India launched its maiden indigenously designed and built aircraft carrier INS Vikrant on Friday, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi commissioning the warship that put India into a select league of countries with domestic capability to develop such large vessels.
Modi, who also unveiled a new Naval Ensign inspired by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj said the country has taken off a 'burden of slavery'.
He said Vikrant, which means victorious, is huge, massive, and vast.
"Vikrant is distinguished, Vikrant is also special. Vikrant is not just a warship and stood testimony to Indian skills and talent," he said.
He also spoke about certain features of the aircraft carrier -- which he described as a 'floating airfield, a floating town' -- and said the power generated in it can light up 5,000 houses.
At a ceremony attended by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar, among others at the Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL) here, the PM unveiled the new Naval Ensign.
"Today on the historic date of September 2, 2022, India has taken off a trace of slavery, a burden of slavery. The Indian Navy has got a new flag from today. Till now the identity of slavery remained on the flag of Indian Navy. But from today onwards, inspired by Chhatrapati Shivaji, the new Navy flag will fly in the sea and in the sky", he said and dedicated it to the legendary Maratha king.
The Navy had earlier said the new ensign (Nishaan) will be befitting the rich Indian maritime heritage.
Modi unveiled a plaque to mark the induction of INS Vikrant, named after its predecessor that played a crucial role in the 1971 Indo-Pak war, into the Navy.
With Vikrant's induction, India has joined a select club of nations such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China and France in having niche capability to indigenously design and build an aircraft carrier.
The 262 m long and 62 m wide carrier displaces approximately 43,000 T when fully loaded, having a maximum designed speed of 28 knots with endurance of 7,500 NM.
Built at an estimated cost of Rs 20,000 crore, it has state-of-the-art features and can operate air wing consisting of 30 aircraft, including MiG-29K fighter jets, besides the domestically manufactured Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH).
"Today, India has joined those countries in the world, which manufacture such a huge aircraft carrier with indigenous technology. Today INS Vikrant has filled the country with a new confidence," Modi said, while addressing a large gathering ahead of the commissioning ceremony.
The Navy said the commissioning ceremony is one of the most significant milestones in the life of a warship.
'Today 2 Sep 22 marks the acceptance of #INSVikrant as a potent unit of the operating forces of the @indiannavy. Wishing her fair winds & following seas #AtmanirbharBharat,' a Defence spokesman tweeted immediately after the commissioning.
Earlier, in his address Modi said Vikrant is an example of the Centre's thrust to making its defence sector self-reliant.
Modi said with the new ensign, the country has shed its colonial past.
"INS Vikrant is not a mere war machine but proof of India's skill and talent. It is special, different," Modi said and highlighted the indigenisation efforts behind the massive ship, including the steel that went into its making.
"Here, on the coast of Kerala, India, every Indian is witnessing the sunrise of a new future. This event being held on the INS Vikrant is a tribute to the rising spirits of India on the world horizon," he said.
It was also a manifestation of the dream of the freedom fighters, where they envisioned a capable and strong India.
"This is a testament to the hard work, talent, influence and commitment of India in the 21st century. If the goals are distant, the journeys are long, the ocean and the challenges are endless -- then India's answer is Vikrant. The incomparable Amrit of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav is Vikrant. Vikrant is a unique reflection of India becoming self-reliant", Modi said.
He also said no challenge is too difficult for today's India.
Modi acknowledged and praised the contribution of the Navy, engineers of Cochin Shipyard, scientists and specially the workers who worked on the project.
He added the happy and auspicious occasion of Onam was adding to the joy.
Every part of INS Vikrant has its own merits, a strength, a development journey of its own. It is a symbol of indigenous potential, indigenous resources and indigenous skills. The steel installed in its airbase is also indigenous, developed by DRDO scientists and produced by Indian companies, he said.
Explaining the massive proportions of the carrier, the Prime Minister said it is like a floating city.
"...the wiring used will reach Kashi from Kochi," he said.
The ship is a living embodiment of the Spirit of the Panch Prans that he proclaimed from the ramparts of Red Fort.
He also spoke on the Indian maritime tradition and naval capabilities.
Shivaji Maharaj, he said, built such a navy on the strength of this sea power, which kept the enemies on their toes.
"When the British came to India, they used to be intimidated by the power of Indian ships and trade through them. So they decided to break the back of India's maritime power. History is witness to how strict restrictions were imposed on Indian ships and merchants by enacting a law in the British Parliament at that time," Modi said.
When Vikrant descends to protect our maritime zone, many women soldiers of the Navy will also be stationed there, he added.
"With the immense power of the ocean, boundless female power, it is becoming the lofty identity of the new India. Now the Indian Navy has decided to open all its branches for women. The restrictions that were there are now being removed. Just as there are no boundaries for the capable waves, there will be no boundaries or restrictions for the daughters of India," he said.
He also mentioned the salute by indigenous canon on this Independence Day. Similarly, if every citizen of India starts living the mantra of 'Vocal for Local', then it will not take long for the country to become self-reliant.
Commenting on the changing geo-strategic situation, he said in the past, security concerns in the Indo-Pacific region and the Indian Ocean were ignored for long.
"But, today this area is a major defence priority of the country for us. That is why we are working in every direction, from increasing the budget for the Navy to increasing its capability."
"A strong India will pave the way for a peaceful and safe world," he said.
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Union Ministers Sarbananda Sonowal and Ajay Bhat and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval were among those present at the commissioning event.