Geopolitics

Indo-US Navy buildup in Indian Ocean

India is pursuing “Maritime Capability Perspective Plan” (MCPP). The current phase of modernization is part of this plan and by the end of this decade India will be able to raise the number of warships and submarines to 40, including conventional and nuclear-powered submarines, aircraft carriers, frigates, and long range maritime reconnaissance aircraft.

These hi-tech and modern warships and submarines will be manned by 12 per cent additional strength to the present strength of 58,000 personnel. Indian Navy has set target to go hi-tech so that it is capable of operating in network centric environment. Where the Naval experts have given go ahead signal to increase its strength, many critics are seeing future Indian Navy as burden on national exchequer due to out of proportion increase in the strength of personnel.

Strategic triangle: Delhi, Washington & Tel Aviv

The Indian Navy does not require such a massive growth and modernization. The change has occurred due to the announcement from Pentagon that the US Navy would work with the Indian Navy to improve capabilities to perform higher-end, operational missions in the Indian Ocean region as the strategic context dictates.

In other words, it is Washington and Tel Aviv which is financing Indian Navy modernization. However, with the latest move alarm bells have started ringing that now onwards it would not be sweet will of India’s top military and Navy commanders to persuade US Navy to pack up from its Indian installations or the Indian waters.

Today Indian Navy is passing formidable phase. Indian Navy is witnessing its last days of team spirit and command and control as professional Navy personnel with tremendous fighting spirit would be replaced by more educated lot. There are plans that the entire manpower, including officers and sailors, will have science and engineering background. Presently, Navy recruits only those young men as Sailors who have Science as the main subject but from next year only B.Tech graduates would be inducted thereby enabling the Navy to have technically qualified personnel for the next generation of warships. During last month’s Navy Commanders’ Conference at New Delhi, commanders of US and Israeli Naval experts were specially invited to support Indian Navy’s new role and mission set in the light of globalization. This planning and development has been chalked out by the US think tanks and US Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) which has also a parallel organisation in India, but Indian Navy Commanders are claiming the sole credit of the plan.

In fact, Washington has been able to convince India’s deployment of naval warships to support counter-piracy operations through the SHADE (Shared Awareness and De-confliction) mechanism. In the name of cooperation in counter-piracy operations, Washington would be able to maintain its permanent presence in the Indian Ocean region.

New naval base close to Malacca

Today, India with the help of US and Israel has increased its presence-cum-surveillance missions in the Indian Ocean region. US has overt and covert designs to come up as sole security provider in the maritime domain in its area of operations in the region. India will help US in tactical and strategic deployment. In the same regard, New Delhi has inked a number of agreements with western partners, including US and Israel, to provide safety and free movement in lieu of re-shaping and modernizing Indian Navy to come up as a regional superpower. India with the help of international players is all set to take the control of Strait of Malacca and the Six Degree Channel. To keep an eye on the maritime traffic, few days back, India opened a new Naval Base “INS Baaz” at the controversial Andaman and Nicobar Islands’ southernmost end of Campbell Bay. INS Baaz is situated at a distance of about 300 nautical miles from Port Blair. The long awaited project has finally come to some shape. Quite recently, in a Navy Commander’s conference, Indian Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma admitted presence of foreign forces in INS Baaz and in the operational area of tri-service Andaman and Nicobar Command. In this regard, Commander Andaman and Nicobar Command Lieutenant General Naresh C. Marwah and Chief of Integrated Defence Staff Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha held high level talks with operational commanders of US and Israel. It is pertinent to mention here that INS Bazz is also equipped with most modern and sophisticated monitoring and surveillance equipment.

There is no doubt that steps taken by Indian Navy Chief, Admiral Nirmal Verma, are in tune with set primary challenges that was to balance its resources and build human capital. However, it has gone out of proportion as with this huge induction of technically educated personnel there would be no one left to perform general duties and tasks in old warships. More so, it is an attempt to destroy Indian Navy and replace it with a set of personnel who can only play video games and deliver impressive presentations. The poor state of Indian Navy’s operational and technical infrastructure, including Forward Operating Bases in island territories, Operational Turn Around Bases and Naval Air Enclaves (NAE) is being rectified and developments of infrastructure in far flung island territories is accorded top priority. However, due to massive corruption in defence procurements and foreign influence, there are very serious concerns. Keeping aside the issue of corruption, one wonders why the foreign presence is needed.

India has already sacrificed its integrity and sovereignty by inking 123 Treaty and is now heading towards foreigner takeover on the lines of East India Company. Pakistan and India along with other neighbouring countries need to form their own joint defence mechanism in order to avoid situations like last year’s incident in which a misunderstanding took place between Pakistan Naval Ship Babur and Indian Naval Ship Godavari in the Gulf of Aden. New Delhi still has time to get rid of foreign influence in Indian Ocean region in order to foster greater cooperation for the joint defence of Indian Ocean by involving only neighbouring countries.

© The Frontier Post