India in talks with the UK to build INS Vishal: All you need to know

India is in talks with the UK to buy its plans to build a naval carrier. Named INS Vishal, India’s naval carrier will be modelled on an existing ship in UK’s defence arsenal and built in India under the ‘Make in India’ programme.

UK Defence Minister Stuart Andrew did not comment on these reports. He did say though that the UK and India are usually in contact for a number of defence-related matters.

“We have regular discussions with India on a range of equipment and capability issues. It would be inappropriate to comment further,” said Andrew, according to the Economic Times.

However, a spokesperson for BAE Systems, the designer of the UK warship, said it is already in talks with India for the project.

What is the Make in India programme?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the ‘Make in India’ programme in September 2014 as a development plan focused on manufacturing and design.

This initiative is spearheaded by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) that coordinates with state authorities, union ministers, industrialists, and various other partners. All these stakeholders are focused on a centralised manufacturing programme, ‘Make in India’.

The programme aimed to upgrade existing infrastructure and build new industrial infrastructure and facilitate coordination between key sectors, like Railways and Defence. Essentially, the initiative wants to ensure that development and defence equipment is assembled or built in India to promote development.

On its website, the Make in India programme says it has worked with the World Bank to identify sectors that need improvement and increased investments in Defence, Railways, Space, and Healthcare.

“Six industrial corridors are being developed across various regions of the country. Industrial Cities will also come up along these corridors,” states Make in India.

How the UK will help India build INS Vishal

India is planning to buy detailed plans of a 65,000-ton warship owned by the UK that it can use as a model for INS Vishal.

INS Vishal could be based on the build of HMS Queen Elizabeth or HMS Prince of Wales and made in India. Defence News reports that HMS Queen Elizabeth is UK’s largest warship and can ferry 60 aircraft.

The Sunday Mirror said, “An Indian delegation has already visited Rosyth dockyard in Scotland where HMS Queen Elizabeth was assembled and where a second supercarrier, HMS Prince of Wales, is now being built.”

INS Vishal will serve with INS Vikramaditya, a naval carrier India bought from Russia in 2004, reports the Economic Times.

However, Business Standard has reported that INS Vishal has run into budgetary issues. This warship will be the country’s most expensive defence project as it will take a decade to build and cost a total of Rs 50,000 crore.

The Ministry of Defence had also put the project on hold in February. The Indian Air Force is also lobbying against INS Vishal because it wants sole control of aviation equipment.

A retired admiral told Business Standard, “The outgoing government has put this on the back burner. But this will be one of the most pressing procurement decisions on the incoming government’s plate.”

Why is it needed?

India’s defence arsenal still contains British-made equipment from the colonial era.

For example, INS Viraat, the world’s oldest surviving warship, was the last British-built naval carrier in the Indian Navy. It has now been decommissioned and will likely be renovated into a museum, luxury hotel, and water sports destination.

However, the fact remains that India’s defence equipment is outdated.

“If intense warfare broke out tomorrow, India could supply its troops with only 10 days of ammunition, according to government estimates. And 68% of the army’s equipment is so old, it is officially considered vintage,” the New York Times said in a report last month.

To combat this, the country has been acquiring personnel and training equipment and technological support services for the armed forces. It also recently bought 24 MH-60R helicopters worth $2.6 billion from the US amidst escalating tension with Pakistan.

Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius

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