Friday, September 30th, 2022 04:55:40

A Virat Odyssey

By Nilabh Krishna
Updated: September 15, 2022 2:22 pm

Vikrant : Growing Symbol of Self-Reliant India

In his address, Raksha Mantri Rajnath Singh termed the commissioning of INS Vikrant at the onset of ‘Amritkal’ as a testament to the Government’s strong resolve to ensure the safety and security of the nation in the next 25 years. “INS Vikrant is a glowing symbol of an aspirational and self-reliant ‘New India’. It is an icon of pride, power and resolve of the Nation. Its commissioning is an unprecedented achievement in the path of building indigenous warships. Indian Navy’s tradition is ‘old ships never die’. This new avatar of Vikrant, which played a stellar role in the 1971 war, is a humble tribute to our freedom fighters and brave soldiers,” he said.

Rajnath Singh also asserted that it is a key responsibility of the Indian Navy to secure the country’s maritime interests for uninterrupted maritime trade, amid the constantly-changing global situation. He commended the Navy for always being the ‘First Responder’ in times of any national or international crisis and exuded confidence that the commissioning of INS Vikrant will further enhance the force’s capability. He added that this is an assurance to the friendly foreign countries that India is fully capable of meeting the collective security needs of the region. “We believe in a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific. Our efforts in this regard are guided by ‘SAGAR’ (Security and Growth for All in the Region) as envisioned by the Prime Minister,” he said.

The Raksha Mantri also described the commissioning of INS Vikrant as a confirmation that the Government’s unwavering commitment to achieve ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ is not an isolated policy. It is an important part of the huge transformative change taking place in India under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said.

Rajnath Singh commended the Prime Minister for his visionary leadership in realising the dream of ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’, stating that the government has made path breaking changes in all sectors such as defence, health, education, agriculture, trade, transport and communication. He listed out a series of steps taken by Ministry of Defence to achieve the objective. These include setting up of defence corridors in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu; issuance of three positive indigenisation lists; earmarking of 68% of capital procurement budget for domestic industry; Defence Production and Export Promotion Policy 2020 and increase in FDI limit. He said, the aim is ‘Make in India, Make for the World’ and exports of more than $400 billion in the last year is a proof of this vision.

“As India is moving rapidly towards a $5 trillion economy, our share in global trade will increase in the coming times. If the share will increase, a large part of it will inevitably be through maritime routes. In such a situation, INS Vikrant will prove to be crucial to safeguard our security and economic interests,” the Raksha Mantri said.    

September 2, 2022 was a day for national pride for all Indians. India joined the exclusive group of countries that construct their own aircraft carriers after Prime Minister NarendraModi dedicated India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, in Kochi. India is the sixth nation to have built its own aircraft carriers, following the US, UK, Russia, China, and France. Second, the Indian Navy’s ensign was changed to eliminate the final symbol of colonial rule—the St. George’s Cross. A new ensign, inspired by the Maratha emperor ShivajiMaharaj’s seal, took its place.

The commissioning of the first indigenously designed and built aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, is a crucial turning point in India’s goal of self-reliance (Aatmanirbhar Bharat).  It follows the first indigenous warship, INS Ajay, in 1960 and the first indigenous frigate, INS Nilgiri, in 1968. Vikrant, which weighs 45,000 tonnes, is the largest naval ship ever planned and constructed in India, joining a select group of countries that have proven their expertise in this area.

The name Vikrant honours India’s first aircraft carrier, which was acquired from the UK and put into service in 1961 and signifies “courageous.” Prior to being decommissioned in 1997, the original INS Vikrant served as a significant national symbol and contributed significantly to a number of military operations, notably the Indo-Pak War in 1971. Now India’s first homemade aircraft carrier will carry the name of her illustrious predecessor.  The warship will play a crucial role in the Indian Navy’s effort to position itself as a force capable of projecting its strength on far-off seas after its induction. It is particularly crucial given China’s aircraft carrier-focused fleet, which has already inducted two warships, and India’s efforts to serve as a net security provider in the Indian Ocean region. India will now have two operational aircraft carriers with the commissioning of INS Vikrant (the other is INS Vikramaditya), which would improve the country’s maritime security.

INS Vikrant, which was constructed in 13 years for a cost of Rs 20,000 crore using only locally produced materials and labour, is a ringing endorsement of Prime Minister Modi’s drive for Atmanirbhar Bharat. It displays the strength and capacity of India’s developing defence industry. Nearly 76 per cent of the carrier’s components were developed in India using military grade steel by defence public sector units, leading private enterprises, and more than 100 medium and small scale organisations. Along with modern light helicopters, INS Vikrant is equipped to fly 20 different types of aircraft, including Mig-29K fighter jets, Kamov-31, and MH-60R multi-role helicopters. Modern electronic warfare and communication technologies have been developed by the government-owned Bharat Heavy Electricals.

In the whole Indian naval fleet, Vikrant features the most sophisticated Integrated Platform Management System (IPMS). It has a hangar bay that is the size of two big football fields and is 262 metres long, 59 metres tall, and 62 metres wide. On the carrier’s deck, six helos and 12 fighter jets can be parked. On rough seas, the aircraft carrier can keep a watchful eye on a region around 400 kilometres in diameter. It is equipped with missiles and anti-aircraft guns. The ship has 2,300 compartments that can accommodate around 1,700 officers and other Navy ranks. The ship has 4 AK-320 anti-aircraft cannons and can control 20 fighter jets, 10 helicopters, 32 missiles, and 64 rockets. It resembles a military base on the water and is outfitted with anti-surface and anti-submarine capabilities.

On the deck, there are two runways—one long and one short—for takeoff and landing. It contains a 16-bed hospital and three galleys where electrical appliances can be used to prepare at least 5,000 meals daily. This indigenous aircraft carrier was built by Bharat Electronics Ltd, BHEL, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers, Cochin Shipyard Ltd, Mishra Dhatu Nigam, Tata Advanced Systems, Keltron, Larsen & Toubro, Wartsila India, Johnson Controls India, and Kirloskar.

Modi also unveiled the new, octagonal-shaped ensign for the Indian Navy. It is based on the royal emblem of ChhatrapatiShivajiMaharaj, and it formally honours Shivaji as the originator of the concept of a modern Indian navy for the first time. With the assistance of Portuguese and indigenous specialists, Shivaji created his fleet of naval ships between 1658 and 1659, and at the height of his power, he had constructed more than 50 fighting vessels. These were boats with guns that were swift and of lightweight structure. Counting the number of commercial vessels, he had about 700 ships in his fleet at the time of his coronation in 1674.

While unveiling the new ensign, Modi said, “Till now, the identity of slavery remained on the flag of Indian Navy. But from today onwards, inspired by ChhatrapatiShivaji, the new Navy flag will fly in the sea and in the sky.” Since India’s independence, the red St. George’s cross has been a feature of its naval ensign. This is no longer an issue now. The St. George’s Cross was taken down by Prime Minister AtalBihari Vajpayee in 2001, but Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh of the UPA government restored it three years later. On September 2nd, NarendraModi finally condemned it to the dustbin of history. It took 75 years to remove the last vestige of colonial rule.  The new octagonal shaped blue coloured ensign is inspired from Shivaji’s ceremonial insignia, and the Indian Navy’s motto “Sha No Varunah” has been added to the ensign. It means, “May the God of Seas be auspicious for us”.

The Indian Navy’s maritime doctrine builds on the lessons of India’s lack of maritime control since colonial times. Although the Europeans did not initiate a naval invasion, their domination of the seas had a significant impact on India’s maritime trade prior to its eventual colonization.Naval controls were built by the Indian Navy. It is the core concept that has been developed and sees the aircraft carrier as a major asset. Naval control is the ability of the navy to operate freely in the theater of operations. Those who rule the sea deny it to their opponents by default. An aircraft carrier is a symbol of national power with tremendous operational capability. Depending on how you use it, it can also be an excellent tool for diplomatic and political messages to friends and foes. This is a valuable asset for project teams. Vast seas and limited land-based air resources to provide sufficient and sustained power over long distances necessitate carrier-based aviation. It can move quickly to operational areas and operate independently for long periods of time. India relies heavily on the sea for trade and energy. As a major regional power, India aspires to become a security provider. The United States, which has been monitoring the oceans, is becoming more and more overwhelmed. The balance of power has shifted to the Indo-Pacific, and the rules-based order that has kept peace since World War II is being challenged by the rise of China. India must not only play a major security role in the Indian Ocean region to protect its interests, but must also refuse to do so against potential void-filling adversaries. No. To support diplomacy, India needs naval capabilities to persuade countries in the region to leave maritime security to India instead of looking elsewhere. INS Vikrant is the answer to all that.

By Nilabh Krishna

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