By Ranjit B Rai

New Delhi. 02 December 2017. In the 21st century Oceans, especially the Indian Ocean, occupies  a vital place in India’s national security and India’s economic prosperity, As the waters of the Indian Ocean touch the shores of over 40 countries. Ninety percent of India’s  trade by volume and 85 percent of  oil imports are carried on the seas to India, besides   half of the world’s container and one-third of world’s cargo traffic passes through this region.India’s has 1200 island territories, and alarge Exclusive Economic Zone of 2.4 million square kilometers which makes its clear that the security and stability of the region and extended maritime neighbourhoodin  the Indian Ocean falls on the Indian Navy and Coast Guard.

Indian Navy celebrates Navy Day every year on 4thDecember which commemorates the day in 1971 when the Osa missile boats struck Karachi in Op Trident with their long range Rangout radars and Styx missiles, and sank three Pakistani ships off Karachi.  This, after Indian Air Force Hunters from Jamnagar had set the KemariBurmah Shell oil tanks on fire that morning  by happen stance.  Navy’s second wave of Osa’s repeated the feat in Op Trident five days later, and damaged the tanker PNS Dacca and re-set the Kemari tanks on fire.  The Navy’s  action in war  went in to the annals of Naval Warfare  as ‘Naval Support for the War on Land’ in Revolution in Military Affairs(RMA).  USA followed it in Iraq and Afghanistan with Tomahawk missiles.

Concurrently INS Vikrant’s Sea Hawk fighters and Alizerocket planes struck coastal airfields and portsin the East Pakistan  andthe newly formed Eastern Fleet ships blockaded the coast.  With the Army’s Blitzkrieg  moves in to East Pakistan and Air Force’s  actions in the skies,  the 1971 war that began on 4th December saw Bangla Deshbeing  bornon 16th December when Gen Amir Abdullah Khan (AAK) Naizi surrendered East Pakistan’s  combined military of 93,000 as prisoners of war (POW) to  Indian Army’s Lt GenJagjit Singh AroraIndia’s Eastern Army Commander in  Dacca.  Maj Gen JFR Jacob had done the preparations.  Navy played  a major role in hastening the surrender in its first war and proved its mettle for Inter Service Jointness in war,  under the leadership of Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee legendary General SFS Manekshaw later Field Marshal and Chief of Naval Staff Admiral SM Nanda. Air Chief Marshal Pritam Lal headed the Indian Air Force.

In Navy week therefore the  spotlight falls on the Navy and realization has come that the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean called the Indo-Pacific will play a greater part in  India’s rise,  but it will also be a  geostrategic arena   for competition and rivalry among resident power structures and partnerships.   China which has claims in the East Asia Sea over resident Japan and has moved in to South China Sea (SCS) which was denied to it by UNCLOS 1982 in an  ITLOS court  maritime dispute. India will have to note China disregards International law, and even claims of land not its own as the Doklam India China stand  off witnessed recently. .

China has strategic interests in Indian Ocean  Region (IOR)  to safe guard its energy and trade sea lines and has  become a de-facto  resident power through  Pakistan with its interests in CPEC and Gwadar as its  asset. China has gained access to the warm waters of the Indian Ocean Region with it money power in the Great Maritime Game.  China is also building Ormara as a submarine for the  eightS-20 and nuclear submarines it is constructing to supply Pakistan.

The Indian peninsula is flanked by the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the East and the Lakshadweep in the West that dominate the Sea Lines of Communication, through which over 70,000 ships transit every year. This imposes a responsibility on the Indian Navy to safeguard the busy sea lines of communication and choke points (SLOCs).  In 2013 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh goaded by USA to support its Pivot to the East,  dubbed the Indian Navy as the Net Security Provider in the  Indian Ocean Region, while laying the foundation stone for the National Defence University near Gurgaon.  This made Navy’s charter and expanse of responsibilities increase.

Future Indian Navy at a glance

  • The current Naval Strength is 130 Ships and 13 aging submarines (Kilo and two nuclear&submarines4 HDW-1500).
  • 40 ships are on order in Indian yards, and 20 more stand approvedby the Defence Acquisition Council(DAC).
  • 1 STOBAR Aircraft Carrier Vikrant 37,500 tons at Cochin Shipyard Ltd. Due2019. 45 Mig-39Ks arrived. ($ 5 bill). Due 2020 now.
  • 4 Type 15B 7,400 ton 16 Brahmos and 16 Barak-8 missile destroyers at MDSLwith improved circular composite bridge structure, a modern trend inwarship design. ($ 5 bill).with M/F Star Radars. E/LM – 2428.
  • 7 Type 17A Brahmos/Barak 8 AMDR frigates. 4 at MDSL and 3 at GRSE. Theseare improved Shivalik class. ($ 5 bill) likely 2019 onwards.1 of 4 Project 28 ASW 3,000 ton Corvettes at GRSE. ($ 500 mill). 1 OPVBarracuda exported to Mauritius. Kavratti due 2018.
  • 5 Naval OPVs at Reliance Defence Ltd. ($ 400 bill). Delayed.
  • 6 Type P75 Scorpene submarines at MDSL. First Kalvari commissioning 2017and Khanderi 2018. ($5.3 bill). 6 more on option in Project 75I with AIP.
  • Plans for a Nuclear deterrent Arihant 2 and amphibious capability of OneDivision. (Cost not available. Guesstimate $ 3 bill).
  • 3 Training Ships at ABG merchant ship design. ($ 263 mill). – Stalled.
  • 5 Survey Catamarans at Alcock Ashdown suspended. ($ 130 mill). Stalled.
  • 5 LCUs at GRSE and Fast Attack Craft.
  • 2 DSRV James Fisher with AMC. ($ 290 Mill) – Arrival 2018
  • 1 Floating Dock on L&T for Port Blair.
  • 10 ISVs for Vietnam by L & T. Humsa Sonars for Myanmar.
  • 4 P8i Boeing 737 MR planes, 12 Dorniers. ($ 1 bill).Further Tentative Programme -DAC/PMO Approved
  • 4 LPD/H RFPs to be opened, Mistral Variety.
  • 6 P 75I and 6 SSN submarines. 16 Small ASW vessels 15 NGMVs. 15X Coastal
  • Missile Defence systems. 16 Multi role helicopters 57 Light Utility Helicopters.(LUH).
  • 5 Tanker support ships (from Hyundai at HSL).
  • 4 Krivacks- 2 from Russia and 2 in India at GSL. President Putin level at BRICS Summit Goa with PM NarendraModi. Being reduced.
  • 8/12 MCMVs at Goa Shipyard-Kangnam S. Korea LOI issued.
  • 3rd Aircraft Carrier Vishal and 16 Multirole helicopters stalled.

In January  2014 a day before Republic Day in New Delhi,   Prime Minister NarendraModi and President Barack Obama with China in view,  recognised the important role that both countries play   in promoting peace, prosperity, stability and security in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region (IOR), with  India’s ‘Act East Policy’.  The two leaders  affirmed to work closely to strengthen regional ties, and  announced a Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia Pacific. This saw the Indian Navy release its  2015 Indian Maritime Military Security  Strategy, titled “Ensuring Secure Seas”, as an updated version of the previous outlined strategy “Freedom to Use the Seaspromulgated  in 2007. This  was indicative of the changing tone of the Indian Navy’s wider  interests and intentions.

A very successful International Fleet Review-2016 (IFR-2016) showcased the Indian Navy at Vishakapatnam in 2016. On leaving harbor, the President’s Yacht weaved through the 70 ships of the 100 assembled  at anchorage off Visakhapatnam port. A spectacular fly-past was conducted as a part of the static review of the Fleet. During the final stage of the review, a mobile column of warships and submarines carried out high speed steam past alongside the Presidential yacht. Twenty  foreign warships participated with  fifty foreign Chiefs or their representatives. This was followed by the  very advanced US-India- Japan exercise Malabar 2017  with two aircraft carriers in the Bay of Bengal and  unveiled  Indian Navy’s  engagement with these two nations.

Hence in the future rivalry, maritime disputes and competition are   predicted to  increase in the Indo-Pacific and  India has joined the Quadrilateral (QUAD) of the tri-lateral of USA Japan and Australia.  The QUAD can expect  military threats from China while non-traditional threats of maritime terrorism, piracy, drug trafficking, human trafficking due to   climate change and the need to provide security to India’s  Blue Economy. This will need Indian Navy to take  a larger role in the times ahead.

The acquisition plans of the Navy are based on the Navy’s  Maritime Capability Perspective Plan anchored on self- reliance and indigenisation for which Navy has issued a Naval and Aviation template of all requirements which need indigenisation..  The latest ships inducted into the Navy include the Kochi class destroyers, Shivalik class frigates, Kamorta class Corvettes and a host of smaller platforms.    All airborne, surface and sub-surface platforms are networked over a common datalink using multiple means of communication including the indigenously built satellite – Rukmani.

China’s inroads in to Pakistan as a neighbourneeds noting and  it is time  to reflect on the challenges that India’s  Navy faces in the next few decadesas Navy is capital intensive and needs long term plans. The thirty four ships on order and 6 conventional and two nuclear  submarines on order and in construction will only replace the aging twenty  ships and most submarines are over 25 years old to persecute a 21st Century war.The Latin Quo Vadis means, ‘Whither goest thou?’ It’s the question St Peter asked of a resurrected Jesus Christ, who replied, “Romamvadoiterumcrucifigi” (“I am going to Rome to be crucified again”).

A similar question needs to be asked of the Indian Navy as it needs more Sea Legs from current 130 ships, 220 aircraft helicopters and UAVs and 15 submarines or it will not be crucified but will be weakened. The orders for over twenty ships and fourteen submarines approved by DefenceAcquisition Council (DAC)  and  listed in the ADU reportage below in various stages of Procurement Procedure have been stalled.  Notably are third large aircraft carrier, twelve minesweepers, four Landing Platform Dock (LPD) amphibious ships with helicopters, four Krivacks ,six Project 75i and eight SSN and sixteen multi role  and fifty seven light utility helicopters (LUH) have been slowed.

The Indo-Pacific is becoming increasingly important in Indian statecraft as evident by our Prime minister’s articulation of recent initiatives SAGAR (Security And Growth for All in the Region), Mausam and Sagarmala.  The security architecture in maritime Asia along with the rise of China the Government and the Indian Navy will have to  reviewIndia’s  maritime policy and the strength of platforms it needs and Government needs to swiftly move and provide the funds.

The author Cmde Ranjit B Rai is a defence expert and author of WARRING NUCLEAR NATIONS-INDIA AND PAKISTAN (ISBN 978-93-5158-638-0). The views in the article are solely the author’s. He can be contacted at