MARITIME POWER IS A PRE REQUSITE FOR INDIA’S FUTURE & CNS LANBA DEFTLY OUTLINED CNS KARAMBIR SINGH’S CHALLENGES & IMPERATIVES FOR RM RAJNATH SINGH TO ACT BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE IN A TOI INTERVIEW

Ranjit B Rai

With best wishes to incoming RM and CNS IDF hopes new brooms sweep better.

This is an IDF analysis after BJP’s landside victory and the Razzmatazz swearing on 30th September, of Gaius Julius Caesar like Prime Minister Narendra Modi with strategist Amit Shah a friend like Caesar had in Mark Antony, with BIMSTEC and SCO leadership in the gallery. NYT called it Incredible India.

Hopes are, FDI will pour in with manufacturing and support is promised to farmers and elderly with pensions. Much will depend on the available funds while defence needs will need a lot of jugglery between services, now that oratory for elections is over after the Balakot attack and loss of a Mig-21 and Mi-17V5 which needs personal introspection by the new RM.!

India is a rising economic destination with potential consumer power waiting to be unleashed. India has military and maritime power which the world hopes will deter China, which itself has risen with economic and maritime power, to the extent it irritates USA. This has led to a trade war that is benefitting Vietnam and ASEAN, and could benefit India if US manufacturing is attracted to India.

PM Modi has hugged world leaders looking to India’s advantageous geographic position and Indian Navy’s operational tempo in his foreign policy. The Navy has delivered by executing advanced naval exercises with USA and Japan in MALABARS, UK with KONKANS and , France with VARUNAS and Australia with AUSINDEXES. The Navy has shown its prowess and technology with space communications, weapons, and deployed its fleet forward off Pakistan after Balakot strike on 26th February with INS Vikramaditya and Arihant (possibly with nuclear tipped missiles). Commentators opined India has called ‘Pakistan’s nuclear bluff’. This has surprised the world,  and India’s voters were fired by PM Modi’s call for nationalism, normally, an aphrodisiac.

But to rise in the Indo Pacific India has to be stronger in the maritime domain to retain leadership in the region(IOR) and also make its presence felt in the waters of the Indo Pacific, where China has usurped the South China Seas with two hoots to UNCLOS arbitration on legitimate Philippines demands and is opening tourism to the Parcels ! It has secret plans to re-open the arbitration some day.

India has come a long way from the 1970s obsession with the American ‘imperialists’ who aided Pakistan. PM Modi early in his first term altered India’s Non Alignment dharma by assuring Americans that he wished to shed India’s ‘baggage of the past’.

After the dinner by President Barack Obama at the White House in September 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi issued a vision statement. The Washington Post editorial used the theme, “chalein saath saath”’ (forward together we go). and, added, “India and the United States are bound by common values and mutual interests”. In January 2015 PM Modi signed a strategic partnership with President Obama for the Asia Pacific. This raised Indian Navy’s and US expectations especially President Trump’s now, watering with a desire for Indian Navy to join the QUAD as a coalition partner in Admiral Mullen’s 1000 ship Navy.

However at the 2018 Shangri-La dialogue, PM Modi toned down the India USA bhai bhai rhetoric as he knows India has to keep good relations with China. In Modi 2.0 former Foreign Secretary Jai Shankar as joined as EAM (son of doyen strategist late K Subrahmanyam) to steer the course to placate USA for economic support despite sanctions on Iran and Russia, to dialogue with China for peace and tranquility at Varanasi and keep Russia’s President Putin in humour with purchases for defence spares and supplies like the S 400 AA system, SU-30MKIs, T-90 Tanks, MI-17V5 helicopters and 2 Krivack frigates from Yantar worth $ 10 billion. It will be a tight rope walk.

Rajnath Singh (who taught physics), as the incoming Defence Minister will soon appreciate that the big change in the 21st Century is that maritime power will count much for India in the future and needs early planning. India juts like a sword in to the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and on US goading on 13th May, 2013 PM Dr Manmohan Singh dubbed India’s Navy as “the net security provider in the IOR (NSP). PM Modi extended India’s nautical swath to Act East from Look East.

This NSP task alone will need a powerful Navy as Pakistan will induct 4 ships and 8 submarines from China in the next 8 years. PLA (N) berths and turns around its ships at Djibouti and soon at Gwadar and Ormara. PLA(N)’s aim is to be an Indian Oceanic Navy with bases and forward deployment. Indian Navy’s role is to deter and maintain freedom of navigation and be prepared for war.

Tomorrows wars will be technology intensive. The IAF looks to imports. 36 RAFALES (Plus 36 ??) 15 CHINOOKS & 22 APACHES and Army looks to US BAE 155MM light weight and Korean VAJRA and imported guns. The Navy looks to Make in India and builds its own ships so the Navy Chief’s job is more demanding for designs of ships, in sonars, communications and radars and weapons as it attempts much in India in PSUs who run on overtime disbursements. This escalates costs and delays deliveries and MOD never understands that the challenge for efficiency is theirs as much, so Navy is stagnating in numbers. 

On 31st May Admiral Karambir Singh with credentials and experience has taken over as the 24th Chief of Naval Staff from CNS Lanba who gave an excellent interview to TOI which lists maritime challenges facing the new Chief and the newly appointed Defence Minister to heed. .

CNS Lanba assured, the Navy keeps a hawk-eyed scrutiny on China’s expanding footprint in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), and stated the air strikes on Balakot constituted a paradigm shift that would compel Pakistan to change its behavior on fueling cross-border terrorism.

CNS Lamba as Chairman Chief’s of Staff Committee for 3 years handed over to ACM B S Dhanoa for the next four months and opined that the pre-dawn air strikes sent an unequivocal warning to Pakistan and stated India was willing to breach its self-imposed redlines despite the risk of escalation, and deployed its warships to deter and defeat any “misadventure” by Pakistan, and added, “a new norm (retaliation to a terror attack) has been established. I’m sure it will lead to behavioral changes in our adversary.” Pakistan must note.

CNS Lanba described China as expansionist, backed by its rapidly rising military and economic muscle, which presents a MUCH BIGGER challenge for India. After establishing its first overseas base at Djibouti in the Horn of Africa and naval turnaround facilities at Karachi, China now has six to eight warships deployed in the IOR at any given time, and assured, “the Indian Navy, however, is quite confident of its dominance in its strategic backyard for now. The Chinese Navy is here to stay. But they face the tyranny of logistics in the IOR. We have adequate force-levels at present to look after our maritime interests,”

After the words at present. came the but. Admiral Lanba acknowledged that China is “investing heavily” in building a “blue-water Navy”, having commissioned 80 warships and submarines at a stunning pace in the last five years, which could upset the balance of power in the future. With an aircraft carrier (two more are being built), 33 destroyers, 54 frigates, 42 corvettes, 50 diesel-electric and 10 nuclear submarines, among other warships, China is now posing a stiff challenge to even the high-tech US Navy.

In comparison the Indian Navy, has 140 warships and 220 aircraft, and has 49 warships under construction in domestic shipyards and two frigates in Russia. “We are not trying to match China. But naturally, we would also like to commission more ships every year,” Lanba said.

IDF lists the 49 platforms which includes 21 small platforms with dates and comments. All have time and cost over runs and 10 major platforms are in for replacements in the next 5 years stagnating the ORBAT. 3 Training ships and 5 Survey craft stand cancelled and 3RD aircraft carrier is on hold..

1 ASW Corvette GRSE (2019), 5 Scorpene submarines MDSL (2019 on wards to replace Kilos),Carrier Vikrant at CSL (2022), 4Type B Destroyers at MSDL(2020 onwards to replace 4 Rajputs), 4 +3 Type Shivalik Frigates 17A at MDSL & GRSE (2025 onwards to replace B’Putras),4 Survey ships(2021 onwards), 5 OPVs at Pipavav with Reliance Defence(No funds no predictions) Plus 16 small ASW Craft and 5 small LCUs.

There is no talk of 4 LPDs awaiting RFPs opening or 4 tankers discussed with Hyuandai or 6 Type 75i submarines or 8 SSNs and 2 Arihant class. 2 Krivacks will come in a hurry from Yantar in Russia in 2021.

Navy will need RM’s support to build up its ORBAT. Shan No Varuna.

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