Date :22-Sep-2023

THE Indian Navy moving a proposal to the Government for building the second aircraft carrier at Cochin is a big push to not only indigenisation of the country’s naval prowess but also to pursue the long-cherished dream of earning the status of a Blue Water Navy. At present, India has two aircraft carriers -- INS Vikramaditya and INS Vikrant. Of these, INS Vikramaditya is a refurbished version of Russian Admiral Gorshkov. INS Vikrant, named after India’s first aircraft carrier, is an indigenously developed vessel with 76 per cent indigenous components. INS Vikrant’s commissioning in Kochi a year ago was a momentous occasion. With it, India India joined the elite league of five nations -- the USA, the UK, France, Russia, and China -- having the specialised capacity to design and build an aircraft carrier domestically. But, that moment’s import was much more than that, as could be seen in the Indian Navy’s latest proposal for building the second aircraft carrier at Cochin. Building an aircraft carrier not only demonstrates the capability a nation has, but also its aspirations of going into the vast, deep oceans of the world. That is, to become a Blue Water Navy. As far as India is concerned, it has unique position in the world. For, it has waters on three sides of its landmass. It has Arabian Sea to its west, Bay of Bengal to its east, and the Indian Ocean Region down south. At present, the Indian Navy has two fleets -- Western Fleet at Mumbai, and Eastern Fleet at Vishakhapatnam. In the Indian Ocean Region, India has its only tri-services command at Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
Besides, the Lakshadweep group of islands also comes under the responsibility of the Indian Navy. Given the complexities involved in guarding the sea sovereignty of the country, the Indian Navy has to be a three-carrier force. That is, it must have at least three aircraft carriers. It has rightly been pressing for this, to maintain at least one aircraft carrier on each coast with one in refit. Against this backdrop, the Indian Navy’s proposal for building second aircraft carrier at Cochin bears significance for India’s maritime strength and security. For, no aircraft carrier is alone. Rather, each aircraft carrier has a carrier battle group comprising destroyers, frigates, and other vessels. So, having three carriers will mean appropriate demonstration of strength. Also, being a Blue Water Navy will mean having capability to replenish at sea. Some more nations aspiring to build aircraft carrier or getting those from country having that capacity may add more contours to geopolitical fulcrum, as most of the energy trade and communications networks go through sea. Those dominating sea lines of communication and transport have an advantage over others. India is rightly trying to assert its presence in its area of influence in the seas.
Building aircraft carriers domestically provides it a leverage. Interestingly, while building aircraft carrier domestically, India has also been focussing on adding more teeth to naval aviation. It is going to get 26 Rafale fighter aircraft for INS Vikrant. Indigenous twin-engine Deck L-based fighter aircraft also may be deployed on three aircraft carriers in future. The third aircraft carrier, which will be second to be built indigenously, may also have newer technological edge. With induction of new-age aircraft, it will be imperative for the new aircraft carrier to have electromagnetic aircraft launch system. There is a tremendous scope for the Indian Navy to aid India’s rise as a global superpower. In that direction, the proposal to build second aircraft carrier at Cochin assumes great significance.