This list should include aircraft carriers, large LPD/LPH type amphibious warfare ships (e.g., Jalashwa type), Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs), Mine Warfare ships, patrol boats, LRMP aircraft, helicopters, carrier borne fighter aircraft, and fleet replenishment tankers, etc. It maybe noted that, as aganist the recent controversy on “price escalation and delayed induction” of the Russian aircraft carrier Gorshkov, all second hand acquistions from the West (e.g., aircraft carrier Viraat, frigate Krishna and LPD Jalashwa) have been ‘on time’ and within the contracted price.
A balanced Indian Navy, does not merely imply a force with 60 percent blue water capability. It requires capability which is relevant to the likely peacetime (terrorism and piracy) and wartime (conventional and strategic) threats.
The Indian Coast Guard too needs additional (preferably, 20 percent second hand) patrol vessels, aircraft and helicopters most urgently to augment its capability, so that it can carry out effective surveillance and monitoring of our EEZ, to counter any maritime terrorist threats, and thus free the Navy to deal with its blue water tasks. Both the Navy and Coast Guard need to exercise regularly with each other to increase inter-operabilty, and also need to frequently exercise with all relevant regional and extra regional Navies (including the US and Russian Navies) and Coast Guards. To ensure greater understanding and promoting goodwill, the Indian Navy also needs to consider increasing mutual port visits with the Chinese Navy and also carry out exercises with it atleast once every one year or two years.
A beginning with Pakistan could be made. The Indian and Pakistan Navies could initate visits by their Naval Chiefs, on the lines of the annual exchange visits by the heads of the Indian Coast Guard and Pakistan’s Maritime Security Agency. India, Pakistan and China have common national interests in keeping the sea lanes of commerce and energy security safe and therefore need to co-operate. In this world of realpolitik, their is no “consolation prize” or even respect for the defeated/weaker nation. India has no choice but to build/equip,operate and maintain a “ truly balanced and relevant” 200 ship Indian Navy, which should include three types of “capital ships”, i.e. SSBNs, SSNs and Aircraft Carriers.
National Maritime Advisor/Advisory Board
The spate of new private ports, offshore oil rigs, refineries (and expected nuclear power plants) coming up along the Indian coasts (at present the Gulf of Kutch, alone has five private shipyards, numerous captive jetties and massive expansions are planned to existing Mundra and Kandla ports), have short and long term security implications in this era of global terrorism. In addition, we need to avoid controversies on professional nautical issues such as the economic viability of the ”SSCP” or Sethu Samundaram Channel Project. The proposed 12 m deep channel caters for ships of below 32,000 tons with draught below 10m. Unfortunately international shipping till even beyond 2025, is headed for ships above 60,000 tons, which cannot use the SSCP. Similarly Indian Coastal Shipping though expanding rapidly, is reducing in tonnage per ship from 4000 to 1900 tons.
Also, both international and coastal shipping will find it more economical to avoid the SSCP. In addition to infrastructure costs of tugs and pilots, the SSCP, will incur heavy “maintenance dredging” costs, every two to three years. All these will make the “SSCP” economically non-viable. To ensure that future maritime and other coastal projects meet the twin requiements of security along with ”nautical correctness”, and given the earlier mentioned facts about numerous ministries/agencies/authorities involved in maritime activities, the time has come to set up a single window professional National Maritime Advisor heading a National Maritime Advisory Board, which could function either independently, or under the National Security Advisor.
Essential Reforms in Maritime Domain
The Indian Marine Police(IMP) and Water Wing of the BSF should merge with the Indian Coast Guard(ICG), and this combined force should be made responsible for the “ routine peacetime” surface security of the Indian EEZ along with important designated inland waters (Sir and Kori Creeks, Hooghly and Brahmaputra rivers, etc), security of all ports (including implementation of ISPS code,AIS, pollution control), and searching vessels suspected to be carrying explosives/terrorists before they enter Indian ports.
At present, designated units of the ICG are placed under the operational command and control of the Indian Navy during hostilities. This provision may also need to be applied to some emergent situatons in the present “no war–no peace” scenario also. The defence of our valuable offshore assests against peacetime surface and subsurface threats needs the Navy and ICG to operate in close liasion, given the possibility of peacetime subsurface snoopers–terrorists / terrorist mining threats in our territorial waters and EEZ. The Navy will have to play a lead role due to its capabilities. In addition, in the maritime domain, the IN will have to be the lead service for exploitation of space based communications surveillance systems, including sub surface surveillance systems and UAVs.