Q1. The Western Naval Command (WNC) is the premier Command of Indian Navy. Could you elaborate on the role and operations of WNC?
Ans. Every nation exercises its maritime power through its Navy. In addition to the primary responsibility of discharging the military roles, Navy is also responsible for executing the various diplomatic, benign, constabulary and humanitarian roles. The raison d’etre for the Indian Navy is to shape a favourable and positive maritime environment which promotes and safeguards our national interests. Our nation is on the threshold of transformation with the economy on an upswing in the midst of a global slowdown. The growth of our economy hinges on our ability to conduct trade safely with our partners. 90% of our trade by volume and 70% by value are conducted over the seas. Our Navy protects these sea lanes and thus stands as a guarantor of our nation’s economic growth.
The Western Naval Command is responsible for the area that extends from the West coast of India upto the East coast of Africa across the expanse of the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean and also upto16 degrees South of the equator. 50% of the world’s container traffic and 70% of the world’s crude oil transits every day through these waters, which are under WNC’s direct responsibility. We also have a large Indian Diaspora in the Middle East and the African East Coast living in a politically volatile neighbourhood. Western Naval Command is always at hand to serve Diaspora in times of need as was displayed in Lebanon in the past and more recently in Yemen in 2015. In recent years, coastal security has become a big responsibility and I, as the C-in-C have the overall responsibility of ensuring Coastal and Offshore defence of our West coast. The Offshore assets off our western seaboard are strategic assets and are under our constant surveillance and protection.
Q2. Could you elaborate on benign missions performed by WNC?
Ans. WNC has been at the forefront of providing Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief to our own coastal populace and also to our maritime neighbours, at their request. In December 2014, during a fresh water crisis in Maldives, it was the Navy’s tanker, INS Deepak, which provided over 2000 tons of potable water to Male. In March and April last year, WNC was instrumental in evacuating more than 3000 personnel of Indian and foreign nationalities including citizens of the United States and Pakistan from wartorn Yemen through nine challenging rescue missions carried out by three of our warships, INS Mumbai, Tarkash and Sumitra over a period of 18 days.
This daring display of resolve and capability by Indian Navy earned praises and accolades for our nation from all over the world. Our ships and aircraft have also been involved in various cases of rescuing crews of floundering vessels like the 20 crew members of MV Jindal Kamakshi and 14 crew members of MV Coastal Pride rescued off Mumbai. The Navy divers are regularly called out to assist civil authorities in salvage operations, recovery of persons under distress at sea, or in floods and other natural disasters. We have been carrying out this benign role in a really big way and it forms a very important part of our maritime responsibilities.
Q3. Could you please tell us about some recent inductions into Navy that have enhanced its capability?
Ans. The Navy is a highly technologydriven force. It is therefore very important for us to upgrade our capabilities to keep abreast with the latest developments. Towards this we have inducted modern and highly potent seagoing platforms like Aircraft carrier Vikramaditya, nuclear submarine Chakra and stealth destroyers Kolkata and Kochi. To address the growing threats to coastal security, we are also steadily augmenting our smaller coastal defence assets and inducted 10 ISVs (Immediate Support Vessels) last year in the Command. Apart from this, INS Sardar Patel, a Naval base at Porbandar and INS Vajrakosh, a Missile Depot are among some of the recent establishments commissioned in the Western Naval Command.
Q4. What has been the outlook of IN towards indigenisation and selfreliance?
Ans. India is amongst a select group of few nations which can indigenously design and build complex platforms like aircraft carriers, stealth frigates, destroyers and even nuclear submarines. This has been possible due to our Navy’s continued focus and sustained thrust on indigenisation. After independence, we realised the advantages of being a ‘Builders’ Navy rather than a ‘Buyers’ Navy. Our sustained focus towards indigenisation bore fruit in 1961 with the commissioning of ‘INS Ajay’ built at GRSE. By 1964, we set up our own indigenous design department, which played a major role in the design of first major capital ship ‘INS Nilgiri’ which was commissioned in 1972. The ‘Make in India’ initiative of our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, along with the recent slew of progressive amendments in the Defence Procurement Procedure as declared by the Government has indeed given a big boost for the indigenisation plans of the Navy. As todate, over 47 more ships and submarines are in various stages of orders with indigenous shipyards. The indigenisation of advanced weapon systems, missiles and ammunition is also being given due impetus. The PM’s Make in India programme will ensure to achieve self-sufficiency so as to guarantee strategic autonomy for our nation.
Q5. The terror attack on Mumbai in November 2008 exposed some majorweakness such as lack of coordination between many state and central agencies. What are the remedial measures that the Navy has institutionalized to beef up coastal and offshore security framework?
Ans. You may be aware that commencing February 2009, the Indian Navy has been entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring the overall maritime security of the nation, including the coastal and offshore defence. We are being assisted in this task by Indian Coast Guard, Marine Police and other Central and State Govt agencies. The Indian Navy has established, the ‘Sagar Prahari Bal’, an exclusive cadre dedicated to coastal security, comprising over 1000 personnel, 95 Fast Interceptor Craft and 17 Immediate Support Vessels to ensure round the clock surveillance of our coastline and provide foolproof security. At the national level, we now have a National Committee, headed by the Cabinet Secretary, which coordinates all activities related to Maritime and Coastal Security. Joint Operations Centres (JOCs) have been set up as Command and Control hubs for coastal security at Mumbai, Visakhapatnam, Kochi and Port Blair, which are fully operational and manned 24×7 by personnel from Navy, Coast Guard, Customs, Fisheries Department and Marine Police. A chain of 74 Automatic Identification System (AIS) receivers have also been installed to keep a track of all movements along the entire Indian coast. This is complemented by a chain of overlapping 46 coastal radars that have been installed in the coastal areas of our mainland and Islands. A second phase of installing 38 coastal radars is under progress to plug small gaps at some locations. To sum up, I can confidently say that today, with the help of technology, we are being able to monitor each and every vessel in our area of responsibility.
Q6. How, in your opinion, has the coordination between state and central agencies improved post 26/ 11?
Ans. The Inter-agency coordination of the Navy with more than 20 national and state Govt agencies has improved post 26/11. There are now regular “coastal security exercises” conducted in all the coastal states. Nationwide, over 120 such exercises have been conducted so far, which has considerably strengthened the coastal security construct by promoting smooth conduct of joint operations and cementing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for all agencies involved in coastal security. Q7. Has there been any significant participation from the Coastal Community towards ensuring coastal security? Ans. The fishing communities are the largest constituents of the coastal security framework and are our core strength. This four million strong fishing community provides vital human intelligence and support to the coastal security apparatus, acting as our ‘eyes and ears’. We have nurtured active involvement of the coastal populace by actively spreading awareness through campaigns, sustained interaction and sensitizing them about the important role they play towards national security. The coastal security toll free number ‘1093’ is now operational and provides a quick means of reporting any incident of transgression. Other initiatives such as ‘Sagar Rakshak Dal’ and voluntary groups like ‘Village Vigilance Committees’ assist the overall coastal security apparatus in surveillance, intelligence gathering, patrolling and thus, contribute positively towards enhancing seaward security of all coastal states.
Q7. Has there been any significant participation from the Coastal Community towards ensuring coastal security?
Ans. The fishing communities are the largest constituents of the coastal security framework and are our core strength. This four million strong fishing community provides vital human intelligence and support to the coastal security apparatus, acting as our ‘eyes and ears’. We have nurtured active involvement of the coastal populace by actively spreading awareness through campaigns, sustained interaction and sensitizing them about the important role they play towards national security. The coastal security toll free number ‘1093’ is now operational and provides a quick means of reporting any incident of transgression. Other initiatives such as ‘Sagar Rakshak Dal’ and voluntary groups like ‘Village Vigilance Committees’ assist the overall coastal security apparatus in surveillance, intelligence gathering, patrolling and thus, contribute positively towards enhancing seaward security of all coastal states. Q8. WNC ships have also been conducting effective anti-piracy operations in the past few years. How has the piracy threat changed now? Ans. You are right. The dedicated patrolling by our warships off the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea has resulted in nil cases of piracy being reported in these waters since 2011. This is a significant achievement and has boosted the confidence of all seafarers in our ability to effectively project power and exercise deterrence in our area of interest. The Navy continues its operations unabated and has so far escorted more than 3000 ships of all nationalities. We have successfully thwarted piracy attack on more than 46 ships so far. As a result of our sustained, effective and deterring presence, the European Union Chair of the Contact Group of Piracy Off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) has shifted the High Risk Area westwards by 780 nautical miles away from the Indian coast which translates into a saving of over Rs 23,000 crores per year for the Indian shipping industry. That is a brilliant example of Navy safeguarding the economic interests of our nation.
Q8. WNC ships have also been conducting effective anti-piracy operations in the past few years. How has the piracy threat changed now?
Ans. security. At the national level, we now have a National Committee, headed by the Cabinet Secretary, which coordinates all activities related to Maritime and Coastal Security. Joint Operations Centres (JOCs) have been set up as Command and Control hubs for coastal security at Mumbai, Visakhapatnam, Kochi and Port Blair, which are fully operational and manned 24×7 by personnel from Navy, Coast Guard, Customs, Fisheries Department and Marine Police. A chain of 74 Automatic Identification System (AIS) receivers have also been installed to keep a track of all movements along the entire Indian coast. This is complemented by a considerably strengthened the coastal security construct by promoting smooth conduct of joint operations and cementing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for all agencies involved in coastal security.
Q9. We understand Naval operations today are Network Centric in nature. How has it impacted the Navy?
Ans. Networking is an essential requirement for attaining synergy in operations with all stakeholders onboard and avoiding any ‘fog of war’. The wide range of operational activities, spread across large areas and in all dimensions, are controlled and coordinated through a secure and efficient networking architecture. The launch of a dedicated satellite for Navy in Aug 2013 has made it possible for us to have real time communication and have complete domain awareness in our entire Area of Operations (AOR).
The National Command Control Communication and Intelligence (NC3I) network seamlessly fuses all information pertaining to coastal security for a Common Operating Picture. This system was inaugurated by the Hon’ble Raksha Mantri in Nov 14 and provides an electronic geofence along our coast. The network helps us to synergise coastal security operations between all stake holders to aid informed decision-making and optimum utilisation of available resources.
Q10. What has been the WNC’s role in Navy’s strategic outreach and how has it aided our national interest?
Ans. The increased deployment of Naval forces in international waters and visits to foreign countries are in keeping with the Diplomatic Role of the IN. Naval Diplomacy primarily entails the use of Naval forces to support our foreign policy objectives and also to build ‘bridges of friendship’, promote cooperation and jointmanship through interactions with foreign navies. These deployments demonstrate our ability to project power far away from our shores so as to favourably influence foreign perceptions to support our national interests. This also deters potential adversaries and projects a strong national image. The recent deployments of IN ships Betwa and Beas to Bandar Abbas in Iran, in Aug 15, after a gap of six years, the deployment of four warships from the Western Fleet to various ports in West Asia in Sep 15 and the presence of INS Trikand in North Atlantic from Aug to Oct 15 are all part of this larger aim.
Q11. Of late, the ships of WNC have been practicing joint operations with modern navies on a regular basis. What are the takeaways from such joint exercises?
Ans. That’s true. The Indian Navy conducts institutionalised multilateral exercises with a host of foreign navies. Today, the Indian Navy is highly regarded for its professional prowess and towards this, a number of Navies want to exercise with us as these exercises benefit them as much as they benefit us. Besides learning best practices of other navies, these exercises allow us to display our maritime strength as a deterrent factor. Ships from WNC are always part of the IN Task Group for all such exercises. For instance, units of the Command have been participating with the French Navy, US Navy, Royal Navy, Russian Navy, Royal Navy of Oman, Republic of Singapore Navy, Sri Lankan Navy and many more. In addition to learning from each other’s operating procedures, these exercises also spearhead the Indian Navy’s strategic outreach program and promote regional and global security by enhancing inter-operability.
Q12. The nation is eagerly waiting for the forthcoming International Fleet Review (IFR) at Vishakhapatnam. What are the highlights of the event and what is going to be the participation of WNC in it?
Ans. The IN is currently gearing up to conduct the IFR-2016 at Vishakhapatnam from 04 Feb to 09 Feb 16. The theme for the event is ‘United through Oceans’. To give you a preamble, a Naval Fleet Review is a ceremonial and stately inspection of Naval warships by the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, the Hon’ble President of India, at least once during their tenure. Many leading nations use this opportunity to enhance mutual trust and confidence with their maritime neighbours and partners by inviting them to participate in the review, allowing them an occasion to display their maritime capabilities and the bridges of friendship they have developed mutually.
The last IFR held at Mumbai in Feb 2001 generated tremendous appreciation and goodwill. IFR 2016 is expected to be undertaken at a much bigger scale than ever before – invites for the event were sent to 87 Navies across the globe and over 50 countries have confirmed their participation to date. The activities scheduled to be conducted during IFR-16 include an International Maritime Conference, to be conducted over a period of two days, Maritime Exhibitions, an Operational Demo by our units, and an International City Parade.
The highlight of this event, of course, would be the static and mobile review of Multi-national Fleet by the Hon’ble President of India on 06 Feb 16. A total of 12 ships, including both the aircraft carriers, INS Viraat and INS Vikramaditya, will represent WNC. Sail boat INSV Mhadei, manned by an all-women crew will also participate in the Review. In addition, our air assets and Special Forces will be putting up an Operational Demonstration.