New Delhi, 22
Indian daily which had exposed the Bofors papers many years ago,
reported on 20th November that the Gorshkov deal is to be sealed by
the end of the month with some “ifs and buts”, when Russian
Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov visits New Delhi on 27–28 Nov. All
indicators from statements in the media and Defence Secretary Ajay
Prasad’s rushed weekend visit to Moscow and other indicators
emanating from PM’s Russia visit, were similar to those we saw for
the AJT deal, which came about in the same fashion, after three
weeks of similar statements. Inputs must be leaking like sieves, as
many people may be involved in discussions and the typing of the
mega deal –– which can be kept secret in services HQ, but not so
easily in the bureaucratic domain.
this billion dollar deal comes through as the paper predicts, it is
great news for the Indian Navy which celebrates it birthday on 4th
December. This year there will bigger surprise celebrations by
architects of the 1971 Victory, besides this birthday gift. Five
Indian Navy ships are presently off China and Singapore and in the
Pacific –– that should tell Indians something. The Navy brasses
appear to be on a total high!
needs the Gorshkov for the security of the Indian Ocean and
India’s future, and even today we support the “never too late
decision” to get the Gorshkov, and fit it out with MiG 29Ks and Ka
32 AEW helicopters. There was no other choice since inter-service
opposition delayed our own Air Defence Ship (ADS), which too awaits
the Gorshkov aircraft choice. So lets get on with it.
Navy has a fine aviation wing with traditions equal to if not better
than the Indian Air Force. The ‘world’s need for Indian Ocean
maritime security is paramount, especially today’. Admiral Dennis
Blair, C-in-C Pacific said that in 2001 and goaded the Indian Navy
to get involved –– which it did post 9/11 in the Malacca
Straits, though this annoyed Malaysia’s Mahathir.
and piracy at sea can cause greater damage to the world economy than
the WTC bombings of 9/11. The Sea Lines of Communications (SLOCs) of
the Indian Ocean carry 60% of the world’s trade and energy
resources. The choke points off Aden in the Straits of Bab El Mandeb,
Hormuz in the Gulf and Malacca between Singapore and Indonesia, are
stake in world trade is only 1% compared to China’s 7% and
Japan’s 12%. If two or three 400,000-ton VLCC tankers bound for
Japan or China were to be blown up (quite easy for trained Jehadi
seamen), then the world stock market would crash and insurance rates
would soar. Oil prices would rise and we do not have to explain the
consequences for India.
juts into the Indian Ocean and we have duties to perform and we have
offshore assets to protect and 1000 islands and 7500 km of
coastline. Rightly so the Indian Navy’s long term planning is for
a navy of three carrier battle groups.
is relevant that a former Chief of the Navy had opposed the purchase
of Gorshkov by his outpourings
in Rediff.com. He put up cogent reasons of costs and his views are
appended below for those who wish to recollect. This only makes our
assessment more relevant and we hasten to say that the nation needs
to afford the Gorshkov. It can, as the money will be spent over
three years. The experience we gain will help us fit out our own ADS
and we will be able to assist the IAF with the MiG 29K facilities.
Gorshkov is sealed before 4th December and the 6 Scorpene
deal moves ahead these will be the best birthday gifts the nation
can give itself and its Men In White.
Indian Navy's White Elephant
A Former Indian Naval Chief
on 19 Nov 2003
have recently completed your bungalow and are on the lookout to hire
some people for security. Pandu chowkidar has agreed to do the job
along with his friend for about Rs 2,000 a month per person. But
your good friend who has a security business steps in. Don't waste
your money, he says. I have a surplus of these people. I can give
you a couple free. But what about some electronic fencing and
surveillance cameras? Before you know it he has sold you equipment
worth a couple of lakhs.
imminent purchase of the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov
comes pretty close to this illogical purchase.
little background first. The Gorshkov is one of four carriers built
by the erstwhile Soviet Union during the Seventies at the height of
the Cold War. The first three, the Kiev, the Minsk and the
Novorossyisk, saw operational service in the Soviet Navy during the
late Seventies and the Eighties.
the Cold War ended the Russians no longer could sustain a fleet with
so many carriers and they were all sold for scrap in the early
Gorshkov, earlier called the Baku, was the last to be completed and
did not become operational until 1986. Her operational career was
cut short, however, when a devastating fire crippled the ship.
Although she was repaired, the Gorshkov never saw operational
the late Eighties, the Indian Navy began to look for options to
replace the ageing Vikrant and Viraat. The original idea was to
build one in India. Various actions were taken towards that goal.
wanting to get into the act, the Russians offered the Gorshkov to
the navy in 1994. The purchase had many difficulties. The ship was
far bigger that what the navy was looking for. At 45,000 tons and
with a deep draught, the ship was not capable of entering Mumbai
harbour, which was the logical place for basing it if the navy
wanted it primarily as an air defence ship for the Western Fleet.
navy also did not have adequate facilities to carry out major
repairs. But though the price was more than ten times what the navy
had paid for the Viraat, it was still worth consideration at Rs
1,000 crore. Many in the navy were for the deal.
when the navy dilly-dallied, the Russians hit upon a new gambit. We
will give you the carrier free, they said. Just take it away and do
what you want with it.
eyes lit up at the word 'free'. When the navy and defence ministry
were truly and properly hooked, the Russians slowly let in the
rider. You will, of course, need to modify and refit the ship for
use in India. We will do it for you. It will only take a couple of
years and cost you Rs 3,000 crore.
of course you will require a squadron or two of our latest
carrier-based fighter, the MiG 29K. Cost? Another 6,000 crore. Thus
the total cost of this rather doubtful acquisition is anywhere
between Rs 6,000 crore and Rs 10,000 crore.
his first term as India's defence minister, George Fernandes
promised to bring in greater transparency in India's arms deals. Yet
these remain as opaque and unfathomable today as they ever were. No
one can make head or tail out of the Gorshkov purchase. Why is a
poor nation so intent on seeing through this exorbitant deal? And
where is the Indian Navy, with an annual budget of only 3,000 crore,
finding the money to pay for all this? Can the job not be done much
getting the right answers to these questions, the general belief is
that there is something fishy about the whole deal. Recent deals
with Russia, including the Rs 6,000 crore Su-30MK deal and Rs 4,500
crore frigate deal, have all been subjects of controversy. None of
these deals has been adequately explained by the government.
is no doubt that the Indian Navy requires a carrier. It needs it to
defend its fleet on the high seas against air strikes.
Anti-submarine helicopter patrols and strikes against surface
targets are added bonuses, not necessities.
there reasonable alternatives? Of course there are. The requirements
of the navy can be met by a small, 20,000 ton air defence ship.
Indeed, the government has placed an order for just such a ship with
the Cochin Shipyard. A Spanish yard will build such a ship for about
Rs 3,000 crore. The Koreans will build a utility carrier by
modifying a merchant ship with a flattop for Rs 500 crore and
deliver it in 18 months. Getting the Gorshkov to do the job is like
using Schumacher's F1 Ferrari to do your weekly shopping.
purchase of the Gorshkov at this price will also bring many other
headaches to the navy. Apart from the basing and refitting problems,
there will be operational problems. No naval chief will ever be
willing to risk such a high-value ship in the Arabian Sea in any
conflict with Pakistan. Karwar will not be ready for another 10
years and basing the Gorshkov on the east coast will create other
today's charged atmosphere, a conflict can erupt at short notice and
be over before the mighty Gorshkov arrives to deliver her punch. The
purchase will also require the navy to mortgage its capital
expenditure for the next several years. Indeed, it will be a
millstone around the necks of the next two chiefs.
from all sides, if the prime minister inks the Gorshkov deal during
his visit to Moscow, it will be the most illogical purchase ever
between India and Russia.
the Indian economy in the doldrums, or at least not as bright as it
once was, the last thing we want is a profligate armed force. The
Indian Navy cannot expect the nation to give it everything it wants
at the cost of the nation's economy. Alternatively, the navy has to
live within its budget. Cheaper alternatives to the Gorshkov must be
naval ships have been painted a shade of dark gray. If the Gorshkov
is purchased, the Indian Navy might make an exception and paint the
ship white. For the aircraft carrier is bound to be the biggest
white elephant in the navy's fleet.