Navy’s shortfall of submarines, copters to be met, says Jaitley
The minister was addressing the top Navy brass at the force’s bi-annual commanders’ conference. The Navy is facing shortage of submarines and the problem was complicated further after the sinking of Russian-origin kilo-class vessel INS Sindhurakshak in August last year. Jaitley said overseas deployments and bilateral exercises by naval ships with the regional navies in the South China Sea, Western Pacific and Persian Gulf have further ‘strengthened our bilateral relationships.’
He hinted that demand of the armed forces for more funds in the budget was likely to be accepted as the ‘entire resource of the country, notwithstanding various pressures, has to make available a significant amount for those in defence of the country’. ‘The key subject matter of concern appears to be the slow pace of acquisition of whatever equipment and assets are required. Hope of the forces is that their requirements should be fulfilled and the process should also be expedited,’ Jaitley said.
The Navy has several acquisition projects stuck for many years due to slow procurement process, including the Rs 6,000 crore 16 multirole helicopter project and the acquisition of torpedoes for the Scorpene submarines. Its tender for acquiring six new submarines under Project-75 India, estimated to cost over Rs one lakh crore, is also stuck as the government has to alter a 1999 decision to build all future submarines only indigenously. The Navy is also waiting for final clearance to acquire 16 mine countermeasure vessels from a South Korean firm which has been stuck after complaints were filed against the fairness of the process under the previous government.
On whether the new government will do a full review of the defence acquisition process to expedite procurements, Jaitley said, ‘I would not use the word full review but even under the present procedures also, expediting processes is still possible. Every file need not move up and down indefinite number of times.’
He also declined to speculate on the possibility of use of Indian troops to evacuate Indian nationals stranded in conflict-ravaged Iraq. A total of 120 Indians were in violence-hit areas in the oil-rich Gulf nation, out of whom 16 have already been evacuated and one of those kidnapped has fled from captivity.