Indian Navy build-up in Arabian Sea sets Pakistan on back foot: Increasing military tensions between India and Pakistan after the February 14 Pulwama terror attack headed the Indian Navy to cut short a leading exercise in the Indian Ocean area and quickly redeploy its war zone assets to the north Arabian Sea for operations, the navy said in a rare statement

On Sunday, it said that the build-up comprising of an aircraft carrier, nuclear-powered attack submarines and scores of front-line warships and maritime aircraft put the Pakistan Navy on the back foot.

Authorities and senior navy officials said the naval deployment was the biggest from the time when Operation Parakram was held following the December 2001 terror attack on Parliament that took India and Pakistan to the edge of war.

The navy said in a strongly worded statement that its “overwhelming superiority” enforced the Pakistan Navy to stay deployed near the Makran coast and not undertaking out in the open ocean. Retd. Military affairs expert Rear Admiral Sudarshan Shrikhande said, “It is interesting to see the scale reflected in the navy’s statement. But one imagines that what may not and cannot be said is what worries our enemies more. That serves to deter which is not bad at all”.

India had plenty warships at sea for the relocation on very short notice. As many as 72 Indian warships and 60 aircraft were there in the Theatre Level Operational Readiness Exercise (Tropex 19) that initiated on January 7 and was going on till March 10, had the Pulwama terror strike not directed to a alteration of plan. India countered to the Pulwama attack on February 26 by directing its fighter jets to bomb a terror base in Balakot.

Army elements were also a part of Tropex 19, a periodic exercise, for carrying out amphibious attacks.

Separately from a carrier combat group comprising of INS Vikramaditya and its companion ships, the assets dispatched to the north Arabian Sea comprised the indigenous nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine INS Arihant, Akula-II nuclear-powered attack boat INS Chakra, the Scorpene-class submarine INS Kalvari, Boeing P-8I submarine hunter planes and a number of destroyers and frigates, as per some navy officials.

They added that the combat units are still set out in the constituency and the navy was in the uppermost state of attentiveness.

Former Navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash (Retd) said that this kind of situation arises last time during Operation Parakram. He said, “The message of this posturing is that of deterrence. There’s no guarantee that the air strikes will deter them. So a further message has been sent to Pakistan to stop supporting terror”.

Navy spokesperson Captain DK Sharma said, “The major combat units swiftly transited from the exercise to operational deployment mode as tensions between India and Pakistan escalated”.

Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba is going to visit to Kochi on Monday to evaluate the results of Tropex 19, the navy’s biggest exercise, and evaluate the operative preparation of the navy.

The navy said an accurate audit of its deployment viewpoint and fighting ability would also be carry out during Lanba’s visit.

The navy also stated, “The lessons learnt from the exercise will provide the planners accurate assessments to fine-tune force structuring requirements, operational logistics, as also material and training imperatives”.