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'Indian Navy maintained high operational readiness during COVID-19 crisis'

PANAJI (PTI): Union Minister of State for Defence Shripad Naik on Monday said the Indian Navy has maintained high operational readiness during the COVID-19 crisis and remained in a "combat-ready posture", ensuring security and stability in the country's maritime domain.

Naik was addressing a gathering after commissioning the Indian Naval Air Squadron 323, the first unit of the indigenously-built ALH (Advanced Light Helicopter) MkIII aircraft, at the INS Hansa base near Vasco town, about 30 km from Panaji.

The Minister said the past year saw many challenges.

In addition to the omnipresent challenges to the national security, the country witnessed a security situation at the LAC and security implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the manner in which it affected the operational, economic and social landscape, he said.

"I am glad to note that the Navy has maintained high levels of operational readiness during these crises and remained in a combat-ready posture, thus ensuring security and stability in our maritime domain," he said.

Naik said the Western Naval Command has been at the forefront of securing the country's maritime interests in the region, and its "posture, readiness and forward deployments" have acted as a strong deterrent to forces inimical to India's interests.

Hailing the Navy's role during the pandemic, Naik said, "The Indian Navy has invested significant efforts in meeting all regional commitments in furthering our diplomatic engagements with friends and partners in the Indo-Pacific (region)."

While the natural tendency during the COVID-19 pandemic was to look outwards, the Navy was a key instrument of India's COVID outreach, delivering assistance and support to the country's maritime neighbours and partners in the Indian Ocean Region, he said.

Naik said the prompt and effective deployment of the Navy in the time of crisis has underscored India's vision of being the "preferred security partner and first responder in our region".

"As we move towards becoming a five trillion dollar economy, we must remember that no country can aspire to become an economic or regional powerhouse while being dependent on imports to defend itself," the Minister said.

Speaking about the ALH commissioned on Monday, Naik said the new ALH Mk III, with its full glass cockpit, new Shakti engines, advanced maritime patrol radar and infrared electro-optical equipment, will enhance the country's shore- based surveillance capabilities in the coastal areas.

Vice Admiral R Hari Kumar, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Western Naval Command, was present on the occasion.

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