ARTICLE 1: It’s not shipshape

Context: The commissioning of two naval platforms in Mumbai, the guided-missile destroyer INS Visakhapatnam and the diesel submarine INS Vela.

Challenges to India in maritime security

  • Rise of China: The Chinese footprint in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is steadily increasing.
    • Beijing acquired a military base at Djibouti in the Horn of Africa in 2017.
    • Galwan to Gwadar: Heavily invested in ports in Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
    • Secret military facility in the UAE port of Khalifa without the knowledge of the host.
    • Current pace of warship-building sustained by Beijing forecasts PLA navy owning 425 platforms by 2030.
    • Beijing has added between 14 and 22 platforms annually to its navy in the past five years.
  • Budget allocation: Navy is often termed the Cinderella service since it receives the least funding support among the three armed forces.
    • Maritime Capability Perspective Plan (MCPP) envisioned a force of a 200-ship Navy by 2027 but has now been trimmed to 170 platforms.
    • Budgetary allocation reached upwards to 18 per cent of the overall defence budget in FY 2012-13 and now shrunk to less than 14 per cent.
  • Ship building capability: India aspires to acquire a credible trans-border maritime profile has to acquire a certain level nimble ship-building capability. 
  • Lacks requisite strategic perspicacity and national resolve: Though it has the potential to be a maritime power that would enhance its composite national power and improve the socio-economic indicators of its sizeable demography.
    • Naval power is only one attribute of a nation’s holistic maritime capability.
    • Despite its favourable geography (Indian peninsula majestically dominates the Indian Ocean) remains unable to realise its natural maritime potential even 70-plus years after Independence.
  • Efficiency: Indian ports and harbours are operating well below the globally accepted median of efficiency except for the private sector.
    • Despite its economic and global trade status, does not have a single port on the list of global 20 major ports.
  • Yet to acquire that level of ‘atmanirbharta’: While no nation produces every bit of military equipment indigenously, a certain core competence in ordnance and propulsion is a must.
    • The inventory that makes the platforms built a fighting unit is largely imported.

Positives for India:

  • Sustained policy support: Elusive policy to contain China, punish Pakistan, reassure Russia, invigorate the IOR and upscale ties with the US.
  • Success areas: India’s success in areas like sonars and electronic warfare is commendable.
  • SAGAR (security and growth for all in the region): India’s policy for  substantive enhancement of national maritime capability.
  • Pace of construction: India merits in the sector by building in 2 years and commissioning in 8 years.

Conclusion: Navy is a template that needs to be internalised by the Indian higher defence establishment in the decades ahead as Delhi seeks to acquire an appropriate level of relevance in the IOR.

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Atmanirbharta; Secret military facility; Cinderella service; Trans-border maritime profile; Strategic perspicacity;

  • GS Paper 2:  India and its neighborhood- relations.
  • GS Paper 3: Various Security Forces and Agencies and their Mandate.