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Operation Vanilla - Humanitarian Missions in IOR, towards strengthening soft power

  • Category
    India & world
  • Published
    13th Feb, 2020

Context

Context

India sent an amphibious warship, INS Airavat, to Madagascar in the Indian Ocean Region to help in rescue efforts after the island nation was hit by a cyclone.

Background

  • As part of Operation Vanilla, the Navy delivered clothing, food and medicines, and also provided diving and communication assistance for evacuation.
  • This was done after an appeal is made by Madagascar President to deal with unprecedented situation caused by floods.

   

   

 

Look at Indian Navy’s Peacetime Efforts in IOR

  • In March 2019, the Navy deployed four warships for relief operations, when Mozambique was hit by Cyclone, Idai. Indian naval teams played a stellar role in search and rescue operations and even set up medical camps.
  • A few months later, the Navy sent two warships to Japan to assist in rescue efforts following Typhoon Hagibis.
  • A year earlier, Indian vessels had delivered urgent medical assistance to Sulawesi, Indonesia, after it was struck by a high-intensity earthquake. Operation SamudraMaitri was launched after a telephonic conversation between Indian Prime Minister and Indonesian President.
  • The Navy’s new humanitarian approach, many say, is a maritime manifestation of Prime Minister’s vision for the IOR, christened SAGAR (Security And Growth for All in the Region).

The Origin Goes Back To 2004

  • It was in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami that naval commanders first recognized the importance of large-scale relief and rescue missions.
  • For over a decade, considerable resource and energy has been spent developing specialist capability and skills for navalhumanitarian operations.
  • The Navy reached out to countries across the Indo-Pacific Region, with greater deployment of assets, personnel and specialist equipment, showcasing its ability to undertake complex and diverse missions.
  • Some of the India’s benign efforts were the evacuation of over 1,500 Indian expatriates and 1,300 foreign nationals from Yemen in 2015.
  • In 2018, India evacuated 38 Indians stranded in the cyclone-hit Socotra Island.

First Responder Concept - Towards Soft Power

  • Navy’s humanitarian impulse stems from a desire to be a linchpin (vital) of security in the IOR.
  • It is the concept of ‘first responder’, with the capability and willingness to provide assistance.
  • It has the potential to create an extended sphere of Indian influence in the IOR.
  • It helps India project as ‘soft power’.

How India’s Humanitarian Gestures Are Different from Other Countries?

  • Other countries like U.S. and China have in their inventory hospital ships fully equipped for medical assistance.
  • India deploys regular warships and survey ships converted for medical aid.
  • India’s improvised platforms do not match the U.S. Navy’s medical ship USNS Mercy or the China’s Peace Ark that enable specialized medical services on a more visible scale.

India Needs To Be Cautious

  • Prolonged presence of front-line warships in foreign waters has the potential to make partners anxious.
  • Naval powers must be deployed discreetly.
  • The mission should not appear geopolitical and the motives should not be misunderstood and the assistance provided should be efficient and cost effective.

Conclusion

  • As natural disasters in the IOR become more frequent and intense, India’s regional security role is likely to grow expon
  • At the forefront of disaster scenarios, the Indian Navy and Coast Guard would find themselves undertaking demanding missions.
  • Humanitarian operations could serve as a springboard for a larger cooperative endeavourin the maritime commons.
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