01:05 GMT03 April 2020
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    The Indian navy is “fully capable” of defending the country’s maritime interests, India’s defense minister said Tuesday, despite having two fewer carriers than the country’s naval chief says is necessary.

    India plans to operate three aircraft carriers: the currently operational INS Vikramaditya, plus IAC-1, and IAC-2, two ships that don't exist yet, according to the Indian navy's Design Bureau. "That is the basic minimum requirement for performing our mandated tasks in India's areas of maritime interests" on the subcontinent's eastern and western seaboards, Chief of Naval Staff Adm. Sunil Lanba told India Strategic on Tuesday.

    The IAC-1 and IAC-2 are domestically built aircraft carriers India's navy expects to be delivered between 2019 and 2032, India Strategic noted.

    Ideally, the Indian navy would keep two carriers deployed while the third goes to shipyards for periodic maintenance, the admiral said.

    On Monday and Tuesday, Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman toured the INS Vikramaditya as the carrier, three submarines and six other vessels simulated "real conditions" of a "multi-threat" battle exercise, the Ministry of Defense said in an announcement.

    "Having witnessed first-hand the prowess of the Western Fleet, I am confident that the Indian navy is fully capable of defending the nation against any form of threat," Sitharaman said.

    The exercises featured operational practice in anti-submarine warfare, gun and missile tests, air interceptions and nighttime naval aviation maneuvers.

    According to the Hindustan Times, though, the Indian navy's minesweeper fleet is slated to be decommissioned from 2018 to 2020. This potential maritime weakness is amplified in significance by the fact that South Korea and India failed to reach an agreement on 12 new mine countermeasure vessels earlier this week.

    "We were unable to resolve commercial complications despite our best efforts. This particular deal with the [South] Koreans is off," an Indian official told the Hindustan Times Tuesday. The country's six minesweepers fall way short of the 24 experts say are needed to secure India's harbors, the Hindustan Times reported.

    "The latest setback means that there may be no minesweepers even beyond 2021," HT noted.


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