Indian Navy in 2021 expanding horizons, pushing boundaries

Seas permit free flow of commerce and ideas. India is essentially a maritime nation and the last decade has witnessed substantial expansion in India’s dependence on her maritime environment. Our unique geographic location bestows upon us unmatched advantages as we sit astride some of the world’s most critical Sea Lines of Communication (SLOCs). 70% of our trade by value and 90% by volume is through the sea. Moreover, 99% of our communications are running through undersea cables. The Indian Navy (IN) is the principal manifestation of India’s maritime influence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). It has come a long way from what it was at India’s independence, and has transformed into a multi-dimensional, highly capable, blue-water force, ready to address threats and challenges in the maritime domain. Thanks to the vision of its perspicacious forbearers, today’s Indian Navy has acquired adequate capability to meet all challenges in its Primary and Secondary Areas of Interest. A professional force, the Indian Navy is now a pre-eminent maritime power in the IOR and the Indo-Pacific.

A multi-dimensional force capable of operating above, below and on the ocean surface, over land, across the electronic spectrum and also in space, the Navy has maintained enhanced preparedness and op posture throughout 2021. Periodic firing of long-range precision weapons were undertaken to hone ‘Ordnance on Target’ skills, and for strategic signalling to potential adversaries. Contingencies across emergent spectrum of operations were also war-gamed and refined during the pan-Navy Theatre-level Exercises TROPEX, conducted early in the year. Mission Deployed ships at key locations in the IOR, near-continuous maritime air surveillance using aircraft and RPAs, and the Information Fusion Centre (IFC-IOR) at Gurugram, all have helped build a comprehensive maritime picture. At any time, there are warships patrolling the Bay of Bengal, Malacca Strait, Andaman Sea, Southern IOR, Central IOR, Gulf of Aden and the Persian Gulf and this has facilitated swift response to developing situations.

A warship deployed 24x7x365 on Operation Sankalp in the Gulf since June 2019 has provided protection to Indian merchantmen passing through the Strait of Hormuz. The Indian Navy, in consultation with its other maritime neighbours like Sri Lanka and Maldives, have also been proactively engaged in counter-narcotics operations to tackle a steady flow of drugs from the Makran coast, down to the East coast of Africa from where it moves to the island nations, which are tourism dependent economies, and then to Sri Lanka and India and also across the world. Near-coast surveillance is also coordinated by the Navy by synchronising the resources of nearly 20 government agencies to draw an electronic fence over our coastline, to deter any 26/11 type incident.

There has been increased deployment of the Indian Navy for HADR missions in the past year. Deployed for nearly two months as part of Operation Samudra Setu II in end April, warships made numerous trips amidst the brutal second wave of COVID-19, traversing nearly 100,000 km to bring LMO, oxygen cylinders, oxygen containers and other critical medical aid from friendly foreign countries. Most notably, IN Ships and aircraft were extensively deployed for days as part of rescue operations during Cyclone Tauktae in May. A total of 188 survivors were rescued in the operation.

Under Mission SAGAR, the Navy has also been proactively engaging with countries in the region undertaking numerous humanitarian operations and Covid-19 related assistance spanning the entire extent of the Indian Ocean including South/ South East Asia and East Africa. Indian Navy ships have also on many occasions been requested to render assistance to vessels at sea. In March, INS Talwar rendered assistance to a cargo vessel, comprising seven Indian crew, which was adrift in Gulf of Oman owing to machinery failure. Survey ship Sarvekshak was also deployed to Colombo in June for providing survey assistance to assess/ locate debris of Singaporean flagged ex- MV Xpress Pearl, which sank off Colombo harbour due to fire onboard. In end July, IN Ship Airavat responded to the distress call from Indian fishing vessel ‘Selath Matha II’ off Car Nicobar Island and towed her to safety. More recently, in end September, an Advanced Light Helicopter from Indian Navy’s Southern Naval Command at Kochi undertook medical evacuation of a Filipino crew from merchant vessel MV Lyric Poet off Kochi.

Through its deployments and outreach, the Indian Navy has also been a key instrument of India’s foreign policy and been seeking collaboration with friendly and like-minded nations with interests in the wider Indo-Pacific. Besides the challenges posed by Covid-19 pandemic, the Indian Navy has conducted nearly 28 bi-/multi-lateral exercises and operational engagements, eight Coordinated Patrols, and close to 30 Maritime Partnership Exercises (MPXs) with friendly foreign countries. Back-to-back bilateral and multi-lateral exercises/ operations like AUSINDEX, INDRA, JIMEX, KONKAN, MALABAR, SLINEX, SIMBEX, SITMEX, VARUNA, etc with regional and extra-regional navies is evidence that the global comity recognises the Indian Navy’s efforts of the past decades. The gains accrued by these exercises are further enhanced by the full spectrum of military education and training offered by the Indian Navy to friendly foreign countries. In recent times, the Navy has also deployed mobile training teams to provide specific, tailored and practical training to regional partners at their own establishments whenever such interactions have been sought. This has led to far greater levels of understanding and trust, which are veritable force multipliers when working together to address shared challenges.

As India strides forward with clear purpose and steadfast intent, embracing its role as a key pillar of the emerging global order, the Indian Navy has exemplified the quiet confidence and potent capabilities of our nation. The wide range of activities undertaken by Indian Navy in 2021 are a true reflection of New India, which stands ready to work individually and in partnership with its friends to create an environment conducive to inclusive development and prosperity across the region.

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