Indian Navy has proved to be an effective arm of Indian diplomacy to promote and deepen diplomatic relations with friendly countries. This year alone Indian navy interacted with all the principal navies big and small, relevant to India’s diplomatic and maritime interests in bilateral and multilateral mode.
From tiny Maldives and Sri Lanka to ASEAN members besides African, Gulf and European powers to giant US Navy, Indian navy interacted with most of the friendly naval powers in the Indo-pacific maritime region in recent months, which the strategic community must take note of. In fact India’s naval diplomacy was at it’s zenith in the outgoing year 2021. Indian navy seemed to be darling of all major naval powers, who want to partner with India whether in Indian ocean or pacific seas. These flurry of multilateral and bilateral maritime exercises are not simple gestures of friendly exchanges, they are meant to convey messages to all those maritime powers, who have an evil eye on the Indo-pacific maritime area, that these waters are international waterways for promoting trade and security for which a secure and peaceful security environment is needed. Respect for United Nations convention on Law of the Seas (UNCLOS), an anathema to the Chinese, have been the buzzword during all these exercises.
Malabar exercises had four powerful navies of the world India, US, Australia and Japan demonstrate to all that they intend to safeguard their maritime interests collectively. India being a part of this four nation group is very significant for Indian maritime diplomacy.
Maritime exercises promotes interoperability between navies which gives confidence to naval powers that they can together thwart any threat to peace and tranquillity in the high seas. The threat emanates not only from non-state actors but state actors also for which nations must unite and show unity and solidarity for their common cause. With these aim Indian sailors have been rubbing their shoulders with other littoral naval powers from Indian Ocean to pacific ocean, since early nineties, immediately after the end of cold war.
In fact as the Cold war era ended, the Chief of US Pacific command Lt General Kickleighter visited India in 1992 with a proposal to have bilateral friendly exchanges with Indian navy. It was a pleasant surprise for Indian security czars, as till the early nineties India was firmly on the side of the then dissolved Soviet Union. India accepted the US proposal and then began Indian naval journey to far-off Pacific to Atlantic seas.
Presently Indian Navy is indulging in friendly maritime exchanges with scores of naval powers annually. In accordance with the vision of SAGAR (Security and Growth for all in the region), enunciated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi a few years ago, Indian Navy participated in 22 bilateral and multilateral exercises in 2021. To quote Chief of Naval Staff Admiral R. Hari Kumar, these included exercises like Varuna with French Navy in April, INDRA with Russian Navy in July, Konkan with Royal Navy in September, JIMEX with Japanese Navy in October and the most recent exercise, SITMEX with Singapore and Thailand Navies in November. These exercises have contributed immensely to enhanced cooperation and trust. Further the complexity of some of these exercises has been increased leading to greater mutual understanding and interoperability.
As part of the vision of SAGAR, the Indian Navy has been proactively engaging with the countries in the Indian Ocean Region towards enhancing regional maritime security. This has been through bilateral and multilateral exercises, Coordinated Patrols, Joint EEZ Surveillance, and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations. Indian Navy remains committed towards ensuring peace, stability and security in the region and is ever-ready to cooperate and collaborate with partner Navies on issues of Maritime safety and security.
Indian Navy remains committed towards ensuring peace, stability and security in the region and is ever ready to cooperate and collaborate with partner Navies on issues of Maritime safety and security
Indian navy has proved to be an effective arm of Indian diplomacy to promote and deepen diplomatic relations with friendly countries. As stated above, this year alone Indian navy interacted with all the principal navies big and small, relevant to India’s diplomatic and maritime interests in bilateral and multilateral mode. The latest one being French Naval warship FS Chevalier Paul which departed Kochi harbour on November 30 after completing a twelve day long extensive engagement with the Indian Navy. As part of the interaction the ship undertook Port Calls at two Indian ports Mumbai and Kochi and undertook a Maritime Partnership Exercise with Indian Naval Ship Kolkata in the Arabian Sea from November 22 to 23, 2021. The exercise also involved participation of a Maritime Patrol Aircraft and MiG-29K Fighter aircraft from the Indian side. This year alone the two navies have undertaken five Maritime engagements including major exercises such as VARUNA–21 and multilateral exercise La Perouse.
The highlight of this years naval interactions was the four nation multilateral exercises named Malabar, ever since it started on bilateral basis with US Navy in 1992. Since the four partner nations are also a part of four nation grouping called QUAD, the Chinese strategic circles pointed towards the intended aim of this multilateral exercise as ganging up against China, under the umbrella of QUAD, though partner nations deny this and assert Malabar as independent of Quad . However, India’s strategic message to China is suitably conveyed through this four nation exercise of US, Japan, India and Australia. China now understands that India is not alone in Indian Ocean or Pacific Ocean. India is being acknowledged as partner nation in multilateral groupings to challenge the maritime ambitions of China.
This year’s Malabar exercises were conducted in two phases, the first being near the contested waters of Philippines sea, where the Chinese are harassing the Philippines, from August 26 to 29, the second phase was shifted to Bay of Bengal from 12-15 October. Thus four powerful navies of the world India, US, Australia and Japan demonstrated to all that they intend to safeguard their maritime interests collectively. India being a part of this four nation group is very significant for Indian maritime diplomacy.
In pursuance of India's ‘Act East' Policy, Indian Naval Ships Shivalik and Kadmatt reached Muara, Brunei as part of their deployment to South East Asia on August 9, 2021. During the stay at Muara, Brunei, the crew of both the ships participated in various bilateral professional interactions with Royal Brunei Navy.
Leave major powers apart, Indian navy had very useful interaction with ASEAN members, Only last November 23 to 24, Indian Naval Ship (INS) Khanjar, an indigenously built Missile Corvette along with Dornier Maritime Patrol Aircraft undertook coordinated patrol (CORPAT) with Indonesian Naval Ship KRI Sultan Thaha Syaifuddin, a Kapitan Patimura-Class Corvette. The 37th edition of CORPAT between India and Indonesia also witnessed participation of Maritime Patrol Aircraft from both Nations.
During year 2021 alone, the Indian and French Navies have undertaken five Maritime engagements including major exercises such as VARUNA–21 and multilateral exercise La Perouse
The 28th edition of Singapore-India Maritime Bilateral Exercise (SIMBEX) was conducted from September 2-4, 2021. India-Singapore Defence relations remain a very significant aspect of the overall bilateral relationship and cover a very wide spectrum of collaboration from conventional military-to-military exchanges to HADR and cyber security.
In continuation with ongoing deployment of Indian Navy ships in the South China Sea, INS Ranvijay and INS Kora undertook bilateral maritime exercise with Vietnam People's Navy (VPN) frigate VPNS Ly Thai To on August 18, 2021. The bilateral interaction aims to consolidate the strong bond shared by the two navies and would be another step towards strengthening India-Vietnam defence relations. Defence ties between the two countries have been robust. In June this year, the two countries undertook a defence security dialogue and Indian Naval ships have been frequently visiting Vietnamese Ports. Training cooperation between the two navies has been on the rise over the years.
After this, the 32nd edition of India-Thailand Coordinated Patrol (Indo-Thai CORPAT) between the Indian Navy and the Royal Thai Navy was conducted from 12–14 November 2021. INS Karmuk, an indigenously built Missile Corvette and His Majesty’s Thailand Ship (HTMS) Tayanchon, a Khamrosin Class Anti-submarine Patrol Craft, along with Maritime Patrol Aircraft from both navies participated in the CORPAT.
Two ships of the Indian Navy, namely INS Ranvijay (Guided Missile Destroyer) and INS Kora (Guided Missile Corvette), on deployment to the Western Pacific, carried out a Maritime Partnership Exercise with BRP Antonio Luna (Frigate) of the Philippine Navy on August 23, 2021 in the West Philippine Sea.
In view of strained relations between China and Philippine, India’s deepening naval exchanges with Philippine is significant. India and Philippines share a very robust defence and security partnership built over several years and spanning across all domains. Both navies remain committed to further strengthening bilateral collaboration in the maritime domain towards a collective aim of ensuring a stable, peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific.
In late October, the sea phase of maiden Tri-Service exercise 'Konkan Shakti 2021' between the Armed Forces of India and United Kingdom (UK) was held off the Konkan coast in the Arabian Sea. On completion of harbour planning phase, the sea phase of the exercise commenced on October 24, which continued till October 27. This annual naval interaction reinforced strategic partnership between India and UK.
In early October, the fifth edition of India–Japan Maritime Bilateral Exercise, JIMEX, between the Indian Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF), was held in Arabian Sea. JIMEX series of exercises commenced in January 2012 with special focus on maritime security cooperation.
INS Tabar, as part of her overseas deployment, made a port call at Casablanca in Morocco on August 25 and 26, 2021. Upon leaving the harbour on August 26, 2021, the ship participated in a Maritime Partnership Exercise with Royal Moroccan Navy ship.
As part of her ongoing goodwill visit to Europe and Africa, INS Tabar took part in a Maritime Partnership Exercise with Algerian Navy ship 'Ezzadjer' on August 29.
Indian navy have off late begun playing a major role in strengthening security cooperation with gulf nations. With this aim, the second edition of exercise Zair-Al-Bahr between the Indian Navy and Qatar Emiri Naval Force (QENF) was conducted from August 09-14, 2021 in the Persian Gulf. The last edition of the exercise included a three day harbour phase followed by a two day sea phase.
The 2nd edition of exercise Zair-Al-Bahr will contribute towards the Indian Navy’s efforts to consolidate Inter-operability and forge strong bonds of friendship with the Qatari Navy. The bilateral maritime exercise between two navies would further strengthen the maritime exchanges between the two countries and enhance maritime security in the region.
The Indian Navy's visit to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was set rolling with the Flag Officer Commanding Western Fleet (FOCWF), Rear Admiral Ajay Kochhar visiting the Fleet Cdr of Royal Saudi Navy's Eastern Fleet, Rear Admiral Majid Al Qahtani on August 10, 2021. This was held at King Abdul Aziz Naval Base, which is the Headquarters for Saudi Eastern Fleet. The FOCWF also visited the King Fahd Naval Academy and met with the Commandant Rear Admiral Faisal Bin Fahd Al Ghufaily
Indian Navy also undertook bilateral exercise ‘Zayed Talwar 2021’ with UAE Navy on August 7, 2021 off the coast of Abu Dhabi.INS Kochi, with two integral Sea King MK-42B helicopters, deployed in the Persian Gulf, participated in the exercise. UAE participated with UAES AL - Dhafra, a Baynunah class guided missile corvette and one AS – 565B Panther helicopter.
Indian Naval Ship Tabar arrived at St Petersburg on 22 July as part of a five-day goodwill visit to Russia and to participate in the 325th Navy Day celebrations of the Russian Navy. India and Russia share special bilateral relations that span several decades. These include close military ties and strong cooperation between the two navies.
As part of the ongoing deployment to the Mediterranean, INS Tabar entered the Port of Naples, Italy on July 3, 2021. The ship was accorded a warm welcome by the Italian Navy. During the stay in port the Commanding Officer Captain Mahesh Mangipudi called on the senior officers of the Prefect of Naples Authority, the regional Italian Navy Headquarters and the Coast Guard Headquarters at Naples.
On departure from port, the ship also undertook a Maritime Partnership Exercise with ITS Antonio Marceglia, a frontline frigate of the Italian Navy, on July 4 and 5, 2021 in the Tyrrhenian Sea. The exercise covered a wide range of naval operations including air defence procedures, replenishment at sea, communication drills and cross deck helo operations by day and night. The exercise was mutually beneficial in enhancing interoperability and towards consolidating combined operations against maritime threats.
On 18-19 June 2021, the European Union (EU) and India conducted a joint naval exercise in the Gulf of Aden. The exercise involved Indian Navy frigate Trikand, EU NAVFOR Somalia - Operation Atalanta assets, including Italian frigate Carabiniere (Atalanta’s flagship) and Spanish frigate Navarra, French frigate Surcouf and French amphibious assault helicopter carrier Tonnerre. The exercise was based on the scenario of an anti-piracy operation. It included cross-deck helicopter landings, complex tactical evolutions at sea, live firing, a night-time joint patrol and a naval parade in the high seas off the coast of Somalia.
The EU and India are committed to a free, open, inclusive and rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region, underpinned by respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, democracy, rule of law, transparency, freedom of navigation and overflight, unimpeded lawful commerce, and peaceful resolution of disputes. They reaffirm the primacy of international law, including the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
To strengthen bonds of friendship with Indian Ocean Islands, Indian Naval Ship INS Shardul made a port call at Antsiranana, Madagascar as part of First Training Squadron’s (1TS) Overseas Deployment from March 21–24 2021. Officer trainees of the 99th Integrated Officer Training Course are embarked onboard during the ship’s visit.