This past Saturday, a day after making a speech urging more manufacturing in India, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated India’s largest indigenously built warship, the INS Kolkata, in Mumbai. This comes two months after the prime minister dedicated another large ship, the INS Vikramaditya, in June. India’s Defense Minister Arun Jaitley and Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral R.K. Dhowan were also present at the ceremony. The INS Kolkata will be deployed in the Indian Western Fleet under the Indian Navy‘s Western Command.
The warship, which was inaugurated on August 16, 2014, represents a step forward in India’s goal of becoming more self-sufficient in meeting its own defense needs. As Modi said during a speech at the warship’s inauguration, “India can become self-reliant in this sector [defense]. Our youth will become innovative and a day will come when India will export in this sector.”
The 6,800 ton warship is considered a leap in Indian shipbuilding technology. According to reports, “INS Kolkata will be a part of the Kolkata-Class destroyers of the Indian Navy which will include follow-on ships by the names of INS Kochi and INS Chennai.” The INS Kolkata has two main guns along with chaff and close-in weapon systems. The ship will also feature an air defense weapon, the Long Range-Surface to Air Missile (LR-SAM), which is currently under development in a joint venture between India and Israel. However, the missile’s deployment has been delayed due to testing and technical issues. Some of the other capabilities of the warship include the ability to travel at a speed of 30 knots due to the propulsion of four gas turbines and the capacity to fire the 290 kilometer-range BrahMos supersonic anti-ship cruise missile.
Prime Minister Modi used the INS Kolkata’s inauguration to touch upon larger themes in a speech. Modi stressed the importance of maritime security in global trade and commerce. “In the coming days, INS Kolkata will inspire confidence to those involved in maritime trade,” Modi said. Modi additionally stated that “INS Kolkata is also a great communication platform and will be useful in securing India’s trade interests at sea.” Using a speech on security affairs to discuss commerce demonstrates Modi’s holistic vision for India’s future. Modi pointed out that India has a long coast, which gives it enormous commercial potential in the form of harbors and trade. This potential, Modi said, needs to be exploited.
Modi’s vision of India providing maritime security for the international community, especially in the Indian Ocean, aligns with India’s interests and capabilities as the greatest indigenous maritime power in the Indian Ocean. As I argued previously, Indian assertion of power in its own maritime backyard is one of the most geographically and politically feasible (and obvious) courses of action India can take in order to enhance its geopolitical position.
Modi also articulated a theory of robust security that is much more assertive than the views of his predecessors and resembles United States military views of deterrence. These views, which could potentially one day be known as the “Modi Doctrine” of Indian security, stress the need for India to be prepared and proactive on security and foreign policy issues at all times. Modi stated in his speech at the INS Kolkata inauguration that “fighting a war and winning it have now become less difficult these days. But a modern military, armed with state of the art weaponry alone is a guarantee against war. When we are capable, no one can dare challenge us.” He added that “when people have a sense of our military capability, nobody will ever dare to cast an evil eye on our nation.”
Of course, India still has some way to go before its navy or military forces reach a level where they can fully deter the “evil eyes” of other nations. However, the fact that India is making strides toward this goal demonstrates the renewed seriousness of the new leadership in attending to important security matters. Additionally, the very fact that India’s security goals and rationale have been clearly articulated and are commensurate with India’s size and potential is positive. These goals would help enhance global security, and are considered beneficial by many other countries, including Southeast Asian countries, Japan, Australia, and the United States. Finally, it is beneficial for the Indian people to hear a dose of realpolitik from their leaders, which would have the effect of shifting domestic discourse away from antiquated notions of international idealism that still linger from the time of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.