Image Courtesy: The New Indian Express
Interview Courtesy: Marathi Language Daily – SAKAL (Pune Edition) on 04 DEC 2021
Highlighted Excerpts – Indian Navy has always protected Indian territory and has also been known for its humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. 04 Dec is celebrated as Navy Day. On that occasion this article attempts to take stock of the Indian Navy’s standing in the current geopolitical situation, its changing role and Indian Navy efforts in thwarting China’s efforts in establishing its hegemony in the Indian Ocean region. The article is based on an interview with defence analyst Cmde SL Deshmukh, NM, Retd (SLD).
The interview and the article are attributed to Ms Akshata Pawar (AP), Senior Reporter Sakal.
AP: What is the world standing of the Indian Navy today?
SLD: Indian Ocean- which connects the east-west expanse of seas, is critically important for India. Indian Navy has benefitted from the Indian Ocean’s geographical location. Indian Navy today ranks fourth after the USA, China and Russia. India had lost its maritime prowess due to colonisation- which was the main reason for the British conquest of India. In the post-independence era, India once again did its best to build its maritime power and today Indian Navy is one of the best naval forces in the world. Even during the pandemic period, the Indian Navy not only did its primary duty but also actively participated in providing medical aid and disaster relief to the neighbouring countries, proving its HADR (Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief) capabilities.
AP: China is trying to establish its primacy in Indian Ocean Region (IOR), in that context what should be the Indian Navy’s response?
SLD: China is currently trying to establish its primacy not only in IOR but also in the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal- through it String of Pearls Project. Illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing by China in these areas is affecting the blue economy of the region. China’s efforts in gaining ports or bases for encircling India (through BRI related Debt Traps) are quite evident. Thus, the Indian Navy would need state of the art platforms, Radars, submarines, and other equipment- to deter China from misadventurism in these areas. It is important to note that in the current geo-political scenario, the Indian Navy would also need to shoulder the responsibility of maintaining security and stability in these regions. Indian Navy would also need to help the neighbouring countries in protecting their economies and national interests, which would help India in developing a credible soft power front for countering China.
AP: What are measures India would need to take to bolster the Indian Navy’s might?
SLD: Indian Navy currently has approximately 15 submarines and 150 Ships in comparison with China approximately 70 Submarines and 500 Ships. Despite this numeric disparity, the Indian Navy is capable of defending the nation from China’s aggressive attitude using its long operational experience, ability to do much more with the given assets and unparalleled morale. However, it is important to note that building new ships and submarines is a time consuming and expensive task. Thus, India would need to do some out of the box thinking and find novel ways to bridge the gap, including partnerships and building strong geopolitical relations with friendly nations.
AP: What other platforms Indian Navy would need, in addition to INS Vikrant and INS Vishakhapatnam, to build its capabilities?
SLD: With eminent induction of INS Vikrant and induction on INS Visakhapatnam in its fold, both India and the Indian Navy have achieved credible milestones, which would help in bolstering our deterrence capabilities. But India would still need state of the art frigates, Landing Platform Docks, Mine Counter Measure Vessels, Conventional (Diesel Electric with AIP) and Strategic Submarines, Deck-borne Fighter Aircraft and various types of helicopters and state of the art weaponry, to maintain its primacy in the region.
(Commodore SL Deshmukh, NM (Retd), has served Indian Navy for 32 years, is a Mechanical Engineer is specialised in both Marine & Aviation domains. He also holds a Masters in Defence Studies and a Post-Graduate in Management. He has served onboard aircraft carriers and is specialised on fighter aircraft and ASW helicopters. He held many operational and administrative appointments including Principal Director at Naval HQ, Commodore Superintendent at Naval Aircraft Yard, Director, Naval Institute of Aeronautical Technology and Project Director of a major Naval Aviation Project. He is alumni of Defence Services Staff College Wellington. He was with Tata Group for 5 years and is currently working with SUN Group‘s Aerospace & Defence vertical as Senior Vice President. He is also the Life Member of Aeronautical Society of India. The views expressed in this interview are personal and does not necessarily reflect the views of C3S)