December 2, 2011

INDIA: Makes It's Land, Air, Sea Arsenal Known. Flexing Military Defense Muscle!

The Times of India
written by Rajat Pandit
Saturday December 3, 2011

NEW DELHI: With both India and China in the hunt for the same strategic space in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), New Delhi would like a Cold War-style of mechanism to ensure the competition does not escalate into conflict on the high seas.

The protocol to prevent skirmishes at sea could mirror the new Sino-Indian land border mechanism to prevent flare-ups along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control, which would have been finalized in November if the Dalai Lama episode had not derailed talks between national security adviser Shiv Shankar Menon and his Chinese counterpart Dai Bingguo.

"An arrangement, like the hotline between DGMOs of armies, for tackling incidents at sea does make sense," said Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma on Friday in the run-up to Navy Day on Sunday. The government is considering such a protocol, especially with countries with which "misunderstandings" can erupt, he added.

India and Pakistan have a two-decade-old agreement that holds their warships and submarines will stay three nautical miles apart from each other to "avoid any accident while operating in international waters".

While de-escalatory mechanisms with China are required, India needs to keep its powder dry for all eventualities in the future. Towards this end, "a brand new multi-dimensional Navy" with "reach and sustainability" is in the offing with over 150 warships and close to 600 fighters, maritime patrol aircraft, helicopters and drones, said Admiral Verma.

India has 132 warships (including 50 "major combatants" and 14 ageing submarines), 80 aircraft, 122 helicopters and 14 UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) but many of them are slated for progressive retirement.

"We already have 49 new ships and submarines on order, 45 of them at Indian shipyards," said Admiral Verma. The Navy's acquisition projects and plans in the pipeline, in fact, add up to well over Rs 3,00,000 crore over the next 15 years, as was first reported by TOI earlier.

The current stark military asymmetry with China, however, can be gauged from the fact that People's Liberation Army (Navy) has over 75 "principal combatants", 55 large and medium amphibious ships, 85 missile-equipped smaller warships and over 60 submarines, a dozen of them nuclear ones.

Then, its new JIN-class nuclear-powered submarines are being armed with the 7,400-km range JL-2 ballistic missiles, even as its DF-21D missiles meant to target aircraft carriers and other big warships is now close to becoming operational.

While there is concern over all this, India too is modernizing its own armed forces. "We have a good growth curve... There should be a greater sense of confidence in what you have," said the Navy chief.

India's first indigenous nuclear submarine INS Arihant, which was "launched" at Vizag in July, 2009, is by and large on track. "It will be ready for sea trials hopefully in a few months," he said.

Once the 6,000-tonne INS Arihant is ready for "deterrent patrols" armed with nuclear-tipped missiles, India will achieve its long-standing aim to have an operational nuclear weapon triad - the capability to fire nukes from land, air and sea.

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