Navy Chief Admiral Singh flags concern over decline in funds allocation to Navy

New Delhi, Dec 3 (PTI) In the backdrop of China's aggressive naval expansion, Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh on Tuesday flagged concerns over decline in the Navy's share in defence budget from 18 per cent in 2012-13 to 13 per cent in 2019-20 and sought higher allocation for his force.

In his annual press conference ahead of the Navy Day on Wednesday, Admiral Singh also said that a Chinese PLA ship was forced to retreat from India's Exclusive Economic Zone in the Andaman and Nicobar islands recently, asserting that such activities will be dealt with sternly.

Touching upon the Navy's modernisation initiative, he said the force envisages induction of three aircraft carriers so that two carrier battle groups (CBGs) are available for deployment in the Indian Ocean Region at all times.

The Navy Chief said the first indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC) will be fully operational by 2022 and it will have a fleet of MiG-29K aircraft.

He also said the broad contours of IAC 2, to be constructed in India as a 65,000 tons CATOBAR carrier with electric propulsion, have been formulated and the case will be processed for approval soon.

On resource allocation to the Navy, he said in the face of shortages, emphasis has been on 'prioritisation, rationalistion and economy of expenditure.' 'The Navy's share of the defence budget has declined from 18 per cent in 2012 to approx 13 per cent in 2019-20. While we have projected our requirement to the government, we remain committed to progress force modernisation, using the available resources optimally,' he said.

'Our hope is that we will get some more funds,' the Navy Chief added.

Asked about the massive expansion of the Chinese Navy, he said they are moving at the pace they are capable of and 'we are moving at the place we are capable of'.

On China's increasing forays into the Indian Ocean Region, Admiral Singh said seven to eight Chinese ships are usually present in region at any point of time and the deployment by the neighbouring country in the region started in 2008.

The Navy Chief assured the nation that 'as the primary instrument of India's maritime power, the Indian Navy will continue to play a decisive role in providing effective response across the full spectrum of challenges in our maritime domain and ensuring national prosperity.' On the proposed Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), he said the position should be adequately empowered to implement strategic plans.

Asked why China has not been invited to the Milan maritime exercises along with 41 other countries, he said only like-minded nations will be part of it.

About the challenges in the neighbourhood, he said no action of any other player in the region should impact India, and if it does, then the force will deal with it appropriately.

To a query on the situation in the Indo-Pacific region, the Navy Chief said Indian Navy was ready to work with like-minded nations based on common interests of ensuring safe and secure seas and promote rules-based order.

He also said that the quadrilateral coalition of India, the US, Japan and Australia does not have a military role in the Indo-Pacific region at the moment.

The Navy chief also said India is playing a stabilising role in the Indo-Pacific region.

On whether the Navy has any plan to conduct an exercise with China, Admiral Singh suggested that he was not the person to take such a decision. 'It is beyond my pay grade,' he quipped.

Elaborating on the Navy's modernisation plan, he said 50 ships and submarines are currently under construction, and out of them 48 are being built in Indian shipyards.

These include the aircraft carrier Vikrant, P-15B class destroyers, P17A class stealth frigates, offshore patrol vessels and Scorpene class submarines.

The last of the P 28 anti-submarine warfare (ASW) corvette is scheduled for delivery by early next year. The delivery of four additional P8I maritime reconnaissance aircraft is scheduled by 2021, he said.

'We have also contracted for 16 ASW Shallow Water Craft and 36 aircraft which includes Hindustan Aeronaitics Ltd-built 12 Dornier aircraft, 16 advanced light helicopters and eight Chetak helicopters,' he said.

He also said that initial approval has also been accorded for 41 ships, 31 helicopters, 24 multi-role helicopters and six additional P 8I aircraft.

'Under the government's strategic partnership model, we are pursuing the project of P 75 (I) submarines and Naval Utility Helicopters,' he said. PTI MPB RT