A side view of the PNS Saif (253), an F-22P Zulfiquar (Sword) class Frigate of the Pakistan Navy. Photo taken at the Manila South Harbor.

Pakistan Navy Forced To Cancel Overseas Deployments

Nitin A. Gokhale New Delhi, India 3 April 2019

The Indian Navy’s heavy presence in the North Arabian Sea in the immediate aftermath of the Pulwama attack and its subsequent constant vigil has forced the Pakistani Navy to cancel all its overseas deployment plans, intelligence sources monitoring the situation in Pakistan have revealed.

The Indian Navy, which was in the middle of its war games—done every two years—called Theatre Level Operational Readiness Exercise (TROPEX)—when the Pulwama terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir killed 40 troops of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on February 14, immediately redeployed in an operational mode to prevent movement of Pakistani naval assets.

Since then, the Pakistani Navy has been virtually bottled up in the Karachi harbour or is patrolling near the shores, fearing Indian ingress.

According to sources, two Pakistani ships—PNS Saif and PNS Moawin—scheduled to visit Qingdao in China to join the 70th anniversary celebrations of the PLA Navy, have cancelled their planned visit although the Pakistani Navy Chief is likely to be at the ceremony slated for April 24.

In a Press note issued on March 17, the Indian Navy had revealed how it quickly transited from a training exercise to an operational deployment in the wake of the Pulwama attack. “The major combat units of the Indian Navy including the Carrier Battle Group with INS Vikramaditya, nuclear submarines and scores of other ships, submarines and aircraft swiftly transited from exercise to operational deployment mode as tensions between India and Pakistan escalated. A clear and resolute message regarding the operational posture of the Indian Navy to prevent, deter and defeat any misadventure by Pakistan in the maritime domain was conveyed…” the Navy said.

Although there is no specific mention of nuclear submarines in the press note, there has been some speculation that INS Arihant, India’s indigenously designed, developed and manufactured nuclear submarine, was also part of the deployment.

Following the deployment, Pakistan also cancelled the visit of its ship PNS Aslat to the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (LIMA) held at Langkawi in Malaysia between March 26 and 30 and the visit of PNS Shamsheer to Bahrain. To add insult to injury, the Government of Maldives on its own called off a scheduled port call of PNS Aslat to its country en route to Langkawi even before it was known that the Pakistanis had decided not to participate in the Langkawi exhibition.

The pressure created by presence of a large number Indian naval assets in the area had clearly forced Pakistan to make changes to its scheduled programme of overseas deployments.

As the Indian Navy said in its press note: “About 60 ships of the Indian Navy, 12 ships of the Indian Coast Guard and 60 aircraft were part of TROPEX 19. Amongst the key attributes of naval forces are the ‘Versatility’ to change roles, ‘Mobility’ and ‘Poise’. Availability of such a large number of combat ready assets in the theatre of operations for TROPEX 19 allowed the Indian Navy to expeditiously respond to the developing situation in synergy with the three services. The overwhelming superiority of Indian Navy in all three dimensions forced the Pakistan Navy to remain deployed close to the Makran coast and not venture out in the open ocean.”

Earlier, TROPEX 19 had participation of Army and Air Force. This was followed by the largest Coastal Defence Exercise code-named ‘Sea Vigil’ on January 22 and 23 with participation of all 13 coastal states and union territories along with all maritime stakeholders. TROPEX itself was thus far the largest in terms of geographical spread covering the IOR and also with regard to the number of participating units.

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