Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, our first Prime Minister had rightly said “To be secure on land, we must be supreme at sea”. The induction of INS Vikramaditya into the Indian Navy is, indeed, a moment of great pride and honour for the nation. It marks a paradigm shift in the Carrier operations of the Indian Navy. This 45,000 tonne fighting machine is now set to rule the high seas with the Indian tricolour flying atop the ship. She is, without doubt, the largest ship to be operated by the Indian Navy and is scheduled to reach Indian shores by January 2014.
The INS Vikramaditya is a modified Kiev class aircraft carrier with a top speed of 30 knots and capable of carrying around 30 aircraft. It has a 273m long flight deck which can carry up to 20 Mig 29k fighters and 8 Kamov Ka-28/Ka-31 helicopters. The gigantic carrier has state of the art sensors, electronic warfare systems, the best radio and satellite communication equipment and many other facilities. The mighty vessel will have a crew of 2000 and may well be called a “floating city”. The ship has gone through exhaustive trials in the Barents Sea, in North Russia, and is finally ready to be handed over to the Indian Navy crew stationed in Severodovinsk, Russia.
INS Vikramaditya will considerably hasten India’s efforts to develop a blue water capability with enhanced maritime capabilities. India is geographically in a strategically volatile neighbourhood. With Pakistan and China quickly expanding their maritime reach, INS Vikramaditya will offer the Indian Navy just the kind of boost it requires in the form of a formidable fighting machine. So far, INS Viraat has been India’s lone aircraft carrier. With Viraat aging and the indigenous aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, still in initial stages of construction, INS Vikramaditya will make sure that the Indian Navy is not left carrier-less at any point of time.
The first batch of Mig-29K fighter aircraft that are to operate from the flight deck of Vikramaditya are based in INS Hansa and fully operational. The Mig 29-Ks are a modern machine with high speed and excellent weapons & sensors, operating from INS Vikramaditya, they will considerably enhance the Indian Navy’s combat capabilities on the high seas. With this and the recent induction of the US supplied Maritime Recce aircraft, the P8I, into the Indian Navy, the maritime domain in the Indian Ocean is set to see a complete change.
The induction of INS Vikramaditya into the Indian Navy will give it a strategic edge over other countries in the Indian Ocean region, a region that is of great importance to India. It links the Gulf to South East Asia, the Indian sub continent to Africa, Europe to Asia and several other parts of the world. The water that brushes the shores of these continents connects them despite the large distances. 90% of our oil comes in from the Gulf region and India’s ability to control the flow of energy that the Gulf provides is limited. A strong ‘blue water navy’ is a must to keep a control over straits like the Straits of Hormuz. Apart from this, the Strait of Malacca is one of the busiest regions with more than half of India’s trade traversing through the channel. The Indian Navy needs to spread it’s reach to keep such straits of importance well within its domain.
Commissioning of INS Vikramaditya will prove to be a giant leap forward for the Indian Navy. With a humongous coastline like that of India’s and a legitimate interest in keeping Sea Lanes of Communication open, India is bound to expand their navy in times to come.
Strong maritime nations like the USA, Britain and France use power projection by its Navies as a tool of diplomacy. Despite our diplomats shying away from using such ability, more out of fear of the unknown, our ability to project Indian power at distant shores rises several notches higher with Vikramaditya. This is significant as the Chinese have gone the whole hog and stepped into our backyard, the Indian Ocean. Their Navy’s presence and setting up bases in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and some Island nations is a challenge to India.
India is slowly yet steadily building a potent Navy capable of taking on the fiercest of adversaries. There were and still are several hiccups and apprehensions, but the Indian Navy continues to march on towards its target of achieving dominance in the maritime sphere. This, in today’s world would mean potent carriers like Vikramaditya prowling the high seas, safeguarding national interests. The Indian Navy is moving towards forming two carrier groups, one each centered around Viraat and Vikramaditya, a capability many other countries would like to develop. We, as a nation, are too land centric and need to understand the importance of having a formidable Navy to safeguard the nation’s coastline as well as protect national interest across international borders. I am extremely certain, given the intent, grit and dedication of our men in white, that day isn’t far when the Indian Navy will stand among the most dominant and influential Navies of the world.
About the Author: Archit Gupta is a 5th semester Electronics & Communication engineering student at Manipal Institute of Technology,Manipal. He is a cricket aficionado, defence enthusiast with a keen interest in diplomacy and foreign relations. You can reach him at his twitter handle : @archit2811, email: [email protected] or blog:archit2811.blogspot.com