Ships of the Eastern Fleet, under the command of theFlag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet, Rear Admiral RK Dhowan, are presently on an ‘Overseas Deployment’(OSD) to the South-east and East-Asian regions. Thegroup consists of the guided-missile destroyers Mysore, Rana, and Ranjit, the guided-missile corvette Kuthar, and, the fleet tanker Jyoti. During the two-month deployment, from 18 March to 23 May 07, the ships are scheduled to effect port-callsat a number of ports, spreading the message ofgoodwill, presenting a microcosmic mosaic of India inevery facet — from the sociological to the technological, and, building bridges of friendshipacross the seas that make every littoral state aneighbour of India.
The scheduled ports of callinclude Singapore and Yokosuka (which is located atthe entrance of Tokyo Bay, in Japan). The port callat Yokosuka is particularly significant as it is amajor event in the ongoing celebrations of ‘2007’ asthe ‘India-Japan Friendship Year’). No less importantare the port-calls at Qingdao (which is located on thesouthern coast of the Shandong peninsula of China,bordering the Yellow Sea) and Vladivostok (located onthe Sea of Japan, some 100 km east of theRusso-Chinese border — the name itself means “Lord ofthe East”).
Also of significance are port-calls at HoChi Minh city (located near the Mekong river delta inVietnam and earlier known as Saigon), and, Manila(capital of the Philippines). The deployment as a whole is an intrinsic part of theongoing effort at ‘constructive engagement’ within themaritime field, being undertaken by the Indian Navy inconcert with other instruments and mechanisms of thenation’s diplomacy. The port-calls and theopportunities to engage and exercise with the naviesof the regions would enable the Indian Navy to gainand share operational and doctrinal expertise,transformational experiences, examine and imbibe‘best-practices’, promote interoperability, and,enhance ‘maritime domain awareness’, — all of whichare areas that the Indian Navy lays especial emphasisupon.
The first of the exercises to be undertaken during thecurrent deployment is the 2007 edition of thebilateral exercise ‘SIMBEX’, which are a regularfeature of the operational interaction between theIndian Navy and the Navy of the Republic of Singapore,and, which involves both, harbour and sea-goingsegments. This year, the first phase of exercise‘’SIMBEX’ was conducted in and off Port Blair, whilethe second phase has just concluded at and offSingapore, from 22 to 28 Mar 07. The next on the agenda is the 2007 edition of theannual exercise between the Indian and the US navies,which bears the generic name ‘MALABAR’.
‘MALABARCY-07’ (the acronym ‘CY’ stands for ‘calendar year’)will also be undertaken in two phases, with the firstphase being with units of the USA’s Pacific Commandand conducted off the Japanese island of Okinawa (—which is the largest in Japan’s Ryukyu chain ofislands that stretch well south of the four mainislands of that country), from 06 to 11 Apr 07. Whenand where the second phase of ‘Malabar-CY 07’ willtake place is still under examination. The Eastern Fleet commander will then split hisforces.
One group of two destroyers will proceed toQingdao from 12-16 Apr 07, where they will, on 17April, exercise with units of the navy of the People’sRepublic of China. The remaining ships will, on 17Apr 07 itself, undertake a daylong trilateralexercise, off Yokosuka, with units of the ‘JapaneseMaritime Self Defence Force’ (JMSDF) and the US navy.
The Indian naval force will consolidate itselfthereafter and proceed to Vladivostok, where they willengage in the harbour phase (22 to 24 Apr 07) and,later, the sea-going phase (24 to 26 Apr 07) of thebiennial exercise ‘Indra-2007’, involving units of theRussian Navy. During the return leg of thedeployment, once the fleet-units are off thePhilippines, they will once again split into twogroups, with one group engaging in ‘passage-exercises’with units of the navy of the Philippines, and theother, engaging units of the navy of the SocialistRepublic of Vietnam in similar passage exercises.
Two ships of the fleet will thereafter proceed toSingapore to participate in the 2007 edition of theprestigious ‘International Maritime DefenceExhibition’ (IMDEX) hosted every two years by thatcountry. INS Mysore and Kuthar would participate in‘IMDEX’ at Singapore from 15 to 19 May 07. This wouldprovide us with an opportunity to showcase our shipbuilding capability through these indigenouslydesigned and built ships, as also our ability to alignand keep pace with the rapid technologicaladvancements in the field of military hardware andsystems. The Chief of the Naval Staff will, himself bepresent for the event, as will his counterparts fromas many as twenty-two countries. IMDEX-2007 will befollowed by a passage-exercise involving allparticipating navies and our ships will berepresenting our country in this activity as well. The final operational engagement will be a bilateralpassage-exercise with ships of the ‘Royal New ZealandNavy’, before the deployment draws to a close at PortBlair, from where ships will resume their normalin-country activities.
The Indian Navy ships proceeding on the overseasdeployment are, as always, equipped to providehumanitarian assistance and disaster-relief at shortnotice, if required. This stems from our experienceof the past, wherein our ships, while on overseasdeployments, have had to be diverted to renderassistance. In 2006, for example, such short-noticeassistance was called-for and provided to Indonesia(in the aftermath of the Yogyakarta earthquake) andwas also in evidence during the non-combatantevacuation operations (Op Sukoon) undertaken inrespect of a number of nationals, who were safelymoved from the war-ravaged port of Beirut to Cyprus,during the Israeli action in Lebanon.