INS Venduruthy (Kochi), Aug 14: India's mission to build a Blue Water Navy is slowly and steadily receiving the impetus, thanks to a series of modernisation plans that have taken off in the last couple of years.
With the Indian Navy being in the forefront of backing indigenous efforts, compared to other wings of the Services, the last one year alone saw the addition of many assets comprising of war ships, submarines, aircraft carriers, patrol vessel, naval bases, marine stations and coastal radar chains to name a few.
In an exclusive interview to OneIndia on the eve of India's 69th Independence Day, Vice-Admiral Sunil Lanba, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Southern Naval Command (SNC), Kochi, said that post 26/11, the very dynamics of coastal security has changed in the country. Here are the highlights of the interview.
SNC's role in taking on the challenges of future
Vice Admiral Lanba says that the SNC is in the process of expanding the base in tune with the changing times, needs and challenges.
"We are a training base and we ensure that the syllabus is modified to keep pace with future needs. As you know, Navy is in the forefront of adapting new technologies and we are in the process of expanding the base to cater to the needs of larger number of officers and sailors," says the soft-spoken SNC C-in-C.
He said the SNC is sailing as per the long-term perspective plan to take the load of the future.
More teeth to coastal security measures
"Coastal security is an area we have been working with greater focus. The central radar chain is in place (48 numbers set up with the help of BEL in Phase-1) and we will be expanding it further.
The Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) in Gurgoan is playing a key role in strengthening the coastal security apparatus. We are adding more assets on a regular basis and the latest being the Integrated Underwater Harbour Defence and Surveillance System (IUHDSS) in Kochi," he said.
"Post 26/11, the entire dynamics of coastal security have undergone a sea change. There's definitely room for improvement and we are at it," he adds.
The IUHDSS is a gen-next facility that was commissioned at the SNC recently. It can detect, identify, track and generate warning for surface and underwater threats. Designed by Israeli Aerospace Industries, it is a smart package of coastal surveillance radars, high-power underwater sensors and diver detection sonars.
"After Kochi, IUHDSS will be set up in other naval bases such as Karwar, Mumbai and Vizag in phases. We are now much better prepared to take on the challenges as compared to past.
We have now mapped the entire coast in South India, especially the coastal villages of Kerala. More marine police stations will come up soon and all boats will have to carry a registration number. Biometric cards will be issued to all fishermen. It's a work in progress," he added.
On Navy's tryst with too many mishaps
To a query on the number of increasing accidents or incidents being reported in the last couple of years, Vice Admiral Lanba said that ‘only INS Sindhurakshak can be called an accident of concern.'
"A ship's environment is always prone to fire as it carries different substances (oil, fuel, ordinance etc) all the time. There are many SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) in place, yet there are mistakes at time.
If you compare our safety records with other navies of the world, our accident rate is much better. Mistakes do occur either due to material failures or error on the part of the crew. We are now devising a new strategy to counter these. An all new safety organisation is being set up now. It will basically enhance the existing security procedures," he added.
China's increasingly bold posturing in the IOR
To another query on China's increasing presence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), the senior naval official said that ‘every move is being monitored closely.'
"From 2008 onwards, Chinese ships are on an anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Eden. They have their own concerns. But, we are and will be the largest force to reckon with in the IOR for the foreseeable future. All we need to do is to monitor. We are always prepared," he added.
(The writer is a seasoned aerospace and defence journalist in India. He is the Consultant Editor (Defence) with OneIndia and was on a two-day visit to Southern Naval Command in Kochi recently. He tweets @writetake.)