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Spare Viraat Vikrant’s agony

Editorial | New Delhi |

THE “breaker’s yard” is the ultimate destination of most ships, so it will be no disgrace if Viraat follows Vikrant into being sold as scrap metal ~ though many a naval heart may be broken if history repeats itself. What would be tragic, disgraceful, or any other adjective an “old salt” might prefer to use, would be if the second carrier of the Indian Navy is subjected to as prolonged and agonising a fate as its predecessor: Vikrant had been abandoned and neglected for so long that even her scrap value had deteriorated before she was towed away to be broken: after occupying precious berthing space in the naval dockyard in Mumbai long enough for the “hero” of the war for the liberation of Bangladesh to be dubbed a “rust bucket”. Apprehensions of a re-run have been raised in respect of Viraat too ~ after de commissioning warships “lose” their ‘INS’ prefix ~ and unless an early decision is taken on their re-use or dismantling there is the risk of them losing their reputation too. Sadly, no plan for Viraat had been firmed up before her Colours were run down her mast. The initial proposal to convert her into a maritime museum by the Andhra Pradesh government ~ after the central government had washed its hands off any project of that nature ~ have been scuttled for the same reason as a similar suggestion for Vikrant, a lack of finances. According to one estimate it would require an outlay of Rs 1,000 crore. Now there is talk of a floating hotel, or a diving platform. Not too different from Vikrant having been mentioned as a heliport, casino etc. The Viraat has been afloat since 1944 and there is no need for “talking in the air”. An early decision by the central government is necessary, which must not be delayed because of the change of guard in the MoD. There are limits to emotion and sentiment coming in the way of cold reason.

There would be a school of thought that would not be enthused by the campaign to “Save Viraat”. True that was home to a host of naval aviators, but she was not the first carrier. And unlike Vikrant she had not fought battles under the Indian ensign. Maybe it would now be best to await the de-commissioning of an Indian-built “capital ship” to revive maritime museum dreams.