Indian Navy’s Malacca Strait deployment which started in June last year has spotted three Chinese naval ships entering the Indian Ocean Region from Ombai Wetar in Indonesia, officials said today. The Chinese ships are on an anti-piracy duty and were heading to the Gulf of Aden.
The spotting of the Chinese ships has been due to the Indian Navy’s ‘Mission Based Deployment’ wherein currently 50 of its ships are deployed in the Indian Ocean Region, including the Malacca Strait, that allow it to keep watch across the ocean. In addition, network centric operations that allow every ship to receive and examine feed on what is happening in each other’s area of responsibility also contribute to the maritime domain awareness system of the Indian Navy.
“It was due to this maritime domain awareness that we came to know of the presence of the 29th Anti-Piracy Escort Force of the PLA Navy, consisting of two frigates and a tanker,” explained officials privy to the matter.
The navy spokesperson’s official twitter handle, @indiannavy, also tweeted today, “#MaritimeDomainAwareness @indiannavy extends a warm welcome to the 29th Anti-Piracy Escort Force (APEF) of PLA(N) in Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Happy Hunting.”
The tweet actually underlines that the Indian Navy’s awareness of the presence and movement of Chinese naval ships in the Indian Ocean Region.
Chinese naval ships use the four straits of Malacca, Sunda, Lombuk and Ombai Wetar to cross between their bases in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean. Its Anti-Piracy Escort Force starts from China and moves towards the Horn of Africa, which lies along the southern side of the Gulf of Aden, and then moves towards Djibouti where there is a Chinese military base and goes to Karachi.
Officials explained that in the past the usual way of knowing about Chinese naval ships in the Indian Ocean was by information shared by merchant ships and friendly nations. Now the navy’s maritime domain awareness has improved with the mission based deployment, a concept which was unveiled at the naval commanders’ conference in May, 2017. The concept involves deploying mission-ready ships and aircraft along critical sea lanes of communication and choke points. These ships are deployed across the Indian Ocean, including at the centre of it, Maldives, Seychelles, north Bay of Bengal and Malacca Strait 24×7 to meet any eventuality, ranging from maritime terrorism and piracy.
In addition, a naval air station called Baaz (hawk) located at Campbell Bay on Greater Nicobar Island which was commissioned on July 31, 2012, is a strategic location because it overlooks the Malacca Strait.
China is particularly reliant on unimpeded sea lines of communication like the South China Sea and Strait of Malacca. In 2016, about 80 per cent of China’s oil imports and 11 per cent of natural gas imports transited the South China Sea and Strait of Malacca, a 2017 US Department of Defence report stated.
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