Navy plans permanent patrols for sea routes to China
Far away from mainland India, a military game is being played in the Bay of Bengal. India has decided that its naval deployments to monitor sea traffic to the east (read China) will be a permanent feature while Sukhoi-30 fighter jets, having the capability to quickly fly over the key maritime route of Straits of Malacca, have now been stationed at Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Top sources told The Tribune that the Navy had reviewed its mission-based deployment philosophy at the ongoing naval commanders’ conference. “These patrols will now be a permanent feature,” a senior naval officer confirmed.
In July last year, the Navy had started this mission-based deployment, tasked to patrol sea-shipping routes to the Straits of Malacca, an important “chokepoint” located south-east of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal.
Patrolling off the straits of Sunda, Lumbok and Ombai Wetar—all in the eastern Indian Ocean region—started in phases thereafter. These straits are narrow ocean passes that connect the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea. Malacca accounts for the passage of 70 per cent of the world’s trade volume and energy.
Leveraging the air bases at Campbell Bay, Car Nicobar and Port Blair has been the focus of the line of defence against an aggressive China for some time now. The Navy has positioned about 19 warships in the area and has built two floating docks to repair and refurbish warships, thus saving the 1,200-km (or three-day sail) one-way trip to Visakhapatnam.
Apart from the surface ships, the Navy’s long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft, the Boeing-made Poseidon 8I planes, have been tasked with flying sorties, sometimes up to the South China Sea, almost daily from INS Rajali in Arakkonam, Tamil Nadu. The Navy has a target to ensure its dominance in the Indian Ocean by 2020.
The US Department of Defence has, in its reports, highlighted that approximately 80 per cent of China’s oil imports and 11 per cent of natural gas imports transited the South China Sea and Straits of Malacca.
Source:- Tribune India