Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday conveyed his government’s sharp focus on modernising the country’s defence infrastructure and tying maritime security to India’s growth story.
Spending a few hours on the giant aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya off the Goa coast, Mr. Modi conveyed his perception that the armed forces were also an engine for boosting economic heft. Navy sources said that during his interaction with personnel on board the warship, the Prime Minister stressed the importance of keeping the sea lanes open to boost commerce.
Advocating infusion of new technology and indigenisation to produce weapons and platforms, Mr. Modi signalled that Indian-produced military hardware could find a niche in countries belonging to the global South. Mr. Modi’s presence on the warship — he arrived in the forenoon from Goa in a Sea King helicopter — provided him the perfect image-building photo opportunity. The Prime Minister seemed to relish entering the cockpit of one of the recently acquired MiG-29K planes onboard the ship.
Modi’s visit signals maritime ambitions
By choosing the giant aircraft carrier as his first outing to a defence establishment, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday seemed to convey that India’s long-held aspiration of establishing a footprint in the Indian Ocean — which was drawing several competing powers — had not been extinguished.
Mr. Modi called for the establishment of a robust maritime infrastructure. Separately, Navy sources pointed out that a weak focus on strong maritime foundations had become graphically visible in the inordinate delay in the establishment of the Karwar naval base in Karnataka.
Mr. Modi apparently impressed his hosts by stressing plugging the “skills drain,” which follows the underutilisation of highly skilled people who retire from service. The sources said that the Prime Minister was fully aware that institutional mechanisms to redeploy this outflow of talent were poorly developed in the country.
During his address to the 1,600 personnel on board the carrier, the Prime Minister drove home the point that the new National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government would focus on serving existing and retired defence personnel. He pledged that the languishing one rank, one pension scheme, which had stirred considerable consternation within the armed forces, would be fully implemented.
The Prime Minister witnessed naval and aerial manoeuvres as well as a ceremonial “steam-past” of warships belonging to the western fleet past the imposing Vikramaditya.