India Needs Seven Aircraft Carriers Amid Indo-China Dispute: Retired Lt Col JS Sodhi

Make in India and Atmanirbhar Bharat have been extremely successful and now India is on the list of the top 25 nations of arms exporters and INS Vikrant is a wonderful example of this, he said

Photo Credit : @JassiSodhi24,

Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi commissioned India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant in Kochi and said that it is not just a warship but a testament to the hard work, talent, influence and commitment of 21st century India.

Commenting on the new mood of the nation, Modi said, no challenge is too difficult for today’s India. He said, "Today, India has joined those countries in the world, which manufacture such a huge aircraft carrier with indigenous technology. Today INS Vikrant has filled the country with a new confidence, and has created a new confidence in the country."

Now, Lieutenant Colonel JS Sodhi (Retd), from the Bombay Sappers, Corps of Engineers of the Indian Army in an interview with BW BW Defence And BW Businessworld talked about INS Vikrant, Indian defence industry, Indo-China conflict and more. Edited excerpts:

India has just commissioned INS Vikrant, its first indigenous aircraft carrier. Can you tell the significance of a strategic picture for India?

This development, the commissioning of INS Vikrant is very historic for India because it has 76 per cent of indigenous parts. This is also important as the security of India is concerned. As part of the belt and road initiative, China is encircling India under String of Pearls by taking over Chittagong Port in Bangladesh whereas Gwadar Port of Pakistan and Hambantota Port of Sri Lanka are already under Chinese control. So, this aircraft carrier could negate China’s nefarious plan of encircling India in the Indian Ocean.

Does India need more aircraft carriers if yes what number will be ideal?

According to me, India should have seven aircraft carriers. We need one aircraft carrier for each of these regions like the east coast of Africa, Diego Garcia, Malacca Strait, Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. Two aircraft carriers should have as reserved because the repair and maintenance take 2 to 3 years. At any point in time, we should have five aircraft carriers in service.

How do you compare the Indian and Chinese navies in capability and prowess in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea?

Clearly, the Chinese navy is far ahead of India. If we compare both navies in number then China has 355 warships and India has only 150 warships and in the last ten years, China has built three aircraft carriers. However, because of Atmanirbhar Bharat and Make in India, India is catching up and is also a discussion going on about the third aircraft carrier, INS Vishal. 

Secondly, INS Vikrant gave the Indian navy teeth in the ocean and surely it will challenge the expansionist policy of China in the Indian Ocean. In the next few years, India will catch up Chinese navy in the coming years.

Why India is investing a lot of money in “sinkable aircraft bases” whereas India could focus on developing air force bases on Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep?

India is already advancing its infrastructure on these islands. Secondly, every country with a sea coast has a desire to have a blue water navy. The blue water navy is the navy that can operate from the middle of the ocean to the exteriors of the ocean and that requires aircraft carriers. Aircraft carriers are also used for patrolling the ocean from the deep ocean to the coasts. 

Having and building aircraft carriers is also a matter of national superiority. Only six countries in the world can build aircraft carriers including India now. INS Vikrant will help the Indian navy to become a blue water navy.

In 2019, the Indian Navy said about the budget crunch that the navy is not able to modernise its fleet. What are some of the factors in this regard?

Budget is always a constraining factor for any developing nation like India. From the budget point of view, the navy is the best among the three services because it has money for capital expenditure. So funds are not a problem for the Navy per se. In fact, with the increasing size of our GDP, defence forces will get more funds and we will be able to modernise our security forces at a much faster pace in the future. 

What changes do you see in the last 10 years, particularly under the present government? How much, schemes like Make in India and Atmanirbhar Bharat are successful in the defence sector?

Till 8 years back, India used to import almost every requirement of its defence. However, when Narendra Modi government came in 2014, indigenous defence equipment is started manufactured in India. In the financial year 2021-22, we exported arms worth Rs 1,601 crore and by financial year (FY) 2024-25, we will be exporting defence equipment worth Rs 35,000 crore. 

Make in India and Atmanirbhar Bharat have been extremely successful and now India is on the list of the top 25 nations of arms exporters and INS Vikrant is a wonderful example of this.

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