New Delhi: Against the backdrop of several alleged sex scandals in the force, Defence Minister AK Antony on Tuesday asked the Navy to take "sternest possible action" against its officers who are found involved in such "inappropriate behaviour".
Referring to some isolated incidents of inappropriate behaviour by a few personnel, Antony urged top Commanders to take sternest possible action against those who tarnish the image and prestige of the armed forces, whenever such incident comes to their notice," the Defence Ministry said.
Antony, who was addressing a Naval Commanders' Conference here, apparently referred to charges of wife-swapping levelled against some officers in which a probe is on. A number of officers have been sacked after they were found indulging in acts of sexual misconduct including an officer who was sending lewd messages to several women using multiple SIM cards.
Another officer has been sacked for having illicit affair with the wife of a superior officer and three more were sacked for leaking information on social networking websites.
Referring to other issues, the Defence Minister asked the top brass of the Navy to focus on construction of "additional bases and naval air stations in Andaman & Nicobar Islands, and Lakshadweep & Minicoy Islands to further extend our operational reach."
Antony's statement came against the backdrop of India's concerns over rising influence of the Chinese Navy in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Commenting on some recent cyber attacks on Indian networks and including those of the Navy, he said, "the security environment prevailing in our neighbourhood, security of national as well as physical security of our bases, dockyards, ships, submarines and aircraft cannot be ignored at any cost."
Antony asked the Navy and the Coast Guard top brass to ensure timely implementation of measures envisaged under phase-II of Coastal Security Plan. "The National Command Control, Communication and Intelligence Network project is to become operational later this year. This real-time link between the Operations Rooms of the Navy and the Coast Guard will surely synergise coastal security operations," he said.
The Minister complimented the Navy for checking piracy in the Gulf of Aden to some extent and ensuring that the menace does not spread towards Indian waters. He also lauded Navy's efforts for indigenisation of defence production saying, "46 of the 48 naval platforms, currently under construction, are being built in India."
The Minister said there were some operational constraints regarding conventional submarines, ship-borne helicopters and mine counter measure vessels. The Defence Minister assured the force that funds will never be a constraint.
The Ministry said the major highlight of Tuesday's conference was that for the first time, it was held by "telepresence" between New Delhi and Naval Commands in Mumbai, Kochi and Vishakhapatnam. The Indian Navy thus became the first Service to conduct a conference of this magnitude through "video-conferencing". This enabled virtual presence of participants from various stations at a common forum.
Navy Chief Admiral DK Joshi noted the high tempo of operations maintained by all naval units and observed that the induction of ships and submarines would be primarily indigenous in the coming years.