Earlier today, the Indian Navy (IN) kicked off the first edition of its biennial Commander’s Conference, with an inaugural address by Indian Defence Minister (DM), Nirmala Sitharaman. Sitharaman made a number of noteworthy observations about the IN’s growth during the address and also revealed continued support for that growth during remarks made at a brief press interaction, right after. While predicting that the IN will become a force to reckon with in the Indo-Pacific Maritime theatre, Sitharaman lauded the service’s efforts to boost its capabilities via indigenous means in the main.
Expressing satisfaction with the manner in which the IN has managed to continually maintain a high operational tempo through regular deployment of ships, submarines and aircraft in its areas of responsibility (AOR), Sitharaman during her address said:
‘I am confident that Navy’s Maritime Domain Awareness in our Areas of Interests will enable it to respond effectively to the various contingencies, such as Search and Rescue, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) and anti-piracy. I am glad that the efforts have already started showing results, with the Indian Navy responding proactively to numerous crisis situations around the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) in the last few months; including the heavy rains and flooding in Sri Lanka and post Cyclone ‘Mora’ in Bangladesh and Myanmar. I also compliment the Navy for the efficient HADR operations undertaken in the wake of Cyclone ‘Ockhi’ in November last year.’
Noting that the IN, in addition to being the primary instrument and manifestation of the nation’s maritime power, has also established itself as a potential tool for military diplomacy, Sitharaman further observed that ‘the Navy has been playing an important role in furthering our national and foreign policy objectives through active cooperation and engagement with not just IOR littorals, but maritime nations across the globe’.
Underlining the rise in the IN’s international stature, during the conference Sitharaman stated that ‘India and the Indian Navy have emerged as the first port of call and a dependable partner for IOR littoral navies, to address their maritime security needs‘.
During her address, Sitharaman stressed on the importance of pursuing indigenization. She said:
‘I firmly believe that as a nation we cannot be truly self-reliant until we are able to develop our own weapons and sensors. Indian Navy’s active role in engaging with a wide range of R&D and production agencies – Government, Semi Governmentand private is indicative of its commitment.’
Highlighting some notable successes in the naval domain towards this goal, Sitharaman referred to the Combat Management System for the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier being developed with a private vendor (M/s Tata Power SED, which has recently been acquired by Tata Advanced System Limited)as ‘a big step towards Strategic partnership between the MoD and Industry.’
Also coming in for praise from Sitharaman was Programme ‘Samudrika’, which she mentioned ‘will result in achieving 100 percent indigenisation of the Electronic Warfare (EW) fit on-board Indian Naval Platforms and as ‘also reflective of the Indian Navy’s continued efforts towards indigenization‘. As an aside, Samudrika entails the development of a family of seven EW systems customized for different platforms by the Defence Research & Development Organization (DRDO).
Uninterrupted budgetary support for Naval growth
Underscoring her Ministry’s support to the IN’s continued growth and achievement of the same via indigenous means, Sitharaman said:
‘I am happy to note that shipbuilding projects worth over Rs 32,000 crore have been tendered and are progressing towards contract conclusion. Projects worth Rs 760 crore for construction of yard crafts are also being targeted for early conclusion through private and small shipyards, to bolster the ‘Make in India’ initiative and provide the necessary impetus to the Indian Shipbuilding Industry. With other shipbuilding projects covering a vast spectrum of weapon intensive platforms, Mine Counter Measure Vessels (MCMVs), Fleet Support Ships and Diving Support Vessels on the anvil, I am sure our Indigenous Shipbuilding Industry would rise to the occasion and keep pace with the Indian Navy’s planned modernization program.’
After her address, while interacting with the press, Sitharaman once again reiterated support for India’s naval buildup and mentioned that the CNC (Commercial Negotiation Committee) for projects worth over Rs 30,000 crore in 2017-18 had been concluded, with ‘a fair deal of Navy’s requests taken care of’. She added that the IN’s ‘2018-19 requests are very well received and they will go through smoothly so there is nothing to worry.’
Earlier, during the address, Sitharaman, while taking note of the critical capability shortfalls that the IN is faced with in terms of ship-borne multi-role helicopters, reconnaissance aircraft, unmanned platforms, conventional submarines and surface ships, assured Naval Commanders that these issues were being given due impetus at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and that measures were being put in place to mitigate these shortcomings at the earliest.
The Indian Navy progresses digitization
During her interaction with the IN Commanders, Sitharaman congratulated the IN for the progress made with respect to the Digital Navy Vision Document. She also stated that, ‘Initiatives like Indian Navy Entrance Test towards transforming recruitment process, development of Naval Civilian Management Information System and Naval Civilian Pay & Pension Office, which are in keeping with the Digital India initiative of the Government are noteworthy and need to be continued’.
Concluding her address, Sitharaman observed that maritime interests have a vital and elaborate relationship with the country’s economic growth and thus the need for a strong and credible IN cannot be over emphasized. While taking cognizance of the importance of long term funding for the sustained growth of the Navy, She assured the service that adequate funds would be provided to mitigate critical shortfalls.
This story has been put together by Delhi Defence Review’s (DDR’s) Staff Writers on the basis of a publicly released summary of Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s address at the Naval Commander’s Conference as well the press interaction that happened right after, where DDR was present.
© Delhi Defence Review. Reproducing this content in full without permission is prohibited.