The plans outlined by the Narendra Modi government will strengthen the Indian Navy so that it will be able to guard the coastal borders reasonably well
It is hardly 10 days now that the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) took the major step to bolster the Indian Naval strength, by clearing the construction of seven stealth frigates and six number submarines.
These are considered ‘critical’ to provide overall deterrence in the Indian Ocean Region as this will actually cover a vast strategic area of interest, from the Persian Gulf in the west to the Malacca Straits in the East. This project is estimated to cost over Rs50,000 crore and will boost the manufacturing activities at the Mazagaon Docks (who will build 4 stealth frigates) and the Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers in Kolkata (3 units). It is expected this project will take almost a decade to complete.
The secretive ship building centre at Vizag is already engaged in the building of India's first three nuclear powered submarines with nuclear ballistic missiles, estimated to cost Rs60,000 crore. Of the three, the first, INS Arihant has already begun its sea trials in 2014 and INS Aridhaman is due for launch soon, while the third is under fabrication.
According to the information available, it is now planned that six more nuclear powered submarines will also be built at this centre in Vizag. The Navy's other requirements include six Scorpene diesel electric submarines being built at Mazagaon Docks, the delivery of the first unit being planned for September 2016. Additionally, a new tender for six advanced stealth diesel nuclear subs is likely to be announced this year, to be built in India, but with foreign collaboration. The project cost is estimated at Rs50,000 crore.
In the meantime, China has been asserting its dominance in the Asia Pacific Region, much to the discomfort of all other much smaller nations. Chinese threats to these countries need not require any elucidation and they has been growing uneasiness between Japan and China, as a result. In fact, China has shown its displeasure when Indian Navy wanted to be in that area. They did not like the idea of even India doing the exploratory work on the Vietnamese waters for Oil and Gas.
However, thanks to the growing friendly relations between India and Japan, New Delhi has now made plans to acquire ShinMaywa US-2i amphibious aircraft from Japan at an estimated cost of $ 1.2 billion to cover 12 such units. The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) chaired by Manohar Parrikar, the Defence Minister, will take up the proposal to empower the Joint Working Group to negotiate this purchase for the Navy.
Later on, it is reported, that this lot of 12 may be actually increased to 17 to meet the Coast Guard requirements. It appears that this JWG has been discussing the "technology transfer and licensed production" in India. When this is finalised, these amphibious multipurpose and versatile aircraft may be stationed at the Campbell Bay in the Andaman & Nicobar Island to ensure security of shipping lane in the Malacca Straits.
The Indian Air Force needs have been recently covered and the final work on the French Rafael fighter aircraft is set for March. Therefore, the plans outlined by the government will strengthen the Navy so that it will be able to guard the coastal borders, reasonably well. Efforts, however, need to be made to bring down the manufacturing and delivery schedules!
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US