Maintaining that maritime security was the new government's top priority, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday stressed the need for hastening delivery of ships to step up surveillance and secure the vast coastline.
"I am aware of the challenges faced by the ship building industry in India. The achievement of quality standards despite the ongoing modernisation programme of the (Cochin) shipyard is indeed commendable. I expect more focus on shortening the delivery period by the shipyards in future," he said after commissioning two indigenously built fast-patrol vessels ICGS Achook and ICGS Agrim of the Indian Coast Guard.
Jaitley said security apparatus along the coastline is being further strengthened by the Indian Navy and Coastguard. "The establishment of the coastal surveillance network is in the final stages of implementation and would soon ensure effective protection of our vast shoreline," he said.
Jaitley said coastal security topped the priority of the government and induction of new vessels will help the Coastguard officials to effectively secure the coastline. "As always, coastal security remains one of our prime concerns and induction of new assets will definitely bolster the Indian Coastguard's efforts to provide a safe coastal line," he said.
Jaitley said protection of territorial waters ensures a nation's prosperity in which Coastguard has an important role to play.
"Policing and protecting the maritime commons against the wide spectrum of threats is a high priority for all nations as it offers economic prosperity and security that comes from a safe and free maritime domain. Towards this, the Indian Coastguard has a very important role to play," he said.
Jaitley said the building of patrol vessels in India was a matter of pride and delight.
"It is a matter of delight because not only are they (patrol vessels) a very valuable addition to the Indian Coastguard, but that they have been indigenously made, particularly in a country where traditionally we felt that our ship building industry still needs a lot more specialisation and growth," Jaitley said.
"The economic constraints witnessed during the last two decades have reinforced the importance of the maritime trade and commerce. The resultant growth in maritime traffic thus calls for an efficient framework of maritime safety, maritime security, maritime environment protection and disaster management and law enforcement at sea," he said.
Jaitley, accompanied by Navy chief Admiral R K Dhowan, visited aircraft carrier INS Viraat and reviewed the operational preparedness of the Western Naval Command, which witnessed two major submarine mishaps in the last one year. He also had a look at the ill-fated Russian-made Kilo-class submarine INS Sindhurakshak, which had sunk following multiple explosions on August 14 last year, killing 18 navy personnel, from a distance. The salvors have lifted vessel from the seabed and is now resting on a pontoon at the naval dockyard.
Replying to a query on the recent mishaps denting the image of the navy, Jaitley said, "We are trying to find the causes that led to the recent incidents to improve the situation. Procurement process has to be fastened. Wherever there are concerns, the navy will address them."
Image: Defence Minister Arun Jaitley