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PM opens naval academy, highlights threat from sea

January 08, 2009 17:44 IST

Against the backdrop of Pakistan-based terrorists using sea route for the Mumbai strikes, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] on Thursday said the country faces such threats not only in the Arabian Sea but also in the Indian Ocean, and there was need for credible strategies to counter them.

The Mumbai [Images] attacks have highlighted the need for heightened vigilance and response to asymmetric threats from the sea, he said, adding, "We face such threats not only in the Arabian Sea but also in the Indian Ocean."

Opening the Indian Naval Academy in Ezhimala, about 40 km from Kannur on the Arabian Sea coast, he said, "There is a marked increase in the attempts by various terrorist and other groups to use the blue waters around India for nefarious purposes. This is a matter of concern.

"It is essential for the Navy, Coast Guard and the intelligence agencies to coordinate their efforts much more closely. We need to develop credible strategies to counter all threats from the sea."

Maintaining that Indian Navy must have a much greater role in safeguarding the country's vital security interests, he said the emerging maritime security environment greatly enhances the Navy's responsibilities.

He said the importance of the Navy in safeguarding India's vital interests has become paramount and there can thus be no doubt that the Indian Navy must be the most important maritime power in this region.

"On its part the government will take all necessary measures to ensure that the Coast Guard and the Navy are fully equipped to protect the seas and oceans around us," he said.

Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan, Defence Minister A K Antony, Naval Chief Sureesh Mehta were among those present on the occasion. The prime minister released a postal cover to commemorate the occasion.

Singh said India has a coastline of over 7,600 km with over 1,200 island territories spread across the Indian Ocean.

"We have a large Exclusive Economic Zone. We have a vital interest in the Indian Ocean and a close relationship with countries of the Indian Ocean Rim and specially the Gulf region," he said.

Singh said India should also recognise that there would be other competing interests whose maritime presence in the sphere of "our interest and our influence will have to be carefully monitored".

Another key role the Indian Navy will play, he said, would be the safeguard the sea-lanes of communication, through which pass the bulk of India's energy supplies and sea-borne trade.

As India's oil and gas imports increase, demands on the Navy would become further pronounced. "There is an inextricable link between our economic resurgence and our maritime power," he said.

The prime minister said as economic power shifts to Asia, the demand for energy and the volume of trade passing through the Indian Ocean region would expand rapidly. This shift is being accompanied by the emergence of a host of threats that travel through the oceans.

"These include the transportation of weapons of mass destruction, small arms and other weaponry through the oceans to the hinterland; the threat of piracy in international waters; organised crime; drug trafficking; environmental degradation; rising sea levels; illegal migration and human smuggling," he said.

"The sea is increasingly becoming relevant in the context of India's security interests and we must re-adjust our military preparedness to this changing environment," Singh said.

He said there was an ambitious plan for modernization of the navy to make it emerge as a three-dimensional force.

Singh said more and more resources were being spent on Naval modernisation and research and development for new ship design and battle space dominance through information networking.

Commending the role of Navy in combating piracy in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia, the prime minister said the action has been widely acknowledged across the world.

He said traditional naval powers continued to rely upon their sea control assets while emerging powers were developing sea denial capabilities.

Noting that the ongoing revolution in military affairs and network-centric warfare has impacted on the navies, he said all this led to the emergence of a new international maritime order, one that is characterised by a great deal of flux.

"This will have major implications for India," he said, adding that the Indian Navy will be required to have capabilities to perform in the entire spectrum of conflict ranging from military missions and strategic deterrence to humanitarian assistance.

Observing that naval power was not just about fighting wars, Singh said it had an integral role to play in international diplomacy, commerce, energy supplies, exploitation of sea resources and ensuring order at sea.

He said Indian Navy has got greater exposure by holding joint exercises with several countries in recent years and enhanced its ability to respond to common security threats.

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