Today marks the realization of a dream of our late Prime Minister Shri Rajiv Gandhi who laid the foundation stone of this Academy. The decision to establish a world class Naval Academy was a truly forward-looking one. As I look at the vast expanse of the Arabian Sea before me and the Indian Ocean beyond, it is easy to see why the Indian Navy must have a much greater role in safeguarding the Nation’s vital security interests.
The Mumbai attacks have highlighted the need for heightened vigilance and response to asymmetric threats from the sea. We face such threats not only in the Arabian Sea but also in the Indian Ocean. There is a marked increase in the attempts by various terrorist and other groups to use the blue waters around India for nefarious purposes. This is a matter of concern. This emerging maritime security environment greatly enhances your responsibilities. We have a coastline of over 7600 kms. with over 1200 island territories spread across the Indian Ocean. We have a large Exclusive Economic Zone. We have a vital interest in the Indian Ocean and a close relationship with countries of the Indian Ocean Rim, and specially the Gulf region.
We should also recognize that there will be other competing interests whose maritime presence in the sphere of our interest and our influence will have to be carefully monitored.
The importance of the Indian Navy in safeguarding our vital security interests has thus become paramount. There can thus be no doubt that the Indian Navy must be the most important maritime power in this region.
It is essential for the Navy, the Coast Guard and the intelligence agencies to coordinate their efforts much more closely. We need to develop credible strategies to counter all threats from the sea. On its part the government will take all necessary measures to ensure that the Coast Guard and the Navy are fully equipped to protect the seas and oceans around us.
The Gulf is part of our extended neighbourhood, separated only by the Arabian Sea, of which the Indian Navy is one of the sentinels. India and the countries of the Gulf have a shared view of peace and prosperity in the region. Many of the Gulf countries look upon India as a friendly and benign neighbour on which they can depend in times of difficulty and need. Nearly five million people of Indian origin live here. I strongly condemn the hostilities taking place in Gaza and express dismay at the unfortunate killing of hundreds of innocent civilians. We call for the immediate cessation of hostilities so that a settlement based on dialogue can be arrived at. I reiterate our unstinted and unwavering support to the just Palestian cause This is an area of special priority for India and over the next decade and more this focus would only intensify further.
Another key role that the Indian Navy will play would be to safeguard the sea-lanes of communication, through which pass the bulk of our energy supplies and our sea-borne trade. As India’s oil and gas imports increase demands on the Navy will become further pronounced. There is an inextricable link between our economic resurgence and our maritime power.
As economic power shifts to Asia, the demand for energy and the volume of trade passing through the Indian Ocean region will expand rapidly. This shift is being accompanied by the emergence of a host of threats that travel through the oceans.
These include the transportation of weapons of mass destruction, small arms and other weaponry through the oceans to the hinterland; the threat of piracy in international waters; organized crime; drug trafficking; environmental degradation; rising sea-levels; illegal migration and human smuggling.
The actions taken by the Navy recently to combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia have been timely. I would like to commend the professionalism of the Navy, which has been widely acknowledged across the world.
Traditional naval powers continue to rely upon their sea-control assets while emerging powers are developing sea-denial capabilities. More and more resources are being spent on naval modernization and research and development for new ship designs and battle space dominance through information networking. Increasingly, space and information technology are being harnessed for enhancing naval capabilities. The ongoing Revolution in Military Affairs and network-centric warfare has also impacted on the navies as the joint-ness between the land, air and naval forces improves.
All this is leading to the emergence of a new international maritime order, one that is characterized by a great deal of flux. This will have major implications for India. The Indian Navy will be required to have capabilities to perform in the entire spectrum of conflict ranging from military missions and strategic deterrence to humanitarian assistance. As India moves ahead, it would need naval capabilities commensurate with its expanding national interests.
Today naval power is not just about fighting wars. It has an integral role to play in international diplomacy, commerce, energy supplies, exploitation of sea resources and ensuring order at sea. In such a scenario naval interactions have an important role to play. The large number of exercises that India has held in the recent years with several countries has resulted in greater exposure for the Indian Navy. They have enhanced the ability of the Indian Navy to operate with other navies to respond to common security threats.
Keeping the sea-lanes of commerce open, projecting power and maintaining strategic stability dictate that India should possess a strong blue water Navy. The sea is increasingly becoming relevant in the context of India’s security interests and we must re-adjust our military preparedness to this changing environment. We have in place an ambitious plan for force modernization of the Navy which will contribute to the Navy’s emergence as a three-dimensional force.
To face up to these challenges the Navy needs well trained manpower. I am confident that the Naval Academy will produce well rounded graduates with the latest scientific and technical skills, and a broad awareness of our national interests.
I congratulate all those who have contributed towards the creation of this institution. Such institutions are better known by the quality of their alumni than by their stone facades and I have no doubt that INS Ezhimala will, year after year, send out future generations of naval officers of whom the country will be proud.
I have great pleasure in dedicating the Naval Academy to the Nation. Jai Hind.