By Commodore Srikant Kesnur
December 4 is vy Day
vy Day this year is a good occasion to reflect on its journey and evaluate its progress over the last 70 years. The Indian vy was an exceedingly small force at the dawn of independence and, while being a product of both its British inheritance and the maritime D of our forebears, is largely a post-independence construct.
Despite the many problems that besieged the newly independent country — and by extension its vy — such as low industrial base, problems on our land borders made it imperative to focus on the army and the air force. But the vy was not short on vision. As early as 1948, it drew up ambitious plans for a balanced vy that would consist of light aircraft carriers, submarines, destroyers, cruisers, auxiliaries and associated training and maintence infrastructure.
Seen against this backdrop, the Indian vy has grown quietly but steadily. From a force of less than half a dozen sloops to one that has 135 ships and 235 aircraft, most of them state-of-the-art, is indeed an impressive story.
That we operate in all three dimensions: On, above and below water; that most of our ships are indigenously built; and that we are among the few vies to build and operate an array of platforms from aircraft carriers to nuclear submarines add further strength to the rrative. We are now among the world’s leading vies.
But numbers alone do not tell the whole story. Of particular significance is the fact that the vy has built excellent capacities — both human and material — in several disciplines such as hydrography, special operations, integration engineering, doctrine writing, underwater medicine and disaster relief, to me a few.
These capacities have been particularly useful when the Indian vy’s achievements in different domains are alysed. If one were to evaluate in terms of roles that vies classically play — military, constabulary (Policing), Diplomatic and Benign (including humanitarian assistance) — the Indian vy can be said to have ticked all boxes with high scores.
On the military front, while most readers are aware of the vy’s significant role in the 1971 war with Pakistan and liberation of Bangladesh, there are several interesting aspects to the vy’s campaign.
Not only did it fight on two fronts but almost the entire gamut of val operations came to play in this war. This included aircraft carrier operations in support of the land offensive, anti-submarine operations that led to neutralising of the Pakistan submarine Ghazi, offensive attack by missile boats and blockade of then East Pakistan coast.
More recently, during the Kargil conflict in 1999 and later during Op Parakram, the Indian vy by its offensive posturing bottled the Pakistani ships inside their harbours and effectively kept the war localised and the situation on even keel. Similarly, Indian vy’s role in Operation Pawan, our prolonged engagement in Sri Lanka, has not got the attention it, arguably, deserved.
Spread over three years, the vy was involved in support of the army, transportation of troops and material, amphibious operations, seaward cordon militaire, shore bombardment, special operations and airborne surveillance.
Most remarkably, several smaller ships based in Visakhapatm and Cheni excelled at giving a good account of themselves in hostile conditions.
The notable point is that it’s a self-reliant force. The Indian vy was a pioneer of ‘Make in India’ which was an article of faith for it. Compared to the army and the air force, the vy is way ahead in the indigenous content of its combat units.
To be sure, we have a long way to go. We need to have weapons, propulsion and many systems to be sourced from within our country. But every ship that gets constructed has more indigenous content than its predecessor and is an improvement over the previous one.
The increased mettle and muscle of our vy provides much more traction to our foreign policy initiatives, be it in enhancing cooperation with big powers or in providing a palpable physical dimension to the Act East Policy. Further, the Indian vy’s own intertiol initiatives are wide and encompass several ares.
They include multilateral forums such as Indian Ocean val Symposium (IONS) and the MILAN meetings, joint exercises with several tions, assistance in capacity building to tions in the Indian Ocean neighbourhood, hydrographic surveys, providing training to many foreign vy personnel and hosting events like the Intertiol Fleet Review in February 2016 or more recently the Goa Maritime Conclave last month.
The Indian Ocean is prone to tural disasters and the relatively poor disaster prevention and magement infrastructure in most of the countries in the region places a bigger responsibility on the Indian vy. The disaster situations could be tural, such as the Tsumi of 2004 or cyclonic storms that recur with great regularity in the Bay of Bengal, or they could be caused by human intervention such as what occurred in Lebanon in 2006, Libya in 2011 or Yemen in 2015. There will indeed be some areas that provide scope for improvement. Further indigenisation of weapons, ordnce and systems and gaps in inventory are issues that are attracting the attention of decision makers. There is also need for development of expertise, among its personnel, in a range of subjects such as foreign languages, intertiol law, energy security, area studies and economics. But, overall, it would be fair to say that the ‘Silent Service’ at 70 is a success story. (IANS)