Vice Admiral Pradeep Kumar Chatterjee, Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff, in an interview with SP’s Naval Forces, said that issues of regional stability would continue to remain an imperative that would impact India’s national security matrix in the coming years
SP’s Naval Forces (SP’s): The maritime eminence of a nation is gauged through the prowess of its Navy. How do you see the growth and potential of the Indian Navy fulfilling its doctrinal obligations?
Vice Admiral Pradeep Kumar Chatterjee (DCNS): There is a growing acceptance of the fact that the maritime domain will be the key enabler to India’s economic growth. The role and responsibility of the Indian Navy has therefore grown correspondingly with our expanding economic interests. The responsibilities associated with being a mature and responsible regional maritime power would also have to be concurrently fulfilled.
The overall security situation in the Indian Ocean region (IOR) continues to be palpable due to piracy and terrorism, coupled with failing states and ungoverned spaces. Therefore, in my opinion, issues of regional stability would continue to remain an imperative that would impact India’s national security matrix in the coming years. Consequently, the Indian Navy would always endeavour to remain well poised and equipped to play a maritime leadership role in the IOR. Needless to say, we seek to evolve relevant doctrines and conceptual frameworks in order to acquire the war-fighting capabilities to operate across the full spectrum of conflict in support of our national interests. While combat readiness remains our primary focus, we are also committed to ensuring security and stability in the IOR and in providing support to our maritime neighbours.
Our focus, therefore, in the mediumand long-term would remain on induction of platforms to achieve a balanced ‘force mix’ for undertaking roles, missions and objectives in our primary and secondary areas of interest. Significant attention is already being paid to augment and build technical and support infrastructure for maintenance of new induction platforms and undertake repairs of state-of-the-art equipment being inducted. Further, the impetus to attract and retain first rate personnel while working towards rationalisation of manning policies by incorporating/inducting new technologies and practices would also be a priority area.
SP’s: Considering the long gestation period in induction of cutting-edge technologies, systems, weapons, etc on to naval platforms, how is the Indian Navy managing to ensure its operational readiness?
DCNS: The class of equipment available on the ships could be broadly divided into three categories, viz. ‘to float’, ‘to move’ and ‘to fight’. In the first two categories, there have been considerable indigenisation efforts and we have been able to identify indigenous sources for various equipment.
However, for the ‘fight’ category which includes weapons and sensors, we still depend largely on imports. Numerous schemes under ‘Buy and Make’ and ‘Buy and Make (Indian)’ are in progress for acquisition of state-of-the-art weapons and sensors under the Defence Procurement Procedure 2013. While the market for defence equipment is affected by denial regimes at times, our aim is to acquire critical associated technological know-how.
The cutting-edge technology equipment of the Navy makes it a capital intensive service. Acquisition of ships and submarines because of their complexity and size, has development periods ranging from 5-12 years, and therefore, require long-term commitment of funds.
Further, given the complexity, magnitude and resource intensive nature of development of new naval systems, a Navyindustry relationship founded more on partnership than mere customer-supplier relationship is essential. This will give confidence to both parties for sharing the risks of development as well as the benefits of new technology with reduced costs.
SP’s: In the context of true blue-water capability, are you satisfied with the current rate of development in all three dimensions of the Indian Navy?
DCNS: Force structure planning by its very nature is a complex process and requires an assured long-term funding and credible sources of supply. Today, the Indian Navy operates a balanced force comprising two aircraft carriers, multi-role destroyers and frigates, fleet tankers, amphibious ships and a multitude of other aviation and subsurface combatants, capable of blue-water operations in the IOR and beyond. The present force levels of the Indian Navy are being further augmented for undertaking tasks defined for the Indian Navy, as also confront the challenges of piracy in the IOR and shoulder the responsibility of coastal security.
SP’s: Communications, space and net-centric operations for Indian Navy have been strengthened by revamping the organisation and creation of Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff to oversee the operations. With the launch of a dedicated naval satellite, what is the future perspective in this domain?
DCNS: The recent re-organisation at the Naval Headquarters has been undertaken to provide greater synergy and coordination between fields that are interlinked and complement each other. While the Navy has always placed high priority on expanding its capabilities in these fields-to a very large extent by leveraging niche technologies developed indigenously, the new Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff will provide greater focus and consolidation to these efforts. As far as the dedicated satellite is concerned, we see it as a means of ensuring seamless, efficient, reliable and multi-spectrum communication across our areas of interest. The new asset will not only catalyse our own operations significantly, but also enable us to contribute more effectively to the collective effort of all friendly navies in the region to make our maritime neighbourhood more safe and secure.
SP’s: Indian Navy’s capabilities have been adequately demonstrated by extending security cover to a friendly country, peacekeeping forces, evacuation from battle zones, relief and rehabilitation assistance during natural calamities and disasters, etc. What further improvements into the system and the core competency of the Indian Navy would you like to be instituted?
DCNS: The Indian Navy has been charged with safeguarding India’s interest in the maritime domain as also to extend its reach for affording a credible deterrence capability. All operations in the IOR are accordingly aimed at enhancing national and regional common maritime security interest. The key to any successful operation is maintaining situational or maritime awareness, networked command, control and communications, ready response and long reach. Quick and calibrated response commensurate to the situation as well as optimum jointmanship with the other services and other agencies are necessary. In consonance with the above Indian Navy has committed to developing maritime domain awareness, network-centric operations, presence and surveillance, interoperability and optimum jointmanship.
SP’s: For greater mutual understanding and cooperation at sea, the Indian Navy has been pursuing the concept of joint exercises at sea, doctrinal exchanges and interactions on maritime strategic issues with navies of the region and all prominent maritime powers. Would you like to present a brief assessment of the special initiatives of the Navy in this sphere?
DCNS: To ensure a peaceful periphery, India has remained focused on security of sea lanes in the IOR, responding to natural disasters, stability in neighbourhood and where feasible, capacity building of neighbouring countries to meet their internal challenges as also to contribute towards meeting common security challenges in the region and beyond.
Towards achieving the above mentioned objectives, the Indian Navy conducts a number of bilateral exercises with friendly navies. These exercises, while promoting ‘confidence building’, are an important source of learning new tactical procedures, formats for operational planning and improving our operating procedures. ‘Coordinated patrols’ with the navies in the region contribute to confidence building while improving the safety and security of the sea-borne trade and seafarers. Indian Navy has also been participating in multilateral exercises under the aegis of Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Defence Ministers Meeting-Plus. With an aim to encourage cooperative engagement, Indian Navy has initiated constructs such as Indian Ocean Naval Symposium and MILAN in the IOR. Further Indian Navy participates in other global maritime constructs such as Western Pacific Naval Symposium and Rim of the Pacific Exercise. These forums enable us to have free and frank discussions towards mitigating common maritime concerns. There is thus an increasing trend to work towards global responses to maritime challenges.