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Navy commanders to discuss ops in Indian Ocean Region amid Ladakh stand-off with China

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will inaugurate the 3-day biannual conference Wednesday. Operational procurements amid Covid-19 pandemic will also be discussed.

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New Delhi: The three-day Naval Commanders’ Conference begins Wednesday, with key issues like entry and operations of “extra-regional” forces in the Indian Ocean Region, operational procurements and tri-services coordination with the maritime theatre command likely to dominate discussions.

The biannual event is attended by the top leadership of the Indian Navy, who brainstorm on new security, logistical and administrative issues to plan a roadmap.

Officers told ThePrint that Navy chief Admiral Karambir Singh and the senior commanders will be carrying out major logistical, administrative, training, materials and operational reviews.

They are also expected to discuss prioritising projects such as the long-pending P75I for six submarines, for which tenders are likely to be invited by October. Naval Utility Helicopters and other equipment the Navy plans to buy are also set to be discussed.

Also read: Navy is tracking China & Pakistan’s activities amid pandemic, Covid has no impact on ops

Eye on China in IOR

This time, the conference is taking place amid the India-China stand-off at the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh, which has been on since the first week of May. Apart from Army and Air Force helicopters and fighter aircraft, the Navy’s P8I anti-submarine warfare aircraft are also flying in Ladakh to carry out surveillance and reconnaissance.

The P8Is had also been used to carry out surveillance on Chinese troops during the 73-day-long Doklam stand-off between the countries near their tri-junction with Bhutan in 2017.

The Navy’s Eastern Fleet has also increased deployment of ships in the Indian Ocean Region, in and around the Andaman & Nicobar Islands and covering the Strait of Malacca, besides regular mission-based deployments. China has gradually increased its presence in the IOR since 2008 for its anti-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden to India’s west.

The Strait of Malacca, a shipping choke point, is also a vital sea line of communication for China’s energy and trade resources, essential to keep its economy running.

There has also been increased posturing between the navies of the United States and China, with the former sending in two aircraft carriers and bombers to the IOR.

A senior Navy officer said the proposed discussion on current security aspects in the Indian Ocean Region will include the ongoing mission-based deployments.

“The focus will be on maintaining a constant Maritime Domain Awareness on the area, to monitor entry and operations of extra-regional forces. The Navy is at a high level of operational readiness and the pandemic situation — in terms of manpower and logistics — is also being kept in view,” the officer said.

Other important issues

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will address the senior commanders in the inaugural session of the conference, after which aspects related to operations procurement will be discussed, keeping in mind the Covid-19 pandemic.

Among administrative issues, there could be discussions on setting the “new normal” in terms of meetings, temporary duties, courses and training in the pandemic situation, sources said.

Matters related to tri-services coordination, such as the yet-to-be-set-up maritime theatre command, are also likely to be discussed.

Earlier, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat had said an integrated maritime command, which will be under the Navy, is under study.

“Today, the ships are operational under different commanders, but it is being seen if the command and control of the ships can be exercised by one entity as the maritime commander,” he had said.

Also read: HAL helicopter not for us — Indian Navy doesn’t want PSU to be part of $3 bn chopper deal


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