Roles of Indian Navy
The full range of operations in which a nation’s naval forces may be involved is vast, ranging from high intensity war fighting at one end to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations at the other end. This broad continuum of operations can be broken down into distinct roles, each demanding a specific approach to the conduct of operations. Accordingly, the four main roles envisaged for the IN are as follows: -
The Military Role
The essence of all navies is their military character. In fact, the raison d’etre of navies is to ensure that no hostile maritime power can degrade own national security and interests. The navy’s military role is characterised by the threat or use of force at and from the sea. This includes application of maritime power in both offensive operations against enemy forces territory and trade, and defensive operations to protect own forces, territory and trade. The military role is performed through the accomplishment of specific military objectives, missions and tasks.
The Diplomatic Role
Naval Diplomacy entails the use of naval forces in support of foreign policy objectives to build ‘bridges of friendship’ and strengthen international cooperation on the one hand, and to signal capability and intent to deter potential adversaries on the other. The larger purpose of the navy’s diplomatic role is to favourably shape the maritime environment in the furtherance of national interests, in consonance with the foreign policy and national security objectives. Navies inherently lean towards performing a diplomatic role on account of two characteristics. The first is their status as comprehensive instruments of a country’s sovereign power, whereupon their very presence in or off a certain area signals the nation’s political intent and commitment to pursue national interests in that region. Hence, their presence or absence can be calibrated to send a political message to potential friends and foes alike. The second characteristic facilitating the navy’s diplomatic role is in the very attributes of maritime forces, including access, mobility, sustenance, reach, flexibility and versatility. These combine to offer a variety of tools for furthering national interests and pursuing foreign policy goals. Naval forces can be readily deployed, can perform multiple roles and tasks that can be calibrated in visibility and intensity as per requirements, and can just as easily and rapidly be withdrawn, to send a countersignal.
The increasing incidence of maritime crime has brought into sharp focus the constabulary role that navies have to perform. The significance of this role may be gauged from the fact that for a third of the world’s navies, this is a major facet of their functions. In the constabulary role, forces are employed to enforce law of the land or to implement a regime established by an international mandate. Force is only employed for self-defence or as a last resort in execution of this role. The protection and promotion of India’s maritime security is one of the prime responsibilities of the Indian Navy. This includes a constabulary element, especially where it relates to threats that involve use of force at sea. The range of tasks that the IN has to undertake in the constabulary role ranges from Low Intensity Maritime Operations (LIMO) to maintaining good order at sea. This further includes aspects of coastal security, as part of India’s overall maritime security. Constabulary tasks at sea are neither the primary nor the sole mandate of the IN. With the establishment of the ICG in February 1978, law enforcement aspects of the constabulary role within the Maritime Zones of India (MZI) have been transferred to the ICG.28 Security in major harbours and ports are the purview of the port authorities, aided by customs and immigration agencies. Constabulary tasks beyond the MZI are vested with the Indian Navy. Efficient and effective maritime constabulary requires proper and seamless coordination between the various maritime law enforcement and regulatory agencies. After the terrorist attacks on Mumbai on 26 November 2008, the overall responsibility for coastal security has been mandated to the Indian Navy, in close coordination with the ICG, State marine police and other central/state government and port authorities.
The ‘benign’ role is so named because violence has no part to play in its execution, nor is the potential to apply force a necessary prerequisite for undertaking these operations. Examples of benign tasks include humanitarian aid, disaster relief, Search and Rescue (SAR), ordnance disposal, diving assistance, salvage operations, hydrographic surveys, etc. Maritime forces, because of their quick mobilisation, are extremely useful in the early stages of a crisis for providing relief material, first aid and succour. Much of the capacity to perform these functions derives itself from the mobility, reach and endurance inherent in naval task forces, coupled with their sealift capability. For example, in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster, one of the biggest challenges is the disbursement of food, water and relief material. It is under such conditions that military mobility, coupled with reliable communications are most effective in ensuring distribution to even the most remote afflicted areas. While specialised civilian agencies may take over at a later stage, maritime forces can provide the first helping hand and may be deployed to complement their efforts. The ICG is the designated national agency for SAR. Naval units may also be called upon to undertake SAR operations, as required.
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