Threat from sea on rise, Navy prepared: Navy chief

New Delhi: Threats from the sea have increased, but the Indian Navy is prepared, Navy chief Admiral R.K. Dhowan said Wednesday.

At a press conference on the eve of the 43rd Navy Day, the navy chief said terror threat from the sea was a real challenge to be dealt with.

"It is a very, very serious situation which we have taken serious note of," Dhowan said, responding to a question on the attempted hijack of Pakistani ship PNS Zulfiqar.

Asked if the navy takes into account the possibility that there might be a jihadi group on board when it encounters a Pakistani ship, he said: "We are taking that aspect into account."

On a lighter note, he said: "Out at sea, when officers on watch report to the captain that we have a warship from another navy, the captain would tell the officer to wish him (the other warship) good morning because he is in international waters and so are you."

"Well, in this changed environment, we have to rethink. We may not wish him good morning and actually carry out a surveillance and figure out who he is," he said.

According to reports, Al Qaeda militants tried to hijack a Pakistan Navy frigate earlier this month and use it to target US Navy vessels on anti-terrorism patrol in the northwestern Indian Ocean.

Dhowan, however, said this increases the threat perception for the navy.

"Terror threat is a real challenge," he said, adding, "challenges have gone up, there are pirates, floating armouries".

On the port infrastructure built by China in neighbouring countries, Dhowan said it was being monitored closely.

"It is an aspect we are monitoring very, very closely. It has certain implications, and we are keeping an eye on all aspects," he said.

On the presence of Chinese warships and submarines in the Indian Ocean, the navy chief said: "China has been operating in the Indian Ocean as it is their trade route. They have occasionally deployed submarines, it is part of securing their maritime assets."

On a dialogue between the Indian and Chinese navies, he said it will happen at an "appropriate time".

The navy chief said India was prepared for any operation.

"We are fully prepared for Blue Water tasks, carrying out and improving of coastal security and conducting regular naval exercises with the Indian Coast Guard off nine coastal states and union territories," he said.

About the accident in submarine Sindhurakshak, he said human error led to the sinking of the vessel.

"In case of a submarine, aspects related to procedures need to be followed very strictly. There could have been a mistake while handling of equipment or weapons," Dhowan said.

"When procedures are not followed, there is room for error," he said.

Eighteen navy personnel - three officers and 15 sailors - perished when blasts ripped through the torpedo compartment of the INS Sindhurakshak while the submarine was berthed in Mumbai harbour.

Dhowan said that India's first nuclear propelled submarine Arihant will be ready for sea trial "very soon".

"Next year is the period of consolidation in operational sphere, maintenance, and recruiting human resource," he said.

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