In a dock opening onto the Hooghly River near central Kolkata, one of India’s most lethal new weapons is going through a final outfit. The Kadmatt is a submarine killer, bristling with technology to sniff out and destroy underwater predators. It’s the second of four warships in India’s first dedicated anti-submarine force — a key part of plans to spend at least $61 billion on expanding the navy’s size by about half in 12 years.
The build-up is mostly aimed at deterring China from establishing a foothold in the Indian Ocean. It also serves another goal: Transforming India’s warship-building industry into an exporting force that can supply the region, including U.S. partners in Asia wary of China’s increased assertiveness.
India’s naval build-up is certainly occurring in the context of India moving towards a greater alignment with U.S. and its allies to balance China, said David Brewster, a specialist in Indo-Pacific security at the Australian National University in Canberra. India wants to be able to demonstrate that Beijing’s activities in South Asia do not come without a cost, and Delhi is also able to play in China’s neighborhood.
China showed its growing naval prowess when it deployed a nuclear-powered submarine to patrol the Indian Ocean for the first time last year, while a diesel-powered one docked twice in Sri Lanka. India says another Chinese submarine docked in May and July in Pakistan, which is reportedly looking to buy eight submarines in what would be China’s biggest arms export deal.