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PM dedicates largest warship, pitches for self-reliance

Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves from the cockpit of MiG-29 on the deck of the newly dedicated India's largest warship INS Vikramaditya, off the coast of Goa on Saturday. Photo: PTI.

ONBOARD AIRCRAFT CARRIER (PTI): Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday dedicated India's largest warship INS Vikramaditya to the nation and pitched for making the country self-reliant in manufacturing defence equipment, shedding dependence on imports.

In his first outing after taking charge as Prime Minister, he addressed the naval personnel onboard the ship off the Goa coast, calling the addition of the warship to the force as a "historic" step.

"It is an important day for our nation. It is a golden day in Indian Navy's history. For me, it is a matter of pride and happiness that INS Vikramaditya is joining the Navy. It is a historic step," he said.

Stressing on the need for self-reliance in defence equipment manufacturing, he said, "We need to give immense importance to latest technology. This will help the nation.

Why should we import defence equipment? We must be self sufficient. Why can't we send our defence equipment to other nations."

The Prime Minister also promised to set up a War Memorial for those who sacrificed their lives for the country.

He said this government has come with a determination and was committed to implement the "One Rank, One pension" scheme for defence personnel.

"Our government has the potential to match anyone in the world and the reason for this is the capability of our soldiers who give us the strength to do so," he said in his address, adding that the country intends to move forward in the same manner, without lowering its eyes.

He also called for setting up a Naval NCC network across the country that could prepare a dedicated force of soldiers which could help the Navy emerge as a big force in the coming times.

Arriving on board the warship in a Sea King chopper, the Prime Minister was given the ceremonial guard of honour by the Navy and was briefed about the warship.

He also sat in a MIG 29 aircraft and had a feel of the combat fighter on the ship.

The Prime Minister spent a few hours on board the 44,500-tonne warship, his first visit to any defence facility.

The prime minister was accompanied by Minister of State for Defence Rao Inderjit Singh, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, Defence Secretary R K Mathur and Naval Chief Admiral Robin Dhowan.

During his stay on the ship, acquired from Russia for over Rs 15,000 crore, Modi witnessed 'air power demonstration' by various naval aircraft, including MiG 29K, Sea Harriers, P 8I Long Range Maritime Patrol Anti-Submarine Warfare aircraft, TU 142M and IL-38SD maritime surveillance planes along with Kamov and Sea King helicopters.

He also witnessed high-speed manoeuvres by the Navy's Western Fleet ships including aircraft carrier INS Viraat, Delhi-class destroyers and Talwar-class frigates.

The air demonstrations were, however, hampered by heavy rain.

Modi interacted with the senior officers and the crew.

The deal for the aircraft carrier was signed during the previous NDA regime in 2004 and the ship will be dedicated to the nation after a gap of ten years.

The vessel had joined the Indian Navy on November 16, 2013. The ship was earlier commissioned by the then defence minister A K Antony in Russia.

Vikramaditya, a floating airfield, has an overall length of about 284 metres and a maximum beam of about 60 metres, stretching as much as three football fields put together.

Standing about 20 storeys tall from the keel to the highest point, the ship has a total of 22 decks and carries 1,600 personnel.

With her complete stock of provisions, she is capable of sustaining herself at sea for about 45 days.

It is a modified Kiev-class aircraft carrier which was purchased by India from Russia for the Indian Navy in 2013.

The ship has been renamed in honour of Vikramaditya, a legendary 1st century BC emperor.

Originally built as Baku and commissioned in 1987, the carrier served with the Soviet (until the dissolution of the Soviet Union) and Russian Navies before being decommissioned in 1996 as it was too expensive to operate.

Taking a dig at the UPA, the Prime Minister said, "The decisions taken by this government have been the strong desire of our veterans and I don't know why these important task was not accomplished by our predecessors.

"The Vikramaditya is being dedicated to the nation and a strong step has been taken in strengthening India's security... This is a new milestone in our strategic capability."

Commenting on country's tag of being the largest importer of weapon systms, he said, "We have slowly entered the field of building strategic systems. For a country like India to depend on others and import weapons for security even so many years of independence, we have to get rid of this situation."

India imports over 65 per cent of its defence systems to meet its requirements and to promote indigenous manufacturing, the government has initiated several measures such as further opening up of the FDI in defence sector.

"Not only we become self reliant, we also provide them to small countries. The small countries shoud feel secure that the Indian produced defence equipment are with them," he said.

11 naval warships including the aircraft carrier INS Virat, Russian-origin Talwar class, indigenously-built Delhi class destroyers also saluted the Prime Minister on his maiden sea voyage.

The Prime Minister credited Maratha ruler Shivaji for the beginning of the navies in human history and said the maritime force helps in protecting the trade interests of the nation.

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