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DSA is as much yours, as it is ours! (December 2018)

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INS Arihant has completed its first deterrent patrol. No small achievement for India, its navy and for long-term security in the Asia-Pacific region. This is exactly where the country should aim to make an impact in terms of security and protection. It can only be achieved when India has a comprehensive naval up-gradation programme based on a national security strategy that is wide ranging and realistic. The manner in which the navy continues to be the ‘least’ budgeted service suggests India is far from achieving its goals, nationally or regionally — is a real pity!

Unlike its sister services, the navy is unique in having its own design bureau to develop ship-building concepts that are indigenous and modern as well. The naval design bureau has been instrumental in creating domestic ship design and building skills that have had a far reaching impact on the service, as well as on national security over the last years. The successes have been many, most very low key, but useful in the long run. What it does is to create an environment where design and development is encouraged, the most important ingredient of an indigenous programme.

INS Arihant is the product of this environment, one that meshed naval, public sector and the private industry into making an indigenous nuclear powered submarine. India is now the sixth country to have developed and commissioned a nuclear powered submarine, the most important leg of the nuclear triad. A nuclear submarine capable of launching a ballistic missile over intercontinental distances is the surest deterrent from attack, as well as providing a second strike capability should other assets have been taken out earlier. This is because a submarine is extremely difficult to track, and a nuclear one even more so.

This success should be taken as the beginning of a programme rather than a culmination, for the country needs a lot more nuclear, surface and sub-surface naval assets. The simple reason is that a nuclear reactor on board a ship or submarine can operate for an extraordinarily long period without refuelling. A long deployment at sea, for a submarine or an aircraft carrier, is precisely why nuclear power is so important. India should be commissioning at least five SSBN type submarines, with another seven SSN types available of deployments. This will take care of deterrence and attack.

These objectives can be achieved if the country has a long-term vision backed by long-term budgeting. A naval ship takes many years to make, from design to sea launch; adding another period for precommissioning trials. Thus the focus on the wheel of budgeting to commissioning, it takes time and money. An investment now proves vital in the long run, so earlier the better. Any delay makes it more expensive later, and potentially catastrophic in terms of security. Something that can easily be avoided by the aid of a security vision, a design bureau, and the money to back. The navy has plenty of the first two, but needs urgent monetary support.


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