The country’s sovereignty and prosperity depend on the nation’s armed forces and the need for a “strong and credible Indian Navy cannot be over emphasised”, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said Thursday. He added that he is “conscious of the importance of long-term funding for the sustained growth of the Navy and the Navy’s consistent performance in optimally utilising the allocated budget”.
Singh was addressing the top brass of the Indian Navy on the concluding day of the Naval Commanders’ Conference which began on April 25. “The endeavours of the Navy to meet all commitments and remain combat ready, despite various challenges, are well appreciated,” Singh said.
He added, “I am cognisant that India’s maritime character and its vital geo-strategic location have played a primary role in our growth as a nation and evolution as a civilization.” With increasing dependence on the seas for national development and engagement with the world, he added, the Indian Navy continues to protect India’s maritime interests and enables a safe and secure environment in the region.
He further said, “Over the years, the Navy has maintained a high tempo of operations and has established a credible and responsive presence in the Indian Ocean Region through Mission Based Deployments which reaffirmed the Navy’s position as a preferred security partner in the region.”
Speaking about the “prevailing security environment in the world” he said, “The ongoing Russia and Ukraine conflict has once again highlighted that being self-reliant without dependencies is a vital necessity.”
He added that the Navy has been at the forefront of the government Atmanirbhar Bhartat project and must “continue to lead the way and remain a necessary guarantor of India’s maritime trade, security and national prosperity.”
He highlighted that the Navy has re-invested 64 per cent of its capital budget into the domestic economy and the percentage share of the modernisation budget is bound to grow up to 70 per cent towards indigenous procurement in the current financial year.
“It is heartening that out of 41 ships and submarines which are on order, 39 are being built in Indian shipyards. While the Navy has been at the forefront of indigenisation, it is important for us to leverage on the momentum that we have gained thus far. I urge the senior leadership to maintain their focus on futuristic capability development, to ensure that the nation’s maritime power grows in tandem with our economic interests.”
He also mentioned the country’s first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC), Vikrant, which will be commissioned this year, and called it a “milestone event”. The ship has successfully completed three sea trials, Singh noted, and said “all out efforts need to be made so that the ship is delivered and commissioned in the 75th year of our Independence”.
The Defence Minister also appreciated the initiatives of the Navy to progress military diplomacy.
Regarding collaboration among the three services, Singh said, “Jointness in operations is critical in any future wars and restructuring of military commands and establishment of Joint Theatre Commands is the way ahead. Adequate progress has been made towards the study on Maritime Theatre Command.”
The four-day biannual conference was held in the recently-built integrated headquarters of the Defence Ministry in Delhi. Over the period, the Navy’s leadership has focused on the contemporary security paradigms while seeking ways to enhance combat capability of the Navy and make operations more effective and efficient.
The leadership also held a detailed review of the performance of weapons and sensors, readiness of naval platforms, ongoing projects and focussed on ways to enhance indigenisation. The Navy top brass also discussed the dynamics of the geostrategic situation of the region in the backdrop of the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Just before the conference commenced, the Navy had carried out weapon engagement and missile firing drills on the Western Seaboard with participation of 15 warships and submarines and a large number of maritime patrol aircraft, integral helicopters and fighter aircraft.
The exercise was focused on validating combat worthiness of various weapon systems deployed on the frontline units. It also included a successful underwater missile launch which hit its target at a maximum range, proving the lethality and versatility of the Indian submarines.