Navy invites neighbours to join Indian Ocean monitoring facility - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Saturday 22 December 2018

Navy invites neighbours to join Indian Ocean monitoring facility

By Ajai Shukla
23rd December 18

Bustling Gurgaon, a thousand miles from the coast, may seem an odd location from which to monitor the Indian Ocean, but that is exactly where the navy – to safeguard against repeats of the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist strikes – established the Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC). 

This high-tech control centre obtains feeds from a range of space-based and terrestrial sensors and sources, to track fishing boats and commercial vessels near India’s coast and in the vast maritime domain beyond.

On Saturday, this initiative for maritime domain awareness (MDA) went international. 

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, while addressing an audience that included the envoys to New Delhi of several global powers and regional countries, invited them to join an international version of IMAC called the Information Fusion Centre for the Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR).

While IMAC was set up to defend India’s coast, IFC-IOR is an diplomatic initiative that underlines India’s status as the guardian of the Indian Ocean – a “net security provider” that brings together regional countries to safeguard global commons, freedom of navigation and provide security against challenges such as piracy, terrorism, gun-running, narcotics, human migration and illegal fishing.

Sitharaman, inviting all countries to “contribute towards a safer global commons”, stated that India wanted “partners, equals, to work together.”

“The only way [to tackle these challenges is] is through collaborative and cooperative efforts, of which the IFC-IOR is a shining example… I, therefore, invite you to participate and contribute in this endeavour as equals,” stated Admiral Sunil Lanba, the navy chief.

While the navy declines to reveal how many countries have expressed interest in joining IFC-IOR, a senior naval officer says “at least ten countries” have already asked to join. Attending the inauguration ceremony on Saturday were the envoys of the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, France and others.

Speaking off the record, since government permissions were still being obtained, diplomats told Business Standard they were extremely keen on joining IFC-IOR.

There are already three similar MDA initiatives in the hemisphere. These include one in Singapore that focus on south-east Asia, one in Madagascar, run by the European Union, that focus on the African coast and the Southern Indian Ocean, and one in the Mediterranean Sea. However, the IFC-IOR focuses squarely on the waters that carry the bulk of global trade.

Vice Admiral Pradeep Chauhan, director of the navy’s think tank, the National Maritime Foundation, highlights the importance of the Northern Indian Ocean. The international sea lanes of communications (SLOCs) running through these waters carry 75 per cent of the world’s maritime trade and half of daily oil consumption. “The IFC-IOR focuses squarely on this area, stitching together data from other similar initiatives”, says Chauhan.

Lanba said the IFC-IOR was initially being launched as a “virtual centre”, from which member countries could access information electronically through the internet or video-conferencing. However, facilities were being created to house liaison officers from member countries, which would be stationed here to physically man the facilities.

This would be a significant enhancement of India’s military diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific region.

The IMAC, which remains the mother facility for IFC-IOR, was sanctioned by the government in March 2012, and operationalized in Nov 2014 in barely 2½ years.

Its thrust remains to track civil, commercial shipping. The navy has a separate “Operations Room” that is used to track its own and hostile warships. There is a deliberate firewall between the two.

The IMAC (and, therefore, the IFC-IOR) obtains inputs from a range of sensors. Primary inputs come from India’s coastal radar network that is manned by the Coast Guard. 

On the international level, India has White Shipping Agreements with 36 countries, and 3 multinational agencies. This feeds in details of all commercial shipping passing through their ports.

IMAC also incorporates inputs from LRIT (long range identification and tracking). This mechanism, which works under the International Maritime Organisation, paves the way for 174 countries to provide real-time information on their commercial shipping.

Such diverse data is fused together into a “common operating picture” by custom-designed software. While this was procured internationally, it will be replace within a few months by indigenous software called “Sangraha”, developed by Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL). Navy officers claim that BEL’s software greatly improves the “common operating picture” with its advanced algorithms.


  1. Has india also invites china ?

  2. NSR says ---

    India must run and buy these at cheapest possible rates and upgrade them to the latest version quickly as a stop gap solution …

    """""""""""""""Taiwan will also retire its ageing Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft due to high maintenance costs and to make room in the budget for new F-16s. Of the sixty fighters France sold Taiwan in the 1990s, fifty-six remain operational. “We would like to resale the Mirage fighters to a third country,” said one source."""""""""""""""

    If France really transferred all TOT for the Mirage-2000UPG, then it is worth a consideration to buy and create another 3 squadrons...


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