Maritime Economy Target US$250 billion by 2024, Says Defence Secretary


New Delhi: Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar has said with the country aiming to become a US$5 trillion economy by 2024, maritime economy is being targeted at US$ 250 billion by the same year as the country has a 7,500 km coastline comprising over two million square kilometers.

The Defence Secretary was speaking in Kolkata after commissioning coast guard ships ‘ICGS Amrit Kaur’ and ‘ICGS Annie Besant’ on January 12.

He said the government is also in the process of acquiring around 200 aircraft to cope with the depleting aerial inventories of the Indian Air Force.

“With a target of becoming a US$5 trillion economy by 2024, we are looking at over US$250 billion coming from the maritime zone.

“It is this US$ 250 billion economy that the ICG has the responsibility to protect and safeguard,” Dr Kumar said after commissioning coast guard ships ‘ICGS Amrit Kaur’ and ‘ICGS Annie Besant’ which will be deployed along the eastern coast.

The maritime economy constitutes nearly five per cent of the world economy, he said.

With the depletion of land resources, economic activities are increasingly getting focussed on the oceans, Kumar said.

Commissioning the two ICG fast patrol vessels designed and manufactured by the Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Ltd (GRSE), the Defence Secretary said India is increasingly becoming self-reliant in the science of shipbuilding.

“Most of our ships today are over 70 per cent indigenous and some of the latest platforms are over 90 per cent indigenous,” he said.

Dr Kumar said that being the fourth largest coast guard in the world, ICG has performed credibly in protecting the country’s maritime zones and also in preventing the plunder of its wealth in the oceans.

He said the ICG, along with the Indian Navy, has the onerous responsibility of ensuring that maritime zones of India remain safe and secure not only to ensure economic progress but also to counter dynamic security challenges emanating from the sea.

ICG Director General K Natarajan said that coastal surveillance has substantially increased since 26/11.

“We now have 145 ships, which will go up to 200 vessels by 2025, while 16 new advanced light helicopters will be added (to the arsenal) apart from the 62 surveillance aircraft that are already in service,” Natarajan said.

The contract for HAL-manufactured 83 LCA Tejas Mark 1 A advanced fighter jets are in the final stages, Ajay Kumar said.

Apart from these, Expression of Interest (EOI) has been floated for another 110 aircraft, based on which Request for Proposal (RFP) will be floated, he said.

“Roughly (for) 200 aircrafts, the acquisition is in process,” he said.

“We are in the process of finalising the contract for 83 Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Mark 1A, which are advanced fighters to meet the urgent needs of India,” the Defence Secretary told reporters on the sidelines of commissioning Indian Coast Guard vessels in Kolkata.

Dr Kumar said that the contract for the LCAs will be signed “definitely this year”

Dr Kumar said that with the design having been finalised, state-run aerospace behemoth Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will be ramping up production of the LCA Mark 1A jets from eight to 16 per year.

“If required, through outsourcing, we can further enhance it,” he said.

The Air Force has Sukhoi 30 MKIs, Mirage 2000s, MiG 29s and the ageing Jaguars and MiG 21 Bisons in its inventory of fighter jets at present.