Interview | Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba PVSM, AVSM, ADC

‘We are optimistic about aligning the induction of these aircraft (carrier-borne fighters) with the operationalisation of IAC-1’

How do you view the Indian maritime neighbourhood, in terms of challenges and opportunities? Are you satisfied with your maritime domain awareness or are there gaps which need to be filled?

The vastness and diversity of the oceans present a broad spectrum of challenges ranging from traditional threats on one end of the spectrum to non-traditional threats such as piracy, terrorism and other forms of maritime crimes on the other end. Aspects such as Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) as well as Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations (NEO) are also demanding the attention of several navies. The maritime capacity of most littoral states is not adequate to comprehensively address all these challenges on their own. Therefore, there exists an opportunity and a necessity for maritime nations of the region to cooperatively engage with each other to counter these diverse challenges.

Executive editor, Force, Ghazala Wahab with CNS Admiral Sunil Lanba
Executive editor, Force, Ghazala Wahab with CNS Admiral Sunil Lanba

Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) remains a primary enabler for any operation at sea, whether in peace or during conflict. The Indian Navy, therefore, makes every endeavour to maintain a continuous and seamless surveillance cover in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) through various means. We have reworked our deployment philosophy to maintain physical presence of our ships and aircraft over the vast expanse of our areas of maritime interest. We have also set up a chain of coastal radars and Automatic Identification System (AIS) stations all along our coast to achieve better coastal MDA.

All these stations are integrated through the National Command Control Communication and Intelligence (NC3I) network. We have also provided assistance to several Island and coastal nations in the IOR to set up a similar coastal surveillance network.

In addition, several international cooperative measures such as the White Shipping Information Exchange arrangements with friendly countries have resulted in qualitative improvements in MDA build up. Though the density of traffic in the IOR, through which some of the busiest shipping lanes pass, does pose a challenge, we are actively working towards adopting state-of-the-art technological solutions to mitigate these challenges and enhance our MDA capabilities.


What is the level of your engagement with the IOR littoral states? How has this engagement evolved and where do you see this going?

A study of India’s rich maritime history would reveal that our centuries old civilisational connect with the rest of the world was essentially effected through the medium of the seas. In the modern context, the importance of the seas for social and economic development of mankind has increased tremendously. Uninterrupted pursuit of these activities requires peace, security and stability in the maritime domain. This, in turn, is squarely dependent on the level of international cooperation.

Accordingly, the Indian Navy has nurtured mutually beneficial partnerships with most of the littorals in the IOR and beyond. These relationships are driven by our traditional maritime linkages, shared views on maritime security and a genuine respect for each other’s sovereignty. The consensus regarding transnational nature of maritime threats and the unviability of any country to individually address them have facilitated collaborative efforts between the maritime security agencies.

The Indian Navy has extended generous assistance for capacity-building and capability-enhancement of friendly navies in the IOR. Through training, joint exercises and coordinated patrols, we have been able to enhance interoperability between our maritime security agencies. Further, the active participation of countries in regional initiatives such as the IONS, ‘Goa Maritime Conclave’ (GMC) and MILAN series of exercises is testimony to the increasing engagement of the Indian Navy with friendly maritime countries.

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