Logistic supply agreements with various countries have helped the Indian Navy to enhance its role as the primary responder to any crisis, especially in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
The Indian Navy has reciprocal military logistics agreements with US, France, Australia, South Korea and Singapore. Japan is the sixth country that India signed logistics agreements with earlier this month.
“India is now moving ahead to sign similar deals with Russia and United Kingdom,” said a senior government official.
While India has some notable accomplishments as an overseas responder, the assistance to Maldivian President Gayoom as part of Operation Cactus in 1988 was a key event.
Thereafter the ‘coming of age’ event for the Indian Navy was the post-tsunami response in December 2004, which went on well into 2005.
The tsunami was catastrophic for many nations in Asia, particularly in South and South East Asia where India was one of the most severely affected nations.
“Whilst the Indian nation mobilised all resources at its disposal, including the armed forces, to provide succour to its citizens, it did not forget its neighbours,” said the official adding that as a responsible neighbour and collaborator, the government of the day rushed help and supplies to many countries in South and South-East Asia; principal being Sri Lanka, Maldives and Indonesia.
Recognising India’s capabilities and resources, the US invited India to be a part of the Tsunami Core Group, the others being Japan and Australia. The group was subsequently expanded to include the UN, EU and Canada.
The Tsunami Core Group clearly brought out the capabilities and response mechanisms of nations with similar governance and ability to reach out to others in their hour of need.
The original core group would pave the way for the 2007 proposal of Shinzo Abe, then Prime Minister of Japan for initiation of a Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or ‘Quad’.
“We are currently dissecting QUAD 2.0 and how it is an anti-China group, which may be a disservice to the larger aims of this grouping,” the official explained.
The Tsunami was a trigger for many reforms and change in operational mindset for India.
India and its Navy realised the need for large deck amphibious ships; ships that can carry men and material to places that are in need of them and using helicopters on the ships to quickly transfer them ashore, as also more pronounced outreach.
India was one of the first responders in the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict and directed the Indian Navy to evacuate Indian nationals. Along with Indians, the Navy evacuated Sri Lankans, Nepalese and Lebanese nationals.
In 2015, India launched Operation Raahat and ordered the Indian Navy into war-torn Yemen to evacuate Indian nationals.
Along with Indians, the Navy rescued more than 1,000 nationals from over 30 nations, including the US and UK, who directed their citizens to seek help from India.
The Navy has therefore been doing the heavy-lifting in the Indian Ocean Region to help countries in the region and beyond.
“Operational logistics simply put, is ensuring availability of diesel, spares and lubricants for machinery onboard ships and water and food for the crew, towards undertaking uninterrupted operations,” the official pointed out.
It makes sense to get these operational logistic requirements from close to an area of operation, rather than from India.
This is particularly so if naval ships are undertaking an operation say in the Southern Indian Ocean or South East Asia.
The logical step, therefore, is to identify nations and their infrastructure that have the capacity to provide services to India to facilitate continued operations.
Similarly, nations that have amicable relations with India and enjoy a high level of inter-operability also prefer to have similar agreements with India to suit their needs in the region.
Towards this, India has in recent years, concluded Logistic Supply Agreements with many nations across the Indian Ocean, South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean.
“These provide our nation with the ability to expeditiously respond to an emerging situation in remote and inaccessible parts of the world, using the assets of the Indian Armed Forces,” the official added.
As the world shifts increasingly towards multi-lateralism, India is negotiating various new agreements and pacts with like-minded nations to meet common threats and challenges.
“One must also remember that agreements and pacts are not always a zero-sum game,” the official said.