The Asian Balance: Policing the Indian Ocean

Doing more maritime chowkidari

Excerpts from my column in Business Standard:

What can we do in the short term? Now, while the Indian Navy has discharged itself admirably in escorting convoys and fighting pirates, it is primarily a war-fighting force. New Delhi’s priority must remain equipping it to become a blue-water navy capable of projecting power in India’s extended maritime domain. At this time, assigning more ships to maritime constabulary duties off the Horn of Africa could risk blunting the navy’s war-fighting edge. At the same time, India must not underestimate the growing pirate menace that threatens its commerce and the lives of a large number of its seafaring citizens.

One way out of this dilemma is for New Delhi to lease a handful of commercial vessels, equip them with adequate fire power, and place them under the operational control of the Indian Navy. After all, you don’t need BrahMos missile-equipped Talwar class battle axes to tackle pirates armed with assault rifles. Operating commercial vessels on lease can be adequate to the task, is less expensive and will allow the navy’s combatant warships to focus on their core competence.

In parallel, India should use its upcoming presence at the UN Security Council to strengthen the mandate, personnel strength and international support for the African Union (AU) force that is currently deployed in Somalia. Ugandan officials have long been asking the UN for more troops so that the AU force can take effective control over Somalian territory and secure its ports. This makes sense. The challenge will be to manage the complexities of Africa’s regional politics so that the international effort has both robust international oversight and legitimacy. It is uncertain, perhaps unlikely, that the AU force will fully succeed in establishing order in the near-anarchic world of Somalian civil wars. There is, however, a good chance that it will seal off the pirates’ main launching pads.

Read the whole thing at Business Standard

4 thoughts on “The Asian Balance: Policing the Indian Ocean”

  1. Indian Navy should not be engaged in policing (the Malacca Straits or others).In stead the Indian Coast Guard should become blue water capable-as they are more attuned to littoral combat.

  2. Sir,
    Indian Navy’s successful deployment and patrols off the Somali coast is heartening. However it is by no means commendable, as the role is one that better suits the ‘Coast Guard’. The Somali pirates might have caused damage to the world at large, however they are at best and at worst irritating. They have not shown patent terrorist tendencies and are true blue mercenaries. The success of IN in tackling them should not be a reflection of IN’s capability or incapability. Considering the scale and capacity to mount operations of these pirates, the IN is not being tested; if anything it is our coast guard, especially if reports of pirate activity near our western islands are true.

    In a future full blown war, sea denial will be more effective and tactics to counter them will need to be adjusted accordingly. Maybe this exercise is helping IN gain the same. However this is highly unlikely as we are facing 1960’s technology at best.

    Further in any future misunderstanding, especially with our eastern friends, we will be in the unique position of being on the attack. Maybe the only theater we can afford to be offensive in.

    How does baby sitting international transport help us in this aspect.

    Mike.

  3. India has been aspiring to be one of the few countries to have a blue water navy. But till date, let us accept the fact that, we have been and continue to be a nation with brown water navy. The time period that India takes for procuring Principal Surface Combatants (PSC) is simply too long. Admiral Gorshkov is an instance of this. Also our defence industries, particularly the ones contracted to build war ships are too slow. The aging fleets in the Air Force and Navy are certainly a cause for concern. Several former air and naval chiefs have expressed concerns.

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