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China Adding 14 Warships A Year Against 4 By India, Admits Navy Chief

New 10-year Military Capability Building Plan being drawn up to counter threats with a make-do-with-less approach

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Admiral R Hari Kumar, Chief of Naval Staff

Acknowledging that China is far ahead in its naval build-up, India’s new Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar said a new 10-year, tri-service capability building plan is being drawn up to meet challenges to India’s security. 

The Indian Navy has already embarked on a make-do-with-less approach, scaling down its plans from becoming a 200-warship force by 2027 to one with 170 combat ships in the face of shrinking budgetary share and long delays in the Defence procurement process. Over the last decade, the Navy’s share of India’s Defence Budget has reduced from 18 per cent to 12, before picking up to about 14 per cent in the last two years. 

Even the timeline for achieving the target for this significantly trimmed fleet size has been delayed by five years to 2032. At the moment, the Indian Navy has 130 warships and 230 aircraft. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA-N) is estimated to be a 355-warship force, making it the world’s largest Navy. 

“We are aware of the Chinese build-up. They have built 138 warships in the last 10 years,” Admiral Hari Kumar said at the annual Navy Day press conference in New Delhi on December 3. He also mentioned that “28 ships and submarines have been commissioned into the Indian Navy over the last seven years”. The scale of the Chinese naval build-up outscores the Indian one by almost four times at a time when it is bringing the naval contest to India’s maritime backyard.

“But it’s not all about numbers….its also about how you exploit capability. The Indian Navy is a well-balanced force and we’re confident of defending India’s maritime interests for sure,” Admiral Hari Kumar, who took over as Chief of the Indian Navy on November 30, said, discounting a “bean counting” approach. 

Instead of a ship-for-ship approach, India seeks to develop capability based on its maritime interests and seek “disruptive technology to find better ways of doing our job at sea”, he suggested. 

The Navy Chief disclosed that a 10-year Integrated Capability Development Plan (ICDP) is in the works under the auspices of the newly-raised Department of Military Affairs to prioritise military procurements. “The ICDP will replace the 15-year Maritime Capability Perspective Plan (MPCC),” he declared, explaining that the new Plan will junk the individual service approach and focus on a wholistic military approach to prioritise inter-service and intra-service procurements and capability building. 

“All three service are working on the Plan which will be finalised by mid-or end of next year,” he said, while ducking a question on whether the new planning process would bolster the Navy’s fleet strength or reduce it further. 

The ICDP would “intricately link” military capability to budgets, attempting to ensure budgetary commitment to plans. “The 10-year ICDP, 5-Year Acquisition Plan and 2-Year Roll-On Acquisition Plan will be put up to the apex political leadership for approval so that the Budget matches the Plan,” he elaborated. 

Besides the integrated, tri-service, whole military approach, the 10-year timeframe to the Plan as against 15 years for the earlier service-specific plans caters to the rapid changes in technology and the consequent high rate of obsolescence. The 10-year blueprint is being drawn up by following a scientific regimen which involves environmental scanning, simulation studies and net assessment while taking into account the national security objectives. Mission requirement would be worked out and capability gaps identified, the Admiral said. 

The Navy Chief said the ICDP would enable the right balance. “It’s not either or. It’s about the capability we want,” he said. 

Admiral Hari Kumar had initiated this exercise during his stint as the Chief of Integrated Staff to the Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (CISC)

He also expressed commitment to the Make in India agenda.”…All 28 ships and submarines commissioned into the Navy over the last seven years have been built in India. Further, of the 39 ships and submarines, currently under construction, 37 are being built at Indian shipyards,” he said. 

“I would also like to inform you that Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) exists for 72 projects worth Rs 1,97,359 Crore, of which 59 projects worth Rs 1,74,027 Crore, that is over 88%, are for indigenous development,” he elaborated to buttress the Make in India commitment.  

The Navy Chief also expressed wholehearted support for the ongoing Defence reforms and announced that the Maritime Theatre Command under this process would be ready for roll-out by mid-2022. It is likely to be headquartered at Karwar. 

“We’re looking forward to the Maritime Theatre Command. Details are likely to be finalised by mid-2022. The command structures stay in place with a lean Theatre Command organisation on top for a largely operational role. The (Service) Chief will be responsible for modernisation and training while operational aspects will be handled by the Theatre Commander,” Admiral Hari Kumar disclosed. 

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