In the wee hours of the morning of September 22, 2018, the Indian Naval Maritime Operations Centre (MOC) at New Delhi got a call that it often receives. There was a situation developing at sea that needed prompt assistance and rescue. The unique aspect about this call was that emergency involved one of our own, Commander Abhilash Tomy, who was solo circumnavigating the globe. Tomy's small vessel 'Thuriya' had been smashed, he had been rendered immobile by a back injury and needed someone to board his boat, put him on a stretcher and transfer him ashore. The MOC immediately established that he was 3000 nm away from the Indian Coast and 1900 nm from the Australian Coast, in the southern Indian Ocean. This was a remote corner of the world known for extremely rough sea conditions. While the first responder was a French vessel in the vicinity of his position and Australia also swung into the act being the Regional Coordinator of Maritime Safety in that region, the Indian Navy was able to swiftly put its long range Maritime Surveillance P8 I aircraft to continuously track the vessel while also diverting Indian Naval Ship (INS) Satpura, which was mission deployed in the southern Indian Ocean to bring him safely to India. The dramatic rescue three days later saw the French, Australian and Indian agencies act in concert and affect a safe recovery.
This incident brings to the fore the various attributes of the Indian Navy – first, all round Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) that enabled appreciation of the situation and the knowledge of who could respond to the crisis, second the ability to put 'eyes in the sky' to continuously monitor the situation and thirdly, the assets to respond substantially and assign a frontline ship to follow up. This also demonstrates that the Navy's new approach of 'Mission Deployment' of her ships is yielding results and adding to our combat readiness.
In any situation at sea whether it is one of conflict, combat, constabulary, or humanitarian crisis, time is the key. The other ingredients are 'long legs' to reach far seas which means assets with endurance, logistic and material resources to stay at sea for long viz. efficient maintenance cycles and effective supply chains. To this, the Indian Navy has recently articulated a new philosophy called 'Mission Deployment' which enables both presence and persistence in our ocean areas of interest far away from homeland.
As the world is united by the oceans and the seas are considered 'global commons', there is a need for us to maintain and enhance the footprint of the Indian Navy in our primary area of interest, the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Accordingly, since 2016 we have started to deploy our area of interest on a near continuous basis. In addition, Naval Aircraft undertake regular patrols over these vast areas keeping them constantly under surveillance. While on these deployments naval assets are fully equipped to undertake any roles be it combat, defence diplomacy with other nations or Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR). This pattern of deployment enables combat readiness while also making it possible for us to become the 'net security provider' in the Indian Ocean Region. All along, the Indian navy has been recognized as a well-oiled professional force with impressive combat power. However, our deployment patterns were more in near seas and closer to coast. By reworking our operational posture and slightly modifying the way we position and utilize our resources, we have been able to tremendously enlarge our influence while reducing our response time for any exigency. This adds to the overall image of Indian Navy as a force for good in the comity of nations, capable of fulfilling national mandate while also meeting global commitments when directed by the Government. Let us raise a toast to the 'Men in White' on this accomplishment.