International Fleet Review – Strategic Statement by India

International Fleet Review 2016

International Fleet Review 2016 The Indian Navy is currently hosting the International Fleet Review (IFR-16) at Visakhapatnam from 04 – 08 February 2016, which has seen record participation of navies from 50 countries. The sheer number of navies represented from across the globe is an endorsement and recognition of India’s emerging status as a major naval power. This is the first time so many countries have participated in an International Fleet Review hosted by India. The last major International Fleet Review was hosted in 2001 off the coast of Mumbai and had 29 countries participating. IFR-16 shall see attendance of 22 international Naval Chiefs, 26 Heads of Delegation, 4000 international naval personnel and over 100 ships on display, including 24 ships of international navies. Participating Navies: US, China, Russia, France, UK, Australia, Japan, Israel, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Nigeria, Argentina, amongst other countries. What is International Fleet Review? The longstanding tradition of Fleet Review has been followed by navies around the world and is seen as an occasion to display battle-readiness of the navy and is also an occasion for the host navy to reaffirm its allegiance to its sovereign and the state. The Indian Navy draws its traditions from the British Navy, and the first recorded Fleet review in Britain was in 1415 when the then ruling monarch Henry V inspected his naval Fleet prior to going to battle with France. The first Indian Naval Fleet Review took place in 1953 and ever since, the President of India, who also happens to be the Supreme Commander of the Indian Defence Forces, inspects the Fleet at least once during his or her tenure. India has hosted ten such Fleet reviews since, and 2016 is the 11th Fleet Review. The Fleet Review entails all ships and vessels of the Indian Navy to be anchored at sea at a specific location and after the ceremonial 21-Gun salute, the President and Supreme Commander embarks on the President’s Yacht, distinguished by the emblem of Asoka, and sails past all ships. As the President’s Yacht sails past, all crew smartly turned out in ceremonial white, salute the President in unison, by waving their white caps in true naval tradition. This is followed by a display of naval prowess and military hardware in action. In an effort to build operational relationship and trust amongst friendly ship farers of the world, the Navies of ship faring nations are invited to join the Fleet Review by the host nation. The number of participating navies and the countries they represent, is also seen as a recognition of the host nation’s naval power and this year, India has indeed made a strong statement. Schedule of events 04 February The Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, Shri Chandrababu Naidu kicked off Day 1 of IFR-16 by inaugurating the Maritime Exhibition (MAREX) at the Andhra Pradesh College of Engineering. The exhibition focused on the Innovation, Youth and Indigenization and showcased self-reliance of the Indian Navy and contribution of organizations in public and private sector in achieving that. An IFR-16 village with 102 stalls was also put up for the benefit of visiting International delegates to enable them to get a glimpse of the India through its arts and crafts. The Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral R.K. Dhowan was in attendance, along with the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Vice Admiral Satish Soni and other senior officers of the Navy. 6 February The President reviewed the naval Fleet and was followed by a display of military strength and technical capability by the Indian Navy. 7 February The Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present when the Navy displayed its operational capability. In his address, the PM stressed for nations to come together to meet the challenges and emerging threats to maritime movement and security. The PM also witnessed the International City Parade. 7 & 8 February – International Maritime ConferencePartnering Together for a Secure Maritime Future’ – is the theme of the conference as part of IFR-16, which seeks a confluence of thought and ideas on emerging maritime challenges. 8 February The International Fleet Review will come to a close in the evening with The International Joint Band Concert – an event that will bring together the musical bands of several participating navies and the Indian Navy, who will each perform a 6-7 minute musical piece in their naval tradition. This will also be the closing day of the International Maritime Conference. 9 February To conclude the IFR-16, the Indian Navy will lead the ‘Passage Exercise and Sail in Company’, which shall see the Indian Navy escort each visiting foreign ship out to the Bay of Bengal, as per naval tradition, as they set sail back to their respective countries. The exercise is also another moment to establish operating communication between the host and the visiting Navy. Statement by India – an emerging Naval power India has a vast coastline of 7,615 km that overlooks the Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. With 66% of global oil, 50% of global container traffic and 33% of global cargo trade passing through the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), that stretches from the Malacca Straits in the east to the Persian Gulf in the west, India has a significant role and responsibility in ensuring the safety and security in keeping sea lines open to global maritime movement. Without doubt, India has emerged as the regional superpower that has a dominating presence in the IOR and India see this as its theatre of influence, just as China is seeking a similar role in Western Pacific. The US is keen to check China’s growing maritime assertion and India is seen as the power that can tilt the strategic balance, as a counter-weight to China. It is inevitable that India, along with USA and China, will define the strategic nature of maritime influence in coming times. Therefore, it is incumbent for all three nations to ensure co-operation and establish an operating trust, that will transcend the geo-political interests of each nation. This is not going to be easy, with China embroiled in a tussle for maritime domination with other nations in its region that share the seas with China. India does not have any such dispute in the IOR and therefore, its emergence as a regional naval superpower becomes critical in tilting the strategic balance in international geo-politics. On conventional warfare, Indian Navy already maintains a stronger force than Russia, France or UK, and in coming years, India will emerge as the third strongest naval power, after US and China. It is in this context that the International Fleet Review 2016 gains importance, with 50 nations joining the occasion in a clear recognition of the emerging Indian Naval force, and by extension, India’s role and importance in international geo-politics.

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