New Delhi: Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman has assured top Indian Navy commanders that the government would bridge critical capability gaps that currently handicap the force.

Sitharaman, who addressed the biannual naval commanders’ conference in New Delhi, also supported “the long-term capability acquisition plans of the navy that have been formulated with a strategic view of the Indo-Pacific region," a statement from the Indian Navy said.

The urgent need for securing approvals for a second indigenous aircraft carrier for the Indian Navy was also discussed, the statement said. “This project along with the other shipbuilding projects already underway or in the pipeline including the Mine Counter Measure Vessels (MCMVs), Landing Platform Dock (LPD), Anti-Submarine Shallow Water Craft, Diving Support Vessels and Survey Vessels, are expected to provide a major thrust to the ‘Make-in-India’ initiative of the government," the statement said.

“The 15-year ‘Naval Indigenisation Plan’ promulgated in 2015 by the navy has set the tone for Indian industry to create infrastructure, skilling and jobs," it added.

The Indian Navy has been plagued by the lack of critical equipment, one example of which is mine sweepers, said retired commodore C.U. Bhaskar, now director at the Society for Policy Studies in New Delhi.

Another critical issue plaguing the navy has been the force receiving the smallest portion of India’s defence budget, which critics say leaves little for new acquisitions after pay and pensions are taken care of.

The conference also undertook a review of the navy’s mission based deployments. The review was aimed at maximising benefits accruing from the deployment of Indian naval ships and aircraft to critical areas within the Indian ocean region, the statement said.

“Measures such as information sharing with other navies as well as combining defence diplomacy initiatives such as bilateral exercises and port visits into these deployments are planned to be undertaken," the statement said.

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