Indian Navy tightens its watch over ships transiting the Indian Ocean Region - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Wednesday 22 February 2023

Indian Navy tightens its watch over ships transiting the Indian Ocean Region

Signing the Memorandum of Understanding between India and the Seychelles for maritime domain awareness

By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 23rd Feb 23


To enhance cooperation in the realm of maritime security, India’s high-tech control centre for monitoring traffic through the Indian Ocean Region agreed on Tuesday to cooperate with a similar body in Seychelles, in the southern Indian Ocean.


Set up by the Indian Navy in 2019 in Gurugram, the Information Fusion Centre for the Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) signed a memorandum of understanding withthe Regional Coordination Operations Centre (RCOC), Seychelles.


“[This] aims to promote collaboration between the two centres towards enhancing maritime domain awareness, information sharing and expertise development,” the Ministry of Defence (MoD) stated on Wednesday.


The 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 to provide security against challenges such as piracy, terrorism, gun-running, narcotics, human migration and illegal fishing.


Towards this, it 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.


“IFC-IOR, hosted by the Indian Navy, was established by the Government of India at Gurugram on December 22, 2018, to enhance collaborative maritime safety and security in the Indian Ocean Region in line with India’s vision of Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR),” said the MoD.


The IFC-IOR primarily watches over the Northern Indian Ocean, through which run sea lines of communications (SLOCs) that carry 75 per cent of the world’s maritime trade and half of daily oil consumption.


Now the IFC-IOR’s partnership with the RCOC, Seychelles allows the Indian Navy to focus its gaze further south.


To enable better cooperation, IFC-IOR also hosts International Liaison Officers (ILOs) from 12 partner nations: Australia, France, Italy, Japan, Maldives, Mauritius, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Seychelles, Singapore, UK and the USA, said the MoD.


The maritime security architecture in the Western Indian Ocean is supported by the Regional Maritime Information Fusion Centre (RMIFC), the RCOC in Seychelles and the national centres of seven signatory countries: Comoros, Djibouti, France, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, and Seychelles, said the MoD. 


The thrust of this initiative remains to track civil, commercial shipping. For tracking its own and hostile warships, the navy maintains a separate “Operations Room.” There is a deliberate firewall between the two.


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. 


Information is also generated from White Shipping Agreements that India has with 36 countries, and 3 multinational agencies. These feed 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.


Custom-designed software feeds this diverse data, obtained from multiple sources, into a “common operating picture.”

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