India’s Footprints in the IOR and Beyond

Kulshrestha, Sanatan. “FEATURED | India’s Footprints in the Indian Ocean Region & Beyond” IndraStra Global 02, no. 02 (2016): 0019.  | ISSN 2381-3652 |


 “The security of the ‘Global Commons’ are the responsibility of all coastal states. That is why networking is so essential to create a new order. Hence the theme, ‘United by Oceans’. So far as India is concerned, the three issues that are foremost for a more secure environment are anti-piracy measures, information exchange and inter-operationability and humanitarian relief and disaster relief,”

Admiral R K Dhowan, Chief of Naval Staff, Indian Navy, 05 Feb 2016 on IFR 2016 at Visakhapatnam.

The Indian Navy is show casing its most glamorous event, the International Fleet Review (IFR) 2016 at Visakhapatnam. The IFR would be reviewed by the President of India on 06th of Feb 2016. Over 100 ships and aircraft of about 50 Navies would be participating in the review, China’s participation by sending two ships, is being considered as a very significant step by China to engage with the Navies at multinational level. The Indian Navy carries out and participates in various multilateral and bilateral Naval exercises with a large number of Navies, but the IFR is by far the biggest event it hosts with participation of ships from other Navies . The last such event was held in 2001in the presence of Late President APJ Abdul Kalam , where in about 29 nations had participated. With the theme of the IFR 2016 as ‘United by Oceans’ it would be worthwhile to also review India’s bridges of friendship in the IOR.

India has placed considerable emphasis on developing a security presence in the Indian Ocean. There are several dimensions to this: first, India’s direct security presence in the Andaman Sea, second, its bilateral security relationships in the region and third, its aspirations to gain a security role in the Malacca Strait. While India aspires to play a significant security, role in Southeast Asia it has given particular focus to the Malacca Strait, the key maritime choke point between the Indian and Pacific Ocean. India’s Andaman  and Nicobar islands, which run north-south through the Andaman Sea form a natural base for projecting power into the Strait and beyond into the South China Sea.

-India has deep links with Singapore, which sees India as having an important security role in the region, acting as a balance to other extra-regional powers, including China, the United States, and Japan. India and Singapore engage in extensive security cooperation, including broad-based security dialogues, joint exercises, intelligence sharing, and cooperation in defense technology. At the invitation of the United States, India took a security role inside the Malacca Strait through the provision of naval escorts for high value commercial traffic, as part of the U.S. led Operation Enduring Freedom.

-India has also been developing its security relationship with Indonesia; a Defense Cooperation Agreement was signed in 2001. There are biannual “coordinated” naval patrols between the Indian and Indonesian navies. These are in the Six-Degree Channel at the northern entrance to the Malacca Strait. These are aimed at keeping extremist groups from using these routes. These patrols comprise Indian and Indonesian vessels and aircraft, co-ordinated out of India’s Joint Operations Command in the Andaman Islands.

-In November 2009, Australia and India concluded a joint security declaration, providing a framework for increased cooperation on, security issues such as maritime policing (piracy and maritime terrorism, illegal fishing, people trafficking etc), disaster management, and anti-terrorism.

-India-Malaysia defense relations have steadily grown over the years. A MOU on Defense Cooperation was signed in 1993. Malaysia-Indian Defense Cooperation meetings at the level of Defense Secretary from Indian side and Secretary General from Malaysian side are held periodically; Malaysia participates in the biennial MILAN event regularly. Indian navy and coast guard vessels make regular friendly port calls each year at Malaysian ports.

-Thailand and India have agreed to continue strengthening defense relations including exercises and joint patrolling.

-Vietnam has also welcomed Indian Navy ships in their region. Vietnam has also welcomed Indian support for a peaceful resolution of the territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

-India and Japan have close military ties. They have shared interests in maintaining the security of sea-lanes in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean, and in co-operation for fighting international crime, terrorism, piracy, and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The two nations have frequently held joint military exercises and co-operate on technology. India and Japan concluded a security pact on 22 October 2008.

-In June 2012, India, a major importer of arms and military hardware purchased eight warships from South Korea.

-The first Philippines –India Security Dialogue was held in Manila on 12 March 2004. They agreed to establish a security dialogue for giving direction to co-operation in bilateral/regional security and defense matters.

-In August 2009, a security agreement was formalized with Maldives that will significantly enhance India’s capabilities in the central Indian Ocean. India has been granted use of the former British naval and air base on Gan Island, (lying ~1,000 km south of India and ~700 km north of Diego Garcia). As part of the agreement, India is building a system of 26 electronic monitoring facilities across the Maldives archipelago.

-Since 2003, India has entered into several defense agreements with Oman dealing with training, maritime security cooperation and joint exercises. The Indian Air Force uses the Thumrait air base for transit purposes and Oman has offered the Indian Navy berthing facilities in support of anti-piracy patrols. In 2008, India entered into a security agreement with Qatar, which includes maritime security and intelligence sharing.

-The southwestern Indian Ocean forms the gateway between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. India’s security relationships in the region are anchored by its close relationship with Mauritius, the island territory that lies around 900km to the east of Madagascar. India has long-standing and close political, economic and security associations with Mauritius. Since 2003, the Indian Navy has also provided maritime security through periodic patrols.

-The Indian Navy has assisted Seychelles with maritime security in the EEZ under a 2003 defense cooperation agreement.

-In July 2007, the Indian Navy opened an electronic monitoring facility in northern Madagascar at the head of the Mozambique Channel. It has reportedly been granted “limited” berthing rights in Madagascar.

-The Indian Navy has acted as a maritime security provider for Mozambique, in 2006, India and Mozambique entered a defense cooperation agreement.

-India’s maritime security relationships in the southwestern Indian Ocean are buttressed by growing maritime security relations with France and South Africa. Since 2001, the Indian Navy has conducted annual exercises with the French navy, which operates out of Reunion and Djibouti. India also has a growing presence in Antarctica, with three active research stations.

The Indian Navy would be taking part  with over 71 ships and aircraft it would also be displaying its prowess and indigenous content in the ships to the participating nations through exhibitions, seminars, and displays at sea.

It is a prudent time for the Indian Navy, as it leaps forward on a growth trajectory, to introspect and streamline the maintenance issues, which are said to have led to major incidents on its ships in harbor and at sea in the past couple of years. The Indian Navy is known for its expertise in running its warships well beyond their designated life times, however it is time that it sharply focuses on the designed operational parameters whilst assessing effectiveness of the performance of the warships, its onboard equipment and its weapon systems after major overhauls.

The IFR 2016 would undoubtedly be a proud feather in the Indian Navy’s plume!

“With the co-operation of the friendly Naval countries, we can strengthen the security and safety of the Oceans,” 

Admiral R K Dhowan, Chief of Naval Staff, Indian Navy, 05 Feb 2016 on IFR 2016 at Visakhapatnam.



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