An Indian confrontation with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the eastern Ladakh region could result in Indian naval acquisitions driving the growth of a domestic military aviation industry this decade.
PLA incursions into the Ladakh region in early 2020 and a deadly skirmish at Galwan Valley spurred a volley of missile tests and prompted India to invite a fourth partner to Exercise Malabar—the Royal Australian Navy—to join Japan and the U.S. The nation’s focus on naval alliances coincides with a renewed debate in New Delhi about long-term defense expenditures, a conversation in which the navy has long received the smallest share of the budget.
A large part of the discussion concerns assets the Indian Navy should pursue—specifically, a third aircraft carrier and its associated aircraft. Naval aviation capabilities are key for India to dominate the Indian Ocean region along with its Quad (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue) partners: Australia, Japan and the U.S.
While any increase in Indian naval strength might be perceived as a move to become the region’s gatekeeper, as a “net security provider,” navy chief Adm. Karambir Singh sees the service’s role instead as a “preferred security partner.”