Focusing on the tremendous challenges posed by asymmetric threats like terrorism and piracy in today’s world, Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral R.K. Dhowan said that the need of the hour was forging strong naval partnerships. He was speaking during the International Fleet Review. During the IFR, the Indian Navy will host an international seminar on the security threats and the need for partnerships for a secure maritime environment. It will be inaugurated by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Sunday.
This year, the theme of the second IFR hosted by India during 4-8 February, is “Navies of the world, united through the oceans.” In all, 100 naval vessels, including 71 vessels of the Indian Navy, 24 international vessels, and a few Coast Guard ships and merchant vessels participated in the IFR. Over 50 countries sent their delegations or vessels or both for the event.
“Today, when we think of security, stability and safety in the global parlance, we understand that not a single navy is robust enough to provide global safety on its own. This fact lends itself to the need for forging strong global co-operation. Today, the challenges in the maritime domain are many. Nobody had imagined the threat of piracy in the 21st century. Even a single fishing trawler can pose terrorism threat today. The war has become asymmetric,” he said.
“On such a background, there is need to focus on networking. Forging global maritime partnerships is emerging as the new trend. The IFR’s message of ‘uniting through the oceans’ is an important one. As nations, we share our maritime concerns and interests,” he added.
Talking to The Sunday Guardian, defence advisor to the Sri Lankan government, Prasanna Hewage said, “Due to the happenings in our country, Sri Lanka has a lot of experience of asymmetric threat and other maritime challenges. This is a good platform to put forth the things we have learnt. The asymmetric threat through Tamil Tigers was a challenge for us. Today, India, too, is experiencing such asymmetric tactics.”
Stressing on the need for regional frameworks to tackle challenges, many senior foreign dignitaries and Admiral R.K. Dhowan talked about the experience of Indian Ocean Naval Symposium. It was established by India in 2008 as a four-member observer group. The members included UAE, South Africa, Australia and Bangladesh. The brief was to protect the naval interests and form a regional framework.
Today, the symposium has over 35 members. It was, till recently, chaired by Australian Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Tim Barrett. Now, the chair has been passed on to Bangladesh.
“A tangible framework has been put forth in these fields. Now we are looking at other challenges in the maritime domain,” Dhowan said. Asked why Visakhapatnam was chosen as the venue, and whether the decision had anything to do with the tension in the eastern seas, Dhowan said it was a part of the “Look East, Act East policy”. “The Bay of Bengal is the largest bay in the world. Our friend countries are all the littoral states on the fringes of the bay. This venue was chosen in an endeavour to hold the event in their close proximity, so that they would find it convenient to come here. There are many navies with smaller ships. This step was taken to facilitate them,” he said.
Refusing to comment on the rising tension in the South China Sea, he said that India’s step was in line with its policy to conduct operations for leaving its footprints across the oceans. Interestingly, both China and US have participated in the IFR.
A senior delegate from United Kingdom said: “We are democracies. We have common views on interoperability, free access to the sea, protection of trade by sea. We have a common history and a common bond. We relish our friendship with India.” Commanding Officer of HMS Defender of the Royal Navy said another threat was also the use of the seas by terrorist organisations to transport weapons, drugs and money. Representatives from Sri Lanka and United Kingdom said that the Indian Navy was more like a brother in arms.