On October 4-5, the Navy hosted the second edition of the Goa Maritime Conclave (GMC) attended by 10 Indian Ocean littoral states and observers from a few friendly foreign countries. It was set up in 2017 to identify common threats in the region and evolve cooperative mechanisms to tackle them. In a brief conversation with The Hindu on the sidelines of the GMC, Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh spoke about the conclave, India’s push for regional cooperation and the indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA).
What is the outcome and takeaways from GMC 2019?
The whole aim was that its a smaller grouping of like-minded countries. So if we can get some outcomes especially in areas which are non-controversial and which concerns all of us. My intention is to try and come out with some common issues like Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA), share information and get a common operating picture. That is our pitch mainly. Also a lot of training and exercising together.
What are the areas in which littoral states want assistance from India?
Bilaterally there are a lot of issues. Mainly the focus is on capacity building for smaller countries providing them some hardware, ships. Then capability enhancement by providing training. Its mostly centred around that. Some of the common concerns they want to help us out. Information exchange for common picture, intelligence sharing concerning terrorism, drugs and trafficking. Those are the major areas.
There has been talk of India being the hub for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) efforts in the region. Is there some movement on that front?
We are not a hub. In the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) we have taken the initiative to form the working group and helped formulate the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on HADR. Idea is when we are confronted, that time we don’t start searching for common SOPs.
At the conclave, you briefly talked of Navy using electric propulsion to power its ships in future. Can you elaborate on it?
Electric propulsion is at a nascent stage. There are few countries which have the technology. First we have set up a Medium Voltage (MV) lab in Valsura, Gujarat so we can train people and understand the full complexities of electric propulsion. For our future ships, the Landing Platform Docks and the second Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC-II) we intend to have electric propulsion.
I mentioned electric propulsion in the context of the green efforts of the Navy. We are looking at electric propulsion to cut down on use of diesel and fossil fuels. We even tried using the green fuel that the U.S. had to offer, by adding an additive. But that has not really worked.
The indigenous Naval Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) recently had its first arrested landing on the Shore Based Test Facility in Goa. What is the way forward for the programme?
This LCA is a technology demonstrator. We will assist the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) in this effort. But the one which we want, we are making the Quality Requirements (QR) for it, a twin engine deck based fighter. If it meets the QRs and in the correct time frame, we will take it.
These QRs are separate from the ongoing tender for 57 carrier based fighters. It (the new development) won’t meet the timelines for this (tender).
What is the status of IAC-II?
We have to take it up... The Navy is keen. If you see the blueprint of the 1950s, it is built on three aircraft carriers so that two are always available while one is in repairs. We are very much looking forward for the government to take a decision on it.