PM Modi commissions INS Vikrant

Updated on Sep 03, 2022 12:47 AM IST

Security concerns in the Indian Ocean and the Indo-Pacific were long ignored, but now the strategic region is a top priority for India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in Kochi on Friday as he commissioned INS Vikrant — the largest warship to be built in the country — into the navy.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi commissioned the INS Vikrant, India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, in Kochi on Friday. (INDIAN NAVY VIA AP)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi commissioned the INS Vikrant, India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, in Kochi on Friday. (INDIAN NAVY VIA AP)
ByRahul Singh, Kochi

Security concerns in the Indian Ocean and the Indo-Pacific were long ignored, but now the strategic region is a top priority for India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in Kochi on Friday as he commissioned INS Vikrant — the largest warship to be built in the country — into the navy, with his comments coming against the backdrop of a firm Chinese push for greater maritime influence in the far seas.

In his speech at the commissioning ceremony at Cochin Shipyard Limited where the aircraft carrier was built over 13 years at a cost of 20,000 crore, Modi said the warship put the spotlight on India’s giant strides in self-reliance, was a glowing symbol of indigenous potential, and injected new confidence into the country.

The PM also unveiled a naval ensign that draws inspiration from the seal of Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji and replaces an older flag that displayed the St George’s Cross, a colonial relic, with Modi calling it a landmark step that would further national pride and rid the country of colonial baggage.

Modi said India was pursuing a multipronged strategy to address its security concerns in the Indian Ocean and the Indo-Pacific regions, with the focus being on boosting the navy’s capability through enhanced spending on its modernisation. With INS Vikrant, India will now have two operational aircraft carriers — INS Vikramaditya bought second-hand from Russia for $2.33 billion is already in service.

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“Aircraft carriers are platforms for sea control and power projection. The second aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, will double our capabilities for such operations,” said former navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash (retd), who was among those who attended the commissioning ceremony.

Vikrant, India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, will not only strengthen India’s deterrence against its adversaries and significantly boost the country’s naval presence, reach and stature, but it is also a powerful symbol of advances in indigenous warship design and construction in the 75th year of Independence.

“Vikrant is huge. Vikrant is distinguished. Vikrant is also special. It is not just a warship, but a testament to the hard work, talent, influence and commitment of India in the 21st century. If the goals are distant, the journeys are long, the ocean and the challenges are endless, then India’s answer is Vikrant,” the PM said, addressing a gathering of nearly 3,000 people.

From building small craft in the 1960s and frigates in the 1980s to destroyers in the 1990s and now an indigenous aircraft carrier, India has come a long way and set new goals for self-reliance to build a world-class military.

India is the sixth country in the world to have indigenously designed and built an aircraft carrier with a displacement of more than 40,000 tonnes, after the US, the UK, Russia, France and China.

“India has joined a few countries in the world that manufacture such huge aircraft carriers with indigenous technology. INS Vikrant has filled the country with new confidence,” Modi said, adding that no challenge was insurmountable for the country.

The 45,000-tonne aircraft carrier has an indigenous content of 76%. It is 262 metres long, houses 15 decks, 2,300 compartments, has enough room for 30 aircraft, a crew of 1,600, and has an endurance of 7,500 nautical miles.

“The aircraft carrier is the incomparable Amrit of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav (75 years of Independence). Vikrant is a unique reflection of India becoming self-reliant. It is a symbol of indigenous potential, resources and skills,” Modi said.

India has been operating aircraft carriers for decades. Vikrant will be the fourth aircraft carrier to be operated by the navy after the first INS Vikrant (British origin) from 1961 to 1997, INS Viraat (British origin) from 1987 to 2016, and INS Vikramaditya (Russian-origin) 2013 onwards. It is named after India’s first aircraft carrier.

The commissioning of INS Vikrant at the beginning of “Amrit kaal” (the run-up to the centenary of Independence) reflects India’s resolve to bolster national s security over the next 25 years, defence minister Rajnath Singh said.

The commissioning ceremony was as much about remembering the past as it was about celebrating the future, with several veterans who had served on board the first INS Vikrant attending the function as special invitees.

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The PM said women officers and sailors will serve on board INS Vikrant in the coming times, and “there will be no boundaries for the daughters of India.”

HT reported in July that some of the women sailors, who will be inducted into the navy as Agniveers in early 2023, are likely to be deployed on Vikrant. Women are being recruited into the navy for the first time in the personnel below officer rank (PBOR) cadre under the government’s new Agnipath model for short-term induction of soldiers into the three services.

The navy is giving women officers more opportunities to serve on board warships alongside their male counterparts, with several of them already assigned to front-line ships operating in the broad expanse of the Indian Ocean.

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