Amidst China’s expansion of its naval forays into the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), the Indian Navy has emerged as a key instrument of India’s foreign policy and developing an effective mechanism for defence diplomacy initiatives for proactive engagement with IOR littorals that include Sri Lanka, Seychelles, Mauritius, Australia among others.
As a concerted effort to expand its footprint in the IOR, the Indian Navy has signed technical agreements for sharing of white shipping information with 18 countries and also operationalized the same with 11 nations, an official in the defence ministry said.
The white sharing agreements, which enable exchange of unclassified information, are not security pacts per se, but would help augment existing capabilities to develop Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA), thus aiding maritime security.
Also, it has set up a grid of coastal surveillance radar system (CSRS) in the IOR that will enable greater maritime transparency in the IOR. The surveillance radar systems have been set up in Mauritius, Seychelles and an automatic identification system (AIS) at Sri Lanka.
It is also moving forward for installation of a CSR chain at Maldives after months of political turbulence in the Island nation.
“We have offered CSRS solutions to some other countries too,” said the official.
In an effort to provide a common platform for its littoral countries, the Indian Navy had launched Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) in 2008.
It’s a voluntary. initiative that seeks to increase maritime co-operation among navies of the littoral states of the Indian Ocean Region by providing an open and inclusive forum for discussion of regionally relevant maritime issues.
The Indian Navy is organizing the 10th edition of symposium on November 13 and 14 at Kochi in Kerala. It is expected that Chiefs of Navies and delegates from 30 countries will attend the event.
India has signed the Communication Capability & Security Agreement (COMCASA) with the US, Implementing Agreement for Logistics Support with Singapore, Logistics Support Agreement with France and Implementing Arrangement for Deeper Cooperation with Japan which is set to transform the Indian Navy’s reach and capabilities well beyond the IOR.
Also, it has operationalized the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) with the US which provides for undertaking fueling with the US navy tanker under the ambit of LEMOA.
All these initiatives have been undertaken to position the Indian Navy as a dependable partner for IOR littoral nations and to emerge as the ‘First Port of Call’ to meet their maritime security needs.