The Indian Navy has announced the revitalization of its Eastern Naval Command in order to be well-prepared from possible threats posed by China. The upgradation of the Eastern Naval Command preceded the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Beijing this month and the move by India is a direct response to China’s influence in the high seas.
An array of activities have contributed to the upgradation of the Eastern Naval Command as Indian Navy added stealth frigates and deployed its Landing Platform Dock INS Jalashawa as well. INS Shakti, the Fleet Tanker which was acquired from Italy, will also be deployed there. The deployment of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and multi-mission maritime aircraft has also been announced. As part of Indian Navy's three-tier aerial surveillance grid for Indian Ocean Region, the UAVs are already being used for the innermost layer reconnaissance up to 200 nautical miles.
According to officials, a decision has been taken to deploy the Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance Aircraft P-8I being procured from Boeing of United States in the Eastern Naval Command. The Indian Navy will also deploy the new INS Shivalik stealth frigate and plans to create additional bases to strengthen the existing ones. Currently, the Eastern Naval Command has bases in Vizag, Chennai and Kolkata. An operational turnaround base will also be created at the Pardeep and Tuticorin bases.
The growing interest of China in the Indian Ocean region has caused an alarm to the Indian Navy and Chinese presence in that region has led to accelerated deployment of frigates by India in the Eastern Naval Command. In addition, China has acquired various bases on lease from neighboring Burma and is building a port in Hambantota, south of Sri Lanka. China is currently aiming a base in Maldives as well. Incidentally, India has already established weather stations and related structure in Maldives and the island is a crucial intelligence base for India.
The decision on the upgradation of the Eastern Naval Command was taken a week before Indian Prime Minister visited Beijing in mid-April to renew military ties with China. Incidentally, a decision has also been taken to upgrade the level of the Eastern Command Chief to a level of Vice Admiral, which is the second highest position after the Naval Chief in the hierarchy of Indian Navy. Vice-Admiral Sunil Lamba will be the new Chief of the Eastern Naval Command.
The Eastern Naval Command has around 50 warships at present. The next two indigenous stealth frigates being built at Mazagon Docks limited (MDL), INS Satpura and INS Sahyadri, which should be commissioned by 2012, will also be based in the Eastern Naval Command.