New Delhi: India has launched a project to make six more nuclear-powered submarines to counter China's growing influence in Indo-Pacific region.
"We have launched the project to make six SSNs. I will not say anything further on this as it's a classified project," chief of naval staff Admiral Sunil Lanba said on Friday. SS "denotes" submarine while "N" stands for nuclear power.
The six nuclear submarines were sanctioned by the Narendra Modi government last year and will add to the current fleet of two. Nuclear energy enables a carrier to sail for months without having to dock for refuelling.
The navy chief, addressing a news conference on Friday ahead of Navy Day on December 4, said it was odd for China to deploy submarines for anti-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean.
Asked about the threat from the Chinese submarines, Admiral Lanba said: "They (China) may say it is for anti-piracy but it's an odd task to be on anti-piracy patrol. We have carried out a threat assessment of the People's Liberation Army submarines." He added that Chinese naval ships had been coming to the Indian Ocean since 2013.
Another senior navy official said the six new submarines would enable the force "to protect sea lanes of communication in the Persian Gulf and monitor Chinese activities in the Bay of Bengal".
"China remains a significant worry as the Chinese navy is taking assertive stance in South China Sea and is challenging India's domination in the Indian Ocean," the official said.