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Shipyard takeover underlines govt's defence urgency

KOLKATA (Reuters) - India’s Defence Ministry will take over a commercial shipyard to build military vessels for its navy, the junior defence minister said on Tuesday in a move underlining a new urgency in upgrading defence capabilities.

The Hindustan Shipyard is strategically located in Visakhapatnam, where the government intends to build frigates, destroyers and submarines for the navy from later this year.

“Hindustan Shipyard is being taken over by the Ministry of Defence,” Pallam Raju, the junior defence minister, said in Kolkata, capital of the eastern state of West Bengal.

“There will be suitable investments regarding alterations and modernisation of the shipyard, suiting the requirement of the Indian Navy,” Raju told reporters in the biggest commercial city in the region.

The exact capacity of the Hindustan Shipyard was not immediately clear, but India wants to build 100 warships over the next 10 years and phase out old vessels.

Experts said the takeover would help India improve its ageing naval fleet.

“It signifies our indigenous capabilities and the fact that the navy needs more ships,” said Commander P.V.S. Satish, a naval officer.

Last month, India launched its first nuclear-powered submarine capable of firing ballistic missiles and has plans to induct two aircraft carriers, including one from Russia.

Military ships are currently built in three shipyards, but the government decided to take over the Hindustan Shipyard to speed up defence modernisation, defence officials said.

The Defence Ministry would upgrade other existing shipyards and take over smaller ones to help speed up plans to build more military vessels and submarines, defence officials said.

India is one of the world’s biggest arms importers. The government plans to spend more than $30 billion over the next five years to upgrade its largely Soviet-era arsenal to counter potential threats from Pakistan and China.