Kochi | Navy is planning to develop infrastructure at Lakshadweep Islands which is being made a strategic outpost, Flag Officer Commanding in Chief, Southern Naval Command, Vice Admiral SPS Cheema said today. The Navy envisions to develop infrastructure at the Lakshadweep islands for a forward operating base. Towards this, Bitra Island has recently been approved by the Union Government to be developed as the fourth Naval detachment, Vice Admiral Cheema told reporters on board INS Tir, the training ship of the navy.
Minicoy, Kavaratti, Androth are the three islands in Lakshadweep which already have naval detachments. Six radars have been set up in Lakshadweep and four in Kerala as part of phase one development of coastal radar chains, the Vice Admiral, who is also the Commander-In-Chief Coastal Defence for this area, said. India’s economic interest are centred on maritime region and their protection is the responsibility of the Navy.
Ninety per cent of trade by volume and 70 per cent by value goes by sea and if such sea lanes are not protected, prosperity of the people will be hindered, he said. On Maritime Infrastructure Development Front, he said a proposal for 500 metres of berth and 25 acres of land at Vizhinjam in Thiruvananthapuram and a draft cabinet note for development of 650 acres of reclaimed land along with 2000 metres of berthing space as part of Cochin port’s outer harbour expansion plans was under the Defence Ministry’s consideration.
Post 26/11, coastal security has become a ‘huge responsibility’. ..On one hand we are preparing for larger wars, but we have day-to-day responsibility of combating terrorists and piracy, he said. The fishing community, in the form of ‘Kadalora Jagratha Samithis’ has been proactive in prompt reporting of any unidentified boats in the area thus proving to be the first and the best line of defence against any coastal security threat, he said.
A combined coastal security exercises, encompassing coastal areas of Kerala, Mahe and Lakshadweep islands was conducted on November 18-19 and an apex level coastal review meeting, co-chaired by the Vice Admiral and Chief Secretary is scheduled on December 17 at Thiruvananthapuram.
During the last one year, the Southern Naval command has trained over 54,000 naval and coast guard personnel and 650 foreign trainees.
The Southern Naval command has been allocated 16 fast interceptor crafts of which 12 have been inducted. Of these, two have been based at the Lakshadweep and four more are planned to be based shortly.
The Vice Admiral said the Navy was growing in consonance with very definite Maritime Capability Perspective plan and this with support of the Centre, was progressing well.
On the newly inducted INS Kolkata, a state-of-the-art missile destroyer, and the largest warship built in India till date, which is on a visit to Kochi as part of its training here, he said we are one of the few nations which has own design bureau and efforts are to indigenise totally the content of equipment on board.
Next ship coming up next year will be INS Kochi, he said. INS Kolkata was commissioned into the Navy by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August14 and is the first ship of the Project 15A class and is a follow-up of the legendary Project 15 ‘Delhi’ class destroyers which entered service in the late 1990s. The Vice Admiral said of late, it was being noticed that youth from Kerala were not attracted to Navy. Over a period of time, youth has gone away. Youth from land locked states are now joining the Navy in larger way, he said.
Kerala produces natural mariners and seamen, he said. The Vice Admiral also remembered the 24-year-old naval sailor, Vishnu Unni, from Palakaad who jumped from a bridge to save the life of a drowning woman and a child on October 3 . While the woman was saved, her child died later. Unni has been missing since then with his body yet to be retrieved. But the Navy has not given up the search for the sailor, the Vice Admiral said.
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