Piracy a new challenge, says naval chief

Kochi: Terming piracy as a new challenge, Naval chief Admiral Nirmal Verma on Thursday said it requires resources of a fair amount but the Indian Navy will ensure that the nation`s maritime interests are safeguarded.

"The navy is here to ensure the nation`s maritime interests are met. And if it takes time, yes, so be it," he told reporters when asked if anti-piracy operations were not taking too much of the time and energy of the Indian Navy.

"Today, may be there is not an outright situation of conflict as we understand it. The challenge that has come to us two years or three years ago, it was coastal security which continues as a challenge for the nation. Similarly piracy is a new challenge, which has been thrown up. Yes, it does require resources of a fair amount," Verma said.

"But the task of the Navy is to ensure that the nation`s maritime interests are met and if it requires me to use the resources, it has to be done," he said.

Asked about "external elements" involved in piracy, Verma said, "As a nation, we need to factor these matters in the worst case scenario. To that extent, the possibility is factored. It is true that in pirates ships we have captured now, there were actually hostages who were forced into running the ships for pirates. There could be a possibility. We do not rule (it) out."

The admiral said whenever the navy gets access to the pirates or hostages, investigations were carried thoroughly and in detail. "There is a lot of information that comes our way, which is used for tackling this problem," he said.

Asked about a second aircraft carrier, the admiral said it was long way off.

"These are investments of very high proportion. So at this point, nothing like that has happened.

"In fact, we ourselves are doing a conceptual study and whenever it happens, certainly it is not going to happen in a hurry. It is a huge investment. Before that many more higher priority items to be tackled as far as navy is concerned in the induction," he said.

On the number of such carriers being envisaged by the navy, Admiral Verma said there were two under construction.

The future Navy would be based on two carrier battle groups, one on either coast, he said.

"If you have to have an assured battled group, obviously have to have a third. But at the stage at which it happens, it obviously is linked to funding and today there are greater funding priorities over a third aircraft carrier," he said.

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