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INS Sudarshini’s Mission of Peace and Goodwill

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  • October 10, 2012

    In the current world order, occasions for employing the navy in its traditional role of waging war have become fewer, if not totally rare. However, characteristics such as institutional flexibility, manoeuvrability and adaptability make the navy ideally suited for effectively projecting the benign face of the state as well as for furthering national interests.1 It is precisely for this purpose that INS Sudarshini set sail from Kochi on September 15, 2012.2 The ship was flagged off by Admiral DK Joshi, Chief of the Naval Staff, and is commanded by Commander N. Shyamsunder. Sudarshini is a three-masted barque of the First Training Squadron of the Southern Naval Command.

    Although the Indian Navy has undertaken goodwill missions in the past, none has so far been at this scale. In the course of her expedition, Sudarshini is scheduled to visit 13 ports in nine countries in Southeast Asia over a period of six months. The ship’s itinerary includes visits to the ports of Padang, Bali, Manado (Indonesia), Port Muara (Brunei), Cebu, Manila (Philippines), Da Nang (Vietnam), Sihanoukville (Cambodia), Bangkok (Thailand), Singapore, Port Klang, (Malaysia) Phuket (Thailand), and Sittwe (Myanmar).3 She has a crew of 31 members along with 30 cadets from the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard.

    Sudarshini is undertaking this goodwill mission to commemorate 20 years of friendship between India and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), which falls in December 2012. The voyage is dedicated to this momentous event and celebrates 20 years of dialogue partnership and 10 years of summit partnership between India and the ASEAN. The Indian Navy has played a major role in improving relations between India and the ASEAN in the post-Cold War era, with the Indian government emphasising upon naval diplomacy and Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) in the maritime domain.4

    This policy initiative itself was a result of the concerns that South East Asian countries had expressed about the growth of the Indian Navy during the 1980s and its plans to build a naval base at Port Blair in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. A crucial part of the CBMs envisaged by the Indian government was joint naval training exercises and port visits. And to dispel South East Asian concerns, joint naval exercises were begun near the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. These exercises have become institutionalised in the form of the Milan biennial exercise in which many Southeast Asian nations regularly participate.5 Maritime cooperation has also opened the doors for defence cooperation between India and Southeast Asian countries. Singapore has been holding anti-submarine warfare exercises with India since 1996; and Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia and Thailand have expressed an interest in training their naval forces in India or in holding joint naval exercises.6 Currently, India has bilateral defence cooperation agreements with Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Laos and Indonesia.7

    As part of its goodwill mission, INS Sudarshini will take on board from each of the ports it visits two cadets and disembark them at the next port.8 This initiative will enhance understanding and interoperability between the navies through professional and operational interaction; and cooperation between the countries. Several cultural and business events have also been scheduled at the ports being visited by INS Sudarshini in an attempt to enhance people to people interaction. The ship’s expedition will trace civilizational and historical links between countries and thus reinforce cultural, economic and diplomatic ties across the Indian Ocean. In addition, the ship’s journey will mark the contemporary maritime linkages that have been crucial contributors to human resource development and to the economic growth of both India and the ASEAN.9

    In Commander Shyamsunder’s view, INS Sudarshini’s mission is “to build bridges across the ocean”.10 This mission is expected to enhance and cement India’s bilateral ties with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The ship and its crew are India’s ambassadors of peace, friendship and goodwill in Southeast Asia. On completing its mission, it is scheduled to return to Kochi on 29 March 2013

    • 1. Kamlesh Kumar Agnihotri, “Role of Navies in Furthering International Diplomacy”, National Maritime Foundation, Undated, Available at , Accessed on: 28 September 2012.
    • 2. “INS Sudarshini on a Historic Asean Mission”, IBN Live, 25 July 2012, Available at , Accessed on: 28 September 2012; also see, ASEAN India Team, “Press Release: INS Sudarshini”, asean india, 15 September 2012, Available at , Accessed on: 28 September 2012.
    • 3. ASEAN India Team, “Press Release: INS Sudarshini”.
    • 4. Anushree Bhattacharyya, “Indian Navy and Its Role in India’s Look East Policy”, World Focus, October 2010, p. 450; also see, Carlos L. Augustin, “Maritime Security Cooperation and CBM in Southeast Asia”, Global Geopolitics Net, 8 May 2008, Available at , Accessed on: 28 September 2012.
    • 5. Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Bangladesh and Sri Lankan navies normally take part in these exercises. See G.V.C. Naidu, The Indian Navy and Southeast Asia, New Delhi: Knowledge World, 2000, pp. 174 -75.
    • 6. Ibid.
    • 7. Asif Ahmed, “India-ASEAN Relations In 21st Century: Strategic Implications for India – Analysis”, Eurasia Review, 9 July 2012, Available at>, Accessed on: 28 September 2012.
    • 8. “INS Sudarshini on a Historic Asean Mission”, IBN Live.
    • 9. ASEAN India Team, “Press Release: INS Sudarshini”.
    • 10. “INS Sudarshini on a Historic Asean Mission”.