The government has approved induction of 56 new ships and six submarines to augment Indian Navy’s overall prowess while the country’s first indigenous aircraft carrier Vikrant has entered its final phase of construction, Navy Chief Chief Adm. Sunil Lanba said Monday.
Addressing a press conference on the eve of Navy Day, Adm. Lanba said a “great deal of progress” has been made on ensuring synergy and “jointness” among the three services.
At the same time, he said the Indian Air Force is against theatre commands and noted that a higher defence organisation must be set up before starting actual work in that direction.
In his nearly 70-minute media briefing, the Admiral listed various steps being taken to modernise his force including induction of a large fleet of military jets and choppers, adding the construction of a second indigenous aircraft carrier is expected to start within a period of three years.
On China fast expanding its naval prowess, the Navy Chief said, “By 2050, we will also have 200 ships, 500 aircraft and be a world-class navy.”
He said 32 ships and submarines are presently under construction in Indian shipyards and in addition to them, government has accorded approval for 56 ships and six submarines.
Asked about the possibility of the Navy having to deal with a two-front war, the Admiral said his force is overwhelmingly ahead of Pakistan Navy, while the balance of power in the Indian Ocean rests with India compared to China.
“As far as Indian Navy is concerned, we don’t have two fronts. We have one and that is the Indian Ocean,” he said in the nearly 70-minute press conference.
Asked about delay on the part of Reliance Naval Engineering Ltd in supplying five offshore patrol vehicle, he said the company is undergoing corporate debt restructuring and the bank guarantee for the deal has been encashed.
On whether the government was looking at cancelling the deal, the Navy Chief said the contract is being looked into.
About the long-pending proposal to appoint a chief of defence staff (CDS) as head of the tri-services, he said there was a consensus among the the Army, Navy and Air Force on it and that a proposal on the matter was sent to the defence ministry.
Referring to overall security scenario in the region, Adm. Lanba said, “Our maritime security strategy is aimed at providing a maritime environment that is free from all forms of traditional and non-traditional threats to our national development.”
He also talked about a “friendly” government coming to power in Maldives and hoped that maritime cooperation with the island nation will again pick up momentum under the new regime.
Asked about the status of the proposal to set up a naval base at Seychelles’ Assumption Island, he said talks were on with the government of the island nation.
To queries on the state of coastal security 10 years after the 26/11 attack, he said the process for installing automated identification transponders on around 2.5 lakh fishing boats has been started and talked about various other measures.
Adm Lanba asserted that the Indian Navy continued to remain “on watch 24 X 7” safeguarding the country’s national interests in the maritime domain.
About the strategic nuclear submarine project, he said the Indian Navy has successfully completed the first deterrence patrol of INS Arihant this year, adding, “with this, we have operationalised the third and the most survivable segment of the country’s nuclear triad.”
He said the second indigenous aircraft carrier has received the necessary impetus and it will be a CATOBAR, 65000 ton ship.
He said the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier, presently in its third and final Phase of construction at Kochi, will undergo sea trials in 2020.
“Induction of Vikrant will provide significant fillip to the Navy’s blue water capability, increasing the reach and impact of carrier borne strike forces, both as a means of deterrence as well as during combat operations,” he said.
The Navy chief said specific guidelines for construction of submarines as part of the P75I project under the strategic partnership model will be released soon.
To a separate question on Kulbhushan Jadhav, the former Navy staffer who was given death sentence by a Pakistani military court on charges of espionage, the Navy Chief said, “We are in touch with Kulbhushan Jadhav’s family and are proving all support.