The Navy with the Coast Guard guard India’s 7,516-km coast and 2.4 mill sq km of Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ).
Indian Ocean has always occupied a vital place in India’s national security and economic prosperity, more now as India has risen on the world’s stage. The waters of the Indian Ocean wash the shores of 40 countries and has four strategic choke points and 90% of India’s trade by volume, and 85% of oil imports for India come by sea. Half of the world’s container and one-third of world’s cargo traffic passes through this region.
On December 4, the spotlight falls on the Indian Navy as it commemorates the day in 1971 when the Osa boats struck Karachi in Operation Trident with Styx missiles, and sank three Pakistani warships off Karachi. The Navy played a major role in the liberation of Bangladesh. Over the time, the Navy has gained importance as the 21st century is predicted to be a Maritime Century and the centre of gravity of the world has shifted East, with the rise of China and India.
Geographically, India lies between USA and its risen pushy neighbour China, which is challenging both nations interests and also Japan’s. So, an Indo-Pacific quadrilateral (QUAD) of India, USA, Japan and Australia has gained momentum to halt the juggernaut like movement of China into East China and South China Seas, and its CPEC in Pakistan into the port of Gwadar, now China’s maritime asset. The two groupings are bound to see a Cold tug of War on the seas, as China becomes a maritime neighbour of India.
The Navy with the Coast Guard guard India’s 7,516-km coast and 2.4 mill sq km of Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ). They needs maritime strength to maintain stability for trade, and for India’s Blue economy to flourish. Any disruption will be catastrophic for India, placed in the epicentre of the sea routes. India’s Navy requires more platforms called “Sea Legs”. Of the current one hundred and thirty ships and thirteen ageing conventional and nuclear submarines, the INS Chakra and home made Arihant with nuclear tipped missiles, 35% of ships and helicopters, and 80% of the submarines (15) are over twenty five years old and have crossed their operational life.
Navy’s planners began a “Make in India” effort with a Naval Design Bureau (DGND) and an R&D centre called the Weapons Electronics Engineering Systems Establishment (WEESE) in Delhi to support the designers with software upgrades and refits of ships and secure communications. WEESE also designed modems for connectivity with ISRO’s GSAT 7 Satellite Rukmani, and cyber security tools saving millions in FFE.
The Navy set up Warship Production Superin-tendents (WPS) in PSU shipyards to hold their hands to build ships in India. The DRDO’s Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV), set up in the 1980s to make nuclear submarines with BARC trained naval officers, was a game changer, and the Navy indigenised. ATV was set up the Defence Material Design Establishment (DMDE) at Hyderabad to test machinery before installing the equipment on ships. The steps bore fruit and 34 ships and six conventional and two nuclear submarines are on order in Indian yards, none abroad, except import of two small Submarine Rescue Vessels (DSRVs). The indigenous ships inducted include the 15A Kochi class destroyers (3), Type 17 Shivalik class frigates (3), and P28 Kamorta Corvettes (3) and the 6,200 ton nuclear submarine Arihant with nuclear tipped missiles and other smaller platforms. Regrettably, the programmes of four Landing Platform Dock Amphibious Ships (LPDs), six conventional P75i and eight nuclear attack SSN submarines, eight minesweepers from Kangnam South Korea, sixteen multi-role helicopters for the new ships and fifty seven Light Utility Helicopters (LUH) approved by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in advanced stages of Defence Procurement have been stalled. Even the construction of two Krivack frigates at Goa Shipyard Ltd, discussed between PM Modi and President Putin at the BRIC Summit at Goa last September, has not moved.
The Indo-Pacific has become crucial for India’s statecraft as evident by Prime Minister’s articulation of Sagar (Security And Growth for All in the Region), and Mausam and Sagarmala. The changing security architecture in maritime Indo-Pacific with the rise of China and QUAD behoves on the Government and the Navy to sit down and review India’s maritime strategy and the strength of platforms it needs, and swiftly provide the funds to the ministry of defence(MOD). The time is ripe. Sam No Varunah as the Nation greets its Navy in Navy week.
The writer is a senior reitred naval officer