ADDRESS BY ADMIRAL NIRMAL VERMA, CHIEF OF NAVAL STAFF, ON THE COMMISSIONING CEREMONY OF INS BAAZ (NAS CAMPBELL BAY)
General NC Marwah, Commander-in-Chief, Andaman & Nicobar Command, Senior Officers from the three Services, distinguished guests, the Commanding Officer and men of Naval Air Station Campbell Bay, ladies and gentlemen.
It is indeed a pleasure for me to be present here today to commission the Naval Air Station at Campbell Bay – INS Baaz. Each time I visit these beautiful islands, I reflect upon the sacred duty that we, the men and women in uniform, have towards ensuring the nation’s territorial integrity, and towards providing security, support and safety to the people of our great nation. Your presence here in this eastern most outpost of India is a testament of the resolve of the Indian Armed Forces.
The islands of the Andaman and Nicobar group have always occupied the consciousness of the security and defence community of our nation. The geographic disposition of the archipelago, separated as it is by more than 650 nautical miles from our mainland, offers a vital geo-strategic advantage to India. Not only do they provide the nation with a commanding presence in the Bay of Bengal, the islands also serve as our window into East and South East Asia. India’s Look East policy has certainly benefited due to the proximity of this archipelago to many ASEAN states.
Apart from geography, the economic potential of the islands is also remarkable, being endowed with a vast Exclusive Economic Zone, accounting for almost 30% of India’s entire EEZ. They also sit astride some of the busiest shipping lanes of the Indian Ocean, most carrying strategic cargo for the East Asian economies.
The Indian Armed Forces fully recognise these strategic imperatives, as is evident by the presence of the unique Tri Services Andaman and Nicobar Command. Each of the Services are committed towards contributing to the synergy of our efforts and today the commissioning of INS Baaz exemplifies the success of one such initiative.
In consonance with these Tri Service initiatives in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Indian Navy has been forging a two pronged policy approach.
The first policy push has been towards enhancing maritime engagement with South East Asian and East Asian countries. Many successful examples abound. Cooperative patrols with nations adjacent to the islands, like Thailand and Indonesia, and Navy-to-Navy linkages with comparatively distant ASEAN nations, like Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore, come instantly to mind. The inescapability of maritime cooperation amongst the littorals is underscored by the success of MILAN, an initiative nurtured by the Indian Navy over the past seventeen years, and supported by successive CINCANs as one of many symbols of the strength of jointmanship.
The second policy focus area has been to enhance the maritime capacity expansion both afloat and ashore.
The Navy has been progressively increasing the number of warships based at Port Blair, under the operational control of the ANC. More are in the pipeline. Port Blair will be home for amphibious platforms, Naval Offshore Patrol Vessels and Fast Attack Craft, as the Navy’s robust acquisition plans progress.
Infrastructure cases ashore include additional naval air stations, such as here at Campbell Bay, and operational turnaround bases for ships, these will be dispersed along the entire length of the island chain so as to maximise the reach and time-on-task for ships and aircraft on patrol.
The intent is also to ensure dispersed presence that would be able to render immediate local support and reduce response time, in the event of a humanitarian disaster such as the Tsunami of 2004, if God forbid, the need arises again.
One of the primary functions of INS Baaz will be to provide information, based on ‘airborne’ maritime surveillance. Maritime Domain Awareness is the key to effective and informed decision making in the maritime arena. Despite numerous advancements in the field of information gathering over sea, airborne surveillance, using aircraft and UAVs, remains invaluable.
In this context therefore Baaz is a very appropriate name as this airbase will provide an eagle’s eye view over these waters, the Andaman and Nicobar islands and the strategic sea lines of communication that abound these areas. The crest of the air station depicts an Andaman Serpent Eagle, endemic to these islands, flying against the blue background of the oceans. The flying eagle signifies the vigil being maintained by our aircraft over the vast expanse of the seas, contributing to maritime security during peacetime, while being prepared to aggressively pursue an adversary in war.
INS Baaz is blessed with a brilliant strategic location. Situated on this southernmost island of the Nicobar group, Campbell Bay overlooks the Strait of Malacca, while also dominating the 6 degree channel. These crucial waterways continue to engage the interest of most global and regional powers.
Without a few words for the determined men who will man INS Baaz, my address would be incomplete. I am aware of the hardships that you all face, while manning this remote outpost, separated from your families for long periods of time. None of us forget, that the work undertaken by each one of you, allows optimum exploitation of this strategic air station, thereby contributing significantly towards safeguarding India’s interests in the region. Yours is the tremendous responsibility of ensuring risk free air operations, round the clock, 365 days a year and the nation is grateful for your dedication and perseverance. I am sure that the pristine environs of Campbell Bay help you to pursue a healthy lifestyle.
In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, we live today in a complex and dynamic security environment. As our nation seeks out her destiny, our national interests and aspirations also grow. There are no immediate signs of a diminishing threat. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands will form a vital node in our national security matrix.
The commissioning of the Naval Air Station at Campbell Bay is therefore a small but significant step towards supplementing our maritime capability in these islands. I have no doubt that the Naval Air Station, Campbell Bay will play a vital role in all our peacetime and wartime operations.
I take this opportunity to congratulate all those who were involved in the process, which has finally culminated in the Commissioning of this Naval Air Station. I also warmly compliment the Andaman and Nicobar Command for the steadfast support provided in realising this goal. It is indeed a job well done.
I wish the Commanding Officer, INS Baaz and all Ranks serving, present and in the future, the very best of luck. May you enjoy “happy hunting” and “happy landings”. God Bless.
Thank you. Jai Hind.