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Speech by Her Excellency Mrs. K. Nandini Singla, High Commissioner of India on the occasion of 'The Refit completion ceremony of CGS Barracuda

REFIT OF BARRACUDA, 27 October 2021

H.E. Mr. Alan Ganoo, Hon’ble Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade,

Mr. Anil Kumar Dip, Acting Commissioner of Police,

Commander of CGS Barracuda, Commander Praveen Kumar

Senior Officials from the Government of Mauritius and the Mauritius Police Force,

Friends from Media,

Ladies and Gentlemen, a very good morning to all of you!

  1. I feel privileged to welcome you all to this beautiful ceremony on board CGS Barracuda, the main vessel of the National Coast Guard of the Mauritius Police Force. In fact, this is my first time onboard CGS Barracuda and I am delighted that my visit celebrates yet another landmark moment in the very special India-Mauritius partnership. I am honored to commemorate the successful completion of the Short Refit of CGS Barracuda at the Indian shipyard M/s. Garden Reach Ship Builders and Engineers Ltd, GRSE Kolkata within a short span of 8 months, with the full support of the Government of India. The fact that we could undertake the comprehensive and demanding Refit despite the worst challenge faced by India in living memory – a devastating second wave of the COVID pandemic with severe supply chain restrictions, shortage of labour and skilled experts demonstrates in action, the importance attached by the Government of India to its relationship with Mauritius and the priority accorded by GRSE to the Short Refit of CGS Barracuda. So, today, we are not only celebrating the successful completion of the short refit of CGS Barracuda; we are celebrating something much bigger – the time-tested India-Mauritius relationship that has shown time and again, that our brother countries will always stand shoulder to shoulder, through thick and thin, through good times and bad times.
  1. Excellency, when the Government of Mauritius requested us to assist in undertaking the short refit in India after facing challenges in tendering the works in Mauritius, we knew how indispensable CGS Barracuda is for Mauritius. As the flag bearer of the Mauritius Police Force, the vessel plays a crucial role in providing Outer Islands support, undertaking extensive and prolonged Exclusive Economic Zone Surveillance, Search and Rescue Missions, Humanitarian assistance as well as representing Mauritius at International events such as the International Fleet Review at India in 2016 and Exercise Cutlass Express at Mozambique in 2019.
  1. So when the Government of Mauritius requested our support in undertaking the refit exercise, we immediately took up the case on priority and explored ways to complete the short refit at the earliest. Since time was of the essence, we requested M/s. GRSE, Kolkata to undertake the refit works, as other shipyards needed a long lead time. Besides, it was GRSE that had designed and built CGS Barracuda and had undertaken the Guarantee Refit in 2016. So, the fact that GRSE was best equipped to undertake this important task and was able to quickly marshal the required resources, was a crucial factor that enabled the comprehensive and speedy refit of CGS Barracuda. I am glad that this was so because, I understand that owing to the operational demands on CGS Barracuda in the last few years, there were over 1200 defects to be rectified during the Refit. Such a daunting task required special efforts not only from GRSE, but from multiple agencies in India. And that’s why, the Government of India entrusted none other than the Indian Navy to oversee the Refit on behalf of Mauritius.
  1. Excellency, it was not an easy task for us to perform the refit in the face of numerous challenges. As you know, the devastating second Covid wave brought almost the whole of India to a standstill. All manufacturing and industrial activities were suspended to divert the much needed oxygen to hospitals. GRSE was no exception and all works at GRSE were suspended in April, barely a month after the refit started. The challenge was compounded by the massive disruptions in supply chain and prolonged delays in sourcing spare parts from various parts of India and abroad.
  1. However, we redoubled our efforts. The Indian Navy extended unconditional support which was not limited to overseeing the works, but also extending its specialist infrastructure. For instance, the Indian Navy supplied spare parts and items from its own inventory; infact, they sourced spares from the inventory of operational Indian Naval ships to avoid time overruns. They went a step further and even went beyond the purview of the refit package and voluntarily assisted GRSE in undertaking works that were not technically required under the refit, such as inspection of Barracuda’s Ammunition, Gun trials and provision of critical spares for the Sewage Treatment Plant etc. In fact, it may surprise you to know that the Indian Navy sent its own vessel to transport Barracuda’s ammunition from Kolkata to Vishakhapatnam over a distance of 350 Nm, inspected it, stored it and transported it back to Kolkata. We also facilitated Covid vaccinations and treatments for the crew members of CGS Barracuda at a Navy facility.
  1. All this demonstrates, very clearly, that for India, this was not simply a technical task of refitting a foreign vessel; it was about caring enough for Mauritius to render the best possible assistance to ensure that Mauritius’s needs are fully taken care of; it was about genuine help and goodwill – the kind that one has for a family member that one cares about. The fact that our Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh regularly interacted with the shipyard and the ship staff to monitor the works and personally visited the ship in Kolkata on 9th September to review the progress, testifies to this sentiment. I would like to add here that I was myself in touch with the Head of GRSE shipyard in Kolkata to monitor the works and request the best possible support to Mauritius. Our own Ministry of External Affairs played an equally important role in obtaining exemptions and permissions from relevant authorities, including our Ministry of Health so that the refit continued without undue disruptions. We are very happy that despite these challenges, many of which were beyond our control, we were able to complete the refit work in the shortest possible time and return the vessel to Mauritius.
  1. I would therefore like to place on record our special gratitude to all those without whose assistance the refit would not have been possible in such a timely manner. I wish to thank the GRSE for completing the Short Refit of CGS Barracuda despite COVID challenges and supply chain disruptions. I am very grateful to our Chief of Naval Staff for his personal involvement and leadership, the Indian Ministry of Defence and the Indian Navy for their outstanding support and assistance.
  1. This is the kind of assistance that our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi envisioned as Vision SAGAR i.e. Security and Growth for All in the Region, during his visit to Mauritius in 2015. He said “Our vision for Indian Ocean Region is rooted in advancing cooperation in our region; and, to use our capabilities for the benefit of all in our common maritime home”. In advancing this goal, we see Mauritius as our important maritime and security partner, given our shared values and common vision of a safe, secure and stable Indian Ocean region that fosters sustainable development for the benefit of our people.
  1. This belief is reflected in our Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav celebration of India’s 75 years of Independence. It is not only a celebration of India’s achievements, but also a celebration of a new India that is determined to share its developmental experience with it partners and friends, including Mauritius. It is with the same spirit that we recently provided a Passenger Variant Dornier to Mauritius on lease and are now working on providing a Dhruv helicopter on lease. We were happy to see the first Woman Cadet officer Ms. MARIE GENEVIEVE LOUISE successfully pass out from the prestigious Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy in India. We are equally delighted to see the inspiring Mauritian youth icon SOOVAARNA RAMJEE ESSOO, the first woman pilot of the Police Helicopter Squadron, and are proud that she is an alumni of an Indian institution and that she completed her mandatory Pilot Aptitude Test in India recently before starting her flying journey. I have no doubt that there will be many more such moments to cherish in the India-Mauritius relationship as we mark 75 years of our diplomatic relations next year and as we strive together to make every tomorrow better than today for our people.
  1. Continuing with our tradition of commemorating these special ties between our two countries, we will have an Indian Ship INS Suvarna visiting Mauritius from 31 October to 4 November on the occasion of the Apravasi Diwas celebration. The ship will bring goodwill and greetings from India to our brothers and sisters in Mauritius. The ship will be open for the public on 1 and 2 November 2021 and I hope our friends from Mauritius, especially students, will enjoy visiting the ship.
  1. Ladies & Gentlemen, let me take this opportunity to thank the Hon’ble Prime Minister Mr Pravind Kumar Jugnauth for his personal support and guidance in deepening the special partnership between our two countries. A special thanks to H.E. the Hon’ble Minister ALAN GANOO for his valuable support at all times and for taking time out of his incredibly busy schedule to grace this event. I would like to extend my gratitude to the Secretary to the Cabinet H.E. N.K. BALLAH for all his support and guidance. I would also like to convey my special thanks and appreciation to H.E. Mr. DABIDIN, Secretary for Home Affairs, for his steadfast assistance and goodwill. I am also grateful to Amb. DILLUM, Secretary for Foreign Affairs for his continued support and active cooperation in taking forward our special relationship. A big thank you to the Mauritius Police Force and the National Coast Guard for forging a stronger India-Mauritius relationship and organising this beautiful ceremony.
  1. Thank you all and see you soon on board INS Suvarna! Namaskar!
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