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Defence Minister to address top Navy brass today

NEW DELHI (PTI): Defence Minister Arun Jaitley will address the top brass of Indian Navy at its bi-annual commanders' conference on Tuesday where senior officers would discuss issues such as the maintenance and safety of the aging warship fleet and the status of its major projects.

In his maiden visit to any such conference of the force, the Defence Minister will address the top brass of the force and is expected to communicate the major objectives of the Government to the maritime force, Navy officials said.

The conference was delayed by over two months due to resignations by the then Navy Chief Admiral D K Joshi and Western Naval Commander Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha and will be the first to be headed by Admiral Robin Dhowan.

The development of major infrastructure projects such as Project Seabird in Karwar would also be high on agenda of the commanders' conference along with the warships' maintenance and their safety.

On the aging fleet of around 140 different types of combat vessels, officials said the Navy has around 50 new warships while others are relatively old and the top commanders would discuss ways to keep them in good shape through proper maintenance practices.

Due to a spate of mishaps involving its warships, Joshi had to resign from his post owning moral responsibility of all the minor and major accidents.

The meeting is also scheduled to discuss measures for strengthening coastal security which has been flagged as a key priority area by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, they said.

The force will also review the status of its major infrastructure projects such as Project Seabird, which has been in the making for almost 40 years and the expansion of runway in Andaman and Nicobar Islands under Project Baaz, they said.

In the run-up to the conference, all the three chiefs of commands of the maritime force called on the Navy Chief and discussed various issues of "operational and administrative" nature, officials said.

The three commanders included Eastern Navy Commander Vice Admiral Satish Soni, Western Naval Chief Vice Admiral Anil Chopra and the Southerh Naval Commander Vice Admiral SPS Cheema.

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