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Another Himalayan Blunder Imminent! Send Force To Protect Our Interests In South China Sea:Navy
Indian Holocaust My Father`s Life and Time, Chapter:Nine Hundred Thirty Two
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Another Himalayan blunder imminent!We'll send force to protect our interests in South China Sea, says Navy chief!Is India replicating United States of America? Only superpower US is known to send its armies beyond neighbourhood to protect its interests! Would America or Israel support India`s virgin venture?In a major assertion of maritime power, Navy chief Admiral DK Joshi said that the Indian Navy was prepared to defend Indian assets in the South China Sea .Against the backdrop of China's renewed assertiveness in the South China Sea, Indian Navy chief Admiral D.K. Joshi on Monday robustly defended freedom of navigation and underlined that the force was ready to protect this country's assets . Viewing the rapid modernisation of Chinese Navy as a "major concern", Navy Chief Admiral D K Joshi today made it clear that India will protect its interests in the disputed South China Sea, even if it means sending forces there.Navy Chief Admiral DK Joshi said while India was not a claimant in the dispute over territorial rights in the South China Sea, it was prepared to act, if necessary, to protect its maritime and economic interests in the region.Mind you,from the South China Sea to Somalia to Mali to Nigeria to Venezuela the usual culprits are at play: nationalism, ethnic hatred, religious zeal, overpopulation, climate change, pandemic disease, hunger, water, greed, and lust for power. China is “literally testing the waters” to see how far it can go in provoking America's tolerance with the plan to board foreign ships as an act of asserting its claim over virtually the entire South China Sea.Are we tempted to play in accordance with US global strategic game plan?Thus,the Indian navy is prepared to deploy vessels to the South China Sea to protect India’s oil interests there, the navy chief said on Monday amid growing international fears over the potential for naval clashes in the disputed region.
Meanwhile,Army chief General Bikram Singh reviewed the operational preparedness of troops deployed along the border with China and the security situation in the north-eastern states, The Times of India reported.India is upgrading its defence preparedness along the eastern boundary by deploying more troops, using new formations and deploying more lethal equipment such as the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile.
This came as India's National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon arrived in Beijing for wide-ranging talks on bilateral ties, including discussion on the disputed border. It was the first high-level Sino-India contact since China's leadership change last month.
India has sparred diplomatically with China in the past over its gas and oil exploration block off the coast of Vietnam. China claims virtually the entire mineral-rich South China Sea and has stepped up its military presence there. Other nations such as Vietnam, Philippines and Malaysia have competing claims.
State-run explorer Oil and Natural Gas Corp. (ONGC) has a stake in a gas field in the Nam Con Son basin, off Vietnam’s south coast.
Any display of naval assertiveness by India in the South China Sea would likely fuel concern that the navies of the two rapidly growing Asian giants could be on a collision course as they seek to protect trade routes and lock in the supply of coal, minerals and other raw material from foreign sources.
“It is one of the most important international waterways and freedom of navigation there is an issue of utmost concern to India because a large portion of India’s trade is through the South China Sea,” said Brahma Chellaney, analyst at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi.
Chellaney, however, played down Joshi’s comments, saying the Indian navy’s focus would remain on the Indian Ocean, which the Asian nation views as its strategic backyard.
Lest we should afford to forget that the origins of the 1962 conflict lie in New Delhi’s decision to encroach militarily in the Tibet-Aksai-Ladakh (western) sector of their disputed boundary.
Although the territory in question was subject to overlapping claims, it was deemed strategically salient by the Chinese and, crucially, was within their administrative control.
Yet when the war erupted in October that year, a major determinant was India’s attempt to militarily impose its preferred alignment of the boundary line (the McMahon Line) in the Assam Himalayas sector to the east. The Chinese inflicted embarrassingly swift reprisals across the McMahon Line.
Cartographic unilateralism and the extension of administrative prerogatives by themselves did not cause the Sino-Indian border war of 1962.
Each country had established administrative control of specific territories according to claim lines deemed to be strategically vital to their interests – in the east by India (the Assam Himalayas sector) and in much of the west by China (the Tibet-Aksai-Ladakh sector).
It was New Delhi’s unwillingness to negotiate the disposition of territory that was subject to overlapping claims that ultimately precipitated the war. It was not until a bilateral agreement was signed in 1993 that the lesson of non-infringement of territory under the administrative control of the other party was formally institutionalised.
In September 2011, an Indian warship sailing in the South China Sea to the Vietnamese port of Haiphong was challenged when a caller identifying himself as an official of the Chinese navy warned the ship on an open radio channel that it was entering Chinese waters.
Nothing happened, the ship sailed on, and both India and China have since played down the incident, with New Delhi saying the vessel was well within international waters in the South China Sea and that there was no confrontation.
China’s neighbours are fretting about a recent Chinese media report on new rules that will allow police in the southern Chinese province of Hainan to board and seize control of foreign ships which “illegally enter” its waters from 1 January.
The Philippines on Saturday condemned the Chinese plan as illegal and Singapore, home to the world’s second-busiest container port, said on Monday it was concerned.
Asked about the report of China’s plan to board ships, Joshi said India had the right to self-defence.
Estimates for proven and undiscovered oil reserves in the South China Sea range as high as 213 billion barrels of oil, the US Energy Information Administration said in a 2008 report. That would surpass every country’s proven oil reserves except Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, according to the BP Statistical Review.
Mind you,China has expressed serious concern and firm opposition to a U.S. bill that regards China's territory as under the authority of a U.S.-Japan security pact.
At a regular press briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters, "The Chinese side expresses serious concern and firm opposition to the U.S. Senate's amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act which involves the Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islets."
In the bill, which the U.S. Senate passed last week, the United States reaffirmed that it "takes no position" on the ultimate sovereignty of the Diaoyu Islands. However, the bill notes that Japan has the rights of administration over the territory and that "unilateral actions of a third party" would not affect its position.
Hong said the Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islets have always been the inherent territory of China since ancient times, and China has undisputed sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands.
According to the U.S. bill, any armed attack "in the territories under the administration of Japan" would be met under the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security.
Hong called the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan as a "product of the Cold War era", saying it should not go beyond bilateral scopes, nor undermine the interests of a third party.
Hong said the U.S. side has repeatedly stated that it will not take sides on territory disputes between China and Japan.
He said the U.S. side "should not send out signals that conflict with each other." He expressed the hope that the U.S. side would "proceed from the general situation of peace and stability of the region", "keep its words" and "do more things that are conducive to peace and stability in the region."
On the other hand,China on Monday sought to allay the concerns of India and some Southeast Asian countries over disputed maps in its new e-passport, saying it is not a "big issue" and should not be overplayed.India also downplayed the ongoing row with China over boundary lines in passports, saying nothing had changed. Talking to journalists in New delhi before leaving for Beijing, national security adviser (NSA) Shivshankar Menon said, "I think you need to see these things in some perspective. We do have differences on where the boundary lies. We are discussing them. We have made progress in dealing with that."Admiral`s aggressive comment seems to spoil his diplomatic ploy.However,China is “ready to press ahead” with negotiations on the boundary question, the Chinese government has said ahead of Monday's visit of National Security Adviser (NSA) Shivshankar Menon.
Making a strong pitch for deepening ties with India after the leadership changes here, China on Monday said that Sino-Indian ties should not be affected by "noise" by "some parties" intended to undermine bilateral ties which had improved despite the lingering border dispute.
Peace at the borders has not come easy and it took strong efforts on the part of the two countries to establish, maintain peaceful borders even while continuing to resolve the boundary issue, Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo told National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon.
As National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon is in Beijing for talks on the boundary question, Navy Chief Admiral D.K. Joshi has termed the situation in the South China Sea “complex,” as China is rapidly modernising its Navy, and said India will protect its economic interests in the disputed waters by sending forces, if need be. “Yes, you are right. The modernisation of the Chinese Navy is truly impressive. It is actually a major, major cause for concern…, which we continuously evaluate, and [we will] work out our options and strategies,” he said in reply to questions at the customary Navy Day press conference in New Delhi on Monday.
National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon arrived in Beijing on Sunday for talks with the Chinese leadership on the boundary question and strategic issues of common interest. His two-day visit will mark India's first major engagement with the newly-selected fifth generation of the Communist Party of China's (CPC) leadership.
National security advisor and negotiator in border talks with China, Shiv Shankar Menon, arrived here on Sunday, the first visit by a top ranking Indian official after changes announced in the Communist Party of China. Menon is expected to meet China's next premier Li Keqiang.
Chinese State Councillor Dai Bingguo told National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon in Beijing on Monday that China was looking to forge stronger ties with its neighbours following the leadership transition.The Hindu reports.
Mr. Dai, who is also Mr. Menon's counterpart as the Special Representative (SR) on the boundary talks, said Monday’s visit had assumed “special and important” significance as it was one of the first visits by a foreign leader to China following November’s Party Congress, which formalised a once-in-a-decade leadership transition.
“You’re one of the first few foreign leaders we are receiving after the party congress,” Mr. Dai told Mr. Menon at their first session of talks. “I’m sure through your visit the Indian side will have a better sense of China after the eighteenth Party Congress and China’s foreign policy, and how best to join forces to further promote the development of China-India relations”.
The first session of Monday’s talks was devoted to briefing Mr. Menon on China’s transition. Two other sessions later on Monday will focus on Sino-Indian relations and are expected to cover a range of topics from the boundary question to wider strategic issues.
Mr. Menon is expected to meet Wu Bangguo, the head of the National People’s Congress or Parliament and the second-ranked member of the outgoing Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) which stepped down last month, at the Great Hall of the People on Tuesday morning. Officials said earlier he was also expected to meet with one of the seven members of the newly-selected PBSC.
Mr. Dai began Monday’s meeting by describing India as “a big and friendly neighbour of China”. “I would like to emphasise here,” he told Mr. Menon, “that it was made very clear at the eighteenth party congress that China would continue to be committed to path of peaceful development and work for the noble cause of peace and development for all mankind.”
“It was also solemnly declared at the party congress that China will continue to make friends with and forge partnerships with our neighbours,” he said. “We will consolidate our good relations with our neighbours and expand mutually beneficial cooperation. We will do our best to make sure that China’s development will bring more benefits to our surrounding countries and will always be a friend to other members of the developing world.”
Mr. Menon said Monday’s meeting came “at a time of significant developments, in China, with the party congress, and in the world as well”. “It also a time when India China relations are proceeding smoothly and developing well,” he said, describing the relationship as “one of our most important relationships”.
“The development of this relationship is important not just to us in India and China, but to also the region and the rest of the world and it is of growing significance,” he added.
Mr. Menon said Mr. Dai “had made major contributions to India China relations” for many years. The Chinese State Councillor – a rank below Vice Premier in the State Council, or Cabinet – will step down as the Special Representative when he retires at the Parliament Session in March. He was accompanied at Monday’s talks by Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying. A member of the newly selected Central Committee, she has been seen as one of the candidates to take over his role as the SR in the boundary talks.
Both sides will review the progress after 15 rounds of talks, although the perception in both New Delhi and Beijing is that little progress has been made since the signing of an agreement on political parameters and guiding principles in 2005. Talks are currently in the second of three stages, which involves the complicated task of arriving at a framework to settle the boundary question in all sectors. The final stage will see the delineating of the border in maps and on the ground.
The Chinese would seek a diplomatic signal from Menon suggesting India does not want to join forces with Vietnam and Philippines in the passport row triggered by China, informed sources said. The three countries have protested against Beijing's embossing the map of China on areas controlled and claimed by them on their passports.
India and China are trying to work out a positive signal to overcome criticism that the two countries have gone through 15 rounds of border negotiations without any improvement in the situation. At the same time, China's passport move has somewhat vitiated the atmosphere.
Menon's visit will see a battle of wits between the two sets of negotiators at a time when China is getting ready for a change of guard with both the president and premier to be replaced in March.
Though India was not a direct claimant in the South China Sea, its primary concern was the “freedom of navigation in international waters,” Admiral Joshi said.
“It is not that we expect to be in those waters very frequently,” but whenever the situation required, with the country’s interests at stake — for example “ONGC Videsh has three oil exploration blocks there” — “we will be required to go there and we are prepared for that,” Admiral Joshi said.
Dai said the bilateral ties should not be affected by "noise," and advocated further cooperation for common development.
"The two countries should have a clear idea about some parties' intentions of undermining bilateral ties. They should also remember that there is more consensus than differences, and more cooperation than competition, between China and India," he told Menon.
While it was not clear who exactly Dai was referring to as "some parties", the Chinese strategic analysts often point to US and Japan's efforts to improve ties with India as part of larger strategy to contain Beijing.
The trip will take place almost 50 years to the day that the People’s Liberation Army began a unilateral withdrawal from territories captured in the Assam Himalayas after inflicting a punishing defeat on Indian positions.
Mr Menon and his departing Chinese counterpart, Dai Bingguo, are expected to lay out a joint record of the progress achieved in the 15 rounds of special representative-level talks conducted since 2003.
Arriving at a negotiated settlement over the more difficult question of overlapping territorial claims has been much harder.
Two historical factors have conspired against such an accord.
First, as a general rule, in pre-modern times along the Sino-Indian frontier sovereignty and boundaries were not coterminous; they were sanctioned locally.
Mountains, except at their highest reaches, were not a deterrent to movement: Tibetans and ethnically-related groups frequently moved across them.
China’s modern boundary claims generally shadow these historical practices and the British-Indian imposition of a linear boundary based on the crest-line of the Himalayas was bound to become a point of discord.
Second, the British were neither willing to countenance any frontier power with equal rights in the SinoIndian border zone, nor acknowledge that the allegiance of their dependants in this area was shared with another great (Russian) or significant (Chinese) power.
Administrative responsibilities were kept to a minimum in Tibet, where Britain’s imperial arm barely reached. While Beijing’s input or acquiescence to its alignment – while preferable – was not deemed essential, the attempt to unilaterally present it as a fait accompli to the Chinese at a 1914 Shimla convention turned into an exercise of coercion and fraud. Britain’s diplomatic recognition of the newly-constituted Chinese Republic was made contingent on China’s participation at Shimla.
The alignment of the boundary was secretly settled between the British and Tibetan representatives at the conference, even though the former was legally bound by Anglo-Chinese treaties of 1886, 1890 and 1906 to have no direct dealings with the Tibetans.
Within days of China’s preliminary signature on a draft map, the Chinese foreign office vehemently repudiated the alignment of the boundary; Whitehall followed shortly thereafter by disavowing the convention’s entire purpose.
Shimla failed to produce anything resembling a conclusive agreement and can hardly serve as the lawful basis for a consensual and durable boundary arrangement. Yet the political and legal justness of the McMahon Line continues to persist as an article of faith within political, strategic and media circles in New Delhi.
It was not until a bilateral agreement was signed in 2005 to frame principles-based parameters to guide settlement that a negotiated path to boundary dispute resolution was formally institutionalised.
Earlier, a Chinese official had expressed strong reservations about reports in the Indian media pointing that border talks have not made any headway.
Qin Gang, Director-General of Foreign Minister's media wing who took the lead in briefing the Indian media about Dai-Menon talks, refuted the Indian media reports that border talks failed to make any progress ahead of Menon's visit here.
"This meeting is not like any occasion where both sides expressed their differences on boundary issues. This is not the time and occasion for both sides to express differences on boundary issues," he said.
"This is the time and occasion to express good wishes and good views," he said referring to reports in Indian media that this meeting can not hope for any agreement on boundary issue because both sides are far from each other’s position.
"That is not true. Menon's visit is not about boundary issue but the whole relationship," Qin said.
State-run Xinhua news agency reported that Dai spoke highly of the two countries' "creative" practices in coping with disparities and contradictions, saying China and India do not allow problems to influence bilateral ties.
The experience of handling and controlling disparities between China and India has made an important contribution to enriching the theories and practices of international relations, Dai said.
In the process of developing the ties, China and India are committed to pushing forward a solution to existing problems, he said. Dai noted that 15 rounds of talks had been held between Special Representatives on China-India border issues, and the two sides had accumulated consensus in the framework for solving the issues.
China and India experienced a border conflict in 1962.
The two countries launched the mechanism of meetings between Special Representatives on border issues in 2003.
China and India, Dai added, are committed to protecting peace and stability in border areas and promoting military mutual trust.
"China and India's independence and peaceful development, as well as making their two-fifths of the world's population live in abundance, will be huge contributions to world peace and development," Dai said.
Menon and Dai, the two officials, designated as Special Representatives to resolve the boundary differences, held three rounds of talks today.
Earlier, welcoming Menon Dai told him that he is among the first foreign dignitaries to visit Beijing after Communist Party leadership change last month, which signifies the importance China attaches to its relationship with India.
"You're one of the first few foreign leaders we are receiving after the Party Congress," Dai told Menon welcoming him for the talks at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse.
"There is a very special and important background to your visit this time, that is the Communist Party of China has just successfully concluded its 18th party congress," he said.
"I'm sure through your visit the Indian side will have a better sense of China" after the CPC Congress about its future foreign policy and "how best to join force to further promote the development of China-India relations."
On his part, Menon said his visit is taking place in the midst of significant developments.
"We are meeting at a time of significant developments, in China, the Party Congress, in the world as well. It is also a time when India-China relations are proceeding smoothly and developing well," he said.
"So I am looking forward very much to discussing these issues, continuing our talks. You yourself have made major contributions to India-China relations.
"I am confident that our talks will help us further develop this relationship which for us in India is one of our most important relationships," he said.
The development of India-China relations are important not just to them but to also the region and the rest of the world and it is of growing significance, he said.
Menon's visit was ostensibly to take part in informal talks with Dai. The main purpose of his visit is also aimed at establishing formal contacts with the new Chinese leadership headed by Xi Jinping who succeeded Hu Jintao as General Secretary at the Party Congress last month.
He is expected to meet Li Keqiang, the number two leader in the seven-member all powerful Standing Committee headed by Xi. Li is slated to succeed Premier Wen Jiabao when the latter retires in March next year.
Chinese officials maintain that Menon would be meeting one of the top leaders. Though both Xi, who was the Vice President under Hu, and Vice Premier Li have not visited India in recent times, the two were stated to be part of policy of friendship pursued by previous leadership.
They have been interacting with Indian officials at various levels, officials said. Apprising Menon of Party's resolve to improve relations with neighbours, Dai stated that China want to deepen relations with India under the new leadership.
This will be Dai's last meeting of the boundary talks, which was categorised as "informal" in nature as he is set to retire after a decade long stint as State Councillor, a top political post higher than the Foreign Minister.
Asked about problems relating to disputed maps in the e-passports, Director-General of Chinese Foreign Ministry Qin Gang who briefed the Indian media about the talks between National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon and Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo, said it is not an issue to be overplayed.
Qin, who briefed the media at the end of second round of talks, said the issue did not figure in the deliberations.
It is not clear whether it figured in the third round of talks which took place later in the evening.
India countered China's move by stamping the visas with India's official map nullifying any perception that granting visas on Chinese passport with disputed maps amounted to endorsement of Beijing's position.
Vietnam, which along the Philippines objected to Chinese stand, started issuing stapled visas, similar to what China has issued to residents of Jammu and Kashmir in 2009 which was subsequently rolled back after India's objections.
Asked whether China accepted India stamping the visas with India's map, Qin said "that is the way for Indian side to express. Our passport is not targeted at any particular country."
"Both sides know each other's positions well.
We have fully explained to other parties, including India, both sides need to work for a smooth travelling of citizens to countries," he said.
To a question why the map was printed on the passport he said "there is no particular purpose. We issue the passports in accordance to relevant regulation of International Civil Aviation Organisation."
Southeast Asia's top diplomat has warned that the South China Sea disputes risk becoming "Asia's Palestine", deteriorating into a violent conflict that draws sharp dividing lines between nations and destabilises the whole region.Surin Pitsuwan, the outgoing secretary-general of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, told the Financial Times that Asia was entering its "most contentious" period in recent years as a rising China stakes out its claim to almost the entire South China Sea, clashing with the Philippines, Vietnam and others.
"We have to be mindful of the fact that the South China Sea could evolve into another Palestine," if countries do not try harder to defuse rather than inflame tensions, he said.
As it has grown economically and militarily more powerful, Beijing has become more assertive about its territorial claims in the South China Sea, which encompasses vast oil and gas reserves, large fish stocks and key global trade routes.
After naval clashes with Vietnam and the Philippines -- which claim parts of the South China Sea alongside Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan -- China has further angered its neighbours by printing a map of its extensive maritime claim, known as the "nine-dotted line" in new passports.
Vietnam has hit back by marking the passports of visiting Chinese as "invalid" and issuing separate visa forms rather than appearing to recognise the Chinese claim by stamping passports.
"Yes you are right. The modernisation (of Chinese Navy) is truly impressive... It is a actually a major major cause of concern for us, which we continuously evaluate and work out our options and our strategies," Admiral D.K. Joshi told a press conference.
Admiral D.K. Joshi said, "Where our country's interests are involved, we will protect them and we will intervene."
The Navy Chief was replying to a question on contingencies in South China sea to protect Indian interests there and impression about the Chinese Navy's modernisation.
Answering a volley of questions about South China Sea over which India had a tiff with China last year, he said although India's presence in that maritime region was not on "very very frequent" basis, it had interests like free navigation and exploitation of natural resources there.
"Not that we expect to be in those waters very very frequently, but when the requirement is there for situations where country's interests are involved, for example ONGCBSE -0.89 % Videsh, we will be required to go there and we are prepared for that. Are we holding exercises for that nature, the short answer is yes," Joshi said.
Talking about Indian interests in the South China Sea, he said the first of it included freedom of navigation.
"Not only us, but everyone is of the view that they have to be resolved by the parties concerned, aligned with the international regime, which is outlined in UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), that is our first requirement," he said.
ONGC Videsh has three offshore deepwater blocks, on the southern Vietnamese coast, and invested $600 million in oil and gas exploration in these blocks in the past few years. The footprint of ONGC Videsh is spread over 15 countries, where it is engaged in exploration work on 31 projects.
Asked whether the Indian Navy had undertaken exercises for such a mission, he said: “The short answer is yes.”
He said: “Not only us but everyone is of the view that they [the disputes] have to be resolved by the parties concerned, aligned with the international regime, which is outlined in UNCLOS [the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea]; that is our first requirement.”
Asked whether the Navy would provide protection to ONGC Videsh’s assets in the South China Sea, Admiral Joshi said it would require government approval.
New rules announced recently by Hainan province (which administers the South China Sea for China) to allow for interception of ships have raised concerns in the region, with fears of simmering disputes with Southeast Asian nations escalating.
Defence analysts say Hainan’s move is another step in China’s bid to solidify its control over much of the sea, which includes crucial international shipping lanes over which more than a third of global trade passes.
Protecting the country’s economic assets was the Navy’s mandate, Admiral Joshi said, maintaining that it was neither a new policy nor a shift in emphasis. “We have to protect our country’s economic assets wherever they are, otherwise what the Navy is for?”
Asked about the balance of naval presence on the eastern and western seaboards, he said some of the recent inductions were deployed only in the eastern side, in the Bay of Bengal. “Three recent inductions — the Shivalik-class frigates Sahyadri, Satpura and Shivalik — were commissioned there… INS Jalashwa, the biggest vessel we have after the aircraft carrier, is also deployed there. The nuclear-powered submarine INS Chakra is operating from there, and INS Arihant is also going to be there.”
Asked about the Dongfeng series of missiles that China developed to target aircraft carriers, he said: “That is a very significant capability, and we are evaluating it in our context and taking whatever action as may be appropriate — either to acquire a similar capability or to think of a counter…”
Referring to China’s aircraft carrier programme, Admiral Joshi said it was “very ambitious,” but the integration of the warship and the aircraft had not taken place.
Despite persistent delays, India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, being built at the Cochin Shipyard, should be ready for delivery by 2016-17, he said.
On the other hand, the shortage of uniformed and civilian personnel is of primary concern for the Indian Navy, said its chief Admiral D K Joshi in the backdrop of stepped up maritime activities by China.
The Navy Chief expressed his concern on Monday during his interaction with reporters on the occasion of his annual press conference.