HOW INDIAN NAVY EXERCISES HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO ITS OPERATIONAL EFFECTIVENESS

IDF offers Abridged Version of Article Published in Naval Review Nov 2016

The author, also author of Nuclear Warring Navies: India and Pakistan (reviewed in NR Aug ’15), is a former Director of Naval Intelligence and Director of Naval Operations, Indian Navy. Here he examines and assesses the operational impact of the large series of multinational exercises in which the IN participates.

CHINA’S ambitions to become a world power are apparent from its capacity building, cascading order of battle (ORBAT) and wider deployment of its PLA(Navy), and a restructuring of its military commands in the light of perceived threats. President Xi Jinping, as the Commander-in-Chief and head of the Central Military Commission (CMC), wields unbridled powers, and is also the Chairman of China’s Communist Party. China’s economy has risen which along with its expanded military gives it clout.

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India has a long unresolved border with China and has been taking stock of China’s economic and military growth and aggressive postures. China’s naval forays, including stealthy deployment of submarines to the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), supply of arms to Pakistan on friendship terms to counter India, and signing of a $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CEPC) through India’s Kashmir, an area which India views as illegally occupied by Pakistan, are all seen as threatening by India.

China is connecting the Karakorum by an all weather road to the warm-water port of Gwadar on the Arabian sea, to connect with Africa and the Hormuz Strait, and has leased a base en route in Djibouti. China has discarded Deng Xiaoping’s strategy of ‘hiding your capacity and biding your time’ and feels her time has come. Beijing has dropped the phrase ‘peaceful’ in its latest white paper on defence, giving emphasis to worldwide maritime power, and has reinforced its ‘active defence’ strategy of Anti Access- AA/AD.

It is the Chinese challenge that is driving the expansion of the Indian Navy, which now has 50 ships on order in India, including an aircraft carrier and three nuclear powered missile firing submarines, and Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has cleared construction of 23 large platforms which includes 6 SSNs, 5 support tankers, 4 LPDs and 8 MCMVs. Government relishes the expansion of the IN and PM Modi and President Putin met in GOA for the BRIC summit and Modi ordered 4 Krivacks and reports stated 1 more Akula for the Navy on 16th September, 2016..

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India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi courageously signed the far-reaching US-India Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region during President Obama’s visit to India in January 2014. US-India defence cooperation has intensified and defence purchases of over $13 billion from USA have taken India to a new level of strategic partnership. India is shedding its, ‘Hesitations of the Past’, as PM Modi recently told the US Congress in his address on 8 June 2016. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had expressed support, ‘to help India become a major world power in the 21st century’ during her visit in 2005, and President Obama exclaimed, ‘India is not just a rising power, it has already risen,’ in 2010 and joint USN, JSDF and Indian Naval Ex Malabar2016 took place in the Philippine Sea. .

The IN hosted a grand International Fleet Review there in February 2016 at Vishakapatnam which is the home base for the Navy’s nuclear submarines, the Akula INS Chakra and home-built Arihant, which is operational with K-15/B-05 750 km nuclear-tipped missiles. India has also signed a less invasive modified Logistic Support Agreement (LSA) .
After the horrific 26/11 terror attack in South Mumbai in 2008 by Pakistani operatives who landed on a beach in a hijacked Indian fishing boat, and which led to 164 deaths, President George W. Bush asked India to campaign against international and maritime terrorism.

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With USA India has intensified her interest in the ASEAN and South China Sea and, with Japan. It should be noted that seven recent IN Chiefs have been graduates of the US Naval War College (NWC), Rhode Island and have contributed to close bonds and cooperation with the US Navy’s senior ranks, and former Naval Chief and former Ambassador to Canada, Admiral Nirmal Verma (RNSC and NWC), serves as a senior fellow at NWC after retirement as a conduit. Current Naval Chief, Admiral Sunil Lanba, is an alumnus of the RCDS. Indo-US cooperation has risen in recent years.

The Indo-US civil nuclear deal was a shining example of US support when President Bush steered India’s deal through the NSG with China in 2008 who requested in a quid pro quo asked USA not to object to Pakistan’s two additional reactors at Chashma under China’s pre-NSG ‘Grandfather’ agreement. President Obama helped steer India’s entry into the MTCR and supported India’s entry in to NSG which China has held up, looking to break Pakistan in to NSG..
It is with this backdrop that the 20th edition of Exercise Malabar, Malabar-16, took place in two phases in June in the Philippines Sea. The USN fielded the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) with F-18s and MH-60R helicopters of the 9th Carrier Air Wing. Accompanying were the guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay, destroyers USS Stockdale, USS William P. Lawrence and USS Chung-Hoon, with Standard and Harpoon missiles, Mk 54 torpedoes and ASROC anti-submarine weapons. A USN P-8A Poseidon, capable of firing Mk 84 Harpoons and Mk 54 torpedoes in the maritime reconnaissance (MR) role, was exercised, and India’s eight P8i MR planes that operate from INS Rajali have similar fits. A Los Angeles class fast attack, nuclear-powered submarine provided excellent training opportunities. India has ordered four more P-8i for $1.1 billion. The exposure was of vital importance for the interoperability of both navies, one of the objectives of Ex Malabar.

Two of India’s indigenously designed and built 6,000-ton stealth Type 17 Klub firing guided-missile frigates, INS Sahyadri and INS Satpura, with Barak anti-air missiles, and the Fincantieri-built modern fleet support tanker, INS Shakti, and INS Kirch, a 1,350 Indian built guided-missile corvette with Uran missiles, participated. The JMSDF was represented by the 20,000-ton helicopter carrier, JS Hyuga, with SH-60K integral helicopters and a longrange P3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft.

The first phase of four days from 9 June was devoted to pre-sea planning and a workup phase at the port of Sasebo in the Nagasaki Prefecture. The shore training included a carrier strike group, maritime patrol and reconnaissance operations, with strikes, surface and anti-submarine warfare, medical evacuations, damage control, explosive disposal (EOD), helicopter operations, visit, board, search and seizure operations and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, for which the IN had displayed alacrity and prowess in the 2004 tsunami.

Thereafter, the combined forces sailed south for intense exercises between 14 and 17 June, 2016 in the Philippines Sea, west of the South China Sea, where China’s historic claims on the islands, which she has reclaimed, have been rejected by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in a voluminous order at The Hague on 12 July 2016, which China is not acceding to.

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The Indian Navy has adapted best practices in its classified publications, with IN Manoeuvering Instructions (INMI), IN Tactical Instructions (INTI), and has updated its Fighting Instructions (INFIs) from the ANSB and ATP1 books bequeathed by the Royal Navy. It surprises many to learn that Admiral Sir Charles Thomas Mark Pizey GBE, CB, DSO* headed India’s Independent Navy until 1955, well after Independence in 1947, which helped to build traditions and confidence. It surprised Stalin when he met India’s Ambassador in Moscow, and asked ‘are you not independent?’ Later that Ambassador, Radhakrishnan, became President of India.

Indian Navy keeps a busy calendar of exercises with 12 national navies. These are Malabar with USA and Japan, Simbex annually with Singapore, Varuna with France, Indra with Russia, Konkan with UK, Slinex with Sri Lanka, Ibsamar with South Africa and Brazil, Jimex with Japan, Ausindex with Australia and Indonesia since 2015. INS Sayhadri Took part in RIMPAC-2016 off Hawaii, the second time an IN ship has participated. The exercises and exposure have improved the Navy’s operational effectiveness. Exercise Malabar is also in consonance with India’s ‘Act East Policy’ and the US Pivot in the East, growing relations between India, US and Japan, with regular visits of IN ships to the ASEAN, Japan, Russia and even China to show the Flag.

These outings have become annual features of the Eastern Naval Fleet programme and contribute to India’s diplomacy. PM Narendra Modi’s message of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam,’ which signifies ‘the World is one family’ is the philosophy adopted from Hindu scriptures on which India’s diplomacy works, with strategic agreements and strategic autonomy as the mainstay of India’s defence engagements across the board.

Commodore Ranjit B. Rai, IN (retd)

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