quinta-feira, 11 de outubro de 2007

INDIA Navy's Expanding Strategic Reach

Navy's Expanding Strategic Reach

Ask an Army officer about India’s neighbours and he or she would promptly reply Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma and Sri Lanka. That’s normal.
Ask the same question to a Naval officer. His answer will certainly border on the not-so-normal.
For a naval officer, India’s borders extend beyond Pakistan and China to Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen and the African continent up to South Africa in the west to Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and even western Australia in the east.
That’s because a Naval officer and his men look at the neighbourhood on littoral terms and not just as International Borders and the Lines of Control. In the maritime domain, India’s neighbours are those countries, whose coastline can be connected through the seas.
Officially, the Indian Navy has been unhesistatingly advocating that the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is its responsibility. And that comprises of the seas from Persian Gulf in the north, the Antartica in the south, eastern Africa, Arabian Peninsula, Suez Canal, Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman, southern Indian Ocean, South Africa, and Cape of Good Hope in the west to coastline of Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Mallacca Straits, and western and northern Australia, all to India’s east.
In this region there are serious issues such as the inter-state and intra-state conflicts, countries marked by economic diversities, living cheek-by-jowl, still to recover from colonialism, immature politically and providing for 70% of world’s natural disasters.
The region also faces threats from terrorists, pirates (on both flanks of the Indian Ocean), failed states, gun running, human trafficking, maritime hijacking – all these, coupled with larger capabilities of non-state actors.
``If you are not careful about your neighbourhood, you will end up regretting why we did not care. And why India? Because it sits in a dominant position geographically, able to influence international shipping density, the region being the busiest with about a lakh ships sailing through the region, Mallacca Straits alone handling 60,000 ships a year,’’ points out a naval officer.
And that’s why the Indian Navy calls itself an effective instrument of state policy and defines its roles on the basis of four sides of a pyramid. The base of the pyramid, as always, is its military role. But the other three sides are represented by diplomacy, policing and benign roles.
After an ambitious overseas deployment in South-East Asia and the Far East in March-May, Indian warships have now headed for West Asia for a 40-day overseas deployment since early August to "engage constructively" with as many as six countries. The Indian
Naval ships would stay put in West Asia till end September during which period the ships would visit Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Djibouti.
Apart from Pas-Ex with the Navies of these countries the Indian ships (guided missile destroyers INS Rajput and INS Delhi, frigates INS Betwa and INS Beas, and tanker INS Jyoti) would visit, the Indian Navy will also participate in the coming Exercise Varuna with the French Navy off Djibouti, where the French have a naval base, in the second week of September.
``The West Asia overseas deployment of Indian naval ships is a conscious decision taken about six months ago to further the Indian interest in the region,’’ says Rear Admiral Pradeep Chauhan, Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Foreign Cooperation and Intelligence) at the Naval headquarters. ``We recognise that there is a need to enhance our interaction with navies in the western region,” he adds.
After all, India has been pursuing a Look East policy, with greater success, for a while now and it is time, the western neighbours (in naval terms) do not feel ignored. ``Indian Navy is a regionally relevant one and we are conscious of the fact that the `region’ encompasses a wide swathe of ocean, not only to our east, but to our west and south as well. Consequently, we strive hard not to allow ourselves to get unduly fixated upon any geographical segment of our primary area of maritime interest” Rear Admiral Chauhan had told FORCE recently.
Much more than Army or the IAF, the much smaller Navy want to keep the tricolour flying high on foreign shores in tune with India's growing geo-political and strategic interests. And that was why Indian Navy’s guided missile destroyer INS Delhi was on a port call at Doha in Qatar on August 15 this year, when the countrymen were celebrating India’s diamond jubilee (60 years) of Independence.The naval units of the Western Fleet are on deployment in the West Asian region of primary interest for India. The ships departed from Mumbai on August 9 and entered Persian Gulf to split into two segments with the INS Delhi flag ship off to Kuwait and later to Saudi Arabia, engaging Kuwait Navy in Pas-Ex (passage exercise) en route exercising Visit, Board, Search and Seize maneuvers. INS Rajput and Betwa visited Saudi Arabian for a Pas-Ex with its navy.
Another segment of the deployment, visited Doha in Qatar in mid-August and from there proceeded to Manama in Bahrain at the same period as the Saudi Arabia visit of INS Betwa.
While the first set of ships would visit Abu Dhabi to carry out a Pas-Ex, the second group sails out of Strait of Hormus on a port call of Muscat and Pas-Ex with Royal Navy of Oman.
The first group proceeds to exercise with the British Royal Navy in the Gulf of Oman, with INS Rajput and Betwa exercising with RFA Richmond and RFA Bayleaf, both replenishment ships of Royal Navy.
From Oman, INS Delhi detaches and joins Betwa to return to Mumbai. But INS Rajput joins Beas and Jyoti to Djibouti in mid September for Ex Varuna 2007, when a maneuver relating to an air threat from shore-based platform would be exercised with worthy combatants from the French Navy.
On completion, the Indian Navy ships will execute a standard patrol in the Gulf for Eden not known for stability in the recent times, to return by end September.
``The West Asia deployment will be important because it will address India-centric interests,’’ says Rear Admiral Pradeep Chauhan, obviously indicating the oil security concerns of the nation. ``Indeed, there is ample evidence of this, as last year too Indian Navy’s Mediterranean Sea deployment led to Operation Sukoon to evacuate over 2,000 Indian and foreign nationals from war-torn Lebanon to safety. If our ships weren’t deployed in the general area in the first instance, this operation could not have been mounted at such short notice. In 2006 too, our Naval units exercised with their counterparts from Turkey, Italy, Greece and France,” he says.
Then, of course, the Navy’s participation in the mammoth five-nation war games alongside US, Japan, UK, Australia and Singapore naval warships in the Bay of Bengal in the first week of September, in an extension of the Indo-US Malabar series of exercises.
All this only goes on to showcase India’s growing stature as a world maritime power, what with all important naval powers wanting to exercise with Indian Navy.
When on April 16 this year, four formidable guided-missile destroyers of the Japanese maritime self-defence Force, the Kirishima, Murasame, Ikazuchi and Takanami joined up with the US Navy’s guided missile destroyers John S Maccain and Mustin, off Tokyo Bay, it was a fairly routine rendezvous.
But when the two countries’ warships were joined by the Indian Navy’s guided missile destroyer INS Mysore, the guided missile corvette INS Kuthar, and the fleet replenishment tanker INS Jyothi, it became history.
This was the first-ever multi-lateral naval exercise involving India, Japan and the US, and not only was it a resounding success, but it heralded a new era in India’s policy of constructive engagement.
But the historical importance of the April 17 exercise went beyond the novelty of the first trilateral naval exercise. It was also the very day when Indian Navy’s guided missile destroyers INS Rana and INS Ranjit, simultaneously befriended the Chinese’s People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) through exercises off the port-city of Qingdao.
At the same time as the Japanese and Chinese engagement, the Indian Naval prowess was also in evidence in the distant Atlantic, where INS Tarangini, the only sail training ship of the Indian Navy, was making her run towards Antigua. Later, INS Tarangini went on to operate till mid-July this year off the continental USA and Canada before returning home.
``India has over the last decade exercised with almost all important navies of the world, including the Chinese, as recently as in April this year, apart from Japan, United Kingdom’s Royal Navy, Greece, and France, several times over,’’ says a senior officer of the Indian Navy at the Naval headquarters.All he wants to indicate is that the extended Malabar exercise from Setember 4 to 9 over Bay of Bengal is not an one-off exercise, but a part of a well-laid out plan for increasing the Indian Navy’s professional capabilities, and the US being the best, it was in the interest of the country to constructively engage them in exercises to learn the best practices and to increase ‘interoperability’ between the two sides at present and for posterity.
During this 13th edition of the Malabar CY 07-2 exercise the US would deploy the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, which came calling at the Chennai port only a couple of months ago. That apart, the Americans will bring another aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk and nuclear submarine USS Chicago, apart from 20 other warships and several fighter and reconnaissance aircraft, in probably the largest amassing of deadly war machines in the Bay of Bengal since the 1971 Indo-Pak war. "But the Indian Navy is not US-centric, but India-centric. We exercise with many foreign navies to gain and share operational and doctrinal expertise, imbibe best practices and generate interoperability, apart from building bridges of friendship" says Rear Admiral Pradeep Chauhan. With the emphatic and simultaneous showing of the national flag and the naval ensign, through its simultaneous deployments that span the globe from the waters of the Atlantic to those of the Pacific, the Indian Navy is, today, demonstrating impressive reach and staying power.
But, perhaps, most important of all, the constructive engagement with other navies only emphasizes the emergence of India as a true maritime power, with the Indian Navy living up to its sobriquet of being the sole maritime manifestation of the sovereign power of our republic, says a Naval officer.
Constructive engagement with other navies was first set in motion during the 2001 International Fleet Review held off Mumbai coast, when India showcased her maritime capability, with over 80 warships from across the world participating in it.
With INS Jalashwa, the newest addition to the Indian Navy formerly with the US Navy as USS Trenton amphibious transport dock commissioned at Norfolk in Virginia (US) reently, joining the eastern fleet this September, it will only increase India’s power projection capabilities well into the Indian Ocean and beyond.
The ship will dramatically enhance the Indian navy’s sealift and airlift capabilities, providing a platform for power projection and the ability to transport and deploy expeditionary forces. Crewed by 27 officers and 302 sailors, the Jalashwa is scheduled to reach Mumbai on September 10 this year. Along with carrying 968 fully-equipped combat troops and their assault vehicles, the ship can function as a command and control platform during mishaps at sea like offshore oil installation fires and maritime air accidents. It will also provide the Indian navy the ability to conduct large-scale relief operations and humanitarian missions, such as those required in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami.
With INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier (formerly Admiral Gorshkov of Russia), complemented by MiG29K on board fighter aircraft, likely to join the fleet before end of 2009, India is likely to possess two aircraft carrier from 2009 to 2012 till Viraat is decommissioned after serving Indian Navy for 25 years.With two aircraft carrier - one each on either seaboard, India’s strategic reach in the IOR and beyond is only likely to go further than the Cape of Good Hope in the west and the Mallacca Straits in the east, in the coming years.

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