As tensions flare after the ICJ verdict, Indian aspirations seem keyed to spread beyond land
Indian Navy (IN) Admiral Sunil Lanba urged the naval commanders to expand the Navy’s operational footprint so as to be a stabilising force in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and emphasised the need for continued efforts towards modernisation and indigenisation of weapons.
His comments can be seen in reference to China’s efforts to expand its influence in the IOR. Admiral Lanba, who was speaking on May 5, 2017 at the concluding day of the four-day long Naval Commanders’ Conference, asked top IN commanders to remain combat ready to effectively deal with all possible security challenges facing the country in the maritime domain.
The Conference was also attended by Union Defence Minister Arun Jaitley and Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar.
The Foreign Secretary also interacted with the Commanders on the geo-political developments with key focus on the IOR and outlined key imperatives pertaining to India’s foreign policy and diplomatic initiatives. Admiral Lanba also exhorted the Commanders to give focused attention to address all challenges with the singular aim to be combat ready at all times. He emphasised the importance of quality maintenance and efficient Operational Logistics towards ensuring combat effectiveness.
The four-day conference which concluded on May 5, brainstormed over India’s maritime security challenges, modernisation of the navy and other critical issues concerning the force. In his address, the Navy chief also touched upon issues relating to its human resource management.
In his address on May 2, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley had asked IN to remain prepared to deal with any security challenge and identified expanding presence of “extra regional” powers in the IOR as an area of concern.
India believes that the development of its maritime forces is essential for it to be accepted as a major regional power, with aspirations to become a world power. To give meaning to its ambitions, India is increasing its sphere of influence in the Indian Ocean and beyond for geo-strategic and commercial interests. In fact, India is allying with the US, Japan, Australia and other countries to achieve its objective of naval supremacy.
In the past, preoccupation with its perceived land based threats from China and Pakistan, with whom India has fought a number of wars, India’s priority has been primarily to guard its land boundaries. Although India has a strong navy, it never ventured into the arena of becoming a naval power or a genuine blue water navy.
With the advent of Narendra Modi’s government, maritime dominance has become the priority of the government in order to check the supposed Chinese aggressive policy in the IOR and in the South China Sea. India has a land frontier of 15,200 km but it also possesses a coastline 7,500 km long with over 1,200 islands and Exclusive Economic Zones of 2 million sq. km. Thus considering the huge coastline, possessing thousands of islands and facing increasing threat from the sea, India is gearing to become a naval power. India’s strategy to increase its maritime domain has both commercial as well as strategic aspects. India views the growing civil-military consensus on the importance of the sea for prosperity and security of India.
It is evident that the Indian government’s strategy is to first develop the ports and coastal areas and make them a hub of commercial activity. Apart from India’s strategy to economically develop its coastal areas, IN has also charted out a long term strategy for expanding its sphere of influence in the Indian Ocean and beyond.
One platform of interest for the IN has been to develop aircraft carriers. It currently comprises two aircraft carriers which give the force blue water capabilities.
INS Vikramaditya has an overall length of about 284 meters. The maximum beam is about 60 meters, which is equal to the size of three football fields together. Standing about 20 storeys tall from keel to the highest point, the sheer sight of this 44,500 tonne mega structure of steel is awe inspiring. The ship has a total of 22 decks. With a speed of 30 knots per hour, the vessel is having four propellers. The ship has the ability to carry over 30 aircraft comprising an assortment of MiG 29K/Sea Harrier, Kamov 31, Kamov 28, Sea King, ALH-Dhruv and Chetak helicopters. The MiG 29K swing role fighter is the main offensive platform and provides a quantum jump for the IN’s maritime strike capability.
The vessels are capable of operating up to a range of over 7,000 nautical miles or 13000 kms with more than 1,600 personnel on board. An advanced array of sensors including fitment of Long range Air Surveillance Radars, Advanced Electronic Warfare Suite allow INS Vikramaditya to maintain a security cover over 500 kms around the ship. She is loaded with the most prominent Resistor-E radar to assist short range navigation for ship borne aircraft.
INS Viraat is a British-built aircraft carrier, which was commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1957. It was inducted into the IN on May 12, 1987. She is the oldest aircraft carrier in service in the world and is one of three carriers based in the IOR.
It is fitted with a 12° ski jump to operate the Sea Harrier, a reinforced flight deck, and 1.2 inches of armour over the magazines and machinery spaces. The magazine capacity includes at least 80 lightweight torpedoes. The vessel retains commando transport capability for up to 750 troops and carries four Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel (LCVP) in the aft section. In crises, it can embark up to 26 combat aircraft. She is suited for two missions including supporting amphibious operations and conducting Anti-submarine warfare (ASW) operations.
IN has a number of destroyers. Primary among them is the Delhi class destroyers, which are classified as guided-missile destroyers of the IN. Three ships of this class are in active service. It is the third-largest warship to be fully designed and built in India, after the Kolkata-class destroyers and the Shivalik-class frigates. They will soon be superseded by the Kolkata class destroyers and the Vikrant class aircraft carrier. These ships have been built at Mazagon Dock Limited in Mumbai.
Shivalik class is a multi-role frigate and is the first-of-its kind warships built in India incorporating stealth features. The category – classification is named after the Indian Mountain Ranges by the name of ‘Shivalik Hills’.
There is the Talwar class frigate, which was built in Russia under an Indo-Russian joint production. The Talwar class guided missile frigates are modified Krivak III class frigates from Russia. It has a displacement of 4,000 tons and speed of 30 knots and is capable of accomplishing a wide variety of naval missions. It can locate and eliminate enemy submarines and large surface ships. Due to the use of stealth technologies and a special hull design, the resulting frigate features reduced radar cross section (RCS) as well as electromagnetic, acoustic and infrared signatures.
INS Kamorta is first of the four ASW Stealth Corvettes designed by the Navy’s in-house organisation, the Directorate of Naval Design (DND). Measuring 110 meters in length, 14 meters in breadth and displacing 3500 tons, the ship can achieve speed of 25 Knots. The ship is fitted with Anti-submarine Rockets and Torpedoes, Medium and Close-in Weapon Systems and indigenous surveillance radar Revathi. The ship is also capable of carrying an integral Anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopter.
The Brahmaputra class frigates are the guided-missile frigates of the IN, designed and built in India. They have a displacement of 3850 tons and a length of 126 metres.
Kora Class corvettes are 1350-ton guided-missile corvettes. Four vessels were built at Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE) and outfitted at Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL). Their primary role is as surface combatants.
The Khukri class corvettes are equipped with Diesel Engines assembled in India, under license by Kirloskar Group. Around 65% of the ship contains indigenous parts.
INS Veer class corvettes meaning ‘Brave’ form the 22nd Killer Missile Vessel Squadron of Indian Navy.
Additionally, IN has two nuclear powered submarines, Arihant and Chakra besides 13 diesel electric submarines while two nuclear powered submarines are under construction.
It is clear that while India is edging closer to the US, it is likely to support US interests in the South China and East China Sea. India is convinced that its ties with the US are to counter the close ties between arch rivals China and Pakistan.