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Indian Maritime Doctrine

The United States subcontracted, if not all, at least a major part of its military role in the Indian Ocean to New Delhi. In this mutually serving arrangement, India too feels comfortable with the United States Navy safeguarding New Delhis interests on the countrys eastern flank and further across the Strait of Malacca in the Far East and South China Sea.

During his address at the Naval Commanders Conference in October 2011, A.K. Antony, the then Indian Defence Minister, stated that the Indian Navy has been mandated to be a net security provider to island nations in the IOR. On May 23, 2013, the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh noted that India was well positioned to become a net provider of security in the countrys immediate region and beyond. The title so conferred by the countrys apex political leadership was carried forward by the Indian Navy. In the Indian Maritime Security Strategy of October 2015 [25 January 2016], Indian Navy accordingly boasts of earning national and international recognition.

The revised strategy was titled Ensuring Secure Seas: Indian Maritime Security Strategy, in recognition of two key aspects. First, the rise in sources, types and intensity of threats, with some blurring of traditional and non-traditional lines, requires a seamless and holistic approach towards maritime security. Second, in order to provide freedom to use the seas for Indias national interests, it is necessary to ensure that the seas remain secure. The expanded outlook, reflected in the title, also takes into account the additional mandate of the Indian Navy, which has been entrusted with the responsibility for overall maritime security, including coastal and offshore security.

To assist and influence the nation's thinking, in June 2004 the Navy issued its "Indian Maritime Doctrine" and made it available to the public. It is a glossy booklet of 135 pages as a book of reference, and it includes all the attributes that a doctrine should, to provide for common language and to appreciate the many roles that a responsible Navy should be prepared for, in peace and war. The Chief of Naval Staff in the foreword has stated, "If we are to fulfill our maritime destiny, all of us - the Government, the armed forces, the civil services, the media and the public - must have a maritime vision and a thorough understanding of the maritime concepts outlined in this doctrine".

The Indian Navy enters the new millennium as a professional focussed and committed force, deeply conscious of its roles and responsibilities. In times of peace and tension, the Indian Navy is a powerful instrument of the nation's foreign policy, while in times of conflict, it is the foremost expression of the nation's maritime power.

In an increasingly complex world, the missions of the Navy are correspondingly more diverse and complex than ever before. This complexity is global as well as regional, and is unlikely to diminish in the 2lst century. It is, as a consequence, essential for the Indian Navy to establish a recognizable set of navigational aids that will guide and chart its development and its conduct through the turbulent waters that lie ahead. At the most fundamental level, these navigational marks, as also the discernible dangers, are charted through the issue of backbone publications, the foremost of which is a clearly articulated doctrine.

The 'Indian Maritime Doctrine' is an unclassified document and will become available to every officer, civil servant, politician, analyst and professional concerned with the maritime affairs of our country. The purpose of a maritime doctrine is to provide the country with a common language and a uniform understanding of maritime concepts. It would provide a common reference point, language, and purpose, uniting the actions of many diverse elements into a team effort. It is intended to evoke the same degree of comprehension in the mind of every person who reads it, irrespective of his profession, experience or association with the sea.

The maritime domain is changing rapidly. India appreciates these changes and shapes strategies and policies to further national interests. India is a maritime nation and we have a bright maritime future, if only we can use the seas to advantage. If India is to fulfill a maritime destiny, the government, the armed forces, the civil services, the media and the public must have a maritime vision and a thorough understanding of the maritime concepts outlined in this doctrine.

The 'Indian Maritime Doctrine' is conceptual in nature and should not be construed as a policy statement. The Indian Navy rocognizes that while any formalized maritime doctrine is authoritative, its application should be embarked upon judiciously and astutely. There should be room for flexibility and innovativeness for responding to political changes, operational scenarios and technical opportunities. Otherwise, maritime doctrine runs the risk of evolving into a rigid dogma that straitjackets the strategic thought and tactical planning that is meant to flow out of it.

Maritime doctrine may be considered as having the following three constituent parts: the enduring tenets of the nature of war; the dynamic application of these tenets to meet today's circumstances and a predictive element designed to prepare us for tomorrow. When taken in totality, these three constituent parts define the scope of maritime doctrine, making it a dynamic combination of history, tradition and experience, born out of an understanding of maritime power and an intimate comprehension of the nature of war in general and maritime warfare in particular.

The 'Indian Maritime Doctrine' has been circulated to senior members of the government, bureaucracy and the armed forces, and has been widely welcomed as an important keystone document for the Indian Navy that was long overdue.

The full range of operations in which a nations naval forces may be involved is vast, ranging from high intensity war fighting at one end to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations at the other end. This broad continuum of operations can be broken down into distinct roles, each demanding a specific approach to the conduct of operations. Accordingly, the four main roles envisaged for the IN are as follows: -

  1. Military
  2. Diplomatic
  3. Constabulary
  4. Benign

The essence of all navies is their military character. In fact, the raison detre of navies is to ensure that no hostile maritime power can degrade own national security and interests. The navys military role is characterised by the threat or use of force at and from the sea. This includes application of maritime power in both offensive operations against enemy forces territory and trade, and defensive operations to protect own forces, territory and trade. The military role is performed through the accomplishment of specific military objectives, missions and tasks.

Naval Diplomacy entails the use of naval forces in support of foreign policy objectives to build bridges of friendship and strengthen international cooperation on the one hand, and to signal capability and intent to deter potential adversaries on the other. The larger purpose of the navys diplomatic role is to favourably shape the maritime environment in the furtherance of national interests, in consonance with the foreign policy and national security objectives. Navies inherently lean towards performing a diplomatic role on account of two characteristics. The first is their status as comprehensive instruments of a countrys sovereign power, whereupon their very presence in or off a certain area signals the nations political intent and commitment to pursue national interests in that region. Hence, their presence or absence can be calibrated to send a political message to potential friends and foes alike. The second characteristic facilitating the navys diplomatic role is in the very attributes of maritime forces, including access, mobility, sustenance, reach, flexibility and versatility. These combine to offer a variety of tools for furthering national interests and pursuing foreign policy goals. Naval forces can be readily deployed, can perform multiple roles and tasks that can be calibrated in visibility and intensity as per requirements, and can just as easily and rapidly be withdrawn, to send a countersignal.

The increasing incidence of maritime crime has brought into sharp focus the constabulary role that navies have to perform. The significance of this role may be gauged from the fact that for a third of the worlds navies, this is a major facet of their functions. In the constabulary role, forces are employed to enforce law of the land or to implement a regime established by an international mandate. Force is only employed for self-defence or as a last resort in execution of this role. The protection and promotion of Indias maritime security is one of the prime responsibilities of the Indian Navy. This includes a constabulary element, especially where it relates to threats that involve use of force at sea. The range of tasks that the IN has to undertake in the constabulary role ranges from Low Intensity Maritime Operations (LIMO) to maintaining good order at sea. This further includes aspects of coastal security, as part of Indias overall maritime security. Constabulary tasks at sea are neither the primary nor the sole mandate of the IN. With the establishment of the ICG in February 1978, law enforcement aspects of the constabulary role within the Maritime Zones of India (MZI) have been transferred to the ICG.28 Security in major harbours and ports are the purview of the port authorities, aided by customs and immigration agencies. Constabulary tasks beyond the MZI are vested with the Indian Navy. Efficient and effective maritime constabulary requires proper and seamless coordination between the various maritime law enforcement and regulatory agencies.

The benign role is so named because violence has no part to play in its execution, nor is the potential to apply force a necessary prerequisite for undertaking these operations. Examples of benign tasks include humanitarian aid, disaster relief, Search and Rescue (SAR), ordnance disposal, diving assistance, salvage operations, hydrographic surveys, etc. Maritime forces, because of their quick mobilisation, are extremely useful in the early stages of a crisis for providing relief material, first aid and succour. Much of the capacity to perform these functions derives itself from the mobility, reach and endurance inherent in naval task forces, coupled with their sealift capability. For example, in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster, one of the biggest challenges is the disbursement of food, water and relief material. It is under such conditions that military mobility, coupled with reliable communications are most effective in ensuring distribution to even the most remote afflicted areas. While specialised civilian agencies may take over at a later stage, maritime forces can provide the first helping hand and may be deployed to complement their efforts. The ICG is the designated national agency for SAR. Naval units may also be called upon to undertake SAR operations, as required.



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Page last modified: 28-11-2016 19:39:29 ZULU