ISLAMABAD - Terming the proposed induction of two nuclear submarines into the Indian Navy as a ‘cause of great concern’, Pakistan has said it is taking ‘necessary measures’ to restore the strategic balance in the emerging situation.

In an interview with the US weekly ‘DefenseNews’, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Muhammad Asif Sandila said Islamabad could neither afford nor plans to match the Indian Navy in terms of numerical strength.

“The strategic dimension of India’s naval build-up is a cause of concern not only for us but for the entire Indian Ocean region (IOR). I feel nuclearisation of the IOR does not augur well for peace and stability in the region,” Sandila noted. “We are mindful of this development and taking necessary measures to restore the strategic balance.”

He was asked how Pakistan would respond to the Indian nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed ballistic submarines.

India is scheduled to induct two nuclear submarines in the near future which will include its indigenous INS Arihant and the Russian-leased Akula class INS Chakra. Experts feel that to match Indian nuclear submarine programme, Pakistan would seek help of the Chinese.

“We have our own employment strategy. It is not exclusively Indo-centric. It is essentially based on achieving certain capabilities that we hope will help us deliver in the hour of need,” Sandila said.

When asked about the most pressing issues, he cited a ‘phenomenal’ naval build up by India and said Pakistan also required playing a pivotal role in ensuring maritime security and stability of the northwest part of the IOR.

On financial constraints, the naval chief said the government had not slashed defence budget because of the ‘precarious security environment in the region’ and its impact on Pakistan.

“I therefore don’t think that our future acquisition programmes will suffer due to budgetary constraints,” he adding that the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates fell under the under the US-sponsored Foreign Military Financing Programme and four more these would be supplied in 2013 and 2014 in batches of two each.

About acquiring new submarines, he said, “Our primary consideration is to acquire modern and potent submarines. All options, including submarines of the West, as well as China, are under deliberation, though no decision has been taken as yet.”

When asked about the expansion and diversification of the shipbuilding industry from Karachi, he replied the long-term plan was to have two major shipyards at Port Qasim in the east and Gwadar in the west. “In addition, we have a strategic plan to develop this rich but hitherto untapped segment of our maritime sector. To realise the same, we have a high-level shipbuilding task force formed under the aegis of [the Ministry of Defence Production].

About the loss of two P-3Cs aircraft in the PNS Mehran terror hit and maritime surveillance capability, he was hopeful about the process initiated for replacing the destroyed planes from the US. “Apart from that, we are considering a range of other surveillance aircraft, including Chinese options,” he added.

Replying to a query, Sandila said the PAF Mirage aircraft equipped with missiles were effective anti-shipping strike platforms, adding that plans were under consideration to replace the obsolete systems.

The naval chief, while answering a question about procurement of more F-22P or Type-054A Jiankai-II frigates and the Turkish-designed corvette programme, said the contemporary maritime warfare had diversified the roles of surface ships manifold, adding that despite the addition of four F-22P frigates and planned induction of US OHP-class frigates, the force structure in terms of surface ships would still be deficient. “We are thus evaluating various options, including corvette-sized ships to meet the shortfall.”

About the maritime security, Sandila was of the view that a whole host of agencies working under different ministries were in one way or the other concerned with maritime security, at times leading to information blockage, duplication of efforts and the resultant uncoordinated response to challenges in the maritime arena.

“We are pursuing this inter-ministerial and interagency body, which will bring more synergy in our efforts and become an assured guarantor of our port and coastal security.”