In face of Chinese forays, Govt tells Navy to assert hold

With China making frequent forays into Indian Ocean Region (IOR), DefMin AK Antony asked Navy to assert its hold over IOR.

New Delhi: With China making frequent forays
into the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), Defence Minister A K
Antony today asked the Navy to assert its hold over the IOR
and ensure it remained that way in the future.

Inaugurating a four-day Navy Commanders Conference here,
Antony also wanted the maritime force to increase its contacts
with the navies of other IOR countries to strengthen ties,
mutual trust with them and to streamline joint operations.

"The complex maritime security environment in our region
requires the Navy to maintain a state of perpetual readiness
operationally. You must factor in the need to be ready at all
times prominently, while planning for the future.

"At the same time, we need to maintain -- and even
increase the momentum of our navy-to-navy contact with the
littoral countries of the Indian Ocean. Such contacts
strengthen professional ties, mutual trust and streamline
inter-operability issues," he said in his address.

Noting that the navy`s manifold responsibilities in the
IOR were crucial as well as sensitive from the nation`s
economic prosperity, safety and security point of view, he
said India`s maritime interest must "guide and shape" the
conduct of naval operations during peace and creation of
futuristic capabilities.

The Navy commanders will during the conference discuss
the idea of India being the "net security provider" for IOR
and how it could take up this role in a much more assertive

This debate comes at a time when China has been
maintaining naval units in the Gulf of Aden for anti-piracy
operations and its warships have been making frequent visits
to IOR nations, apart from helping out Bangladesh, Burma, Sri
Lanka and Pakistan in building ports.

Referring to piracy as "a major area of concern" in IOR,
the Minister said navy`s presence in the sea brigands-affected
areas showed India`s commitment and resolve to contribute its
might in dealing with such threats.

Stressing the need for more contacts with other maritime
nations in a calibrated manner, Antony said, "There is a need
to sustain the momentum of cooperation with Sri Lanka to
ensure peaceful fishing on either side of the International
Maritime Boundary Line and to prevent a possible resurgence of
the LTTE."

He also said New Delhi was committed to the continued
deployment of ships and aircraft for enhanced surveillance off
the coast of Maldives and Seychelles to ensure maritime
security from piracy, who have of late ventured into those
waters from the Gulf of Aden off Somali coast.

"We also need to engage like-minded African states in the
western IOR such as Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and
Kenya to enhance our strengths and contribute to peace and
stability, not only in the Asia-Pacific region, but also in
the entire IOR," he added.

Calling for more investment towards financial and human
resources in defence Research and Development, Antony said the
need to modernise and introduce innovation in Indian shipyards
could "never be over-emphasized." He was of the opinion that
shipyards must meet contractual timelines and enhance quality

He also emphasised on the enhanced role for the private
sector in helping India achieve self-reliance in critical
technologies and said the government wanted to "give a greater
role" to them to encourage healthy competition in the defence

Referring to the on-going review of Defence Procurement
Procedure 2008, the Minister said it would enhance induction
of capability along with self-reliance.

The Minister assured the Naval commanders that wherever
required, import options would be considered to meet
operational requirements.

"However, this option must be an exception and not the
rule," the Minister added.

On the creation of operational and administrative
infrastructure in Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep
and Minicoy Islands, the Defence Minister wanted it to be
accorded "due priority" in close coordination with all

He said the government had already accorded approval for
forward operating bases for the Navy at Tuticorin in Tamil
Nadu and Paradip in Orissa, apart from increasing the
facilities in Chennai in Tamil Nadu and Porbandar in Gujarat.

In his address, Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma
emphasized that Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) was the "very
core of maritime security" and said the creation of a National
MDA Network was critical to stay ahead of adversaries through
better intelligence gathering in the IOR.

Verma said apart from induction of new platforms and
systems, optimum utilisation of in-service assets was

He noted the significant improvement in the operational
availability of naval aircraft resulting from improved spares
availability and maintenance efficiency.

This comment comes in the backdrop of the Comptroller and
Auditor General (CAG) having slammed the navy in one of its
reports recently on the poor operational availability of naval
air assets.

Verma commended the three naval Commands for integrating
coastal population into its coastal security architecture
through widespread campaigns and the progress made in the
national MDA initiatives. Navy had held 33 such educational
campaigns this year.

In the conference, the naval Commanders would deliberate
on the availability of operational assets, progress of new
projects and the critical need to maintain a close watch on
submarine projects, apart from means to further improve
operational availability of existing combat units in general
and aircraft in particular.