Thursday, December 24, 2009

Indian President Sails in INS Viraat, Addresses Sailors



 The Government is committed to modernising the Indian Navy in keeping with the requirements of the 21st century, President Pratibha Patil said on Wednesday.In July was launched INS Arihant, an indigenously designed nuclear submarine that is an important milestone in the Navy's modernisation process and to ensure an equitable balance of power in the region, she said, while on board the aircraft carrier INS Viraat off Mumbai harbour during a 'day at sea'.

The President said the construction of many new ships and submarines, as also aircraft construction and acquisition projects are at various stages of completion and would help transform the Indian Navy into an even more formidable force."It is, indeed, very satisfying to note that a number of these naval projects are indigenous," Patil observed.Heaping praise on the Indian Navy, the President said the men and women of the force were discharging their duties with a high degree of professionalism, courage and commitment.

The multi-dimensional responsibilities of the Navy in the Indian Ocean Region are important for the prosperity of the nation and the country has implicit faith in the capability and capacity of the maritime forces to secure the sea frontiers to provide a peaceful environment for maritime trade and other activities, she said.In this context, she mentioned how the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks served as a grim reminder of the harm that can be perpetrated through the sea route by elements inimical to India.

Besides safeguarding the domestic sea frontiers, the Indian Navy is now also making its presence felt in the international arena against piracy, Patil noted."The presence of our warships in the area has instilled a sense of confidence in the shipping industry. We now have requests from other countries in the region for increased assistance in surveillance of their exclusive economic zones," Patil said.

"These increased expectations from us in maintaining the balance and security in the Indian Ocean region are a recognition of our growing stature. The strategic location of our island territories along the major sea lanes make them a stabilizing force in the region," she pointed out.

Referring to the bridges of friendship built by the Indian Navy with other maritime nations "by which our fleets have sailed and exercised in the Atlantic and Mediterranean regions to the west and the North Pacific to the East", the President Patil said that these would "strengthen bilateral relationships, enhance inter-operability and help imbibe the best practices from other navies".

Earlier, the President became the first woman supreme commander of Indian armed forces to board INS Viraat at 1100 hrs IST.During her three-hour visit, she witnessed a flypast of Sea Harrier jets and Sea King helicopters from the vessel, which was refurbished for a year at Visakhapatnam and rejoined the fleet at its home base in Mumbai last month.

Patil's sojourn on INS Viraat came after she became the first woman to fly in an Indian Air Force Sukhoi Su-30 MKI combat jet on November 25.The Indian Navy will stage a Fleet Review for the President next year. This is conducted once during the tenure of every President.

The 28,000-tonne INS Viraat, a Centaur class aircraft carrier, was originally commissioned in the Royal Navy as HMS Hermes on November 18, 1959. The Indian Navy acquired the platform in 1987 after it had served the Royal Navy for nearly 28 years. INS Viraat is pivotal to projecting India's naval and air power beyond the country's borders. It can embark up to 18 combat aircraft and is capable of supporting amphibious operations and conducting anti-submarine warfare.

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