Role of Navy

The full range of operations in which a nation's naval forces may be involved is vast, ranging from high intensity war fighting at one end to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations at the other. This broad continuum of operations can be broken down into distinct roles, each demanding a specific approach to the conduct of operations.

Accordingly, the four main roles envisaged for the Indian Navy are as follows:-

The Military Role

The Military Role


The essence of all navies is their military character. In fact, the raison d’etre of navies is to ensure that no hostile maritime power degrades own national security and interests. The navy's military role is characterised by threat or use of force at and / or from the sea. This includes application of maritime power in both - offensive operations against enemy forces, territory and trade, and defensive operations to protect own forces, territory and trade. The military role is performed through accomplishment of specific military objectives, missions and tasks.

  • Deterrence against conflict and coercion
  • Decisive military victory in case of war
  • Defence of India's territorial integrity, citizens and off-shore assets from seaborne threat
  • Influence affairs on land
  • Safeguard India's mercantile marine and maritime trade
  • Safeguard India's national interests and maritime security
  • Nuclear second strike
  • Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA)
  • Sea Control
  • Sea Denial
  • Blockade
  • Power Projection
  • Force Protection
  • Expeditionary Operations
  • Compellance
  • Destruction
  • Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) Interdiction
  • SLOC Protection
  • Special Force Operations
  • Seaward Defense
  • Coastal and Offshore Defence
  • Naval Co-operation and Guidance for Shipping (NCAGS) Operations
  • Surveillance
  • Maritime Strike
  • Anti-Submarine Operations
  • Anti-Surface Operations
  • Anti-Air Operations
  • Amphibious Operations
  • Maritime Patrol
  • Information Operations
  • Information Exchange
  • Electronic Warfare
  • Mine Warfare
  • Visit Board Search and Seizure (VBSS)
  • Harbour Defence
  • NCAGS and Naval Coastal Security (NCS) Operations
  • Protection of Offshore Assets
The Diplomatic Role

The Diplomatic Role


Naval diplomacy entails the use of naval forces in support of foreign policy objectives to build ‘bridges of friendship’ and strengthen international cooperation, on one hand, and to signal capability and intent to deter potential adversaries, on the other. The larger purpose of navy’s diplomatic role is to favourably shape the maritime environment in furtherance of national interests, in consonance with the nation’s foreign policy and national security objectives. Navies inherently lean towards performing a diplomatic role on account of two main characteristics. The first is their status as comprehensive instruments of a country’s sovereign power, whereupon their very presence in or off a certain area signals the nation’s political intent and commitment to pursue national interests in that region. Hence, their presence or absence can be calibrated to send a political message to potential friends and foes alike. The second characteristic facilitating the navy’s diplomatic role lies in the attributes of maritime forces, including access, mobility, sustenance, reach, flexibility and versatility. These combine to offer a variety of tools for furthering national interests and pursuing foreign policy goals. Naval forces can be readily deployed; they can perform multiple roles and tasks that can be calibrated in visibility and intensity as per requirements; and they can just as easily and rapidly be withdrawn, to send a counter-signal.

  • Strengthen political relations and goodwill
  • Strengthen defence relations with friendly Nations
  • Portray credible defence posture and capability
  • Influence affairs on land
  • Strengthen maritime security in India Ocean Region (IOR)
  • Promote regional and global stability
  • Constructive Maritime Engagement
  • Maritime Assistance and Support
  • Presence
  • Peace Support Operations
  • Overseas Deployments
  • Flag showing/ Port Visits
  • Hosting Foreign Warships Visits
  • Technical and Logistics Support
  • Foreign Training
  • Coordinated Patrols
  • Bilateral/ Multilateral Exercises
  • Non Combatant Evacuation Operations (NEO)
  • Peace Enforcement, Peace Making, Peace Keeping and Peace Building
  • Activities under the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) Programme
Constabulary Role

Constabulary Role


The increasing incidences of maritime crime has brought into sharp focus, the constabulary role that navies have to perform. The significance of this role may be gauged from the fact that for a third of the world’s navies, this is a major facet of their functioning. In the constabulary role, forces are employed to enforce law of the land or to implement a regime established by an international mandate. Force is only employed for self-defence or as a last resort in execution of this role. The protection and promotion of India’s maritime security is one of the prime responsibilities of the Indian Navy. This includes a constabulary element, especially where it relates to threats that involve use of force at sea. The range of tasks that the India Navy has to undertake in the constabulary role range from Low Intensity Maritime Operations (LIMO) to maintaining good order at sea. This further includes aspect of coastal security, as part of India’s overall maritime security. Constabulary tasks at sea are neither the primary nor the sole mandate of the Indian Navy. With establishment of the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) in February 1977, law enforcement aspects of the constabulary role within the Maritime Zones of India (MZI) have been transferred to the ICG. Security in major harbours and ports are the purview of the port authorities, aided by customs and immigration agencies. Constabulary tasks beyond the MZI are vested with the Indian Navy. Efficient and effective maritime constabulary requires proper and seamless coordination between the various maritime law enforcement and regulatory agencies. After the terrorist attacks on Mumbai in November 2008, the responsibility for overall maritime security has been mandated to the Indian Navy, in close coordination with the ICG, State Marine Police and other Central/ State government and port authorities.

  • Coastal and Offshore Security
  • Security of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)
  • Good Order at Sea
  • Counter Terrorism
  • Counter Threats from Non-State Actors
  • Counter Infiltration
  • Maritime Patrol
  • Anti-Piracy
  • Anti-Poaching
  • Anti-Trafficking
Benign Role

Benign Role


The ‘benign’ role is so named because violence has no part to play in its execution, nor is the potential to apply force a necessary prerequisite for undertaking these operations. Examples of benign tasks include humanitarian aid, disaster relief, Search and Rescue (SAR), ordnance disposal, diving assistance, salvage operations, hydrographic surveys, etc. Maritime forces, because of their quick mobilisation, are especially useful in the early stages of a crisis for providing relief material, first aid and succour in coastal areas. Much of the capacity to perform these functions is derived from the mobility, reach and endurance inherent in naval task forces, coupled with their unique sealift capability. For example, in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster, one of the biggest challenges is the disbursement of food, water and relief material. It is under such conditions that military mobility, coupled with reliable communications are most effective in ensuring distribution to even the most remote afflicted areas. While specialised civilian agencies may take over at a later stage, maritime forces can provide the first helping hand and may be deployed to complement their efforts. The Indian Coast Guard is the designated national agency for maritime SAR in the Indian Search and Rescue Region (ISRR). Naval units may also be called upon to undertake SAR operations, as required.

  • Promote Civil Safety and Security
  • Project National Soft Power
  • Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR)
  • Aid to Civil Authorities
  • Hydrography
  • Search and Rescue (SAR)
  • Provision of Relief Material and Supplies Infiltration
  • Medical Assistance
  • Diving Assistance
  • Hydrographic Assistance
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