OPENING REMARKS BY THE CNS DURING
ANNUAL NAVY DAY PRESS CONFERENCE – 03 DEC 2019
- Members of the Media, Ladies and Gentlemen. It is indeed a pleasure for me to welcome all of you to this year’s Navy Week Media interaction.
- At the outset I would like to acknowledge your contribution towards shaping the maritime discourse in the country. We are also happy to note that the media has presented news, opinions and enlightened debates on naval and maritime matters quite regularly.
- Before I begin, let us all remember our martyrs and express gratitude to our veterans for their sacrifices and service to the nations. The Navy Day is celebrated to commemorate the success of Operation Trident, which saw Missile boats of the Indian Navy’s Killer squadron, undertaking a daring attack on 04 December 1971 that left Karachi ablaze.
- I will start by providing you with a broad overview of the Indian Navy’s major operational activities over the past year, and then, highlight plans for the future. Thereafter, I will take on any questions that you may have.
- As you would be aware, we had recalibrated our operational deployment philosophy two years ago with an aim to enhance our presence and mission-readiness across our areas of maritime interests in the Indian Ocean Region. I am pleased to share with you that, not only has this resulted in increasing our footprint and strategic domain awareness of the vast maritime expanse of IOR but also enabled rapid deployment of our units to address emerging security challenges across the region including HADR assistance to IOR littorals. We have also tailored our maintenance and training philosophy to support this operational pattern.
- Indian Navy also remains steadfast in its commitment towards curbing the menace of maritime piracy in the Gulf of Aden. Since 2008, 75 Indian Naval warships have been deployed, which have safely escorted more than 3440 (including 413 Indian flagged) ships with over 25,062 Indian mariners embarked. Thus far, the Indian Navy has thwarted 44 piracy attempts and apprehended 120 pirates, a visible demonstration of our efforts towards guaranteeing safe and secure seas.
- In addition to the anti-piracy deployment, Indian Navy was also one of the first maritime forces to respond to the security situation in the Gulf of Hormuz earlier this year. Ever since, we have maintained an unbroken presence in the region escorting approximately 82 Lakh Tonnes of cargo onboard 74 Indian Flagged Merchant Vessels. Even as I speak, one of our ships is deployed in the Straits of Hormuz to reassure our merchant marine and enhance security in this region as part of Operation Sankalp.
- What we have been able to operationally achieve across this expanse of maritime theatre has been largely due to combat skills honed during major exercises. This year, we exercised our composite combat capability through the Navy’s largest biennial war game, Theatre Level Operational Readiness Exercise (TROPEX-19). I must also share with you that the active participation of combat elements from Indian Army, Indian Air Force and the Indian Coast Guard facilitated refining of our operational plans, address Op Logistics issues and integrate the three Services in conduct of large-scale Joint Operations across multiple theatres.
- As part of TROPEX, we also conducted a pan-India coastal defence exercise ‘Exercise Sea Vigil’ .Through this endeavour, we were able to test the robustness of our entire coastal security apparatus and based on its effectiveness, MoD has also approved institutionalisation of SEA VIGIL on a biennial basis.
- In keeping with this momentum, we would be conducting Exercise ‘Paschim Lehar’ on the Western Seaboard from end Jan to end Feb 2020 simulating a conflict or contingency on the Western maritime theatre.
- Indian Navy actively participates in numerous regional maritime exercises with our Friendly Foreign Countries (FFCs). From a conservative figure of eight exercises in 2015, we are now participating in close to 30 bilateral/ multilateral exercises. In addition, under the Government of India’s overall ambit of ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, the Navy also undertook Joint EEZ patrols of Maldives, Seychelles and Mauritius as well as Coordinated Patrols (CORPATs) with Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia. Maiden Bilateral Exercises with Bangladesh and Qatar and a trilateral exercise with Singapore and Thailand were also commenced this year. A maiden bilateral exercise with Saudi Arabia is scheduled early next year.
- We continue to be proactive in rendering assistance during large-scale natural calamities, as part of our HADR mandate. Be it the cyclonic storm ‘Fani’ which made landfall in Odisha, severe floods in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa, or the rescue of stranded passengers of the Mahalaxmi Express in Mumbai, Naval personnel and assets once again came together to provide succour to those in need.
- The Navy also rendered assistance in our maritime neighbourhood during times of natural disasters. When the severe Tropical Revolving Storm ‘IDAI’ hit Mozambique in March this year, our units were quickly on-site providing relief support and communications at Port Beira, which had been cut off from the rest of the world.
- Towards enhancing the response mechanism in cases of large-scale natural calamities, an Annual Joint HADR exercise was conducted in August at Chennai. In addition to large-scale domestic participation, we also had 14 foreign observers from 8 friendly countries participating in the exercise.
- We also aim to enhance interoperability between the navies of the region. Last year, the Indian Navy hosted the 10th edition of MILAN at Port Blair. Taking this initiative further, in March next year, the Indian Navy would be hosting MILAN 20 as a Multilateral Exercise at Visakhapatnam. The event is scheduled to witness participation from approx. 41 countries, bringing together maritime forces from all over our region and beyond.
- Last year, we commissioned the Information Fusion Centre at Gurugram to further our commitment towards achieving collective maritime security in the IOR, which is a collaborative construct which works with partners, that includes countries as also international agencies. The centre has commenced hosting International Liaison Officers from Friendly Foreign Countries (FFCs) to further enhance interoperability in the maritime domain.
Force Level Planning and Future Acquisitions
- You are already aware that the Navy is fully committed to the ‘Make-in-India’ vision. Since December 2108, close to 88% of contracts and AoNs, by value, have been concluded with/ accorded to Indian vendors
- The Navy’s share of the Defence Budget though has declined from 18% in 2012 to approx 13% in CFY 19-20. While, we have projected our requirement to the Government, we remain committed to progress force modernisation, using the available resources optimally. In the face of shortages, emphasis is on prioritisation, rationalistion and economy of expenditure.
- As you would be aware, Indian Navy has been at the forefront of ‘Self Reliance in Defence Production’, right since Independence. Our commitment to this pursuit is seen by the fact that out of the 50 ships and submarines, currently under construction, 48 are being built in Indian shipyards.
- These include the Aircraft Carrier, Vikrant, P-15B Class Destroyers, P17A class stealth Frigates, Offshore Patrol Vessels and Scorpene class submarines. The last of the P 28 ASW Corvette is scheduled for delivery by early next year. The delivery of 4 additional P8I Maritime Reconnaissance Aircraft is scheduled by 2021. We have also contracted for 16 ASW Shallow Water Craft and 36 aircraft which includes HAL built 12 Dorniers, 16 ALH and 08 Chetak
- ‘Acceptance of Necessity’ has also been accorded for 41 ships, 10 KM 31 Helicopters, 24 Multi Role Helicopters and 06 additional P 8I aircraft.
- Under the Government’s Strategic Partnership Model, we are pursuing the project of P 75 (I) submarines and Naval Utility Helicopters.
- The Navy’s Long Term Capability Plan envisages induction of three Aircraft Carriers, so that two CBGs are available for dispersed deployments in the IOR at all times. The broad contours of IAC 2, to be constructed in India as a 65,000 tons CATOBAR carrier with electric propulsion have been formulated and the case will be processed for accord of AoN.
- There has also been focused efforts to enhance our in-house expertise in repair and upkeep of modern weapon and sensors. Towards this, two major Armament Repair Facilities (ARFs) are being set-up and are likely to be commissioned by sometime mid of next year.
- To support our Fleets to operate effortlessly over the entire IOR, several marine and technical repair infrastructure projects are also being progressed. As you would be aware, a new Dry-Dock was commissioned by the Hon’ble Raksha Mantri in September. This is a big step towards captive capability to dock our Aircraft Carriers. Phase IIA of Project Seabird at Karwar is progressing well. Creation of a full-fledged Naval Dockyard and associated infrastructure to accommodate more number of ships and submarines is being undertaken during this phase.
- The Indian Navy has also commenced the process of indigenizing complex and high end technology equipment, which are presently being imported, such as Marine Diesel Engines, Power Generators and Shafting & Propellers, with active participation from Public and Private Sector industries. Our aim is to reduce import dependency and progressively increase indigenous content in our shipbuilding projects.
A few words on Human Resource and Training
- While our focus remains on induction of new technology and state-of-the-art platforms, we are constantly at work to keep our HR polices in sync with the aspirations of the men and women in the Navy and our operational imperatives.
- This year, we have also taken major strides in our quest towards migrating to online recruitment. Recruitment examinations for non-UPSC Graduate Entry Officers and sailor entries have been completely migrated to an online process from this year onwards. We have also successfully conducted the maiden online Indian Navy Civilian Entrance Test (INCET) for Naval Civilians this year and are firmly on the path to expand the scope of centralised Naval Civilian Recruitment at Naval Headquarters.
- Training, remains one of the Navy’s key focus areas. Here, I would like to inform you, that in addition to the wide spectrum of specialist training undertaken in-house at our world-class training institutes, we are also a favoured training destination for many of our friendly foreign countries. Based on requests being received, we have increased the number of training vacancies for foreign trainees over the past few years from 699 to 1525.
- Another milestone for us has been the induction of women pilots in MR stream, which is the mainstream maritime surveillance wing of the Naval Air Arm. Three women officers have been selected to undergo pilot training. In fact, as you would be aware, yesterday, SLt Shivangi has successfully completed her Stage II training at Kochi, making her the first woman pilot of Indian Navy. The other two officers of the batch would be graduating this month end.
- Ladies and Gentlemen, in keeping with this year’s Navy Week theme which is ‘Silent, Strong and Swift’, I would like to assure the nation that as the primary instrument of India’s maritime power, the Indian Navy will continue to play a decisive role in providing effective response across the full spectrum of challenges in our maritime domain and ensuring national prosperity.
- On behalf of all uniformed and civilian personnel of the Indian Navy, I take this opportunity to convey my best wishes to our countrymen on the occasion of Navy Day.
Jai Hind. Sam no Varunah.
Shailesh Kumar is an independent journalist with over 17 years of experience in crime, political and defence reporting for leading media brands including Star News, India TV and NewsX. He is the founder editor of defence and security news portal, National Defence.