April 22, 2021
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Alternate option
India may go for French Mistral and tie up with Brazil and S Korea

After facing the heat from Russia over the delay in frigates and aircraft carriers, India is now exploring alternate ways and means to bolster its naval strength and inch forward towards achieving a true blue water navy capability.

Now Indian defence planners are looking at new options for warship technology and production, mainly from Europe, South Korea and Brazil, to augment the fleet strength which is fast depleting due to delays and lot of uncertainty on the part of its traditional defence supplier like Russia. 

Since Indian Navy is facing acute shortage in commissioning new warships, the overwhelming thinking in the defence establishment is to look at new sources other than only buying from traditional sellers which so far has proved to be disastrous.

Now there is a demand from the Naval Headquarters that the delay in getting these ships from foreign vendors is having killing effect on the naval strategy for Indian Ocean and India’s ambition to operate in the waters of Western Pacific.

Thus, Indian Navy is evaluating options to buy Mistral Class amphibious ships which it finds more credible for its operational needs as France has invested into new technological advancement in this segment recently.

The problem is Mistral having a good reputation of a new generation warship is still untested and so far there are only two buyers-France and Russia.

The idea is one should wait for the feedback about the performance of Mistral before making up mind, but the plan is to acquire a Mistral ship if Russia delays supplying stealth ships on time.

The Russian stealth frigate program is going to be late for another four years or more. India is unhappy with Rosoboronexport over two major shipbuilding projects, ‘Gorshkov’ aircraft carrier and Talwar class warships.

Indeed, a contract was signed with Rosoboronexport in 2006 for acquisition of three Talwar class follow-on ships and the delivery schedule for these three ships was April 2011, October 2011 and April 2012. But the inordinate delay is going to affect operational preparedness.

Indian Navy is increasingly realizing that it has very few options if it wants the good health of its fleet, both quantitatively and qualitatively.

The option to give all the ship building contracts to Indian DPSUs has not fulfilled desired results. Now inviting private players to get into shipbuilding will take time.

On the other hand to work with Russian shipbuilding industry is proving to be a bitter experience. As a result, the only credible option is importing it from friendly countries to meet the time gap.

Thus, the choice of getting Mistral class ships from France has come as a natural choice. But it will take time before a decision can be taken, yet it is an alternate option to buy it from France directly on a government to government deal.

If India goes for Mistral then the strategic relations with France could take a new dimension. At the same time, India is already developing a strategic relationship with South Korea and Brazil to get naval technology and access their production lines.