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India Navy – Ten Trends for 2021

Published Jan 16, 2021
Updated Jan 16, 2021

Indian Navy though not involved in hostile overt contact had a busy 2020. The Navy remained operationally ready to meet challenges on the maritime front operating well beyond India’s EEZ while was also deployed for various COVID 19 related missions such as Operation Samudra Setu and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response. Induction of ships and launch of trials continued during last year albeit at a slower pace due to corona virus restrictions.

2021 also appears to be a busy year for the Indian Navy here are nine trends that would be evident in the year ahead from the operational to inductions and enhancing interoperability with strategic partners.

Firstly, the Indian Navy will continue to remain mission deployed and combat ready. There are seven mission deployed areas of the Navy as indicated by the New Indian Express and reiterated below. The Navy will have to sustain turnaround in these areas through the year maintaining high level of maritime domain awareness at the chokepoints.

MALDEP: Straits of Malacca, NORDEP: patrolling of the North Bay of Bengal, in waters north of the Andamans and the coasts of Bangladesh and Myanmar, ANDEP: patrolling between the North Andamans and South Nicobar, GULFDEP: patrolling of the North Arabian Sea and the approaches to the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf. Escorting oil tankers could be another mission in 2021 in case there is a flare up in West Asia.    In the backdrop of the deteriorating security situation in the Gulf region, post attacks on merchant ships in the Gulf of Oman in Jun 19, Indian Navy had commenced which is likely to continue. POGDEP: anti-piracy patrolling of the Gulf of Aden, the oldest of the missions where Navy is deployed under a United Nations mandate. CENDEP: patrolling in waters south of India, off the Maldives and Sri Lanka and IODEP: patrolling in the South Indian Ocean, off Mauritius, the Seychelles and Madagascar as indicated by the New Indian Express.

Secondly high level of maritime domain awareness with compacts on white shipping made with a number of navies would be a given. With liaison officers at the Indian Navy’s fusion centre greater coordination will be ensured.

Particularly move of PLA Navy ships and submarines in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and also the Chinese fishing militia will be under the scanner.

Thirdly COVID 19 related missions as Operation Samudra Setu, which was launched on 05 May 2020 as part of the national effort to evacuate citizens from countries across the region due to COVID 19 may have to be undertaken in case there is a spike in countries in the littoral.

Fourthly, joint operational exercises such as the CORPAT or coordinated patrolling of the martime boundary with Bangladesh, Thailand, Myanmar and Indonesia will be under taken.

Bilateral and multilateral exercises for confidence building, trust and inter operability is another area which may see an increase. With the United States plans to revive the 1st Fleet and locate it for operations in the Indian Ocean Region there would be scope for continued maritime engagement.

The Indian Navy ships could also carry out exercises such as PASSEX in the Indian Ocean as well as in the South China Sea, which may irk China in many ways.

Fifthly, humanitarian assistance and disaster response would continue to keep the Navy foraying to provide immediate aid to countries in the littoral including on the East African shores.

Sixthly sea trials of the Aircraft Carrier Viraat are likely to held in the first half of 2021. In addition, induction of the Scorpene series of submarines can be anticipated with the sixth likely to be launched for trials.

Other inductions in terms of warships and refurbished submarines are also to be anticipated in 2021 with focus on indigenous production. This may attain a higher pace in the post COVID 19 scenario.

Induction of first of the 24 MH 60R multi role helicopters from Lockheed Martin would also be delivered in 2021

Of special significance would be induction of the Sea Guardian surveillance drones which have procured on lease.

Seventhly organisationally the plan for a Peninsular or Maritime Theatre command will certainly be undergoing a serious consideration. The plan was spelt out by Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat in February this year with study being ordered for examination of the proposal.

“Security of peninsular India should be the responsibility of one Commander. Can we integrate the Eastern and Western Naval Commands and call it Peninsular Command? We will be issuing study directives for the Peninsular Command by March 31,” Gen. Rawat said in an interaction with media persons in February 2020. A study for examination of the proposal has been undertaken by Vice Chief of Naval Staff (VCNS) and will be projected for examination in 2021.

Eighthly the Navy has also contributed a number of innovations for management of COVID 19 especially in the initial months from March to May 2020 and may continued to provide some more pathbreaking items for management of the COVID 19 items.

Ninthly reprioritisation of the Budget would be a sine qua nan. The Indian Express has reported that the Indian Navy is planning to review the budget with cuts anticipated due to the ongoing pandemic. The Navy was allocated a capital outlay increased from Rs 23,156 crore in 2019-20 to Rs 26,688 crore in 2020-21.  However with priority to the Northern borders, there would be concerns for budget for the Navy in 2021-22.

Finally hostile covert and overt contact could be in the offing either with the Pakistan Navy or the PLA Navy.