India inducts second aircraft carrier as seas get militarised

KOCHI, INDIA (BLOOMBERG) – India inducted a second domestically made aircraft carrier and the largest warship it has ever built into its naval fleet on Friday (Aug 2), giving the South Asian nation a boost as the Indian Ocean gets more militarised.

Protecting the sea lanes of trade in the Indo-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions are a priority today and this will boost trade and the global economy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a ceremony in the southern city of Kochi.

Mr Modi inducted the 45,000-ton Indian Naval Ship Vikrant, which was twenty years in the making.

The vessel will carry 30 aircraft and 1,700 sailors.

New Delhi is also considering plans to commission a third carrier to add to its naval capabilities.

“Carriers give countries the ability to exert influence by being present at faraway places continuously,” said retired Commodore Srikanth Kesnur, who teaches at India’s Naval College in Goa.

“It’s a much needed shot in the arm when the Indo-Pacific is militarising.”

There’s an estimated 125 foreign naval vessels in the Indian Ocean region at any given time, roughly three times the number deployed in the wake of the Sept 11 terrorist attacks when the US invaded Afghanistan.

The waters off India haven’t seen these many naval vessels together since World War II as both China and and the US and its allies deploy more warships in the area.

Reports to US Congress suggest China is planning a six carrier navy.

One report from the US Department of Defence has warned the “multi-carrier force” of the Chinese navy will have the capability strike beyond its “immediate periphery”.

The INS Vikrant will fly India’s recently purchased US-made MH-60R multi-role helicopters and share MIG-29K naval fighters with the other aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya.

India has about 40 MIG-29 K fighters.

India’s Navy is in the market for over two dozen deck-based fighters. Dassault and Boeing have both pitched their fighters.