At sunset at the Naval Dockyard on Tuesday, the Indian Navy minesweeper INS Bedi ended its last day at sea, after flying the Indian flag for 30 years.
The decommissioning of INS Bedi also saw the country’s ageing minesweeper fleet shrink to eight, from 12 in 2007.
A minesweeper is a small naval warship designed to counter the threat posed by naval mines.
There is no immediate plan for fresh additions in this class of ships, and the depleting fleet of minesweepers in the Indian Navy is cause for concern because of the looming threat that terrorists pose from neighbouring states like Pakistan.
Following a string of intelligence reports of terror threats to ships docked in Mumbai’s harbour, the Navy, over a
period of time, plans to dock most of its assets at INS Kadamba near Karwar, sources added.
Given that its primary job is to ensure that a patrol area is free of naval mines that can cripple a ship, a minesweeper is an important asset to any blue water force — which is basically a Navy that has self-sufficient units that can roam any part of the world without stopping to restock or refuel.
The retiring of India’s minesweepers inducted between 1978 and 1988, began in 2007, with the decommissioning of INS Pondicherry. INS Porbandar and INS Bhavnagar were taken off duty after that, the latter ship earlier this year.
Our remaining eight minesweepers (see box, Those still with Navy) have served the Navy for more than 20 years.
Of the eight, the Indian Navy plans to retrofit six, sources added, although it is not yet clear which of the six will go through the retrofitting.