New Delhi: Taking note of the "complex security matrix" in the Indian Ocean Region and "political developments", Defence Minister A K Antony today asked the Indian Navy to maintain high levels of preparedness in the area.
Inaugurating a four day-long Naval Commander's Conference in New Delhi, Mr Antony highlighted the Navy's ability to play a leading role in ensuring peace and stability in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
"The security situation in our immediate neighbourhood has become really complex. Considering the challenges in the IOR, it is essential to maintain high levels of operational preparedness at all times," he said.
On prevailing factors in the region which needs consideration, he said, "On the one hand, there are some political developments. On the other hand, a number of other factors are a cause for worry and need to be factored into our preparations, both in the short-term and long-term."
India's strategic location in the IOR and the professional capability of our Navy bestows upon us a natural ability to play a leading role in ensuring peace and stability here, Mr Antony told the Commanders.
The Defence Minister also stressed upon free movement of trade and energy supplies and various economic activities such as fishing and extraction of mineral resources and termed them "crucial" for the economic security.
"Security of maritime activity through sea-lanes in Indian Ocean is of crucial importance for the economic prosperity of our nation and that of the world," he said.
Commending the Navy's modernisation programme, Antony specially mentioned the induction of the nuclear-powered submarine INS Chakra and said, "It has ushered in a new era of submarine operations".
"It (INS Chakra) has placed us in a select group of Navies that operate such a platform. We must ensure that Chakra is utilised effectively to harness its real potential and also evolve operational concepts for future platforms," Mr Antony said.
Observing that the Navy is on its course to acquire potent platforms which will add to its blue water capability, he said, "Induction of INS Vikramaditya in the near future, the potent MiG 29 Ks, as well as P-8I Rong-Range Maritime Reconnaissance Aircraft would strengthen the Navy further." Mr Antony also highlighted the recent maiden successful test flight of Naval version of Light Combat Aircraft (LCA-Navy) in this context.
Expressing satisfaction over Navy's commitment to indigenization, he said, "44 out of 48 ships and submarines, presently on order, are being constructed in India. The Navy has also maintained close liaison with DRDO and participated actively in research and development projects."
Cautioning that the satisfactory pace of indigenization should not lead to "complacence", he said, "Public Sector shipyards must speed up construction of warships and submarines and further modernise the infrastructure and technology of ship-production."
The Defence Minister also exhorted the Navy and other agencies to put in more efforts to meet the timelines of the ongoing projects.
"This requires a synergy and active cooperation between Navy and all other concerned agencies. Such synergy is imperative for achieving self-reliance and ultimately reducing our dependence on foreign suppliers, particularly in areas of advanced technology," he said.
Stressing on the government's commitment to improving the service conditions of its armed forces, Mr Antony said, "To increase the attractiveness of Navy as a career, the Defence Ministry has taken several initiatives for grant of Modified Assured Career Progression Scheme and approved the honorary rank of Chief Petty Officers (CPO) for sailors."
"Our government will continue to provide the necessary funds to construct accommodation for Service personnel under the Married Accommodation Project for officers and sailors," he added.