Asserting its primacy in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), the navy is spearheading its biggest maritime cooperation effort involving at least 29 foreign navies to secure the region.
Modelled on the US-led Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS), the Indian initiative seeks to provide the navies in the IOR a much-needed forum for dialogue and an opportunity to strengthen their capability and hone interoperability.
The framework for cooperation will be formally launched at the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) on February 14 amid presence of navy chiefs of the participating countries. The navies will resolve to combine forces to counter the whole range of contemporary threats, from terrorism, gunrunning, piracy, drug trafficking and even environmental matters.
The government is aware that terrorists are looking at striking at oil and gas installations, given that attacks against military bases and government installations have become more difficult to execute due to heightened security. Navies are concerned because unpoliced sea has become their preferred domain of operation.
Elaborating on the activities to be conducted under IONS, to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Rear Admiral Pradeep Chauhan, Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Foreign Cooperation and Intelligence) said that naval cooperation would be sculpted by a biennial symposium involving navy chiefs, multinational exercises and intelligence sharing to tackle maritime challenges.
Chauhan said, “The initiative is not India centric. We want to take everyone on board to address shared concerns.”
Navies of Australia, Bangladesh, France, Iran, Malaysia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, UAE, Yemen and Egypt are among those that form part of IONS. Pakistan is yet to confirm participation. As members of WPNS, Australia, France, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand will have their own experiences to share at the newly created forum.
Admiral Chauhan said the members of IONS would work towards strengthening each other’s capabilities across different areas including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. He explained, “Maybe we can turn to the UAE for acquiring aerial targets. In turn, we can help them build salvage capabilities. All of us can do a lot together.”