A Hindustan Times report of March 24, 2021 indicated the Indian Navy had informed the Modi government that building six SSNs took priority over building a third aircraft carrier, (known as INS Vishal).
My comment/question was the Indian Navy usually asks its political masters (especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi ) whether the Navy can radically alter its shipbuilding strategy/plan. I didn’t believe the Navy could get away with so boldly telling Parliament what the Navy was going to do. This is because Parliament supplies the ship/sub building money and politicians have a “pork barrel” tendency to build subs/ships in their own state/electorate for political gain.
The Indian government created
the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS)
on 24 December 2019. Since then the first (only) CDS, four star General Bipin Rawat (photo above - a former Chief of Army Staff) has been
pushing the Navy to prioritize its purchases. Only a few months after taking
office, CDS Rawat has pushed for submarines as opposed to aircraft carriers. As an illustration see this
article of February 17, 2020 Approval for third aircraft carrier may not comesoon, indicates CDS Rawat.
The Arihant class and INS Chakra are current. Third one down is a possible shape and comparative size of a future Indian attack submarine (SSN) below that is the possible shape of a future, larger Indian SSBN class (known as S5). (Artwork and captions courtesy
H I Sutton's, Forbes article of Feb 23, 2020).
The CDS has been supporting the build of 6 SSNs in particular. See this article, which says in summary: At CDS Rawat’s first media interaction, of Feb 2020, he asked the Navy to re-evaluate priorities and hinted that if it pushed for the third aircraft carrier it would have to forgo the 6 SSNs.
CDS Rawat's call to prioritize 6 SSNs met resistance from the Chief of Naval Staff on down - see Feb 21, 2020’s Indian Navy will push ahead with plan for 3rd aircraft carrier despite CDS’ reservations.
This internal defence force conversation went on for little over a year, from Feb 2020 to Mar 2021. In the civilian public domain, the discussion of SSNs vs 3rd Carrier continued. Several retired Admirals and other senior Navy officers published opinion pieces. Some even accusing CDS Rawat of “Land-Centrism”. Although in reality there's nothing land-centric about a fleet of SSNs. While some rejected the accusation, some even supported a Land-centrism case.
Meanwhile, the internal conversation finally culminated in the Combined Commanders Conference in early March 2021...where the Navy finally made the decision to abide by the CDS' call for SSN prioritization.
CDS Rawat has had solid political support. He served as Chief of Staff of the Indian Army from 2016-2019. He was then promoted to be India's first CDS, a position who's creation was recommended by several Defense Committees for almost two decades. CDS Rawat, though still of 4-star rank, became 'First Among Equals', over the three Service Chiefs (Army, Navy and Air Force). His promotion to CDS naturally occurred with the support of Modi and that of National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval. The NSA was reorganized into a very powerful Cabinet-level position in 2019.
All this means is that the Navy informing Parliament (in March 2021) that the Navy would be prioritizing the SSN program over the 3rd Carrier, was no surprise to Modi. The Navy was simply reminding the Indian government that this so-called “internal defence force decision” was what CDS Rawat had publically advocated in Feb 2020 and SSN prioritization already had the full support of the Modi government.
In summary, the national security strategy/plan devised by the Modi government, NSA and CDS, that prioritizes SSNs over another carrier, has now overcome the Navy’s internal resistance to the strategy.