Lieutenant Commander Stephen Smith will be based full-time at the Centre, working directly with the Indian Armed Forces and fellow liaison officers from partner nations to enhance maritime domain awareness in the region.
London: UK’s International Liaison Officer (ILO) Lieutenant Commander Stephen Smith joins the Indian Navy’s Information Fusion Centre in Gurugram, collaborating and cooperating with partners towards enhancing Maritime Safety and Security in the Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IPR).
Lieutenant Commander Stephen Smith will be based full-time at the Centre, working directly with the Indian Armed Forces and fellow liaison officers from partner nations to enhance maritime domain awareness in the region. He was inducted in an official ceremony as the UK’s first ILO at the Centre on 22 June, building on the UK and Indian Prime Minister’s historic commitment to boost cooperation with the launch of the 2030 Roadmap in May. Admiral Tony Radakin KCB ADC, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, said: “… I wish him (ILO) and his new team every success and am excited at the opportunities this position brings us for closer UK-India collaboration and information sharing. Coming as a natural outgrowth of the strong partnership between the Royal Navy and Indian Navy, this is a significant step up in our shared maritime domain awareness effort, and boldly underlines UK and Indian desires to work together in the Indian Ocean Region and wider Indo-Pacific.”
The UK is world-renowned for its maritime awareness capability, leading on anti-piracy in the western Indian Ocean region and contributing over £20 million to tackle the problem. The UK’s White Shipping Agreement with India, for example, enables information sharing across the whole of the Indian Ocean Region. Working closely with the Maritime Trade Information Centre in the UK, the ILO will bring this specialist maritime trade operations knowledge to the IFC-IOR.
The UK formally confirmed accepting India’s offer to place a liaison officer in the IFC-IOR in 2019. This is an enduring commitment from the UK and a new Royal Navy officer will be posted here every two years. The UK already has a 7 x 7 presence in the Western Indian Ocean Region, alongside its presence in India: with 7 permanent bases in Kenya, Singapore, Brunei, Nepal, Bahrain, Oman, and the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), and 7 ships deployed at any one time to provide security in the Western region of the Indo-Pacific. Jan Thompson, Acting British High Commissioner to India, said: “The UK has committed to becoming the European country with the broadest, most integrated presence in the Indo-Pacific in support of trade, shared security and values.”
The IFC-IOR uses the Merchant Ship Information System (MSIS) software and a collaborative tool for its day-to-day functioning. The MSIS is used to collate inputs from various sources and develop a comprehensive Common Operational Picture of the region. The collaborative tool allows exchange of information with partner countries and other multi-national constructs. The UK uses a similar system, Maritime Trade Information System or MTIS, which displays a maritime picture and enables elements of command and control systems.
Gavin Thompson, Defence Adviser at the British High Commission, said: “The IFC-IOR is an excellent platform to enable closer engagement and ensure greater sharing of information on vessels of interest. The UK and Indian armed forces already enjoy high levels of interoperability, which will be on full display during the upcoming visit of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group, led by one of our largest aircraft carriers – HMS Queen Elizabeth. The appointment of the UK Liaison Officer forms part of our enhanced maritime partnership to bolster security in the Indian Ocean.”
Lieutenant Commander Stephen Smith has been a member of the Armed Forces for over three decades. He has served in the Navy for over 20 years, with previous service in the Army and Air Force.