The Indian government has failed to conclude a deal with foreign manufacturers to acquire mine countermeasure vessels since 2005. In the meantime, the last batch of minesweepers retired last year, rendering the Indian Navy devoid of the crucial asset.

As the wait continues for the Indian Navy to get Mine Counter Measure Vessels (MCMVs), the last batch of which retired in 2018, the government has arranged alternatives to these vessels, which are considered vital for keeping critical sea lanes safe. Without divulging too many details about the proposed alternative vessels, Subhash Bhamre, India’s minister of state for defence, informed the parliament about the status of acquisition of alternate vessels to meet the requirement of the world’s fifth-largest navy, which is operating without minesweepers. The Indian Navy needs at least 24 MCMVs to plug the shortfall. China, on the other hand, has more than 100 MCMVs.

“In the meantime, in order to meet the requirement a contract for procurement of eight Clip Influence Sweep (CLOIS) for minesweeping has already been concluded”, Subhash Bhamre informed the parliament on Wednesday.

The Indian government had a planned acquisition of eight MCMVs through indigenous construction, which was later revised to “acquisition of two from foreign collaborator and six from Indian Shipyard” in 2005. However, due to non-compliance of tender conditions by the foreign collaborator, the acquisition process was dropped in 2014.

Subsequently, in 2015, Goa Shipyard was nominated to construct MCMVs under a Transfer of Technology (ToT) agreement from the South Korean company Kangnam Corporation, but due to non-compliance with the ToT requirement, Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL) cancelled the process.

India’s state-owned Goa Shipyard once again issued global Expression of Interest (EoI) in March 2018 for a selection of foreign shipyards as a collaborator, against which it received a response from Russian and Italian firms last year, as reported by Sputnik.

The Indian Navy is in urgent need of minesweepers, considering the increasing operational deployments of Chinese submarines in the Indian Ocean Region. It is well-known that the stealth attribute of submarines makes them the most appropriate platforms for laying an offensive minefield in the enemy’s littoral waters.

The Indian Navy also issued a request for information (RFI) for at least eight units of expendable underwater mine disposal systems last year, which is a portable and expandable, remotely operated vehicle (ROV)-based system that can detect and neutralise mines in harbours and sea approaches.