From struggling for identity during the 1999 Kargil war, the Indian Navy has traversed a long way as it celebrates Navy Day 2007. Today, it confidently speaks about multi-tasking that only it can perform; from combating terrorism at sea and gun and narcotics trafficking over a vast swathe from the Horn of Africa to the Strait of Malacca, to conventional deterrence and support to the land war, to the eventual nuclear deterrence that India with a declared nuclear policy of no-first-use should acquire. The important thing is that the government appreciates the utility of naval diplomacy. This explains the creation of the office of foreign cooperation and intelligence at naval headquarters with the purpose of close coordination between the navy and defence ministry and through it the external affairs ministry. And this is what transformation is all about.
As aviation is central to this transformation, the IN has been singularly fortunate to have two chiefs in succession who are aviators.
The first laid down the conceptual and doctrinal aspects for the navy’s new avatar. This was done by the release of the Indian Maritime Doctrine in 2004, the establishment of the National Maritime Foundation in 2005 to debate India’s growing maritime prowess and finalisation of the Maritime Capabilities Perspective Plan the same year to prioritise capabilities, and the release in 2006 of the document called ‘Freedom of the Seas: India’s Maritime Strategy.’ The present naval chief has followed the dictum ‘continuity with course-corrections.’ The emphasis is clearly on two aspects: acquisition of surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities and indigenisation. This is not all. Three related aspects uppermost on the navy’s mind are the need to network multitudes of assets on the water surface, under water and in the air to ensure minimal sensor to shooter response, better and redundant sensors, stand-off (land attack) weapons, and acquisition of sea lift capabilities. In operational parlance the navy is preparing for ‘operational manoeuvres from the sea’ and amphibious operations in out-of-area contingencies. The navy understands the operational necessity of being relevant to the land battle and of undertaking far away operations should the need arise.