy for long, was “fairly old, reaching the fag end of its life.” (The Viraat is currently undergoing refit at the Cochin Shipyard).

INS Vikramaditya (which the Navy bought from Russia) would hopefully be in Indian waters in 2013. The Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) was a bit behind schedule. It was a big, complex ship requiring expertise and help from the industry and, naturally, there would be some delays from what had been originally planned, he maintained.

The Vice-Admiral said the phase-II expansion of the Indian Naval Academy at Ezhimala, functioning at full capacity training over 1,000 officers, was under way. As part of it, the academy would get three more squadrons and additional infrastructure. In case the need arose for further expansion, the Navy would approach the State for more land for the project. The Vice-Admiral said hydrographic ships of the command provided Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) surveillance and survey assistance to friendly nations, including Seychelles and Maldives. While Saudi Arabia requested survey of a disputed area that was not clearly demarcated, the Indian Navy decided not to take up the job as it didn’t want to ride rough shod over another country, he said in response to a query.