This year may yet redeem itself. A couple of Covid-19 vaccines may get approved by the end of the year. That would mean that some may reach the market by early next year. Of course, that would not be the end of Corona, but at least the chain might get broken leading to a slowdown of the disease. This alone should be the reason for lifting of gloom that came to define 2020.
But life, to paraphrase a line from Queen’s iconic song ‘I want to break free’, still went on and will go on in 2021 too. And so, here is the December issue, as always, a special on the Indian Navy. Usually a celebratory issue, this year there has not been much to rejoice. For good part of the year, the navy, along with other services, was engaged in operations to support government’s ameliorative measures for Covid-19.
The unfolding crisis in Ladakh, though essentially pertaining to the land and air domain, has put the navy also on alert, and to some extent under pressure, especially when retired officers and television generals say that the navy could interdict the sea lanes of communications to relieve Chinese pressure in Ladakh. Of course, good sense continues to prevail.
The Corona crisis also threw the modernisation timelines off gear. The economic slowdown of the last few years had already stretched navy’s meagre budgetary allocations between commitments and immediate priorities, but this year, the situation turned precarious. Even the long-approved programmes, for instance, the next line for submarines, could not get off the table, despite defence secretary declaring in August that the RFP would be announced soon.
Within these limitations, we have tried to pack in as much optimism in the navy special as possible. While the lead article looks at how the navy must strike a balance between the present realities and its long-term perspective plans, we also look at how naval exercises, especially the Malabar series, can evolve into real interoperability and eventually joint operations, if needed. There is also an update on Project Varsha, a naval base being constructed on the eastern seaboard specifically for the nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed submarines.
In India and the BRI series, this month’s focus in keeping with the theme of the issue, is on Vietnam. The anchor piece of December is the quick recap of the year that 2020 was. In addition to that are the usual news reports and technology updates. May you all have much to look forward to in the new year.