Surface Forces: July 9, 2003

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This summer promises to be a busy season for the Indian Navy (IN). Most significantly, they will assist Mauritius in keeping an eye on their exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the Indian Ocean and details about the size of the naval assets to be committed would be worked out soon. India and China plan to follow up on recent high-level diplomatic efforts aimed at ending decades of hostility through their first-ever joint three-day long search and rescue exercises later this year. 

The IN will also provide security cover to the African Union summit in Mozambique from July 4 to 12, as part of its strategy of expanding its presence in the Indian Ocean region which they consider a "force and capability projection exercise".

The destroyer INS Ranjit and offshore patrol vessel INS Suvarna had docked at the port of Maputo on 23 June, in response to Mozambican Presiden Chissano request for the IN security screen during his visit to India in May. African heads of state will attempt to adopt a common defense and strategic 'roadmap' at the summit. The ships were also expected to carry $100,000 worth of medical supplies for poor people. 

Mozambique admittedly has insufficient assets to patrol it's own coast, so foreign and even domestic fishing vessels have been plundering the country's resources. Local fishing boats were pressed into service as auxiliaries for the conference and 
Mozambican authorities had asked India to allow the presence of national servicemen on board their ships, but the Indian Government turned down the request. However, Mozambican political opposition parties were less than thrilled with their government's approval of this restriction.

The Indian and US Navies will also hold joint naval exercises, codenamed Summerex, off the coast of Chennai in July. The exercise was originally scheduled to begin on July 4, but was pushed back to next week and will continue until July 22. The Navies of Sri Lanka, Maldives, Madagascar and Mauritius will participate as observers. The USS Curtis and a P3C Orion would join the Indians' latest helicopters, aircraft, submarines and ships of the Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force. India's largest naval air station, INS Rajali on the east coast at Arakkonam, nearly 70 km south of Chennai, will also be involved in the July 10-11 exercises. 

The IN had conducted a two-day exercise with the Russian Navy on 22-23 May off India's west coast and planned a two-day exercise in the eastern Bay of Bengal from 1-2 June. The IN was involved in UN peacekeeping operations in Somalia in the mid-1990s and has close naval co-operation with Indian Ocean states like Sri Lanka and Mauritius, but these recent missions are now stretching India's sea legs. 

By progressively increasing its fleet with new ships and broader experiences, the Indian Navy hopes to become the largest and strongest force in the Indian Ocean region in the coming years. - Adam Geibel


 


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