At a time when INS Vikramaditya, India's active operational aircraft carrier, is undergoing a major refit and has been out of action for the past 15 months, defence minister Rajnath Singh decided to go onboard indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant to address the top leadership of the Indian Navy. The March 6 event is being seen as India's strong message to China, which is rapidly expanding its naval presence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

Singh made special mention of the credible and responsive presence of the navy in the IOR. He stated that mission-based deployments of the navy had strengthened India's position as a 'preferred security partner' of friendly foreign countries in the region.

Singh emphasised on maintaining constant vigil along the northern and western borders of the country as well as the coastline. "Future conflicts will be unpredictable. The constantly-evolving world order has forced everyone to re-strategise. We need to be ready to deal with all future challenges," he said.

Addressing top Indian Navy officers, Singh exhorted the commanders to continue focusing on developing futuristic capabilities to overcome the emerging maritime security challenges.

INS Vikrant was commissioned last September and is undergoing flight trials. The navy is aiming to complete these trials before the onset of monsoon. It is also in the process of finalising a fighter jet for Vikrant. Two foreign jets are in stiff competition: Boeing's F18 Super Hornet and Dassault's Rafale-M.

On the other hand, INS Vikramaditya is expected to move out of the Karwar naval base for sea trials on March 23 after a major refit. The 45,000-tonne carrier, capable of carrying 36 aircraft, is expected to be handed over to the Indian Navy by March 31. Thereafter, MiG-29K fighter jets will be operating from the battleship.

"In the next 5-10 years, orders worth over $100 billion are expected to be placed in the defence sector, which will become a major partner in the country's economic development," Singh said. He witnessed operational demonstrations, including complex aircraft carrier and fleet operations, weapon firings by ships and aircraft, and underway replenishment, along with a demonstration of some indigenous products.

Later this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will interact with India's top military leadership at the Combined Commanders' Conference (CCC) scheduled on March 30 and April 1 in Bhopal. Besides discussing the impact of the Ukraine war, the conference will also discuss the future of warfare.