India has started a project to build six nuclear-powered attack submarines, Navy Chief Sunil Lanba said on Friday. The project is likely to boost the Navy’s strength as China builds up its navy and steps up its aggression in the Indo-Pacific region, PTI reported.

“It has kicked off and I will leave it at that,” Lanba said. “It is a classified project...I will not comment further.”

In a press conference ahead of Navy Day, Lanba also said that the Indian Navy was now ready to play a bigger role, including under the proposed quadrilateral coalition among India, the United States, Australia and Japan.

He said it was odd for China to deploy submarines in the Indian Ocean region, and India was carrying out a threat assessment on it. Eight Chinese Navy ships were deployed in the region at any point of time, and the number had gone up to 14 once in August, he said. Chinese presence in the strategic Gwadar port in Pakistan is also a security challenge, Lanba said.

“We are all aware of the prevailing security scenario in our maritime domain,” he said. “The continued presence of both traditional and non-traditional threats in the maritime domain demand constant attention and robust mitigating measures.”