Hon’ble Raksha Mantri stated, “Maritime interests of a nation have a vital relationship with its economic growth and these shall be protected at all costs by ensuring a strong and credible Indian Navy”
A four-day Naval Commanders’ Conference was held from October 24-27, 2017. The Conference provided a platform for institutionalised interaction between the Naval Commanders and senior government officials, as also, with the Chiefs of Indian Army and Indian Air Force. The primary focus during the Conference was to review and fine-tune the mission-based deployment concept to result in greater presence and visibility of the Indian Navy in the Indian Ocean region (IOR).
The recent times have witnessed growing presence and influence of the Peoples’ Liberation Army (Navy) of China in IOR and the Pacific which have caused severe consternation throughout the globe. The evolving dynamics within the maritime domain imposes upon Indian Navy the roles, responsibilities and the challenges of unprecedented dimension. It behoves upon Indian Navy to upgrade commensurate strategic assets and infrastructure in the region of its maritime security domain.
The Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman addressed and interacted with the Naval Commanders on October 26, 2017. The Minister reviewed the combat readiness of the Navy, pace of modernisation and progress of various acquisition and infrastructure related cases. She complimented the Indian Navy for maintaining a high operational tempo, ensuring the maritime security of the country and sustained efforts in support of the ‘Make in India’ and ‘Digital India’ initiatives of the Government. The Minister brought out that it was a matter of pride that all 34 warships presently under construction were being built indigenously. She also complimented the Navy on the successful conduct of tri-lateral exercise ‘Malabar 2017’ and informed the Commanders that during the recently concluded ADMM Plus, keen interest was evinced by various ASEAN nations in exercising with the Indian Navy, which spoke highly of the Indian Navy’s professional standing and competence. She complimented all personnel of the Indian Navy for securing the maritime interests of the nation. Taking note of the recent developments in our maritime neighbourhood, she emphasised the need for Indian Navy to be strong at sea, and be ever ready and vigilant to counter any challenges in the maritime domain.
She took note of the critical capability shortfalls that Indian Navy is facing in ship-borne multi-role helicopters, conventional submarines and mine counter measure vessels, which need urgent redressal to maintain the combat edge. The Defence Minister assured that these issues were being given due impetus and efforts were in hand to mitigate these shortcomings at the earliest.
Concluding her address, the Minister stated that maritime interests of a nation have a vital relationship with its economic growth and these shall be protected at all costs by ensuring a strong and credible Indian Navy.
Chairing the Conference, Admiral Sunil Lanba, the Chief of the Naval Staff, addressed the Naval Commanders and stressed focus on four key areas; ‘Combat Capability and Role-Worthiness’, ‘Ensuring Primacy of Core Professional Tasks’, ‘Develop a Motivated, Trained and Committed Team’ and ‘Increase Familiarity and Comfort in Indian Navy’s Maritime Areas Of Interest’. The CNS shared his views on the current security scenario and emphasized the need for the Indian Navy to remain outcome oriented in all endeavours, both at sea and ashore.
The Commanders also had an opportunity to interact with the Chiefs of the Indian Army and IAF. The Service Chiefs brought out the complexities in current security situation where the spectrum of threats ranged from possible conventional conflict to inimical actions by state and non-state sponsored terrorists/elements and natural disasters and calamities. The Service Chiefs elaborated their vision and the path being charted by the respective Services towards operational readiness and actions in progress towards improving tri-Service cooperation.
Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog, also interacted with the Commanders and gave his perspective on ‘Make in India’ with specific reference to building a vibrant defence industrial base, which would be pivotal in spurring the manufacturing sector growth and make India an export oriented economy. He also stressed the importance of demand aggregation digitising legacy processes.
As part of the annual theme, the Commanders brainstormed to fine tune the execution of ‘mission based deployment’ involving ships, aircraft and submarines beyond the immediate neighbourhood for providing sustained presence in the IOR. Critical enablers such as refits/maintenance philosophy, op-logistics and HR measures for sustained operational effectiveness were also discussed in detail. Approval of a new Transition cycle for ships from Maintenance periods to operational deployments that allowed for a focussed and gradual transition of ships from periods of maintenance layoffs to full scale operations was one of the milestones achieved during the conference. The Commanders resolved to focus efforts on the Navy’s ability to deploy and sustain in tandem with the new Mission-based deployment concept, which would result in greater presence and visibility in IOR.
In his closing address, the CNS emphasised the need to optimise efforts, exploit the potential of each and every personnel, encourage innovative thinking and harness available technology. The CNS urged the Commanders to put in concerted efforts to realise the ‘way ahead’ arrived at during the deliberations on various agenda points and exhorted the Commanders to keep an unwavering focus on combat readiness at all times.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of Security and Growth for all in the Region (SAGAR) is being pursued in full earnest by the Indian Navy.
The new Mission-based deployment concept was unveiled in the last Naval Commander’s Conference and was ratified for incremental implementation. Supported by the MoD, the plan involves deploying mission-ready ships and aircraft along critical sea lanes of communications and choke points. These ships are deployed always ready to meet any eventuality across the spectrum of operations ranging from acts of maritime terrorism and piracy to HADR missions. These deployments are aimed to be maintained 24/7 and round the year with ships being sustained and turned around on station. The concept is already showing dividends with the Navy being the first responder to many crisis situations around the IOR. The Navy was the quick to respond to the heavy rains and flooding in Sri Lanka as also to the HADR requirements post Cyclone Mora in Bangladesh and Myanmar. The Navy was also there to secure the release of the Indian dhow Al-Kausar and the crew from Somali pirates. The rescue of three persons including a woman from a sinking tug off Maldives was another instance where a mission-deployed ship was available to respond immediately to a request for help.
The change in the deployment concept has necessitated a change in the methods used to sustain and support ships within the Navy. Accordingly, the Chief of the Naval Staff has approved a new Transition Cycle for ships from Maintenance periods to Operational Deployments that allows for a focussed and gradual transition of ships from periods of maintenance layoffs to full scale operations. The new Transition cycle focuses efforts of Operational Commanders on ‘Training and Safety Inspections of ships’ prior to their deployment for operations.
Security and Growth
Along with these deployments, the Navy has, in tandem with the MEA, focussed efforts on the Capacity and Capability development of navies in the region. The Indian approach of providing equipment and training is finding increasing favour amongst the IOR nations. The Indian Navy has a time-tested model of Joint operations with regional navies. The idea that there can be no growth without security is well understood. With the Indian Navy emerging as the Net Security Provider in the region, engagements through Coordinated patrols (CORPATs) of Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ), Bi-lateral exercises, Training exchanges and cross-visits of trainees and others have seen an increase.
Whole of Government Approach
The initiatives to improve the security environment in the region and provide opportunities for growth to all have seen an unprecedented ‘Whole of Government’ approach. Synergy between initiatives of the MoD, MEA and the Navy has resulted in more effective and efficient engagements in the region. The Navy’s ability to deploy and sustain in tandem with the new Mission-based deployment concept has resulted in greater presence and visibility.
Naval Commanders’ Conference - 2017
This year’s Naval Commanders’ Conference reviewed the new Mission-based deployment concept to ascertain its effectiveness. The top naval commanders also deliberated upon ways to improve its efficiency and functioning.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of SAGAR is being unfolded in an effective and deliberate manner through security cooperation and capacity/capability building initiatives to protect and preserve maritime security, peace and stability in the region.