Indian Navy is poised to complete the nuclear-weapon triad, ensuring that India's maritime and nuclear doctrines would then be aligned to ensure that its nuclear insurance comes from the sea, its chief Admiral Nirmal Verma has said, adding that the force also plans to operate at least two aircraft carriers at any given time, once its indigenous programme for such large warships is complete.
"The Indian Navy is poised to complete the triad, and our maritime and nuclear doctrines would then be aligned to ensure that our nuclear insurance will come from the sea," Verma said addressing the International Institute for Strategic Studies at London during a three-day official visit this week.
Noting that it is a necessity to sustain strategic deterrence, Verma said, "India is the only nuclear weapon state to announce an unequivocal 'no-first-use' commitment and to declare that a world without nuclear weapons will enhance our collective security."
"In this backdrop, a retaliatory strike capability that is credible and invulnerable is an imperative," the chief said.
India already has platforms and weapons to deliver nuclear warheads from the land and the air. It is now developing platforms and weapons for delivery of nuclear weapons from under the water, which forms the nuclear triad.
In this regard, India is building the INS Arihant nuclear-powered submarine apart from the K-series submarine-launched nuclear-capable missiles.
On demonstrating the Indian Navy's prowess, Verma said, "The Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) programme is planned to be a continuing process over the next decade-plus, with the Indian Navy’s medium-term aim being to have at least two fully operational and combat-worthy carriers available at any given time."
The IAC is under construction at Cochin Shipyard, an Indian shipping ministry owned shipbuilder, in Kerala on India's south-western coast.
Cochin Shipyard had laid the keel for the first IAC, christened INS Vikrant, in February 2009. The first IAC will weigh about 45,000 tonnes and it is likely to join the Indian Navy service by 2016.
India will also build the second IAC soon, but it will weigh about 65,000 tonnes and is likely to be called INS Vishal.
The Indian Navy is already operating the ageing INS Viraat, which has completed close to 53 years of naval service. In its earlier avatar, Viraat was HMS Hermes in the British Royal Navy. India had bought it in 1987 and rechristened it as Viraat. Since then, the warship has completed 25 years of service in the Indian Navy and is expected to retire after INS Vikrant is inducted.
Apart from these, India's plans to induct the Russian-origin INS Vikramaditya, erstwhile Russian Navy's Admiral Gorshkov, in December this year. It is going through sea trials off Russian coast at present.
The innovative Indian spirit is another strength. We have seen it repeatedly, most intensely during the post-Pokhran sanctions. Last month, the aircraft carrier Viraat celebrated her 25th anniversary in the Indian Navy. It is not unique for a ship to celebrate a silver jubilee – only that the ship in question is the ex-HMS Hermes that had already celebrated her 25th year while she was under the Royal Naval ensign," the admiral said.
Noting that the Indian Navy has adopted "a capability-based, rather than a threat based approach" for future growth, Verma said, "We have articulated a perspective plan that takes into account our maritime security issues and lays out a road map for development of capability up to 2027."
He noted that the Indian Navy is a "Builder’s Navy" and gave the examples of the indigenous aircraft carrier project, besides the ongoing construction of destroyers and frigates, Light Combat Aircraft (Navy) and strategic submarine programmes to buttress the point.
"Of the 47 warships and submarines presently on order, 44 are from Indian shipyards," he added.
"The induction programme is structured to continue at a pace such that over the next five years we expect to induct ships and submarines at an average rate of five platforms per year provided the yards deliver as per contracted time lines," the navy chief said.
"Our air element is also being strengthened, with the induction of (Russian-origin) MiG-29K fighters, (American) P8I maritime reconnaissance aircraft as well as multi role helicopters," he added.