The Information Fusion Centre for the Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) being commissioned by the Indian Navy as an adjunct to its Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) in Gurugram will be independent of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) forum, but the Navy expects all IONS members and Indian Ocean littorals to be part of it, Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba has maintained.
The IFC-IOR, whose setting up in December this year was reported by The Hindu on Tuesday, would be sharing white shipping information [exchange of info on merchant vessels] alone with like-minded countries. India had white shipping agreement with 18 countries, but only 11 of them were operational, he said.
Exchange of classified, operational information, would be on the basis of bilateral agreements, independent of the centre. Admiral Lanba said the list of countries to be invited to be represented at IFC-IOR through liaison officers was being worked out with the Defence Ministry.
To a query on its ways to check the growing influence of China in the Indian Ocean, Admiral Lanba said that over the last one year, the Navy was making mission-based deployments, permanently deploying its vessels at all egress and entry points of the Indian Ocean to monitor movement of ships, including that of China’s People’s Liberation Army (Navy). Besides, air patrols were also undertaken. It also undertook several capacity and capability building initiatives with several like-minded nations in the IOR for the purpose.
Earlier, addressing the 10th anniversary commemorative seminar of IONS, he said the seas were too large for any one Navy to secure them singlehandedly and “our ability to work in coordination with other stakeholders will enhance the effectiveness of our individual efforts manifold.” He said faced with common challenges, the IONS members had accrued enormous benefits by sharing experiences, best practices and formulating standardised procedures to improve coordination and interoperability. The forum, he said, had come a long way in the past 10 years.
On training, he said the Navy trained about 1,000 foreign officers and sailors each year and this year alone, naval personnel from 33 countries were trained at Indian naval training establishments. As part of its efforts at capability enhancement, it had begun to give sea training too. “The [Kochi-based] Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) organisation recently carried out work up of a Malaysian ship. Earlier, it was given to Seychelles, Sri Lanka and Mauritius.” Admiral Lanba said the IONS would also see if there could be a working group on training.
The demand for a standing force for the forum would be looked into by a working group. “But it will take sometime to arrive at a consensus on this,” he added.