It appears that Indian government may have learnt its lessons from the Doklam standoff as the government is now giving a go ahead to the Navy to expand its presence across the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). The span stretches from Persian Gulf to the Malacca Strait.
According to media reoprts, the Indian Navy has planned on deploying its warships and other naval assets on round-the-clock patrols to meet any operational emergency from conventional threats and maritime terrorism to piracy and humanitarian disaster relief. According to the report, a fleet of 12 to 15 new destroyers, frigates, and corvettes and large patrol vessels on long-range have been deployed in the region, which is backed by naval satellite Rukmini (GSAT-7) and daily incursions by Poseidon-8I maritime patrol aircraft to keep a tight vigil over the vast region.A senior officer confirmed to TOI that the plan incorporated by the Navy is to “deploy mission-ready warships” and aircraft along critical sea lanes of communications and some critical points or “choke points” ranging from the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Aden to the Malacca Strait and Sunda Strait.
“This will be done on a 24×7 basis round the year, with the warships being sustained and turned around on station. The Indian Navy has emerged as the net security provider and the first responder in the region,” the senior officer said.
For instance, if a Shivalik-class stealth frigate is currently patrolling the Bay of Bengal heading in the direction of Bangladesh and Myanmar, then a Teg-class frigate is in the purlieu of Madagascar, Mauritius, and Seychelles.
In a similar manner, when INS Trishul is deployed to check piracy in the Gulf of Aden, a Kora-class corvette is positioned around the Andaman Sea.
Response to China
The move to rejig deployments of warships in the IOR is also due to the aggressive stance adopted by China in the region; it has been sending warships and submarines into the IOR over the last few years. As per the report, at least three nuclear and four conventional Chinese submarines have been tracked in the IOR since December 2013.
However, the move to increase deployments has been envisaged by the Navy soon after the Doklam scuffle with China – an episode that increased tension between the two neighbouring countries.
The Indian Navy also plans to expand its fleet of warships and submarines by 2027; it currently has 138 warships and 235 aircraft and helicopters. Sources have confirmed that the Navy has plans to increase the number of warships to 212 and air strength to approximately 460.
“The Navy is pursuing the PM’s vision of ‘Sagar’ (security and growth for all in the region) in a deliberate manner through security cooperation and capacity building initiatives with other nations in the region,” an officer told TOI.
Apart from upgrading its military setup in the strategically-located Andaman and Nicobar archipelago, which can come in handy in countering China in case of an attack, the Navy is also stepping-up cooperation with other naval forces in the region via drills and organised patrol missions.