Tuesday, August 7, 2012

'Old Sea Dog' Naval Chief's Parting Shot : 'Indian Navy Equipped, Confident To Deal 26/11 Type Situation'



 I would like to thank all of you for being here at this press conference. I see all sections of media are well represented; for your presence and time, please accept my gratitude.  I know, in fact I have often been made acutely aware – by members of the media that, I have not been as forthcoming with any significantly sensational sound bytes, as are anticipated! Yesterday’s edition of the ‘Mail Today’ remarked upon my preference for reticence.  I ask myself, ‘Is it too late for an old sea dog to learn new tricks?’.    Particularly for that reason, I appreciate your presence, here today at my farewell press conference!  One thing that I can assure you is that the Navy has not been short of significant accomplishments over the past three years.   It is my intention today to share with all of you the major milestones achieved during my tenure, after which I would look forward to your questions.

I took over as the Chief of the Naval Staff, nearly three years ago, on 31 Aug 09.  Through a nautical perspective, I would say we were then in the close wake of two defining events in the maritime domain; the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai and the sharp increase in Piracy off the Gulf of Aden which was spreading dangerously close to our Lakshadweep and Minicoy islands.  In my first message to the Navy I had emphasized the need to focus on both ‘consolidation’ and ‘sustained growth’ – three years later, today, I am sufficiently satisfied of the progress that the navy has collectively accomplished.

It is immensely important that at the outset, I record the fact that what has been accomplished ‘on my watch’ was possible because of the ‘course that had been steered’ by my predecessors before me, as also the enormous efforts of our Veteran community.  Needless to say, none of it would have been possible without the efforts, dedication and commitment of the men and women of the Indian Navy – who are the finest in the world.  Commanding them will remain my fondest, proudest and most humbling experience.  Most importantly, I must also pay homage to our martyrs – for their sacrifice, we owe them an eternal debt of gratitude.

Getting back to the challenges of the changing operating environment; with respect to piracy, we have to a significant extent, arrested this plague.  We have had at least one ship continuously deployed, off the Gulf of Aden, since October 2008.  Over 2100 merchantmen have been escorted by IN ships and 40 piracy attempts have been averted. Along with the sustained efforts of various navies and the shipping community, the success rate of piracy has dropped from 38% in 2008 to approx 11% till 2011 and even further in 2012.   It may surprise some to know that our anti-piracy operations have thus far been coordinated trilaterally with the Chinese and Japanese and in the near future this initiative could include the South Korean navy. Such are the opportunities in the maritime environment.
 
In 2009-10 the scourge of piracy had spread to the East Arabian Sea at times beyond 1000 nm from the Horn of Africa and closer to our waters. The Indian Navy has had a somewhat different and I dare say rather proactive approach towards combating piracy.  Proactive and effective action by Indian Navy and Coast Guard ships and aircraft resulted in the neutralization of all pirate ships operating in the region. I am happy to state that over the past year, there has not been a single incident of piracy within 300 nautical miles of our island territories on the West coast. The maritime environment is complex and  this proactive action has had some unintended consequences. As a result of the relative safety of our waters from piracy, there has consequently been a discernible shift in the International Shipping Lines (ISLs).  International shipping is now passing closer to the Indian coast due to the protection provided by the Indian Navy and Coast Guard. This has resulted in an unfortunate incident of mistaken identity which resulted in the loss of innocent lives of our fishermen, such are the dangers and challenges which require to be addressed. 

The Indian Navy is completely cognizant of its responsibilities as the nation’s primary guarantor of security and safety not only at sea but also as the lead agency in facilitating coastal security. Towards this end, our coastal security efforts have stretched from grass root initiatives that have incorporated local fishing communities as the ‘Eyes and Ears’ of our coastal security matrix, to operation level exercises and infrastructure development and further on into the realm of policy making through our participation at the Apex level national committee for strengthening maritime and coastal security.

I am often asked about the dichotomy of the fact that the Indian Navy which professed Blue water aspirations is now engrossed in Brown water operations.  I see no such dichotomy in our maritime strategy as we discharge our responsibilities as the lead agency for coastal security.  A multipronged approach that focuses on institutionalizing and enhancing the efficacy of multi-agency coordination, capability augmentation of various stake holders as well as setting up of adequate surveillance infrastructure  has been adopted and I am optimistic that the momentum that has been built will sustain to ensure fructification of the projects and initiatives envisaged.

It is imperative that we recognize the new challenges emerging out of the prevalent uncertain environment and adopt a strategy to address the changing nature of conflict. Besides conventional challenges and geopolitical forces, terrorism from the sea and terrorism at sea are now realities of our times.  In our external environment one of our core concerns is the coalescing of the ‘State’ with ‘non-State’ entities; both of which, individually, in collaboration or as hybrid create a high degree of uncertainty.  Our maritime strategy intends to ensure that there is no schism between the challenges that we face and our capabilities to respond to them. There will always remain uncertainties and adversaries but on our part it is intended to ensure that the levels of asymmetry are never such that they encourage adventurism.

Over the past three years the Indian Navy has made very significant progress towards capability accretion and this, is as intended to be, in consonance with a conceived vision and plan.  The past three years have seen the publication of three major documents – the Maritime Capabilities Perspective Plan 2012-27, the XII Plan document and the XII Infrastructure Plan document. During XI Plan period, which concluded on 31 Mar this year close to 200 Acceptances of Necessity (AoNs) with a total value of Rs 2,73,070 Crs were obtained. Of these, 161 contracts with a total value of Rs 92,069 Crs have been concluded.

A record number of 15 ships have been commissioned into the Navy over the past three years, which include the three Shivalik class stealth frigates – Shivalik, Satpura and Sahyadri – two fleet tankers, Deepak and Shakti, one follow-on 1135.6 class stealth frigate, INS Teg, the sail training ship, Sudarshini, and eight water-jet FACs. Commissioning of  the nuclear attack submarine INS Chakra on 23rd Jan this year was a momentous occasion, as we are now part of a select group of six nations that operate SSNs. Chakra has added considerable punch to our maritime power and will aid in developing future concepts of naval operations in this very critical sphere. You are aware that the Arihant is steadily progressing towards its operationalisation, and we hope to commence sea trials in the coming months.  Given our unequivocal “no-first-use commitment” a retaliatory strike capability that is credible and invulnerable is an imperative.  The Indian Navy is poised to complete the triad, and our maritime and nuclear doctrines will then be aligned to ensure that our nuclear insurance comes from the sea.

Our indigenous warship building program is poised to touch new heights with 43 warships currently under construction in our shipyards. These include the indigenous aircraft carrier, destroyers, corvettes and submarines. Three ships of Project 15A, which are follow-ons of the existing Delhi Class destroyers, with improved stealth features and weapon and sensor fit are scheduled for induction commencing early next year. A contract has also been signed with M/s MDL for four more P 15B destroyers, which will follow the P15A ships. Four Anti Submarine Warfare Corvettes, being built at GRSE, Kolkata, are the first stealth corvettes designed and built indigenously as specialised anti-submarine warfare (ASW) surface combatants. The first ship is scheduled to be inducted early next year and the others will follow at a yearly interval.

In order to augment our offshore patrolling capability, four offshore patrol vessels are under construction at Goa Shipyard Limited. The ships are scheduled for induction from the end of this year onwards. Five other offshore patrol vessels will be built at a private Shipyard. These ships, along with two cadet training ships under construction at another private Shipyard, are the first warship orders ever given to private shipyards since our independence. Eight new, upgraded landing craft are also under construction at GRSE, Kolkata and will augment the force levels in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. These ships will replace the old Landing Craft Utility or LCUs, which are in the process of being phased out.

Our survey ships and hydrographers are a valuable part of the Navy and are much in demand amongst a variety of littoral states in the Indian Ocean Region. To augment their force levels, six new catamaran hull Survey vessels are being built by M/s Alcock Ashdown Gujarat Ltd, at Bhavnagar. The first ship is undergoing sea trials and is scheduled to be commissioned later this year. The construction of Scorpene submarines under Project 75 is underway and MDL and the Department of Defence Production maintain that the first submarine is likely to be commissioned in 2015 and the sixth submarine by 2018.

In addition to the 46 ships under construction, Acceptance of Necessity for 49 more ships and submarines has been obtained. These include seven more follow-on ships of the Shivalik Class, under Project 17-A, which are to be built at both MDL, Mumbai and GRSE, Kolkata and we are working towards contract conclusion in the current financial year. Contracts for four water-jet FACs, to be built at GRSE, Kolkata, one more training ship, to be built at a private shipyard and two mine hunters to be built in South Korea are likely to be concluded during the current financial year.  Six more mine hunters will be subsequently built at Goa Shipyard under ToT. Options for the Deep Submergence and Rescue vessel (DSRV) are presently undergoing technical evaluation.  In addition, approval for construction of six submarines under Project -75(I) is at the final stages of approval. Requests for Proposals in respect of four LPDs, 16 shallow water ASW ships – the order being split between two shipyards, one survey training vessel and two diving support vessels will also be issued in the coming months.

The Indian Navy’s preferred choice of inducting ships and submarines has always been through the indigenous route. Today, of the 46 ships and submarines presently on order, 43 are from Indian shipyards. The intended induction programme is structured to continue at a pace such that over the next five years we expect to induct ships and submarines at an average rate of 5 platforms per year provided the yards deliver as per contracted timelines.  At the same time it would be amiss if I did not emphasize the need for our public and private sector shipyards to scale up their capabilities to deliver state-of-the-art warships that meet our future needs in time frames that match global standards.  To offer a perspective, the global average for building a ship similar to a Delhi Class is about 36 months, that too with a stringent cap on man days. These are the standards that our shipyards must emulate so as to contain costs of ship building. This would result in higher productivity and capacity utilisation. The provisions of the Defence Procurement Procedures to ‘Buy and Make Indian’ must be adopted to synergize capabilities and implement leapfrogging technologies. The Navy’s forthcoming LPD programme is a unique opportunity in this context. 

There are three ships are under construction in Russia. These include two more ships of the follow-on Talwar class, being built at Yantar Shipyard in Kalingrad, with one scheduled for induction later this year and the other next year. The third ship, of course, is the Vikramaditya, which is currently undergoing sea trials. On the 28th of last month the aviation trials involving the operations of the Mig 29 K from the deck of that ship commenced.  Machinery trials are also well underway. As you may appreciate, there is hectic work underway here in India, to receive the ship with all the infrastructure support that would be required to be provided to the aircraft carrier.

On the aviation front too, progress has been a source of satisfaction. The Navy’s aviation assets are being modernised and augmented in consonance with the long term vision of the Navy. In order to maintain effective vigil and surveillance in our area of interest, eight of the world’s most advanced, state-of-the-art P-8I Poseidon, long-range maritime patrol aircraft are due to be inducted commencing early 2013. In addition, eight Medium Range Maritime Reconnaissance (MRMR) aircraft are also planned for induction. Procurement of additional Unmanned Aerial Vehicles is being progressed to further augment our surveillance and reconnaissance capability at sea. 

I have already mentioned about the most significant aviation acquisition over the past three years - the carrier borne MiG-29K fighters. These aircraft will significantly enhance the Indian Navy’s strike capability. The first batch has already been inducted and delivery of aircraft from the follow-on contract will commence later this year.

The rotary wing assets of the Navy are also being upgraded to induct state-of-the-art weapons, sensors and avionics. These include upgradation of the Kamov 28 and Seaking 42B.  The new inductions amongst the helicopters include the Multi-role Helicopters (MRH) for fleet ships. In addition, the Naval Utility Helicopter is also planned for induction by 2016 and the Request for Proposal should get issued any time now.  

In sum, the modernization of the Indian Navy is firmly on track. This has been possible as the Navy has ensured 100% outgo of its capital budget over the past three years, and today our Capital to Revenue ratio stands at a very healthy ratio of 68:32.

Development of infrastructure to support our ships, aircraft and submarines has also been a priority area and we have outlined several measures for enhancing our capacity in this area. Work on Phase I of Project Seabird at Karwar was completed last year and we are in the final stages of getting CCS approval for Phase IIA, at Karwar. Meanwhile, our dockyards and Naval Aircraft Yards are also constantly being upgraded to keep pace with new inductions and infusion of newer technologies.

Security of our island territories has been bolstered by the commissioning of the naval establishment INS Dweeprakshak at Kavaratti, in the Lakshwadeep and Minicoy islands.  Last week I commissioned our latest Naval Air Station, INS Baaz at Campbell Bay on Great Nicobar Island.  On that occasion I had mentioned, and I would like to once again highlight, the signifiance of the strategic geography of INS Baaz which is situated on this southernmost island of the Nicobar group, overlooking the Strait of Malacca and dominating the      6 degree channel. These crucial waterways continue to engage the interest of most global and regional powers.

Given our geographical position, our natural paradigm is to architect the stability of our region via our maritime routes.  This is reflected in the fact that diplomacy is a critical component of our maritime strategy.  You are aware that the Indian Navy had taken the lead in organizing and conducting the inaugural Indian Ocean Naval Symposium in 2008. The 35-member IONS initiative is steadily gaining strength and we remain committed towards this endeavour. This year the Indian Navy has set up the permanent website of IONS, which will function as a virtual secretariat and allow a variety of other functions to be discharged in a cost-effective manner. IONS has been a very progressive step in increasing maritime cooperation amongst navies of the littoral states of the Indian Ocean region, thereby crystallizing the rhetoric of ‘helping the IOR help itself’.

The Indian Navy is also committed in numerous bilateral initiatives to facilitate capability building and capacity enhancement of our smaller neighbours, particularly island nations in the IOR. Towards this end we have formulated our doctrine and our efforts have been in cosonnance with the same.  These include installation of radars and AIS systems, providing assets for EEZ surveillance and hydrographic assistance. These initiatives have enhanced the Navy’s reputation as a maritime leader in the region and a professional and capable force. In addition, we also contribute towards generating regional maritime capability through training exchanges to the regional navies when requested. In 2011, 853 personnel from navies of friendly nations trained in India. This year the numbers are intended to be increased. Capability building towards Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations has also received our focused attention. You would recall the Navy’s deployment for the evacuation of civilians from Libya last year. This year, the biennial MILAN gathering of regional navies was conducted at Port Blair and a record number of 15 countries attended the MILAN making it grand success.

Our foreign cooperation initiatives include engaging with other extra-regional navies as well, to gain operational skills and doctrinal expertise, exchange transformational experiences, generate inter-operability and enhance our awareness in the maritime domain through a variety of information-sharing mechanisms.  The growing scope and complexity of ‘Combined Exercises’ with the United States Navy, the French, the Royal Navy, the Russian Navy, the Singaporeans and South African and Brazilian Navies all contribute towards our cooperative engagement initiatives. As I speak to you, some of our ships are on their way back from a deployment to the Mediterranean. Earlier this year units of the Eastern Fleet had similarly deployed to the South and East China Seas.

All of these efforts have created a significant operational stretch and accomplishment of these tasks would not have been possible without the tremendous dedication of our men and women in uniform.  Naturally, they remain our primary priority. 

The platforms in our Navy today require high end technological skills and human capital of the requisite quality and motivation to maintain and operate. The first batch of B Tech qualified officers from the Indian Naval Academy at Ezhimala will graduate in mid next year. I am happy to state that the Government has approved the enhancement of the capacity of the Naval Academy, from 750 to 1200 trainees work on which will soon begin.

To address the career progression aspirations of our sailors, a cadre restructuring proposal termed ‘Review of Career Progression of Sailors’ or RECAPS was approved by the government in Oct 2010 and this initiative has reduced the time for promotion of all sailors to the rank of Petty Officer to less than 15 years in all branches. In addition, I am pleased to mention that government has also approved the Navy’s proposal for grant of Honorary Rank of Chief Petty Officer to Petty Officers.  All these measures would go a long way in meeting the career aspirations of our sailors. The government’s initiative of providing housing to greater number of service personnel through the Married Accommodation Project is also resulting in better quality of life, and higher satisfaction levels.
To my mind one of the most important welfare initiatives instituted in my tenure as the Chief of the Naval Staff is the Naval Regimental System or NRS. The NRS aims to reach out to Naval Veterans and their family members, particularly widows, across the country.  It is a reflection of our lasting sense of responsibility to our own. Specifically, 2012 is the ‘Year of the Ex-Servicemen’. Ex-Servicemen Melas and Pension Adalats have been conducted at various locations across the nation.   Widow rehabilitation has been one of my Key Result Areas.  In this connection I want to place on record my gratitude to the Delhi Government for allotting some land in Vasant Kunj for building a Widows’ Hostel. The Naval Wives Welfare Association has in tandem instituted several measures for the rehabilitation of naval widows who often face an uncertain and economically fraught future after the demise of their sole breadwinner. In this regard, I would like to highlight the role played by the Naval Wives Welfare Association in empowering naval wives and providing succor to those naval families who need assistance. In addition, our ladies play a vital but unsung role in holding up the family front when the men are away, often on long deployments. They are an important part of our organizational strength.
   
To reflect upon my tenure as the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee I would reiterate that I am a firm supporter of jointness and I am convinced that closer integration between the three Services is necessary for greater efficiency and economy in the long term. We have been proceeding steadily, albeit slowly on the path towards greater integration. I am of the view that this needs to be hastened, especially to ensure more effective control of our strategic forces and more efficient conduct of defence procurement, training and logistics.
It is a matter of satisfaction, that for the first time, the LTIPP 2012-27 and the XII Defence Plan have been approved by the Defence Acquisition Council, in time. This will provide greater certainty and direction to our long term modernization plans. As regard the National War Memorial, I am confident an appropriate Way Ahead is being chalked out. I am also hopeful that the Government will resolve the pending aspects related to the anomalies of the 6th Central Pay Commission and the issue of ‘one rank one pension’, which are of immense concern for both serving and veteran Armed Forces personnel.  The setting up of the Indian National Defence University or INDU at Gurgaon has progressed considerably with the allotment of land for the purpose by the Government of Haryana; when commissioned as envisioned it will certainly facilitate flourishing of strategic thought in our country.

To conclude I would once again, as I always have, express my compliments to each of you for your valuable contribution in keeping the nation informed of our defence needs and security imperatives.  There is only one issue that I would like to mention for your consideration. The Indian Armed Forces comprise over 1.3 million patriotic men and women in uniform. I can assure you that there are daily stories of grief, hardships, joy, accomplishments and absolute devotion to duty in the lives of simple jawans, sailors and airmen. Some even laying their lives, in the defence of the nation.   I believe that their accomplishments are not covered to a degree commensurate to their sacrifice.  I also believe that the Armed Forces of our nation are as much a treasure to each of you, as they are to me, and therefore, I do hope you find it within yourself to introspect over the parting request of this old sea dog. 

Indian Navy

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Its good that he addressed himself as an 'Old Sea Dog" because no body else would have done that for him. Ironically in the last 25 years he spent just 3 years at sea, hardly a sea dog. In fact that is the current problem with the Indian Navy, all the people on the way up have the bare minimum exposure to the sea, and its beginning to show.....