Geopolitics - December 2017

(Joyce) #1


December 2017

joint working ground came into being af-
ter an agreement between India and the
US during American President Barack
Obama’s visit to India in January 2016.
Following up on its IAC-2 letter for
expression of interest, the Indian Navy
also came out with Request for Informa-
tion, clearly demonstrating its intention
of finding a foreign replacement for the
indigenous Naval Light Combat Aircraft.
India’s dithering on the IAC-2 plans
comes at a time when China has been
aggressively pursuing its ambitions of a
carrier-centred naval force, to dominate
the seas far away from its immediate area
of responsibility. In April this year, at an
industry event, Vice Admiral D M Desh-
pande, the Controller of Warship Produc-
tion and Acquisition in the Indian Navy,
said the Ministry of Defence was still un-
certain about spending several crores of
rupees on an aircraft carrier.
In March this year, China’s defence
ministry said it would soon launch Shan-
dong, its first indigenously built aircraft
carrier. The announcement was soon
followed by the actual launch of the war-
ship in April. More, Chinese officials also
stated that their country’s Naval force
would soon have a third aircraft carrier
that could be a nuclear-powered vessel,
like the US Navy.

Defence Acquisition Council had given
its nod for the construction of Vishal, the
Indian Navy took just about a month to
come out with its expectations on the
IAC-2 and to ask nine Indian state-owned
and private shipyards if they could help
in constructing the new aircraft carrier in
The Letter of Interest issued in June
2015 was sent to state-owned Mazagon
Docks (MDL), Garden Reach Shipbuild-
ers and Engineers (GRSE), Goa Shipyard
(GSL), Hindustan Shipyard (HSL), and
Cochin Shipyard (CSL), apart from pri-
vate yards L&T, Pipavav, ABG Shipyard
and Bharati Shipyard, asking them to
respond by July 21, 2015 with an Expres-
sion of Intent (EoI) to build the aircraft
Two-and-a-half years since that allo-
cation of funds for the preparatory work,
be it Vishal or Viraat, the IAC-2 would
only be realised by 2030 under an am-
bitious estimate. But conservative esti-
mates put it at 2035 commissioning, con-
sidering that carrier construction takes
15 to 20 years even at global standards of
warship building.
The Navy is fine with this delay, as it
wants an aircraft carrier that packs the
punch to dominate India’s area of mari-
time interest that has been expanding

In India, the classical argument con-
tinues: whether to deny the use of the
seas to the enemy through assets like
submarines or to dominate the seas
through carrier-based air power.
All powerful navies of the world, be it
the Americans, the Russians, the French
or the British, have all built many aircraft
carriers, which enable power projection
far away from their home bases. Now,
China has joined this elite group of na-
tions, which trusts power projection at
sea. Hence, China has plans to build five
or six aircraft carriers. India, however,
is still struggling to decide if it wants to
have at least three aircraft carriers always
to dominate the Arabian Sea and the Bay
of Bengal, at least.
The logic behind this three-carrier
humble plan is that even if one of the
aircraft carriers are at maintenance at
any given time, India would still have
two operational Carrier Battle Groups to
operate on either of the seaboards. That
idea discounts the possibility of two of
them getting into refit or repair or main-
tenance at the same time.
The Defence Acquisition Council
had in May 2015 allocated `30 crore to
the Indian Navy to set up a preparatory
team and office for the construction of
the second aircraft carrier. Soon after the


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