Vice Admiral Ajendra Bahadur Singh says increased cooperation between China and Pakistan cause for concern
Geetanjali Minhas | December 4, 2021 | Mumbai
As India faces increasing threats from China and Pakistan on sea, Vice Admiral Ajendra Bahadur Singh, Flag Officer Commanding-in-chief (FOC-in-C), Western Naval Command, has said that the Indian Navy needs to scale up its capabilities and have more budgets allocated.
Speaking to members of the media onboard INS Kolkata during Navy Week celebrations in Mumbai on Friday, he said, “We were supposed to be 200 ships Navy. We are yet to reach there. We have to go there at some point in time and require a lot of capability in the country to build ships. We will have to have more shipyards to build our ships, more budgets allocated to the Navy and time-frame to build ships will have to reduce. The Navy has nurtured an indigenous shipbuilding industry for 60 years but the capacity is finite.”
He said that today the Indian Navy has 39 ships on order out of which 37 are being constructed indigenously and only two ships are coming from abroad. “Due to our capacity constraints we cannot build at the rate we would like to.”
He said maritime capability on all three fronts – ships, submarines and aviation assets – are in progress and will also require to match manpower and infrastructure creation for these assets when they come in.
China is making big ships that will be in the Indian Ocean in not too distant future and its anti-piracy squad has been present since 2008. A large number of its ships including warships, research vessels, underwater survey vessels, Chinese fishing militia are already present in the Indian Ocean region.
On drugs being transported through the sea route and Arabian Sea, he said there is no denying the fact that Pakistan has a complicit role in drug trade and as against land route earlier they are being transported through sea route. Most consignments were for the regions of Europe and America.
“Of late we have seen that a large of Iranian dhows or those registered in the area of Indian Ocean have been used by Pakistanis. Based on intelligence we have been able to put a large number of areas under surveillance and most dhows are getting caught. Based on leads we carry out operations and they get caught. There is a lot of cooperation happening internationally between the navies, within the countries and between the agencies. We aim to catch drug cartelization and movement of drugs is caught at the earliest,” he said.
While speaking on coastal security and trade route he said, the cabinet committee on security (CCS) in February 2009 gave a large number of mandates to the Indian Navy and other agencies and based on those mandates a lot of work has progressed. A system for surveillance of aircraft, helicopter and of unmanned systems (provide greater capability because they can remain on task for long) have been deployed. Surface units on regular basis have been deployed by the Navy and Coast Guard in a shared charter.
Additionally for electronic surveillance – the radars, coastal security network, electro optical, AIS, LRIT, etc – a joint operation centre merges all the surveillance that comes from various modes for big data analysis and to study emerging trends. In addition, many other operation centres are being looked at.
Further, he said that fishermen, who are their eyes and ears, are required to register their boats. Boats are colour-coded to differentiate which state they belong to, creation of biometrics of ID is done as the owners and those going on boats are different, fish electronic devise work for transponders is in progress, fish lining centres and fish lining points as persons who go to sea must also come back and additionally many coastal security meetings and community interaction programs are also held.
The response mechanism, he said, is either created by marine police, which is closer to the coast, the coast guard which is slightly further and Navy for the entire band.
A large number of assets, i.e., coastal security - Phase 1, Phase 2 or marine police have been put into place by NCSMCS and assets inducted for coastal security. For Navy also there has been some asset accretion for coastal security. All this is in place and practiced through different exercises for building blocks for coastal security.
The India specific enhancements (ISE) are very much part of and centre piece of conduct of our operations at sea. Submarines will also be inducted.
“Much work is happening on future security fronts based on modern concept and weaponry incorporating all features of fighting a war 30 years down the line perhaps the future ship will be the best ship in the world.
“We monitor presence of every Chinese vessel in the Indian Ocean region. We know where they are and we also let them know where they are. Our intent is to keep them under surveillance all the time and once that is completed we will take a call on future. A large no. of assets is required at sea and so mission based deployment is paying off,” he said.
When asked how India’s counter-strategy can be compared to that of the US Navy to counter China in South China Sea, Vice Admiral Singh said things have to be looked at in perspective. For the US, small carriers would mean 1,10,000-tonne carriers, whereas for India it would mean 70,000 tonnes. US SSBNs and SSNs are four times the size of our own submarines. Indian Navy destroyers are 7,000 tonnes and we should be looking at NGBs in the 12,000 tonne range. “Scaling down for them is scaling up for us. Secondly, their aircraft carriers have huge capacities... and so full that they now cannot move the aircraft within the aircraft carrier.”
On increased cooperation between the navies of China and Pakistan, he said it is a cause of concern and will pose a different challenge in future. With a marked shift in the thought process of Pakistan’s navy and their acquiring new ships will also bring in new capabilities, equipment and their unique capabilities on sea with acquiring helicopters on their ships. We have to factor in all these new areas in our strategies and operations and how we will counter this in future.
Asked about the Navy’s preparation in view of the Omicron variant, Vice Admiral Singh said recently Indian Navy issued a pan-navy diktat laying down a provision that Indian Navy is going to follow including all Covid protocols, compliances of state government directives as well as maintaining clear and distinct Covid hygiene systems. “For beds, the Navy has geared up sustainability and capabilities within their hospitals and is well prepared to tackle offshoots of Omicron. Additionally, quarantine facilities have also been prepared and if the state govt requires any help we will be able to provide help. Our aim is to save lives irrespective of where they belong.”
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