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Keeping Indo-Pacific Open And Safe Is Indian Navy’s Primary Objective: Defence Minister

Rajnath Singh terms Navy as an enabler of Indian foreign policy and the principal instrument of projecting national power overseas

Photo Credit : Ministry of Defence

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Project 15B destroyer Surat being floated for the first time along with Project 17A frigate Udaygiri at Mazagon Dock, Mumbai

Keeping the Indo-Pacific open, safe and secure is the “primary objective” of the Indian Navy, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said while launching two frontline warships – the destroyer Surat and the frigate Udaygiri - in Mumbai. 

He also hailed India’s warship building programme as a strong symbol of India’s strategic strength and its quest for self-reliance. As many as 39 of the 41 warships and submarines on order by the Indian Navy are being built at Indian shipyards.

Terming the Indian Navy as the principal instrument of projecting national power far beyond the mainland, the Defence Minister emphasised the centrality of a strong navy in the quest to become a regional or global power. He also described the Navy as an enabler of Indian foreign policy. 

“The Indo-Pacific region is important for the economy of the whole world. India is a responsible maritime stakeholder in the region. We support consensus-based principles and peaceful, open, rule-based and stable maritime order. Being an important country in this region, it is the primary objective of our Navy to keep the Indo-Pacific open, safe and secure,” Singh said in his address at the launch ceremony of the warships at Mumbai’s Mazagon Dock. 

Making a veiled reference to the need to counter Chinese assertion in the Indo-Pacific, the Defence Minister called for “an even more important role of the Indian Navy” in the context of the “ever-evolving security scenario in the Indian Ocean and the Indo-Pacific region”.  

He called for devising policies which focus on bolstering the country’s presence in the region, its role during disasters, economic wellbeing and carrying forward the foreign policies.

The Defence Minister also praised the Indian Navy for playing a crucial role in carrying forward the Government’s policies such as Act-East, besides strengthening relations with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) countries. 

“If a country wants to safeguard its national interests, it should project its military prowess in areas far beyond the mainland. If a country has aspirations to become a regional or global power, it is necessary to develop a strong Naval force. Government is making all efforts in this direction. We want to make a strong, secure and prosperous India, which is recognised as a global power,” Singh said.

Of the warships which were launched (or floated for the first time), ‘Surat’ is the fourth guided missile destroyer of Project 15B class, while ‘Udaygiri’ is the third stealth frigate under Project 17A.  Both warships have been designed in-house by the Directorate of Naval Design (DND) and are being built at Mazagon Dock Limited, Mumbai. 

This launch marks the commencement of the next phase involving extensive outfitting activities by the shipyard.

Rajnath Singh commended the Indian Navy for its success in indigenisation. “….(the) Navy has given 76 per cent Acceptance of Necessity (AON) and 66 per cent cost-basis contracts to Indian vendors in 2014 and indigenisation of about 90 per cent Naval ammunition has taken place. In addition, more than two-thirds of the Navy’s Modernisation Budget has been spent on indigenous procurement in the last five financial years. Of the 41 ships and submarines ordered by the Navy, 39 are from Indian shipyards. This is a testament to the Navy's commitment to achieving 'Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ (self-reliant India),” he said.

He made a special mention of the indigenous aircraft carrier Vikrant, terming it a major milestone in the Indian Navy's path of ‘Aatmanirbharta’. Vikrant is due to be commissioned as an Indian Navy warship on August 15, which the Defence Minister said would mark “a golden moment in the Indian defence history”. The carrier will increase India’s reach from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific and Atlantic, he said.

Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral R Hari Kumar and other senior officers from the Indian Navy and Ministry of Defence were present on the occasion.