'We will prioritise our requirements so that the country's maritime interests are not compromised.'
Ajai Shukla reports.
Admiral Karambir Singh, chief of the naval staff, has admitted that the Indian Navy's declining budget has forced him to re-evaluate his long-term plan to field 200 warships by 2027. This target is institutionalised in the navy's Maritime Capability Perspective Plan for 2012-2027.
To media queries about how many ships could realistically be expected to be in service by 2027, the navy's vice chief, Vice Admiral G Ashok Kumar, replied, "about 175". Admiral Singh, however, termed that figure "optimistic".
Admiral Singh was addressing the media on Tuesday, December 3, on the eve of Navy Day. The Indian Navy currently has about 130 warships, he said, and another 50 are under construction in shipyards in and outside the country.
"The navy's share of the defence budget has declined from 18% in 2012 to approximately 13% in the current financial year," Admiral Singh stated.
The navy was allocated Rs 56,388 crore (Rs 563.88 billion) in 2019-2020, of which Rs 25,656 crore (Rs 256.56 billion) was for capital expenditure, or the payment for new ships.
An estimated 90% of this was already earmarked for paying instalments for warships and equipment purchased in previous years.
"We have projected (our additional requirement) and our hope is that we'll get some more money," the naval chief said, adding, "Based on that we will prioritise our requirements so that the maritime interests of the country are not compromised."
"Acceptance of Necessity (the first step in procurement of military equipment)" has also been accorded for 41 ships, 31 helicopters, 24 multi-role helicopters and six additional P 8I maritime aircraft, the admiral added.
Admiral Singh explained that the expected shortage of warships would have to be compensated for by introducing high technology and building more capable warships.
"Our aim will be to ensure that we get the maximum bang for the buck and by prioritisation, (improving) networking, and thinking deeper about how to improve the effects (of weapons systems), rather than just bean-counting," Admiral Singh said.
Elaborating on this, the navl chief explained: "But more important is what you pack into your ships. If they are modern and lethal, then you have that much more in terms of effects."
Asked how the Indian Navy compared with China's navy, Admiral Singh replied: "They are doing what they have to do and moving at the pace they are capable of. We will move at the pace that we are capable of."
On whether the budget crunch threatened to kill the project to build a third aircraft carrier, the INS Vishal, which is planned to be built at the Cochin Shipyard, Admiral Singh stated: "As naval chief, I am convinced that the country requires three aircraft carriers."