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Top Indian Navy commanders discuss maritime security issues

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Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in a group photograph with Navy officers at the Naval Commanders conference in New Delhi on Tuesday. A PTI Photo

NEW DELHI (PTI): Top Indian naval commanders in a four-day conference that began on Tuesday will discuss aspects concerning the country's maritime security, analyse mission-based deployments and larger issues of the geo-strategic Indian Ocean, a region witnessing increasing Chinese presence.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who inaugurated the conference, told reporters that there has been a very pointed discussion on issues raised by naval commanders and Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba.

The defence secretary, the financial advisor in the defence ministry and the Navy have been having talks with an open mind and several issues of concern have seen a "meaningful discussion", she said.

The conference will culminate on May 11.

Admiral Lanba said during the conference, "We are going to analyse our mission-based deployments, maintenance to operational transitional cycle and larger issues of geo-strategic Indian Ocean."

The Indian Ocean, considered the backyard of the Indian Navy, is critical to India's strategic interests. Over the years, the region has witnessed increasing Chinese presence.

China increased its presence in the Indian Ocean Region by constructing the deep-sea Gwadar Port in southern Pakistan and a naval base in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa. The region also has Chinese ships deployed for anti-piracy operations.

The commanders would also deliberate on improving the Teeth-to-Tail ratio and explore niche fields such as Artificial Intelligence and Big Data Analytics.

Harnessing cutting-edge technologies, specifically those 'Made in India' would be a key focus during the conference.

The Indian Navy's focus over the past year has been on combat efficiency and material readiness, and upkeep of its fleet of 131 ships and submarines.

Measures to ensure safety, continued training, and checks and balances on crew proficiency aboard its front-line warships will also be reviewed.

The commanders will also discuss the optimal utilisation of the Navy's share of the defence budget by prioritising capital acquisitions and modernisation plans to bridge critical capability gaps.

Sitharaman said the Navy's requests for major acquisition projects for 2018-19 will go through smoothly and there is nothing to worry in that regard.

She said a large part of the Navy's requests between 2017-18 has been taken to a logical conclusion and many of them are almost on the verge of getting tied up.

"The CNC (Commercial Negotiation Committee) are over and so on well beyond over Rs 30,000 crore in 2017-18 with a fair deal of Navy's requests taken care of.

"2018-19 requests are very well received and they will go through smoothly so there is nothing to worry," she said.

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