Balakot air strikes: When key naval assets were put on alert


Aircraft carrier, submarine were ready as India-Pakistan tensions mounted.

As tensions between India and Pakistan mounted, India put its key naval assets, including the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya and nuclear submarines, on operational alert, the Navy said in a statement on Sunday.

“The major combat units of the 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,” it said.


The deployment came amid the largest war game of the Navy, Theatre Level Operational Readiness Exercise (TROPEX 19), which began on January 7 and which was planned to be concluded by March 10. However, the terrorist attack in Pulwama on February 14 “led to the rapid redeployment of the Navy for operations in the North Arabian Sea,” the Navy said.

The announcement is in contrast to the assertions of senior government officials that India did not undertake any escalatory mobilisation after the Balakot air strikes. They had consistently referred to the strikes as “non-military pre-emptive counter-terror strikes” and had accused Pakistan’s government of whipping up “war hysteria” in order to mislead the international community. At the briefings held on February 28 and March 4 and 16, the officials stressed that the Indian military had carried out no military operation post February 27, and denied reports from Pakistan that an Indian submarine had been deployed in the Arabian Sea near Pakistan.

The Navy said the availability of a large number of combat-ready assets in the theatre of operations for TROPEX allowed it to “expeditiously respond to the developing situation in synergy with the three services.” “The overwhelming superiority of the 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,” the Navy said.

Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba will preside over the debrief of the TROPEX in Kochi on Monday. About 60 ships of the Navy, 12 ships of the Coast Guard and 60 aircraft had taken part in the exercise. It began with a tri-service amphibious exercise in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. This was followed by the largest coastal defence exercise, ‘Sea Vigil,’ on January 22 and 23, with the participation of all 13 coastal States and UTs along with all maritime stakeholders.


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