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The Increasing Role of the Indian Navy


In the face of an escalating global menace to maritime security, a swift and robust international response becomes imperative for ensuring safety. The recent successful rescue mission conducted by the Indian Navy’s MARCOS commandos underscores the necessity of adopting a decisive approach to address the risks associated with maritime activities.


  • GS-2 India and its Neighbourhood
  • GS-3 Defence Technology

Mains Question:

The recent incidents of hijacking on high seas and numerous maritime threats underscore the need for an increased involvement of the Indian Navy in addressing these challenges. Analyse. (15 Marks, 250 Words).

About the Rescue Mission:

  • Indian Navy’s elite marine commandos, referred to as MARCOs, carried out a proficient search and rescue mission following an SOS call reporting the hijacking of the cargo vessel ‘MV Lila Norfolk’ on Friday (January 5) in the vicinity of the Somali coast.
  • The commandos successfully rescued 21 crew members, which included 15 Indians, from the 84,000-tonne bulk carrier. The Navy utilized a combination of a warship, maritime patrol aircraft, helicopters, and Predator MQ9B drones to execute the operation.
  • The MARCOs conducted the rescue mission while aboard the Indian Naval Ship INS Chennai. This incident emphasizes the evolving role of the Indian Navy in combating piracy and sea hijacking.

About the MARCOs:

  • Established in 1987 as the Indian Marine Special Force, the elite unit of the Indian Navy known as MARCOs, or Marine Commando Force, is highly trained to execute covert operations and employ various tactics under the cover of darkness to eliminate targets without detection.
  • Primarily safeguarding trade routes in the Arabian Sea, the Persian Gulf, and Somalia, the Indian Navy relies on MARCOs, considered among the toughest soldiers, for their extensive training in conducting swift and large-scale operations.
  • Exhibiting dominance in sea, air, and land, MARCOs are adept at launching attacks on enemy ships and conducting anti-terror operations in maritime environments.
  • Their capabilities include infiltrating territories through airborne raids, helicopter attacks, and sea landings. Possessing unmatched courage and intelligence, MARCOs are equipped with lethal weapon systems and protective gear.
  • Operating under the motto “The few, The fearless,” MARCOs showcased valor during significant events such as their involvement in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and assistance in the initial stages of the Taj Hotel attack in Mumbai in 2008.
  • They have also received recognition for their contributions to cyclone operations. Notably, MARCOs played a vital role in the late 1980s during “Operation Pawan” amid the Sri Lankan Civil War.

About the Indian Navy:

  • The Indian Navy serves as the maritime component of the Indian Armed Forces, with the President of India serving as the Supreme Commander.
  • Commanded by the Chief of Naval Staff, a four-star admiral, the navy operates as a blue-water force, actively engaged in regions such as the Persian Gulf, the Horn of Africa, the Strait of Malacca, and conducts regular anti-piracy operations.
  • Collaborating with other navies, it undertakes routine deployments lasting two to three months in the South and East China seas, as well as the western Mediterranean simultaneously.
  • The primary mission of the navy is to protect the nation’s maritime borders. Working in coordination with the other branches of the Armed Forces, it aims to deter or overcome any threats or aggression directed at India’s territory, people, or maritime interests, whether in times of peace or war.
  • Through joint exercises, goodwill visits, and humanitarian missions, including disaster relief efforts, the Indian Navy plays a crucial role in fostering bilateral relations between nations.

Changing Role of the Navy in Present Times:

Resurgence of PiracyBetween January and September 2023, piracy incidents surged to 99, surpassing the previous year’s count of 90. A thorough examination of global maritime incidents reveals multifaceted challenges, encompassing piracy, hijackings, and various security risks.

Although there is a relatively low level of violence directed towards crews, concerns about crew safety persist, underscoring the necessity for a comprehensive approach.

Regions like the Gulf of Guinea, the Singapore Straits, the Indonesian archipelagic area, and Callao Anchorage in Peru have experienced increased incidents, emphasizing the global aspect of maritime security and the need for a comprehensive strategy to protect international waters.
Evolving Role of the NavySuccessful strategies for global maritime security depend on the expanding role of the Indian Navy, demonstrating a unified model involving intelligence, technology, and collaboration among various forces.  

The recent successful rescue mission serves as an example of this model, illustrating the seamless integration of elite Special Forces, advanced naval assets, and cutting-edge technology to effectively counter maritime threats.  

This integration is vital for the effectiveness of maritime security, encompassing different forces and advanced technology to boost naval capabilities in addressing evolving threats.
Long-Term StrategyDespite the perception of a decrease in global maritime piracy, recent events indicate a resurgence, highlighting the necessity for a comprehensive legal framework, international cooperation, and effective law enforcement.  
The expanding role of the Indian Navy supports the need for comprehensive, long-term solutions to guarantee ongoing maritime security.  

The International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre, operating 24/7 as a point of contact for reporting piracy crimes, plays a crucial role in coordinating with response agencies, issuing warnings, and offering insights into contemporary piracy trends, making a significant contribution to global maritime security.
Harnessing TechnologyDemonstrating the increasing role of the Indian Navy is its adoption of advanced technology to improve measures for maritime security. By utilizing surveillance systems, drones, and communication tools, the Navy remains ahead of emerging threats.
Continuous technological innovation is crucial for staying at the forefront, as evidenced by the reassessment of security measures following recent attacks in the Red Sea.
Anti-Maritime Piracy BillLegal measures, like the Anti-Maritime Piracy Bill, signify a comprehensive approach at the national level. In alignment with UNCLOS, the bill covers piracy definitions, offences, penalties, jurisdiction, and other essential aspects.
The recently approved Maritime Anti-Piracy Bill 2019 details punishments, enforcement measures, jurisdiction, bail conditions, and a presumption of guilt, reaffirming India’s dedication to maritime security.
Geopolitical Factors, Economic Interests, and Global CooperationThe recent hijacking incident is a poignant reminder of the nation’s vulnerability, leading to the deployment of advanced naval assets such as INS Chennai and cutting-edge surveillance technology.

The swift and decisive response highlights the urgency of maritime threats while emphasizing the ongoing vulnerability in India’s maritime domain.
Analyzing recent hijackings provides valuable insights into evolving tactics used by maritime threats, guiding the formulation of focused strategies.

The incident with ‘MV Lila Norfolk’ underscores the need for a dynamic approach to protect seafarers and maritime assets. India’s utilization of INS Chennai and advanced surveillance technology illustrates the diverse nature of modern maritime threats, going beyond traditional piracy and hijackings.

Addressing these challenges requires varied capabilities for detection, prevention, and response, showcasing the nation’s dedication to addressing threats comprehensively.

Way Forward:

  • Tackling the increasing resurgence demands unified international efforts to curb piracy and enhance global maritime security.
  • Establishing strong international cooperation and an efficient early warning mechanism is imperative, and the Indian Navy’s response serves as a model for collaborative initiatives and timely information sharing globally.
  • Robust mechanisms at the international level, including collaborative frameworks and agreements, are essential for addressing maritime threats collectively.


The persistent challenges in combating maritime piracy underscore the need for sustained global cooperation, and the role of the Indian Navy sets a formidable precedent for a united front against maritime threats.

February 2024