India will continue to maintain naval presence in the troubled Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman, aimed at protecting Indian-flagged merchant vessels and oil tankers transiting the region.
“The Strait of Hormuz is a major chokepoint. Disruption in trade in this region can have a major impact on our economy. Under ‘Operation Sankalp’, we will continue to deploy a frontline warship, either a destroyer or a frigate with a helicopter and a marine commando team,” a senior Navy officer said.
India launched Operation Sankalp in June 2019 after explosions on board two foreign oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman amid tensions between Iran and the US.
With the attacks underlining the vulnerability of sea-borne trade transiting through the constricted geographical locations, the Navy had then dispatched destroyer INS Chennai and patrol vessel INS Sunayna to the Gulf of Oman. “Indian Navy was the first to deploy ships to safeguard the passage of merchant ships through the region,” the officer added.
Two years later, the continuous forward naval deployment continues. As many as 23 Indian warships in rotation have been deployed to the Gulf region, with an average of 16 Indian-flagged merchant vessels and tankers being provided safe passage daily.
“The presence of an Indian warship acts as a deterrence to any hostile threat and reassures our merchant vessels. If requested, we also embark a security team of marine commandos on a vessel for some duration,” the officer said. “Around 60% of India’s oil imports, after all, comes from this region,” he added.
Operation Sankalp is now a part of the “mission-based deployments” launched by Navy in 2017 in the Indian Ocean Region. Under MBDs, warships are deployed to meet any contingency from conventional threats and maritime terrorism to piracy and disaster relief.