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Top Navy commanders to deliberate on security challenges

NEW DELHI (PTI): Top Navy commanders will hold extensive deliberations during a four-day conference from Tuesday on security challenges facing India on the sea front with a focus on China's rising naval prowess and the surge in its military presence in the Indian Ocean region.

The bi-annual 'naval commanders' conference will also review the implementation of the Navy's ambitious modernisation plan, its combat readiness and a host of other operational and strategic issues.

"The Navy's combat readiness would be reviewed with focus on operational effectiveness of combat platforms, logistics and development of shore support infrastructure for sustaining distant operations," Navy Spokesperson Capt. D K Sharma said.

The conference will be addressed by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and top defence ministry officials are expected to attend its various sessions. Chiefs of Indian Army and Indian Air Force are also likely to address the conference.

Sources said China's increasing presence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), its fresh military deployments in the geo-politically sensitive South China Sea and efforts to increase its overall naval dominance may figure during the deliberations.

Sharma said a host of operational issues, including efforts to make the Navy self-reliant and modernise its warfare capability by means of unmanned systems will also be examined by the top commanders.

"Aspects complementary to combat effectiveness, such as training, human resource management, fleet maintenance and pan-Navy measures for enhancing safety will be reviewed," said the Navy spokesperson.

He said that there will be a discussion on issues relating to safety, including on the Navy's Safety Organisation and rescue support during submarine accidents in the IOR.

The Comptroller and Auditor General in July, in a report, had said the Indian Navy's ships and submarines were involved in 38 accidents between 2007-08 and 2015-16, adversely affecting the operational preparedness of the force.

The auditor had said the accidents were primarily attributable to fire, explosion and flooding, adding that the Navy had no institutionalised framework to deal with safety since its inception.

Sharma said the commanders will also review the security of various naval establishments in the backdrop of terrorist threats and the prevailing security scenario.

"The Commanders will also discuss plans for 'enhancing and sustaining the Navy's operational footprint in the IOR' in keeping with the Prime Minister's vision of 'Security and Growth for All in the Region' (SAGAR)," Sharma said in a statement.

In this regard, initiatives to further maritime cooperation with other navies in the IOR as also the Indian Navy's ability to proactively respond to maritime security challenges, including natural calamities, in the region will be reviewed, he said.

An interaction is also planned with Amitabh Kant, the CEO of Niti Aayog to provide the Commanders a perspective on broader national interests, said Sharma.

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