Indian Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba has claimed the Indian Air Force’s strikes in Balakot will change Pakistan’s behaviour towards India. “The Balakot airstrike, followed by the proactive forward deployment by the three services have changed the discourse and the dialogue [vis-à-vis Pakistan],” Lanba told the Hindustan Times on Monday. “In my view, that is the biggest change. It will bring a change in Pakistan’s behaviour.”
The airstrikes – described by the Indian government as a “non-military preemptive action” – were conducted on February 26, 12 days after a terror attack in the Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir killed 40 personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force. The Jaish-e-Mohammed group, whose leaders are based in Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the attack. Relations between India and Pakistan nosedived after the terror attack.
After Pulwama, the Navy deployed its front-line assets to the north Arabian Sea for operations. For that, it had to cancel a major exercise in the Indian Ocean region. “The Navy’s posturing was aimed to ensure that the adversary did not do anything,” said Lanba. “It worked.” The admiral claimed the move put the Pakistan Navy on the back foot.
Lanba warned of the growing Chinese Naval power. He said Beijing was transforming its Navy into a blue-water force and building 10 to 12 ships on an average every year. “The Chinese Navy is there to stay in the Indian Ocean region,” he said. “They are not going away. But we have adequate force levels to look after our maritime interests.”
Lanba, who is also the chairperson of the chiefs of staff committee, will retire on May 31.
He said India would strike a deal with the United States for 24 Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky MH-60 Romeo choppers later this year. Priced at Rs 13,000 crore, these helicopters are expected to be the mainstay of the Navy in the coming decades.
Lanba said the Indian Navy might induct the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier-I by 2021, and also build the second one in a decade or so. INS Vikramaditya is the only aircraft carrier the Navy operates as of now. “There is a need for a third aircraft carrier so that two warships are always available to look after our expanding maritime interests that will only grow over time,” he added.