The Navy is ramping up its new “mission-based deployments” in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) stretching from the Persian Gulf to the Malacca Strait, with warships on round-the-clock patrols to meet any operational eventuality from conventional threats and maritime terrorism to piracy and humanitarian disaster relief.
There are 12 to 15 destroyers, frigates, corvettes and large patrol vessels on long-range deployments in the IOR at any given time now, which are backed by naval satellite Rukmini (GSAT-7) and daily sorties by Poseidon-8I maritime patrol aircraft to keep tabs over the vast oceanic expanse.
The plan is to deploy “mission-ready warships” and aircraft along critical sea lanes of communications as well as “choke points” ranging from the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Aden to the Malacca Strait and Sunda Strait. “This will be done on a 24×7 basis round the year, with the warships being sustained and turned around on station. The Indian Navy has emerged as the net security provider and first responder in the region,” said a senior officer.
If a Shivalik-class stealth frigate is currently patrolling the Bay of Bengal towards Bangladesh and Myanmar, then a Teg-class frigate is in the vicinity of Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles. Similarly, while frigate INS Trishul is deployed for anti-piracy patrol in the Gulf of Aden, a Kora-class corvette is prowling around the Andaman Sea.
This “rebalancing of deployments”, of course, is also in response to China sending its warships and submarines into the IOR on a regular basis over the last few years. At least three nuclear and four conventional Chinese submarines, for instance, have been tracked in the IOR since December 2013, as earlier reported by TOI.
The Indian Navy, which currently has 138 warships and 235 aircraft and helicopters, incidentally has plans in place to become a 212-warship and 458-aircraft force by 2027 to protect the country’s huge geostrategic interests.
“The four-day naval commanders’ conference under Admiral Sunil Lanba, which kicked off on Tuesday, will review and fine-tune this mission-based deployment policy to enhance its effectiveness,” said another officer.
“The Navy is pursuing the PM’s vision of ‘Sagar’ (security and growth for all in the region) in a deliberate manner through security cooperation and capacity building initiatives with other nations in the region,” he added.
Apart from slowly upgrading military infrastructure in the strategically-located Andaman and Nicobar archipelago, which straddles major global trade routes and can be used as a pivot to counter Chinese moves in the IOR, the Indian Navy is also stepping-up its cooperation with other navies in the region through a series of exercises, coordinated patrols, training exchanges as well as supply of equipment.
Patrol vessel INS Sukanya, for instance, reached Belawan in Indonesia on Tuesday to take part in a coordinated patrolling and bilateral exercise there. India has also offered to train Indonesian Navy in submarine warfare operations, on the lines of training already being provided to the Vietnamese Navy.
Under the “Act East” policy, the intention is to progressively expand military ties with Japan and ASEAN countries like Singapore, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. “The Indian approach of providing equipment and training is increasingly finding favour in the region. The idea that there can be no growth without security is well understood,” said another officer.