International Fleet Review – Instrument of Power Projection

“IFR 2016 while showcasing the prowess of the Indian Navy has brought together navies from across the globe here on Indian shores, signifying our common desire to use the seas to promote peace, cooperation and friendship, as also to develop partnerships for a secure maritime future.”   Pranab Mukherjee, President of India

Issue: 1 / 2016By Rear Admiral Sushil Ramsay (Retd)Photo(s): By Indian Navy

Naval Fleet Reviews are a long-standing tradition of the navies, the world over. Historically, such events were held to showcase the naval preparedness as a prelude to war or a demonstration of maritime warfighting capabilities to deter potential adversaries. This perspective on naval reviews, however, has changed substantially in the recent times and the offshoot of the traditional naval reviews has given birth to what has come to be known as the International Fleet Review (IFR). IFRs have come to stay as a congregation of warships of the friendly foreign navies and host navy to demonstrate solidarity, mutual trust and cooperation to safeguard the global commons.

While for the past several decades, the Indian Navy (IN) has deputed its warships to participate in IFR organised by several maritime nations, the first of its own indigenous avatar was IFR 2001 held at Mumbai. Before that the Indian variant of naval reviews was designated as the President’s Fleet Review (PFR), with its first edition held in 1953. Since then 10 PFRs have been organised and its last edition was held in 2011 again at Mumbai. IFR 2016 is the eleventh edition of Fleet Reviews and the second edition of IFR held at Visakhapatnam.

President’s Review

The President of India, Pranab Mukherjee reviewed the fleet of warships of IN and the participating foreign navies in the Visakhapatnam harbour on February 6, 2016. IFR 2016 displayed in the worldview, the IN’s capabilities, discipline, valued principles of friendship across the oceans, mutual trust and commitment to safeguard the maritime heritage of mankind. Appropriately then, the IFR logo depicted the three operating dimensions of the IN, with a ship, submarine and an aircraft, as also the letters I-F-R formed an integral part of the logo. The Dolphin was chosen as the mascot depicting friendship across oceans and the theme for the IFR 2016 was ‘United through Oceans’.

After a 21-gun salute and ceremonial guard of honour, the President embarked INS sumitra, an indigenously built naval offshore patrol vessel, designated as the ‘Presidential Yacht’. The President was received by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Chief of Naval Staff Admiral R.K. Dhowan. The President’s Yacht weaved through the 70 ships lined up on parade in Visakhapatnam harbour. A spectacular fly-past was conducted as a part of the static review of the Fleet. Towards the final stage of the review, a mobile column of warships and submarines carried out high speed steam past alongside the Presidential yacht.

In addition to 65 IN warships and three IN submarines, the Review also included 24 foreign ships, two ships from the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) and three from Mercantile Marine. Several enthralling waterfront activities by sail boats, water skiing display and helicopter demonstrations added fervour to the power projection. Along the way, the President also witnessed demonstrations in the form of breathtaking fly-past by Naval Air Arm and a daring display by the elite Marine Commandos. The fly-past comprised 15 formations of 45 aircraft including two formations from the ICG. It also showcased the latest acquisitions of the IN such as MiG-29K, long range MR aircraft P-8I and AEW helicopter Kamov-31.

Presidential Address

Speaking on the occasion, the President said that the IFR 2016 while showcasing the prowess of the IN, has brought together navies from across the globe here on Indian shores, signifying our common desire to use the seas to promote peace, cooperation and friendship, as also to develop partnerships for a secure maritime future. Presence of foreign countries in such large numbers has made this international event spectacular and truly reflects the spirit of this IFR; we are indeed ‘United through Oceans’. The President said that the navies of the world have a unique role in promoting goodwill, nurturing peace and tranquillity of the oceans. Ships and personnel participating at this momentous Fleet Review are ambassadors of great nations that they represent. My special compliments to the IN, especially the Eastern Naval Command, for the meticulous planning and flawless conduct of today’s splendid Fleet Review. An event of such magnitude could be organised only by the involvement and support of the people. May I thank and congratulate the Government of Andhra Pradesh and all citizens of Visakhapatnam for their cooperation.

Prime Minister’s Address

A colourful City Parade in which the participating navies along with few naval bands of foreign navies, IN troops, sea cadet corps, veterans, etc. took part. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who presided over the function, said, “My profuse thanks to the men and women of the IN for their tireless dedication for making this Fleet Review a truly historic success. For me personally, witnessing the harmony among the best of International Navies here has been a rewarding experience. Today it is our pleasure to welcome 50 foreign Navies from every corner of the globe at India’s second International Fleet review — the first one on India’s East Coast. Your participation is a message of cooperation and friendship that we deeply cherish. On behalf of my countrymen, I thank you all for accepting our invitation and joining in this event with such spirit. The oceans and world’s waterways are global commons. Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam — the concept of whole world as a family — is perhaps most vividly witnessed on the oceans of the planet that connect us all. We take pride in the fact that of all the IN ships participating in this Fleet Review, at least 37 are ‘Made in India’ — a number that will surely rise in the coming years. An important part of India’s transformation is my vision of ‘Blue Economy’ in its widest sense. The Blue Chakra – or the wheel – in our national flag, represents the potential of the Blue Economy. An essential part of this pursuit is the development of India’s coastal and island territories: but, not just for tourism”.

IFR Events

IFR activities were kick-started by the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, N. Chandrababu Naidu paying homage to the martyrs of the War Memorial on February 4, 2016. Admiral R.K. Dhowan, FOC-in-C, Eastern Naval Command, Vice Admiral Satish Soni and Commanding Officers of visiting foreign naval ships laid wreaths at this War Memorial as a mark of respect to fallen heroes.

The Maritime Exhibition on the theme “Innovation, Youth and Indigenisation” was inaugurated on February 4, 2016, at AU Engineering College grounds.

grand opening ceremony for the International Fleet Review 2016 was held at Command Stadium, INS Satavahana on February 5, 2016. E.S.L. Narasimhan, Governor of Andhra Pradesh, was the chief guest and graced the occasion as the guest of honour.

International Maritime Conference

The International Maritime Conference with theme “Partnering Together for a Secure Maritime Future” was held on February 7-8, 2016. Admiral D.K. Joshi (Retd), Chairman, NMF, launched the Conference with his opening remarks. Thereafter, the theme address was delivered by Admiral Dhowan. Manohar Parrikar, delivered the keynote address at the conference.

Session I: “Importance of Ocean and Navies in Global Geo-Strategic Matrix” was moderated by Admiral Madhvendra Singh (Retd), former CNS. Lt General Dan Leaf (Retd), USA spoke on “The Importance of Oceans and Navies in Geo-Strategic Mix”. Second speaker was Professor Ye Hailin, China who spoke on “South China Sea Disputes: Perceptions and Misperceptions among the Players”. This was followed by a presentation on “No Way But ‘Hi’ Way!” by Vice Admiral Anup Singh (Retd), IN. Rear Admiral Antoine Beaussant, France, made a presentation on “Maritime Security and Navies: The Future Challenges in the Indian Ocean”. A presentation on “Towards a New Maritime Strategy for Medium Powers: Defining the Challenges for the Medium Power Navy” by Rear Admiral James Goldrick (Retd), Australia and this was followed by a presentation on “Maritime Cooperation and Building Bridges between Maritime Neighbours and Partners” by Professor Renfrew Christie, South Africa.

Session II: “Regional Perceptions and Approaches for Maritime Cooperative Engagement” was moderated by Ambassador K.V. Bhagirath, Secretary General, Indian Ocean Rim Association. The first presentation on “Japan’s Security Role in the Indo-Pacific Region” was made by Professor Eiichi Katahara, Japan. This was followed by a presentation on “Globalisation, International Liberalism and the Maritime Cooperation Nexus” by Rear Admiral Raja Menon (Retd), IN. Next subject of presentation was “Cooperative Maritime Engagement in the Indo-Pacific Region” by Professor Geoffrey Till, UK. First Admiral Amarullah Octavian, Indonesia, spoke on “Indonesian Approach and Perspective on Asia’s Regional Maritime Cooperative Engagements” and the last speaker, Professor Ataur Rahman, Bangladesh, spoke on “Building Partnerships in the Bay of Bengal: Opportunities and Challenges”.

Vice Admiral Satish Soni, delivered the valedictory address which brought curtains down on the conference and was followed by the closing remarks and a vote of thanks by Dr Vijay Sakhuja, Director, NMF.

Passage Exercise

On conclusion of IFR 2016, in a first of such kind of spectacle, in the Indian Ocean, 54 Indian and foreign warships which participated in IFR, sailed out of Visakhapatnam harbour in two Carrier Battle Groups comprising of 27 warships each to participate in the Passage Exercise (PASEX). It is an age-old tradition that visiting foreign navy warships are escorted out to the open seas for homeward passage on completion of the goodwill visits.