An IDC Analysis 


New Delhi, 14 January 2003

The Indian Navy has a friend in Defence Minister George Fernandes. His socialist leanings have a working relationship with the Russians and things move fast when he puts his mind to it. A report in ET suggests that there is a cushion of Rs 3000 crores to spare in the Defence Budget. We suggest that FM Jaswant Singh must not use it to control the fiscal deficit and George Fernandes must not fall into such a trap.

There is a big Economic Conference at Neemrana and they are all going to ask India to control the deficit but we hope not at the expense of the Defence Plans. The Nation must remember 04 December 1971, for well was it said –– 'God and Soldiers are remembered only in times of trouble.' Once trouble is over the soldier is slighted and God forgotten. That was the day when the Indian Navy's killer Missile Boats sank three ships and the oil depots at Kamari off Karachi, with IAF support, who also attacked but did not take the credit as ACM Lal wanted it to be kept secret. This action and those off what is now Bangla Desh saw a quick end to the 1971 war.

It was the Soviet supplied equipment that made the day for the Navy's brilliant performance in the war. Ranjit Rai’s book "A Nation and Its Navy at War " (Lancers) is dedicated to the Sailors of the Indian Navy and Admiral of the Fleet Sergei Gorshkov the greatest builder of any Navy. He was kind to the Indian Navy and saw to it that the best possible hardware was supplied even if there was disagreement amongst the Soviet General Staff.

Things have changed and the defence sales are now more commercial to be paid for in dollars but the underpinning of time tested friendship and cooperation remain vital. Defence News had a report that Indian Navy was offered second hand Spruance Class destroyers by USA. It may be so but we feel this to be kite flying and the section of opinion that looks at these old ships must be curbed. We can and must do with better ships. Hence this analysis.

It is bitterly cold in Russia and a piece in Pioneer tells you the water pipes froze in Moscow. Defence Minister George Fernandes is proceeding to Moscow on 14th January for 8 days with a large team of senior officers, which includes Admirals, Generals and Air Marshals, for the Inter Ministerial Meet.

The Air Force programmes including SU-30 MKI are running well and the Refuellers IL-78 are due to join soon giving the IAF longer reaches. The accident rate has come down marginally. The Army is in good shape with the troops back to peace stations. It needs the Smerch and is proudly displaying T-90S tanks on the ARMY DAY Parade on 15th Jan with ALH, LANCERS and the TANGUSKA. The T-90s can fire the Refleck Anti Tank Missile from the 125 mm smooth bore barrel and results are good. The T-72 Tanks are being upgraded with Polish fire control.

Navy’s Requirements

It is the Navy’s needs that the nation should support and not procrastinate. In view of the time taken to build warships, the Navy's programmes take time hence the needs should be catered for well in time. The GORSHKOV deal, nuclear submarine acquisition, INS TALWAR’s commissioning and assistance for spares are Navy’s critical needs. Media indicates that all this is now a package and George should accept as such, now that the row in Samata party that kept him in Patna has cooled.

Join the Navy and see the world, is a well known cliche but now it is beginning to come true in a larger measure for the tars of the fine Indian Navy. The current year saw the Navy's budget jump from 13 to 15% of the total Defence cake and the Navy rode new waves of achievements both in the operational and administrative spheres. It successfully patrolled the Straits of Malacca and waters off Indonesia with the Indonesian Navy, and with the Sri Lankan Navy. The International Fleet Review at Mumbai in 2001 had opened the eyes of 42 Navies of the World that came to the event and evinced great interest when they realised how much the Indian Navy had achieved by helping itself in ship construction. The Type 17 Frigate being built at Mazdocks will be a potent ship and another programme is now on the drawing board with the Russians. The Navy will fire the BRAHMOS soon and induct this singing dancing missile by the year end. 

The only blip was ill fated accident to two IL 38 aircraft’s on 01 October 2002 when the Squadron was celebrating its record of 30,000 accident free flying –– but such are the risks which a fighting force must take.

Yet there were smiles on Naval faces on the just gone by Navy Day on 04 Dec 02 when in high spirits they met the VIPs at Navy House though the PM was conspicious by his absence at the elegant reception.

In 2002 the Indian Navy set records in its operational deployments. 26 ships visited 24 foreign ports in its traditional silent way and opened its ships to school children and visitors at all ports and establishments, even though the security requirements were tight. 55 Foreign Naval ships visited India in 2002. 

Great Navies have always held core values as their strength and so it was no surprise the CNS Admiral Madhavendra Singh, son of a distinguished Major General has set goals within the sanctioned 15 year ship building programme and the 30 year Submarine building programme to go from a 136 ship to 185 ship Navy in the next 20 years. India will need it, because by then the Nuclear deterrent at sea will be a fact of life. We hope Inter Service rivalry which slowed India's Aircraft carrier programme does not derail matters.

The Navy also has opportunities to export its expertise and cooperate with other nations. One such is tabled below.

USA does not build diesel electric submarines and Indian Navy and MDL have the expertise. A firm in USA is keen to tap Indian manpower and expertise. The Naval Sea Systems Command, which designs, builds, and acquires ships for the US Navy, began the potential competition for the supply of eight diesel-electric subs for Taiwan. The competition will be limited to General Dynamics Corp, Northrop Grumman Corp, Raytheon Co, and Lockheed Martin Corp. The US Navy hopes to have the design picked out by 2004 or 2005 with construction beginning in 2006. Sources estimate that the eight subs could cost Taiwan US$ 4.5 billion. US and Taiwanese officials are expected to discuss the submarine project at the US-Taiwan defence conference which is scheduled to be held in San Antonio in February 2003. This is a shot in the dark and India should offer to share the pie but certainly not look at Spruances. 

On environment, the Navy has not been lacking and the Coast Guard too who are protecting the sea turtles and such. The then Western Naval Command Chief, Vice Admiral Madhavendra Singh has been awarded the prestigious “World Ship Trust Award “ for the restoration of the British built Castle Fort near the Horniman Circle on the shore in Mumbai and as he says the award is a tribute to the dedication of so many including civilians of Mumbai who supported the project. The world therefore evinces great interest in what ever the Indian Navy executes. Indians must support the Navy, the smallest but agile force of India.

The Indian Navy will ultimately need three aircraft carriers and the IAF must acknowledge that Jointness gives strength. At the moment, Gorshkov is the only one available or else Indian Naval Air Arm will wither, an exceptional expertise that took decades to build. Let us hope the Government moves ahead and settles the Gorshkov deal so that future Indians do have a World Class Navy.

The Navy brass is preparing the software and with a new Academy at Ezhimala, a spanking new base at Karwar and the best service hospital INHS Asvini at Mumbai. The decision for the hardware, rests in the hands of the Bureaucrats and Ministers. That is our system and one hopes they too understand.

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