Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba on Tuesday gave his stamp of approval to a new deployment pattern that seeks to position mission-ready Indian warships and aircraft along critical sea lanes of communications and choke points.
Lanba ordered the scaling up of the navy’s maritime footprint on the opening day of the naval commanders’ conference, amid growing sightings of Chinese naval assets in the Indian Ocean region.
The four-day conference – a biannual event – is aimed at taking stock of navy’s combat readiness with focus on operational effectiveness of combat platforms, logistics and development of shore support infrastructure for sustaining high tempo operations.
The deployment of Chinese naval units in the Indian Ocean is being closely monitored by the Indian Navy – it sighted more than a dozen Chinese warships in the Indian Ocean in May-June including submarines, destroyers and intelligence-gathering vessels.
Navy officials said anti-piracy patrols and freedom of navigation were the reasons cited by China for its rising presence in the region.
The officials Navy sources said under the new deployment model, up to 15 Indian warships would be deployed from as far as the Persian Gulf to the Strait of Malacca and northern Bay of Bengal to the southeast coast of Africa.
In July, China began deploying troops to its first overseas naval base at Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, a significant leap forward in the expansion of its foreign military presence that triggered concerns in India. The Djibouti base will boost Beijing’s ability to sustain naval units in the Indian Ocean.
The Indian Navy’s deployments are part of an effort to meet any eventuality across the spectrum of operations including maritime terrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR), human trafficking, piracy and narcotics trade.
“We have emerged as first responders in HADR situations in the region on numerous occasions,” defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman said at the 4th ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM Plus) in the Philippines on Tuesday, highlighting the navy’s greater presence and visibility.
A senior navy officer said the force was “re-balancing its deployments” in the Indian Ocean region in line with Prim Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of ‘security and growth for all in the region’, known by its acronym SAGAR.