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India to Establish Naval Research Center

India is establishing a new naval research center to design warships for its navy. The country is bolstering its navy as it seeks to boost its influence in the Indian Ocean, and counter what it regards as China's growing presence in the region.

The new naval research center is being built in the southern state of Kerala at an estimated cost of $133 million.

The center, for which Defense Minister A.K. Antony recently laid the foundation stone, will be operational in two years.

Rahul Bedi, at Jane’s Defense Weekly in New Delhi, says the facility will reduce India’s dependence on imports.

"Currently it [India] is being forced to outsource a lot of its naval requirements in terms of platforms, mostly to Russia, and it is hoping with this institute coming up, and with the augmentation of various shipyards around the country, its self-reliance will increase and it will be able to develop and design its own warships," said Bedi.

In a statement, the navy said the new research center will empower naval forces, the coast guard and other maritime security agencies in a manner befitting the country’s influence in the region.

India is spending billions of dollars to expand and modernize its navy to boost its presence in the Indian Ocean, where China has been spreading its influence by either funding or building commercial ports in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Burma. The Indian Ocean is an important shipping lane connecting Asia to Europe and the Middle East.

Bedi says India is wary of Beijing's growing reach in the Indian Ocean and wants to build a strong navy to ensure its maritime supremacy.

"One of the major adversaries in the Indian Ocean is the Chinese navy, which is also expanding at a very fast rate, because it is wanting to dominate the Indian Ocean through which world trade passes, particularly hydrocarbons and gas and energy," Bedi added. "There is a race, there is a desire to counter the Chinese presence."

Analysts say both of these fast-growing Asian economies have a strategic stake in the Indian Ocean.

Over the next decade, India plans to add 40 new warships to its existing fleet of about 135 vessels. This will include aircraft carriers and stealth frigates.