Acknowledging that modernisation of China’s navy was “truly impressive” and a source of major concern for India and clarifying that India was not a claimant in the dispute over territorial rights in the South China Sea, Naval chief Admiral DK Joshi stated while interacting with media on the eve of Navy Day — “When the requirement is there in situations where our country’s interests are involved, for example ONGC, we will be required to go there and we are prepared. Now, are we preparing for it? Are we having exercises of that nature? The short answer is ‘yes’,” he said. Former Naval Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma had earlier stated that the Navy was in the process of setting up Operational Turn Around bases, Forward Operating Bases and Naval Air Enclaves along the coast which would enhance the reach and sustainability of our surveillance effort. “In 2011, the Navy provided a renewed impetus and focus towards creation of operational and administrative infrastructure in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the Lakshadweep and Minicoy Islands.
These islands are the country’s strategic outposts and augmentation of the facilities would enhance our reach and enable extended presence in the area,” he said. Both these statements and the acquisitions by the Navy during 2012, are indicative of some progress in India’s policy and preparedness related to its maritime interests and security. INS Vikramaditya, formerly Admiral Gorshkov, a 45,000 tonne displacement aircraft carrier built in Russia began its sea trials, six months before it is handed over to the Indian Navy on December 4, 2012. Becoming the second aircraft career with INS Virat, Indian Navy should henceforth be better poised to cover both eastern and western seaboards. Ideally, there should be three aircraft carriers so that two are deployed while the third can be maintained in dry dock. The first bi-lateral maritime exercise between India and Japan ‘JIMEX 12’ (Japan India Maritime Exercise) was conducted, coinciding with the commemoration of 60 years of diplomatic relations between India and Japan. INS Savitri is currently in Port Victoria, Seychelles.
It will participate in the National Day celebrations of Seychelles and thereafter be deployed for about two months to undertake surveillance of the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of Seychelles and Mauritius. The Indian Navy continues to maintain one Dornier aircraft in Seychelles to provide aerial surveillance for the Seychelles EEZ. Another Dornier aircraft is actively flying from Maldives to meet Maldivian requirements of EEZ surveillance and anti-piracy patrols. INS Tabar, is on a sustained deployment in the Gulf of Aden on convoy escort and anti-piracy patrol. The biggest force accretion in recent years has come in the form of Boeing Pi-8 long range maritime reconnaissance (LRMR) aircraft, which gives the Indian Navy a reach and capability to mount surveillance way beyond its traditional areas of influence.
Further acquisitions like INS Tarkash, INS Chakra, INS Makar, the survey catamaran, 10-12 Fast Interceptor Craft, the full complement of MIG-29Ks and the second sail training ship INS Sudarshani, as well as ships and aircraft expected in 2013 should substantially add teeth to the Indian Navy, which for long remained the forgotten force or Cinderella service, thanks to decades of New Delhi’s sea-blindness. The present holding of 132 ships, 14 submarines, 216 aircraft (80 fixed wing and 122 helicopters) still falls short of the Maritime Capability perspective Plan to have 150 warships and 500 aircraft.