India is well known as a responsible power. The Indian Armed Forces have provided humanitarian assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) to many countries along its borders. India contributes the largest number of armed forces personals to UN peacekeeping forces. The country has also lost 163 military, police and civilian personnel in various UN peacekeeping operations. Mozambique, a country in Southern Africa, had been hit by Cyclone Idai, Indian Navy provided humanitarian assistance to the country. Given its domineering presence in the Indian Ocean, the Indian Navy was best placed to help the cyclone hit country.
Three Indian Navy ships named Sujata, Sarathi and Shardul which operate in the Southern Indian Ocean were diverted to the Mozambique coast after the request made by the government of the country in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai. The ships had reached to Port Beira with relief material and are providing assistance in disaster affected areas. Cyclone Idai hit the Mozambique coast on March 15 and so far more than 500 people have been killed.
Indian Navy ships have set up medical relief camp and are providing food, water, blankets and other necessary relief items. The situation is being monitored closely and India will respond to any additional request. The Defense Minister of the cyclone hit country visited the Indian Navy ships to oversee the relief efforts. The situation is being monitored very closely and India will respond to any emergency.
The Indian Navy has played a leading role in the humanitarian crisis in countries across the Indian Ocean for the last two decades. During Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004, the Navy deployed 19 ships for assistance operations in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Maldives. The newly formed Indian Coast Guard has also played an important role in assistance to foreign countries in HADR operations.
The Navy has 16 submarines including 1 nuclear-powered attack submarine, 1 aircraft carrier, 1 amphibious transport dock. In addition to that, the country has 14 destroyers, 13 frigates, 106 patrol and coastal combatant vessels, and 75 combat capable aircraft. It is very much capable to face any disaster in terms of domestic security or humanitarian crisis. It carries out Joint Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Exercise every year.
The humanitarian operations help India to project soft power among global community. In 2015, Indian Navy ships evacuated more than 2,000 Indian expatriates and 1,300 foreign nationals from war torn zone in Yemen. This earned India respect in global community and many foreign nationals who were safely evacuated showered the Indian government with praise. The Indian Navy has also carried out rescue missions for Indian expatriates in Libya, Lebanon and Somalia during domestic turmoil.
Indian Navy faces competition from Chinese Navy in Indian Ocean. China has much larger defense budget and larger fleet. The PLA’s Navy is more capable but given the geostrategic location of the country, India has edge over China in the Indian Ocean. The Indian Ocean is strategically very important and it has been major trade route for more than thousands of years. The goodwill India enjoys and humanitarian efforts will help India to remain dominant power in the region.