With China making frequent forays into the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), Defence Minister A K Antony on Wednesday asked the Navy to assert its hold over the IOR and ensure it remained that way in the future.
Inaugurating a four-day Navy Commanders Conference in New Delhi, Antony also wanted the maritime force to increase its contacts with the navies of other IOR countries to strengthen ties, mutual trust with them and to streamline joint operations.
"The complex maritime security environment in our region requires the Navy to maintain a state of perpetual readiness operationally. You must factor in the need to be ready at all times prominently, while planning for the future.
"At the same time, we need to maintain -- and even increase the momentum of our navy-to-navy contact with the littoral countries of the Indian Ocean. Such contacts strengthen professional ties, mutual trust and streamline inter-operability issues," he said in his address.
Noting that the navy's manifold responsibilities in the IOR were crucial as well as sensitive from the nation's economic prosperity, safety and security point of view, he said India's maritime interest must "guide and shape" the conduct of naval operations during peace and creation of futuristic capabilities.
The Navy commanders will during the conference discuss the idea of India being the "net security provider" for IOR and how it could take up this role in a much more assertive manner.
This debate comes at a time when China has been maintaining naval units in the Gulf of Aden for anti-piracy operations and its warships have been making frequent visits to IOR nations, apart from helping out Bangladesh, Burma, Sri Lanka and Pakistan in building ports.
Referring to piracy as "a major area of concern" in IOR, the Minister said navy's presence in the sea brigands-affected areas showed India's commitment and resolve to contribute its might in dealing with such threats.
Stressing the need for more contacts with other maritime nations in a calibrated manner, Antony said, "There is a need to sustain the momentum of cooperation with Sri Lanka to ensure peaceful fishing on either side of the International Maritime Boundary Line and to prevent a possible resurgence of the LTTE."
He also said New Delhi was committed to the continued deployment of ships and aircraft for enhanced surveillance off the coast of Maldives and Seychelles to ensure maritime security from piracy, who have of late ventured into those waters from the Gulf of Aden off Somali coast.
"We also need to engage like-minded African states in the western IOR such as Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya to enhance our strengths and contribute to peace and stability, not only in the Asia-Pacific region, but also in the entire IOR," he added.