Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday took a veiled dig at China, saying "some irresponsible nations" for the sake of their narrow partisan interests and hegemonic tendencies are coming up with inappropriate interpretations of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
It is a matter of concern that UNCLOS is being repeatedly weakened by arbitrary interpretation of its definition by some nations, Singh said, after commissioning of Indian Navy's destroyer Visakhapatnam.
As a responsible maritime stakeholder, India supports consensus-based principles and a peaceful, open, rule-based stable maritime order, Singh said.
India envisions a rule-based Indo-Pacific, with freedom of navigation, free trade and universal values, in which the interests of all the participating countries are protected, he added.
Singh underscored the importance of a rule-based freedom of navigation and security of sea lanes in the present era of globalisation to ensure stability, economic progress and development of the world. The UNCLOS 1982 specifies about any country's territorial waters, exclusive economic zone and good order at sea, he said.
“The arbitrary interpretations create obstacles in the path of a rule-based maritime order,” he said. “There are some nations - I would like to say irresponsible nations – (who) for the sake of their narrow partisan interests, keep on giving new and inappropriate interpretations to these international laws from hegemonic tendencies,” Singh said without naming China.
China has been militarizing islands in South China, a move that has attracted global criticism. The area has overlapping claims of several East and Southeast Asian nations.
In 2016, an international tribunal rejected China's argument that it enjoys historic rights over most of the South China Sea -- a region known to be rich in hydrocarbons and also hosting an important Sea Lane of Communication.
Following the order, China said the award is "null and void and has no binding force" and it neither accepts nor recognises it.
Noting that the Indo-Pacific is important for the whole world, Singh said the region sees passage of two-third oil shipments of the world, one-third of the bulk cargo and more than half of container traffic.
Singh said as an important country in the region, the Indian Navy's role assumes a more crucial role for the region's security.
“It becomes the primary objective of the Indian Navy to keep the Indo-Pacific open, safe and secure,” he said.
Singh asserted that India's interests are directly linked with the Indian Ocean and the region is crucial for the world economy.
“Challenges such as piracy, terrorism, illegal smuggling of arms and narcotics, human trafficking, illegal fishing and damage to the environment are equally responsible for affecting the maritime domain. Therefore, the role of the Indian Navy becomes very important in the entire Indo-Pacific region,” he added.
Countries world over are working towards making their military power strong and modern due to global security reasons, border disputes and importance to maintain maritime dominance, he said.
There is a rising demand for military equipment. Reports suggest that world over the cost for security is expected to reach USD 2.1 trillion. In 5-10 years, this is expected to rise manifold, Singh noted.
"We have an opportunity to use all our capacity, take advantage of the policies, and make the country a hub in indigenous ship building," Singh said.
With the changing power dynamics in the Indian Ocean region, INS Visakhapatnam will augment the Indian Navy's mobility, reach and flexibility towards accomplishment of its tasks and goals, Singh said.
The indigenously-built stealth guided missile destroyer, packed with an array of missiles and anti-submarine rockets, was commissioned in presence of top naval commanders.
Visakhapatnam is equipped with lethal weapons and sensors, including supersonic surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles, medium and short-range guns, anti-submarine rockets and advanced electronic warfare and communication suits, officials said.
INS Visakhapatnam measures 163 metres in length and 17 metres in breadth with a displacement of 7,400 tonnes. The ship is propelled by four powerful gas turbines, in a Combined Gas and Gas (COGAG) configuration, capable of achieving speeds in excess of 30 knots.
The ship is also packed with sophisticated state-of-the-art weapons and sensors such as surface-to-surface missile and surface-to-air missiles.
It is fitted with a modern surveillance radar which provides target data to the gunnery weapon systems of the ship. The anti-submarine warfare capabilities are provided by the indigenously developed rocket launchers, torpedo launchers and Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) helicopters. The ship is equipped to fight under Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) warfare conditions, officials said.
Some of the major indigenised equipment/system onboard INS Visakhapatnam include Combat Management System, Rocket Launcher, Torpedo Tube Launcher, Integrated Platform Management System, Automated Power Management System, Foldable Hangar Doors, Helo Traversing system, Close-in Weapon System and the Bow mounted SONAR, an official said.
Singh termed INS Visakhapatnam as a symbol of the growing maritime prowess of the country. Listing out the steps taken by the government to give indigenisation a boost, Singh also urged to 'Make in India, Make for the World'.
Admiral Karambir Singh, Chief of the Naval Staff, said the ship is a shining example of self-reliance.
The Navy chief said 39 of the 41 ship and submarine orders have been given to Indian shipyards, which is a testament to their commitment for achieving self-reliance.
The defence minister described the development of Indigenous Aircraft Carrier 'INS Vikrant' as an important milestone in the path of 'Aatmanirbhar Bharat'.
“The carrier will increase our reach from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean. Its commissioning will be a golden moment in the history of Indian defence. It will be the best occasion to celebrate the 75th anniversary of India's independence and the 50th anniversary of India's victory in 1971 war,” the minister said.
(With PTI inputs)