FULL TRANSCRIPT HERE:
Visakhapatnam: The year 2013 has been a significant landmark in Indian Navy's history. The P8 I's were inducted in the Indian Navy; the INS Vikramaditya is about to be inducted in the Navy shortly. Also the reactor of INS Arihanth, India's first nuclear powered submarine, went critical. The Navy's communication satellite became operational. All in all, a very good year except for one tragic incident - that of the explosion aboard the INS Sindhurakshak in Mumbai, which led to the loss of 18 lives.
But what does the future hold?
Indian Navy Chief Admiral DK Joshi in conversation with NDTV's Nitin Gokhale
NDTV: This ship is one of the bigger assets of the Navy in the east coast and looking at this ship one feels so confident about the humanitarian assistance and the disaster relief that this ship does. But how do you see the Navy's overall picture, the current status and going down 5 years from now?
Admiral Joshi: Well, you quite summed it up yourself. As outlined in our maritime capabilities prospective plan, which really is the growth road map for our capabilities, many of these inductions are poised for realization. Very soon Jalashwa is going to become the third largest ship from being the second currently. On the 16th we are commissioning, inducting Vikramaditya in Russia.
So all these acquisitions and procurement are proceeding apace. Majority of them are force multipliers. The air assets that you referred to is going to be here tomorrow when we induct the AJT hawk trainers, will be formally inducted into the Navy. We would also have the first P8 I that has already arrived and in the process of being accepted.
Various acceptance trials are in progress and by the end of the year we will have 3 of them and others following in quick order next year. That brings into this region a capability that has not existed before. It's a brand new aircraft, apart from the platform, which in any case is a proven Boeing aircraft. The fit has been to the specification to currently to what US Navy has. So therefore the capabilities that are coming into our hands are absolutely state of the art.
The submarine projects, Arihanth you mentioned, achieved criticality in the month of August. I spent the entire forenoon there. The entire crew, the DAE teams, the BARC teams, the DRDO teams, our own ATV project personnel, as also the industry people. Every one is upbeat, full of dynamism and I think very, very enthusiastic and in a very short order we would again put her out for sea trials and operational towards the end of next year.
NDTV: A lot of people talk about the Indian Navy now being not just the Indian Navy for the Indian ocean region but also for Indo Pacific. You know I'm talking about the western pacific and going right up to the coast of Africa. Do you see the Indian Navy's role expanding in the coming decade or so?
Admiral Joshi: Well, the Navy has great reach and sustenance and long sea legs so therefore we can reach out to distant waters, and sustain ourselves, bring our combat potential to where it be so required in very distant waters. Now where would that tasking be? Would really be a function of national interest?
Whereabouts is it that our national interest are spread, you are as aware of them as I am. Therefore I would not reiterate them. And therefore for what tasking and into what areas the Navy is required to be committed, that is question for the government to determine.
They, Navy's, are meant to be committed to safeguard the sovereign national interests in the maritime domain and we have the capabilities. And all the capabilities being inducted are tailored in that direction as the spread would show you.
NDTV: You also conduct Milan exercises every two years, and also have a lot of good co-operation with navies in South East Asia. How do you see Milan coming up now in 2014?
Admiral Joshi: Well Milan was launched on, I forget the exact year, sometime in the mid-90s actually 1995 it was, and it started with 7 or 8 participants. For next years edition we are expecting something like 20 navies.
There is frequent request from navies, which are not from this region for participation or participation only as an observer. So it has caught everybody's imagination. Basically it is a bringing together of young professionals, essentially the ship's crew, young officers, sailors, so that they get to interact with each other.
Understand each others point of view, so that any chance meeting at sea, is in a very harmonious sort of a fashion and in eventuality as well there is a common tasking or coordinated patrol that two navies are engaged in at a point in time, the confidence levels to begin with have been achieved.
NDTV: Now looking at the India Navy, I mean I keep coming back to the future of the Indian Navy, in that sense technologically, the Indian Navy has always been a step ahead of most of the other navies in the region and a long tradition of having at least one aircraft carrier. Do you foresee yourself having carrier battle groups in the next 2-3 years when the IAC is inducted?
Admiral Joshi: Well for our needs we have long felt that at least 2 carriers operational, one on each seaboard. One on the western seaboard and one on the eastern seas board is a must. With the commissioning of Vikramaditya, we would have 2 carriers but Virat as you know is getting a little long in the tooth.
She is eminently capable of performing the role she has been designed for. But as you extend the service life of a ship, and we have extended her life quite a bit, it becomes something like maintaining a vintage car.
You spend you know a lot of money to keep it going. And therefore we would plan to keep her going till the time we are able to induct IAC 1,.which got a bit delayed but is now on track. And you should see her commencing her sea trials somewhere around 2017. And therefore at that time we will have two brand new carriers and would be able to provide adequate coverage on both our seaboards.
NDTV: As we pass near of one of your two submarines alongside, there is this concern that submarines are depleted in strength, conventional submarine strengths, how do plan to overcome the shortage?
Admiral Joshi: Submarine-force levels are I agree with you, are under strain. And essentially it is so because our Project 75 got a bit delayed, indigenous construction with foreign collaborations. But that again the issues that had caused the delays are now behind us.
The production is in full swing. And again commencing 2016-17 onwards, we should have our first boat online and we have been assured by both DCNS and MDL that the subsequent ones, they will try and compress the timelines for delivery, so that the last boat actually will be commissioned at about the time she was envisaged. So that should start happening.
Plus, we got our project 75 I on the anvil and we are hopeful of early CCS approval and that again would be, what the proposal is that we buy two outright and the rest with the transfer of technology would be built indigenously in India. That has been a thrust point in indigenous construction in Indian shipyards, both public sector and private sector.
NDTV: Yes I was going to come that, that indigenous construction shipbuilding, has been something that the Navy should be proud about although delays are there. And I think amongst the two services the Navy has indigenised faster than anybody else in that real sense. So how do see the indigenous shipbuilding coping up with the demands you have?
Admiral Joshi: I would say that the Indian ship building industry is coping up in a most admirable fashion, both the public sector, which really has had the lead in this regard, but also the private sector, which has chipped in and has come up very rapidly. As on date out of 47 orders that we have for ship construction and submarine construction, we are very proud of the fact that 46 are actually being built in Indian shipyards, both public sector and private sector.
The only ship, which is not being built in India, is Vikramaditya. That's being commissioned on the 16th. And therefore the industry has risen to the occasion, we have constant interface with the industry through the mechanism of CII, FICCI, Assocham, and therefore we are quite enthused with the participation that they have.
And we of course recognize that when you say indigenous, 100 per cent of a ship or a submarine, need not be and it is nowhere, so certain components, certain high end technology, you'll need to collaborate with somebody or the other and we are quite happy doing that.
NDTV: Talking about Sindhurakshak's accident, I mean it was a tragic accident, all of us agree about it, any way forward, have you drawn any lessons from there?
Admiral Joshi: Of course was a tragedy, something that shouldn't have happened. But insofar as lessons to be learnt are concerned would happen only after we have concluded the enquiry process, which we're now awaiting really, the floating of the boat. Which has still not happened because the last bit of material, the forensic evidence would be found inside the boat.
As of now we have tendered out 7 globally, correction 5, globally acknowledged salvage firms. They have all submitted their bids. Commencing Monday we will open their commercial bits, short process, you'll know who the winner is. These are really renowned names, one of them was actually involved in lifting, I won't name the submarine but a submarine that had sunk about a decade ago.
Therefore, whosoever wins the contract has to be again done in a very transparent fashion, would prove the hardware and get on with it. And once we retrieve the submarine, we have the final sort of, we would have the final forensic evidence we were looking for and the board of enquiry would be able to complete its proceedings and point out at what went wrong.
NDTV: The AJT's you are going to induct, the advance jet trainer Hawk, How is it going to change the training pattern or the training envelope of your pilots?
Admiral Joshi: Well it'll not really the pattern, but what it will change is the profile, you as compared to the basic trainers, which as the name implies, rather basic. The future requirement of the Navy is going to be for pilot, for young pilots, to fly big 29 K's, and hopefully as soon as possible the LCA Navy.
These are high performance jet aircrafts and therefore even the trainer has to be a high performance jet trainer. And that is the requirement that the AJT meets. It's a high performance jet trainer.
To begin with you are able to launch a person so when he gets on to carrier operations, which will be you know arrested recoveries, ski jump launches, on high profile uh high performance engine, it is a more suited aircraft. It will change the profile all together.
NDTV: You have also change the profile for training, young officers, everybody is now looking AT technology, intensive training, people you are mostly inducting are you know mostly engineers, Mostly or maybe a 100% I am not very sure whether they are 100% engineers. How has that changed as far as Navy is concerned?
Admiral Joshi: Yes in one of your earlier questions, you had remarked that technologically the Indian Navy is one of the most advanced in the region. I wouldn't comment on the competitive ranking aspect of it.
But we have long realized that the Navy is a technology intensive service and the future platform of the Navy be that ships, submarine or aircraft would require a person with a high degree of basic technological knowledge. And therefore a decision was taken that the basic qualification would be made B-Tech. Therefore our Naval academy in Ezhimala in June this year passed out the first batch of 100 per cent B-Tech candidates.
And every six months commencing with the next passing out in November now, the entire Navy would get converted with a basic B-Tech qualification. From there they would diversify to being ships' crew, submarines' crew, aircraft pilots, observers, everything else. Because we have felt it is the need of the hour.
You have to understand the machine before you start developing the man machine interface, and so far the indicators are brilliant and I think we are well on the right path.
NDTV: Talking about that initiative, similarly IONS, Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, was one of the initiatives the Navy was involved with other navies perhaps. How was IONS shaped up and how do you see the future of IONS?
Admiral Joshi: Well IONS was actually pioneered by the Indian Navy. It was a concept mooted by the India Navy and again, quite like Milan, it has snowballed in mass, in criticality and everyone wants to be a member.
And the number of requests we have received from front ranking navies to become a member, and of course we had again wanted it to be a sort of collaborative, cooperative process and we said we'll not retain the Chairmanship forever, every two years we will rotate it. So it rotated from us to the UAE and then on to South Africa, next year it is slated to go to Australia and only consensus decisions would be taken.
And on admittance of newer members the current decision is that, firstly, we let the charter of business become finalized, that has to match on and find acceptance with the regional navies
NDTV: How has it helped in terms of cooperation amongst navies?
Admiral Joshi: Oh greatly, you know, because many of the activities listed there in for example, anti-piracy is one of the mandates of IONS. So if any 2 or 3 member navies of IONS end up fielding their assets together, in the Gulf of Aden for example, the basic work has happened, so the basic level of understanding amongst the three of them achieved already before they came on to station.
So that bit has facilitated a very smooth interface. On common tasks it's not a security forum. It is a benign forum for tasks like anti-piracy operations where everyone sees the picture in a similar fashion.
NDTV: But you also cooperate with 2 other navies if I am not mistaken on the anti-piracy operations, the convoys going together in the Gulf of Eden with Chinese and Japanese navies. How is that working out?
Admiral Joshi: No, what we do is when we say coordinate, what we do is through a mechanism called SHARE. Shared awareness, we pass on our convoy schedules and other navies pass on their schedules, and its up to you to so adjust them so as to bring greater synergy.
That means the two of them should not be starting the convoy together. It's a waste of time. You stagger it up a little bit and then you provide coverage to a lager number of ships
NDTV: So, is it working?
Admiral Joshi: It's working, it's working quite well.
NDTV: So what about anti-piracy? I mean piracy operations, actually the piracy incidents, have come down. Has it helped that the Indian Navy has been there for about 5 years now in the Gulf of Aden?
Admiral Joshi: Certainly, I would like to believe that the India Navy in particular had a major role to play along with many other world navies. The instances of piracy have come down. They indeed have come down and they havn't gone away.
Till the time that risk is sort of eliminated we cannot stand down on our presence. So far as we are concerned our commitment of assets continues to remain at the same level. Also piracy has now started popping up in other areas.
You hear of instances along the west coast of Africa. Of course we don't want to reach out there yet. But it has to remain a collaborative effort and there is great understanding among the world navies and the Indian Navy has played a significant role in the anti-piracy efforts.
NDTV: Right. Moving away from piracy, looking at nuclear triad, you know our nuclear doctrine. Navy will have a major role to play in that. How are you looking at the future, you know, being part of that doctrine?
Admiral Joshi: Globally if you study the most credible sort of resolution does come from SSBN's. I narrated to you how our first SSBN is poised. And then after depending on our experience with her and our experience of having operated Chakra, the second time around, we are well placed.
NDTV: And Chakra is also giving you I mean your crews, a lot of experience?
Admiral Joshi: Of course, of course absolutely. The best sort of spin-off is that we are able to train our future crews in-house. You know through recycling them through Chakra. There is no need to send them abroad. The first crew is there which has been trained in great detail and as it hands over to the second crew, through a process of structured training and also OJT on your training, you have a second set of crew ready and a third. So therefore there are these crews available to manage any such assets.
NDTV: What about the communication satellite that the Navy has now on its own. How has it stabilized, one, and how is going to help you or how is it helping you?
Admiral Joshi: It would stabilize fully, it has stabilized in parts, it operates on different bands. Certain bands have been proven. Certain bands are currently; some bands are in the process of trials and evaluations. But this is a force multiplier. It covers our entire footprint of area of interest in the Indian Ocean and beyond. And therefore for your data transfers, for your maritime domain awareness picture transfers, for your entire range of communications and networking needs, it provides the best possible answer.
Therefore we are now operating, unit to unit link, so each unit has exactly the same pictures as any unit of interest will be able to do, including the aircraft. It brings an entirely new dimension in network operations and in maritime operations. And this again is indigenous in collaboration with ISRO.
NDTV: And as we speak, I think the Exercise Malabar is also going to commence so do you foresee more and more joint exercises, bilateral exercises, between Indian Navy and other navies?
Admiral Joshi: We, you know, quite like the influence that is coming from the IONS and the Milans. There is a constant demand really from many navies to get into bilateral exercises.
We have to evaluate them closely, because we also don't want our effort on ground to be thinned out too much only in bilateral exercises, and therefore a very conscious decision is taken, in consult with MEA and the Ministry of Defence, as to whether to leave it for the time being as a sporadic on and off type of exercise, or to get it structured as a bilateral one. But there is a constant demand from navies who want a structured bilateral exercise
NDTV: That is a tribute to Indian Navy's professionalism I guess.
Admiral Joshi: Well I don't know, I would imagine, I should hope that it is one of the factors. But this whole area, you know the dynamics of the area, are attracting everyone on to the area and therefore it could be a major factor.
NDTV: Coastal security is one of your priorities?
Admiral Joshi: Coastal security?
NDTV: We are in the fifth year since the 26/11 attacks.
Admiral Joshi: Yes, Yes, at the end of this month you know, 26/11 Fifth Anniversary. It is one of the most critical considerations of today's operations. It is something that Navy, along with Coast Guard and all the state agencies, Coastal Maritime Police, and all that, remain engaged right through. Where lot of improvement has happened over 2008.
There are of course works still in progress with regard to registration of fishing boats, with regards to ID cards for fisherman, as regards AIS transponders, because if you see our contacts, the fishing traffic, it is into thousands upon thousands.
When we started off in 2009, really in the beginning, nobody had a count of how many of those are registered. There were boats not registered at all, there were boats registered in multiple states, all of that has been sort of streamlined now, A lot of improvement has taken place since that time.
NDTV: Admiral Joshi, thank you so much for your time, and it's been a delight to be on the ship. We always pay tribute to the Indian Navy's professionalism. Thank you so much
Admiral Joshi: Thank you I hope you enjoyed your journey here