BLUE WATER DREAM: India's indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant is launched at Kochi in Kerala, India, on August 12 (XINHUA/AFP)
India recently unveiled its first indigenously built aircraft carrier, triggering much hype in the international media. The sensationalized coverage often implied a sort of competition between the "elephant" of India versus the "dragon" of China, aiming to spin the story into a forced rivalry between the two Asian neighbors.
Chinese observers generally do not see India's accomplishment as a threat. They claimed that the new aircraft carrier will certainly strengthen combat capacity of the Indian navy, but suggested the outside world should take a more objective view of the claims that India is an undisputed sea power. And as the world's top two developing countries, China and India have vast interests in common. They cherish the larger picture of their overall bilateral relations.
"Cooperation and competition between China and India are in a dynamic balance. The launching of an aircraft carrier certainly cannot upset this. It will not necessarily impact bilateral cooperation, nor will it increase competition," said Lou Chunhao, a researcher on South Asian studies with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR). "What matters is that both countries view each other's 'navy dream' with an open mind."
Navy beefs up
With the unveiling of INS Vikrant at the Cochin shipyard in the southern city of Kochi on August 12, India now joins an elite club of just a few countries capable of designing and building large-scale, high-capability carriers including the United States, Britain, Russia and France.
Indian Defense Minister A. K. Antony hailed the launch as a "crowning glory," commenting that, "India needs a strong navy to defend itself and will press ahead with developing its maritime capabilities."
The 37,500-ton aircraft carrier is 260 meters long and 60 meters wide, with a flight deck almost twice the size of a football field. In fact, this formal launch marked the end of the first phase of construction on the ship, which will be re-docked for outfitting and further development. The aircraft carrier will be readied for extensive sea trials by 2016 and is to be commissioned into the Indian Navy in 2018. Once completed, the carrier will accommodate around 1,450 sailors and 30 aircraft, including helicopters.
Zhang Junshe, a researcher at the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Naval Military Studies Research Institute, said that the new indigenous carrier is a highly significant element that is certain to further strengthen the country's naval power.
India's naval strength ranks high within Asia and even in the upper-middle rankings of the world. The new aircraft carrier undoubtedly adds weight to its navy, said Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo, a renowned military expert and Director of the Advisory Committee for Informationization under the PLA's navy.