Alfred Thayer Mahan was a United States naval officer and one of the most influential authors on geostrategy during the 19th century. He came to prominence for his views on the significance of naval power in the world. In 1890s, he had authored world-famous books on influence of sea power upon history and how the sea power influenced the French revolution. The essence of his writings focused upon how a country with a stronger navy can rule the world. In fact, his writings led to a naval race among the rising countries then.
Almost about 125 years later, Mahan’s idea about the significance of naval power has got a new lease of life. With most of the countries excessively dependent on sea route for their trade and oil imports, navies across the world have gained prominence.
Just think, if there was no sea route, how difficult would it have been for India to send consignments to Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan. Or, if there is a blockade in Arabian sea, India and China can come to a standstill for lack of crude oil supply.
It is in this respect that China came out with an idea of ‘Maritime Silk Route’, a grand plan to have naval bases all across the Indian ocean and control the sea routes. India, too, has recognised the need for maritime influence. Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave the doctrine of SAGAR – Security and Growth for All in the Region.
The SAGAR doctrine (unveiled by PM in 2016) was a response to increasing significance of Indian Ocean and security and growth of all the littoral countries in the region. India, being one of the largest naval power in the region with one of the strongest navies in the world, assumes a larger role of a security provider in the region.
India, until 2014, has only one base outside India in Tajikistan, which it started operating in 2002 and became fully functional in 2006. But after 2014, India started acknowledging the need for setting up more foreign bases under different arrangements. Indian diplomats gave preference to littoral countries for setting up Indian assets over the land-locked countries.
Strategic Naval Bases of India
It is under PM Modi’s leadership that India started to have strategic bases outside India. In an article earlier on The True Picture, a detailed account of strategic naval bases by the Indian government has been given. Apart from setting up bases in Seychelles, Iran, Singapore, Indonesia and Oman covering the length and breadth of Indian ocean, arsenal of Indian navy has grown significantly.
Modernisation of Indian Navy
Indian navy is one of the strongest naval force in the world. However, this strength needs to further increase by sharpening its arsenal further. With support from the NDA government, Indian armed forces are rapidly adding to their capabilities. Indian Navy, too, has a big modernisation plan. According to an Economic Times report, “Under the plan, the Navy aims to have 200 ships, 500 aircraft and 24 attack submarines, they said. At present, the Navy has around 132 ships, 220 aircraft and 15 submarines.”
Here is the list of ongoing induction of ships and other warfare capabilities to the Indian Navy. This list is not a comprehensive one. Many weapons and ships are being added to the Indian Navy.
In July 2016, India and the USA signed a deal worth over $1 billion for the purchase of four additional Poseidon-8I long-range maritime surveillance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft. This purchase is a follow-up order to 8 Poseidon-8I Aircraft already bought by India.
Dornier Surveillance Aircraft
The cabinet committee on security in November 2016 gave its clearance to buy 12 upgraded HAL manufactured Dornier surveillance aircraft for Indian Navy at a cost of about Rs 2,500 crore.
Further, the union government has approved the three new squadrons of the Dornier aircraft with the objective of improving coastal surveillance.
The Indian Navy, in February 2017, had finalised Rs 200-crore deal with a subsidiary firm of Tata for procurement of over two dozen surveillance radars.
Advanced Light Helicopters – Dhruv
In March 2017, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has signed the contract with Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guards for the supply of 32 advanced light helicopters – Dhruv.
The P-8I strengthens the surveillance capabilities of the Indian navy in the coastal region.
Diving Support Vessels
In September 2018, the Indian Navy signed a contract with Hindustan Shipyard Limited for construction of two Diving Support Vessels (DSV). The Indian Navy, with these support vessels, will get a boost to its submarine support operations.
Two frigates of Project 11356 class
In October 2018, India and Russia have sealed a $950 -million deal to supply two new warships (equipped with Brahmos missiles) to Indian Navy. The navy will get these two frigates of the Project 11356 class or advanced Talwar class frigates directly from Russia and two more frigates will be built in India under a contract with Russia.
These warships will add to the six Talwar class frigates already operated by Indian Navy.
The Defence Ministry, in October 2018, has awarded a contract for design, construction and supply of four Survey Vessels for Indian Navy to Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Limited (GRSE) at the cost of Rs 2435 crore.
Next-Generation Digital Network of Indian Navy
In October 2018, Mumbai based Sterlite Technologies has reportedly informed that it has got the contract for building and managing Indian Navy’s next-generation digital network.
“This network will give the Indian Navy digital defence supremacy at par with the best naval forces in the world. The project includes the creation of an independent high-capacity end-to-end communications network, linking multiple Indian naval sites and India-administered islands. The project will include setting up of highly secure data centres and big data content delivery networks that are software-defined,” Sterlite Technologies said in its letter to stock exchanges.
Long Range Surface to Air Missile (LRSAM)
The Indian government had signed the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to supply LRSAM air and missile defence systems to be fitted into the seven ships of the Indian navy.
The LRSAM is a part of the Barak 8 family, a missile system already being used by India.
Larsen & Toubro (L&T) has won a contract for the design and construction of a floating dock for the Indian Navy.
A floating dock will significantly augment the support infrastructure capabilities of the navy for docking of warships and submarines for repair and refit.
Indian Navy is reportedly going to commission the second Scorpene-class submarine – INS Khanderi in service by the end of September 2019. Indian Navy had inducted its first Scorpene-class submarine in 2017 in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Indian Navy completed India’s Nuclear Triad
In November 2018, India with its nuclear-powered submarine INS Arihant (capability of carrying the nuclear warhead) had completed its nuclear triad. India already had the nuclear strike capabilities from land and sky. The modified Sukhoi (Su-30MKI) aircraft with Brahmos missile can launch the nuclear missiles and also deliver the nuclear bomb behind the enemy lines. Intercontinental Ballistic missiles like Agni can launch a nuclear offensive from the land.
India’s Approach to BIMSTEC
Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a regional grouping of littoral and adjacent states around the Bay of Bengal, comprising seven states.
BIMSTEC, since the beginning in 1997 witnessed a lukewarm response amongst the member nations until 2016 which proved to be a watershed year for this regional grouping as it saw an outreach by larger global grouping BRICS, overshadowed the SAARC and set the agenda for a regional block minus Pakistan.
India, in recent times, has leveraged BIMSTEC more to increase its outreach in the Indian ocean. This leverage to India comes from its strong navy.
India – A Rising Naval Power
India seems to have pressed all the button rightly when it comes to increasing the clout of its naval power. In the eastern hemisphere, India holds the largest navy after China and can maintain the balance of power.