India Intelligence Report
 

Eastern Naval Command Assuming Prominence

 

In line with the Indian Maritime Doctrine released last year, the Eastern Naval Command (ENC) based in Visakhapatanam has assumed great significance to protect the 2,600-kilometer coastline and 200,000 square kilometer exclusive economic zone. To further the Look East policy of the Government and protect increasing trade with China and South East Asian nations, the Defense Ministry is planning to increase force levels from the existing 60 ships to 81 warships by 2012.

The ENC has responsibility for Southern Indian Ocean and the hazardous 550-mile pirate-infested narrow sea-lanes of Straits of Malacca that sees 50,000 ships every year. There were 12 piracy instances last year prompting the Lloyd’s Market Association made the straits a high-risk area demanding USD 5000 per trip and Lockheed Martin announced that it will sell surveillance planes to Malaysia and Indonesia to better manage this security threat.

Of late, India has played a large role in protecting and escorting high-value cargo in the straits and not just Indian but those of other countries as well. Apart from an increase in naval force based in Vizag, the Indian Navy is also planning to induct 3 new airbases in the strategic Andaman and Nicobar Islands that would be capable of handling transport and fighter planes. It has already conducted many exercises in the region using planes from its Jaguar and Sukhoi fleets. India has also conducted exercises with the latest US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan near the Straits to assess capabilities to protect sea lanes.

 

India has also conducted several exercises with countries in the South East Asian region and Russia. The Presidential Fleet Review of February 2006 demonstrated the ENC’s capacity to show presence, reach and inter-operability with a number of frontline warships of Western and Eastern Commands, and operational demonstration such as missile and torpedo firing.

The Eastern Army Command at Kolkata in West Bengal and Southern Air Force Command at Thiruvanathapuram in Kerala support the ENC.