Indian Navy Operations
A "banner year" for bilateral training exercises, 2003 will likely be a model for future exercise planning. As a U.S. partner in the war on terrorism, the IN did little this year other than bilateral training exercises to bolster anti-terrorism efforts.
After several years of meticulous preparation, by 2003 the outlines of a new operational philosophy of the Indian Navy were becoming increasingly perceptible. This is an operational philosophy whose contours are well suited to the current perception of the Indian Navy - that of a competent, confident, operationally viable and regionally visible maritime power. Ships of the Indian Navy are not merely visible in the Indian Ocean Region and its environs - but also further afield.
In keeping with the 2003 naval slogan, the Indian Navy is indeed "Tacking to the Blue Waters". "Tacking" is a sailing term, indicating a change of direction of a sailing vessel. "Blue Waters" is a common maritime term implying deep seas, far away from one's own shores.
In keeping with this change in thrust and direction, Indian Naval ships are demonstrating the Navy's emergence as a regionally viable stabilising force. For Instance, in April of this year, the active assistance of the Indian Navy was requested by the Republic of Mauritius - 2,500 nautical miles away - to tow their Coast Guard Vessel Vigilante to Mumbai for repairs at the Naval Dockyard. This arduous and professionally challenging task was flawlessly executed by INS Gaj. In recognition of the demonstrated capability of the Indian Navy, the Government of Mauritius additionally requested surveillance of its Exclusive Economic Zone. First, INS Sharda, and now, INS Suvarna, maintained presence in the area, sharing with them information of importance.
Similarly, in June 2003, INS Ranjit and INS Suvarna executed a month-long deployment in and off Maputo, the capital of Mozambique - over 3,500 nautical miles away from India. This was at the specific request of the Government of Mozambique to provide security and training assistance.
Closer home, responding to a call, by the Government of Sri Lanka in mid-May 2003 for Indian assistances in providing succour to the flood-stricken southern and central districts of the country, the swiftness and comprehensiveness of the response by INS Sharda were instrumental in showing that a friend in need is a friend indeed.
Indian Naval ships were visible in or headed for the eastern choke points of the Indian Ocean, building professional partnerships with other navies of South East Asia, IN ships Rajput and Rana renewed contacts with old friends in Singapore, as well INS Mumbai with the Indonesian Navy.
Farther out still, the three masted sail training barque INS Tarangini proudly bore the Indian flag as far away as Canada and the US, carrying through the Great Lakes India's desire and, ability to build bridges of friendship across the seas. After taking part in tall ship races, she will transit the Panama Canal, cross the Pacific and return home.
For the Indian Navy, "Bridges of Friendship Across the Seas" had a particular relevance, for it knows that it is the sea itself that is the bridge - and the Indian Navy is determined to travel upon this bridge, reaching across to its maritime neighbours intimately connected by the sea, no matter where in the world they are.
Following the 28 December 2004 tsunami, rescue and relief operations under taken by Andaman and Nicobar Command included intensive search and rescue for survivers by Marine Commandos of Indian Navy at Indira Point light house and adjoining areas. Indian Naval Ships Brahmaputra with its two chetak helicopters, Sandhayak with one chetak helicopter, Darshak with one chetak helicopter, Jyoti, Trinket, Sharabh and LCU- 38 operated off Great Nicobar Island and Nancowry group of islands. INS Rajput with chetak helicopter on board operated off Car Nicobar whereas Indian Naval Ships Magar, Kumbhir, LCU- 35 and LCU- 36 were deployed off Hut Bay. Helicopters on board INS Brahmaputra carried out aerial recce of Pilomilo, Pilobabi, Pilokunji and Kyang Island along with tribal captain.
Dedicated surveillance missions are periodically mounted in the Choke Points. These missions are generically termed “SLOC Monitoring Missions”. The ‘Maritime Surveillance Zone’ outer limit is defined by mission requirements and its inner limit being defined by the current EEZ boundary, that is, 200 nm from the coast. Naval ships from all three Commands as well as the Tri Services Command based at Port Blair are regularly deployed in Maritime Surveillance Zones to show presence as well as coordinate / exercise with other regional navies to enhance interoperability. Government sanction for Operational Turn Around (OTR) of IN Ships and aircraft for twenty five specified countries has been obtained for a period of three years, commencing in 2009. With the changing dynamics of the geo-political environment and the growing Indian influence in our immediate and extended region of interest, this sanction would facilitate enhancement of our ability to assist in collective efforts towards maritime security in IOR, the piracy-infested coast of Somalia, the Mozambique Channel and the southern reaches of the Indian Ocean.
Until recently, there were not too many dedicated surveillance missions mounted within the ‘MZI Interest Zone’ (MZI being the “Maritime Zones of India), with its outer limit at 200 nm and its inner limit at 12 nm from the Indian coast. . However, the anti-piracy operations have necessitated deployment of regular units in this zone also, in addition to normal transits undertaken by the Fleets, Flotillas, and Air Squadrons. A dedicated ship and aircraft surveillance effort is also being undertaken around the Lakshadweep and Minicoy Islands called 'Op Island' watch.
Surveillance within the ‘Territorial Interest Zone’ coincides with the country’s Territorial Waters. Op SWAN and Op TASHA are ongoing operations of dedicated surveillance missions mounted within the ‘Territorial Interest Zone’. In addition, frequent coastal security exercises in close coordination with Indian Coast Guard, Marine Police, Customs, Fisheries, Port authorities and other government agencies are conducted to enhance coastal security awareness among the local populace.
The operational interaction with regional and extra-regional navies involves structured interaction in the form of war games, exercises or operations. The fundamental purpose of this ‘Constructive Engagement’ in operational terms is to hone our own Navy’s skills in a number of diverse areas of war-fighting and to share current tactical/ technological practices and techniques. The major engagements with foreign navies include US, UK, Russia, France, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Indonesia, Oman, Thailand etc. to name a few.
A large percentage of India’s trade, including oil and fertilisers, passes through the Gulf of Aden. The Ministry of Shipping has estimated that the annual Indian imports through the Gulf of Aden route were valued in the order of USD 50 Billion and exports at USD 60 Billion. The safety and unhindered passage of maritime trade, by the ships that use this route, is in national interest as it directly impacts the Indian economy. A minimum of about 24 Indian flagged merchant ships transit the Gulf of Aden every month. However, the crew of most of the foreign flagged vessels comprises of Indian nationals, as India’s large seafaring community (approximately 100,000 in number) accounts for nearly 6% of the world’s seafarers. Piracy off the coast of Somalia has grown steadily over the years and has become serious as it is spreading further from the coast into the Indian Ocean. Consequently, to protect Indian-flagged ships, Indian Navy commenced anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden from 23 October 2008.
After the terrorist attacks on Mumbai on 26 November 2008, the overall responsibility for coastal security has been mandated to the Indian Navy, in close coordination with the ICG, State marine police and other central/state government and port authorities. Since November 2008 several initiatives have been taken by the Government to strengthen security of the coastal areas against the threat of non-state actors from sea. The Indian Navy has established four Joint Operation Centres in all Naval Commands and ANC. All coastal security operations are now coordinated from the Joint Operations Centre, which are manned round the clock by Naval and Coast Guard teams. In addition, the State Marine Police and other agencies such as Customs, Intelligence Bureau, Ports, and Fisheries etc are also networked with these centres. There has been a quantum increase in the efforts for coastal surveillance patrols by Naval and Coast Guard ships as well as aircraft. These patrols are closely coordinated so as to maximise efforts and keep the entire coast under surveillance.
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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