On Tuesday, two Indian Navy warships, INS Jalashwa and INS Magar, were dispatched to Male, capital of the Maldives, as part of Phase-I of the evacuation of stranded Indians under Operation Samudra Setu.
INS Jalashwa will take two days to reach Male, while INS Magar will reach the Maldives on May 10. The two ships are to help in evacuating around 1,000 Indians from the country starting May 8 (Friday), with the passengers to disembark in Kochi.
The Indian Navy has carried out similar non-combatant operations overseas on earlier occasions; Operation Sukoon in 2006 and Operation Rahat in 2015. The choice of these two ships was done as they are both amphibious warfare vessels, designed to land and support ground forces.
The December 2004 tsunami exposed a critical capability gap in the Indian Navy’s inventory to provide humanitarian assistance or disaster relief from undeveloped or semi-developed coastlines. A defence official explained that the launching of ground forces to sustain operations ashore in a hostile environment is an important task for the Indian Navy.
While traditionally such capability has existed in the Navy through conventional amphibious vessels, in contemporary times such operations are best conducted by vessels capable of stand-off beaching—the capability to offload men and equipment without coming close to shore.
Such ships are called expeditionary operations platforms. Most ships carrying relief material have a small helicopter like the Chetak, as well as small boats with limited load-carrying capability.
Ships such as destroyers and frigates, though loaded with relief supplies and disaster relief bricks, required berths and jetty cranes which can be located at a considerable distance from the disembarking site, according to a naval officer.