'The Development of Infrastructure at Karwar is a High Priority as the Base is set to Play a Significant Role in the Realisation of Our Objectives’
Chief of Navy Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba, PVSM, AVSM, ADC

Sunil LanbaThe naval base at Karwar has been running behind schedule. What is the current status and how much of a priority is that? What would be its significance strategically once it is fully operational?
Karwar Naval Base setup under Project Seabird Phase I is already operational. A few ships including the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya are already based and operating from the naval base. The infrastructure is being further augmented under Project Seabird Phase II to enable basing of more ships, submarines and aircraft along with associated repair, accommodation, administrative and logistics facilities.

All efforts are being made to ensure completion of the Project by December 2022, as against the originally envisaged timeline of 2021. Seabird Phase II is the largest infrastructure project of Indian Navy with its own unique set of challenges in planning, tendering, contracting and execution of work. Notwithstanding the challenges, the contract for the first of the Marine Works Package under Project Seabird Phase II is planned to be concluded by end 2016.

The Indian Navy aims to progressively upgrade its capabilities to meet the emerging security challenges. In accordance with our Maritime Infrastructure Perspective Plan (MIPP), the development of infrastructure at Karwar is a high priority area as the base is set to play a significant role in the realisation of our objectives.

India’s growing economy and maritime trade mandates a strong Indian Navy to safeguard our national interests as readers would be aware that 90 per cent of our trade by volume and 100 per cent of our energy imports are by the sea route. A growing navy needs suitable bases to provide basing, repair, logistics, administrative and operational support. Project Seabird Phase II aims to fulfil a long-cherished need for a full-fledged naval base on the West Coast of Indian Peninsula apart from naval base at Mumbai with a distinct advantage in terms of influencing the busy International Shipping Lanes (ISLs) in the Northern Indian Ocean Region (IOR) as also enhancing maritime security in the region.

In terms of modernisation, how would you list your acquisition priorities, given the shortfall in almost every category?
Let me categorically state that notwithstanding some shortfalls, the Indian Navy remains a well-balanced, multi-dimensional force with modern surface, sub-surface and air assets, for defending our national interests. The situation is not as grim as you have made out in your question.

Whilst navy’s modernisation programme is continuing apace, there are gaps in certain niche areas such as minesweepers, submarines, and multi-role and utility helicopters whose replacement/ induction has been delayed. The government is seized of the issues and steps are being taken to ensure that capability shortfalls are overcome at the earliest.

Now that Project-75(I) has been categorised as ‘Make in India’ programme, what is still holding it up? When are you expecting the RFP to be issued?
The Project P-75(I) would be steered under the ambit of ‘Strategic Partnership’ Model, the guidelines of which are under deliberation at the ministry of defence (MoD). Once the guidelines are in place we will initiate the process for shortlisting and selecting the foreign collaborators as well as the Indian shipyard, i.e the Strategic Partner.

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