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Concerned at Sea, Air Accidents, Pranab Moots Preventive Strategy

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, May 2 (UNI) Expressing grave concern at the recent accidents at sea and in the air, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee today called for a strategy to prevent such incidents and fix responsibility at higher levels.

Inaugurating a three-day Navy Commanders Conference here, the Defence Minister urged the Navy top brass to deliberate on a strategy which not only ensured that such incidents did not recur but also fixed accountability and responsibility at higher levels to contain them.

Deeply concerned at last month's sinking of the Navy's patrol vessel INS Prahar off the Goa coast, Minister Mukherjee directed that ''appropriate measures'' be ''undertaken forthwith'' to ensure that ''Standard Operating Procedures'' were followed by personnel involved in ship operations. ''Deviations shall be treated seriously and appropriate punishment should be awarded to the erring personnel....'' Also noting with concern the incident of the leakage of classified information from the Naval War Room, the Minister pointed out that the leaked-out information had ''the potential to put the national security at peril''.

Pressing for ''serious efforts'' to be undertaken to prevent recurrence of such incidents, Mr Mukherjee said a ''zero defect system'' had to be devised to ensure secrecy and security of sensitive defence information.

''Related to this is the need for counter-espionage measures and sensitisation campaign among the lower formations. The Naval Commanders need to sensitise the personnel under their command to plug all possible loopholes in this regard,'' he said.

The Minister further recalled that the Defence Ministry, over the years, had been emphasising transparency, the need for enhancing probity and integrity in defence acquisitions.

Touching upon the emerging global security scenario, he said the world expected India to play a major role in the region, given the economic growth the country had made in the last fifteen years.

''The transfer of a patrol vessel to Seychelles last year and the recent handing over of similar crafts to the Maldives and Sri Lanka are steps in the positive direction in inter-weaving of mutual security requirements....'' The Minister appreciated the Navy's initiative in conduct of bilateral exercises with friendly navies and the multi-lateral exercises like 'Milan' and labelled them as important moves to enhance inter-operability and build mutual confidence in the region.

He also lauded the commendable work being done by the Navy's hydrographers, whose skill and professional acumen had placed them in great demand from the countries of the Indian Ocean Region. ''The excellent work done by them in Mauritius, Seychelles and the Maldives in the recent past have earned the country much goodwill and also strengthened diplomatic relations....'' Earlier, addressing the Conference, Navy Chief Admiral Arun Prakash emphasised a ''shift in focus from autonomous, open sea operations like sea control or blockade to a direct linkage with land battle/littoral operations''. The concept, termed as the 'Operational Manoeuvre from the Sea', can favourably influence the progress of land-air battle.

Besides, two other doctrinal themes that dominated Admiral Prakash's address were the concept of 'Maritime Domain Awareness' that focuses on being fully aware of all entities that are operating within the area of Indian maritime interest and 'Network-Centric Operations', which would enable sharing of this information within the force, in real time.

The three concepts, when applied in unison, would empower the naval forces to achieve spatial and temporal dominance over the adversary in any conflict, whether between nation states or otherwise.

Referring to the previous Navy Commander's Conference when he had talked about augmenting the Navy's heavy sealift capability, Admiral Prakash announced that the amphibious ship 'Trenton' would be inducted into the Navy by this time next year.

Charting course for the Navy of the future, re-evaluation of threats and focus on certain vital warfare areas are some of the other important issues that would be deliberated upon over the next three days at the ongoing Navy Commanders Conference.

Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi and Army Chief General JJ Singh would also separately address the Naval Commanders.

The Conference is the highest decision-making body of the Navy that deliberates upon major operational issues with regard to the defence of maritime interests, operational planning, coastal security, defence of national assets at sea, naval strategy and review of weapons and platforms towards achievement of operational plans.


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