Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Nirmal Kumar Verma, on Thursday said a second indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC) for the Navy “is a long way off.

This [aircraft carrier building] is an investment of very high proportions. We are doing conceptual studies and certainly it is not going to happen in a hurry. It requires huge investment and before that, the Navy has higher priory items to be tackled,” Admiral Verma said, in response to a query from the media, after presenting gallantry awards and honours to naval personnel at an investiture ceremony at the Southern Naval Command here.

“Currently, there are two carriers under construction. The future Navy is based on two carrier battle groups (CBG), one on either coast. And if you have to ensure two CBGs, there has to be a third one. But the stage at which it happens is obviously linked to funding and today, there are greater funding priorities over a third aircraft carrier for the Navy.”

On the new Cabinet Committee on Security-approved rules of engagement (ROE) of sea pirates, he said: “The ROE should be something in the minds of the commanding officer [of warships]. I don't think there is any need to talk of it publicly, as it would benefit the other side. The commanding officer, when he goes to sea today, is very clear in his mind how he should act under different circumstances.” Asked about Defence Minister's A.K. Antony's comment that pirates enjoyed support of other forces, he said: “As a nation, we need to factor in these matters in the worst-case scenario. To that extent, that possibility is always factored [in]. It is true that the pirate ships we have captured up till now had hostages who were forced into running the ship for the pirates…. But there could be a possibility [of pirates being used by inimical forces] and we don't rule it out. Whenever we have had access to pirates and hostages, the investigation is thorough and detailed and there is a lot of information that comes out which is useful in tackling this problem better.”

Combating piracy

Asked about the merit of the Navy deploying a chunk of its resources to combat piracy, the Admiral said: “Today, there is no outright situation of a conflict, as we understand it. The challenge that came to us two years ago —coastal security — continues to be a challenge for us. Similarly, piracy is a new challenge that has come to us. Yes, it does require a fair amount of resources, but the task of the Navy is to ensure that the nation's maritime interests are met, and if it requires me to use the resources, that has to be done.”

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