This Article is part of the 2011 Flashpoint – Asia Series | India is not twiddling its thumbs and sitting idly waiting by as China’s military buildup reaches climax over the past decade. The former Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes, while speaking in the aftermath of the May 1998 Indian nuclear tests, clearly identified China as the number one threat for India. In 1999, the government of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee approved a 30-year US$2.9 billion submarine building plan under which 30 submarines were to be constructed. Apparently, construction work on at least four nuclear submarines is in full swing, while the indigenously made Arihant nuclear powered submarine has already been launched. But Indian plans are moving by Indian time, so far its submarine fleet is facing depletion and, instead of increasing, the number of Indian submarines is expected to reduce to 16 by 2012, as a pair of obsolete Foxtrot submarines will be decommissioned.
In March 2009, the Manmohan Singh government cleared Project 15B under which next generation warships are under various stages of construction. Besides, at least three Kolkata class destroyers are under construction under Project 15A scheduled to join the navy in the next two years. Two aircraft carriers – INS Vikramaditya (the ex Russian Kiev class “Admiral Gorshkov”) and INS Vikrant – are currently under construction, but their launching date is yet unclear. To strike a harmonious balance, the Indian Navy is in the process of beefing up its fleet of stealth frigates and has initiated several new projects in this regard. Shivalik – a domestically built Project 17 A frigate commissioned in 2010 is India’s first stealth frigate of this class. The Sahyadri and Satpura will follow in 2011. All this is as per the government’s plans to maintain a force level of more than 140 warships. Whether this ambitious plan will be met is still debated under naval circles.
2011 Flashpoints: Asia features include the following topics: