Mission Sagar: India’s Humanitarian Outreach and Maritime Diplomacy

In May 2020, as the world grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic, India embarked on a noble mission, “Mission Sagar,” to extend a helping hand to its maritime neighbors in the Indian Ocean. This initiative, which aligns with India’s broader vision of “SECURITY and Growth for All in the Region” (SAGAR), aimed to provide essential aid and strengthen diplomatic ties. This article explores the intricacies of Mission Sagar, a topic of relevance for the IAS Exam, and delves into the various missions conducted under this humanitarian effort.

Mission Sagar details

Mission Sagar is distinct from the SAGAR initiative, which focuses on maritime cooperation as a policy doctrine. In contrast, Mission Sagar is a practical, humanitarian, and inter-country outreach program. It embodies India’s commitment to fostering goodwill and solidarity in the region.

Mission Sagar I: Extending a Helping Hand

The inaugural Mission Sagar set sail on May 10, 2020, led by INS Kesari. This mission was historic as it covered multiple Indian Ocean nations, including Mauritius, Seychelles, Madagascar, Comoros, and La Reunion, all of which are part of the Indian Ocean Commission. India’s relief efforts aimed to provide food items, medicines, and medical assistance teams to these nations.

Notably, this mission marked the first time that a single relief initiative encompassed all the island nations in the Western Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka, another vital neighbor, received Indian aid through an airlift by the Indian Air Force. INS Kesari returned to the port of Kochi on June 28, 2020, after traveling over 7,500 nautical miles over 55 days.

Mission Sagar II: Strengthening Strategic Bonds

In November 2020, INS Airavat embarked on the second Mission Sagar. It delivered essential food aid to countries like Sudan, South Sudan, Djibouti, and Eritrea. Beyond humanitarian assistance, India recognized the strategic significance of these countries, which lie along major shipping lanes between the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. These vital routes could become strategic assets in times of regional or global conflict.

Mission Sagar III: Responding to Natural Calamities

December 2020 saw the launch of Mission Sagar III, with INS Kiltan setting sail towards Cambodia and Vietnam. The mission carried 15 tons of Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) to aid these nations in the aftermath of catastrophic floods. India’s swift response reinforced its commitment as a dependable partner and first responder in Southeast Asia.

This mission also underscored the importance of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in strengthening existing strategic ties in the region.

Mission Sagar IV: A Continuing Endeavor

In March 2021, INS Jalashwa reached Port Anjouan, Comoros, to deliver 1000 metric tonnes of rice, marking the second Indian naval mission to Comoros. The previous mission, as part of Mission Sagar I, delivered medicines and sent medical assistance teams to the island nation.

Conclusion: Beyond Humanitarian Aid

While providing crucial humanitarian aid, Mission Sagar also serves as a strategic move to counter China’s “string of pearls” doctrine and its growing influence in the region. India’s efforts demonstrate its commitment to regional stability, maritime security, and economic prosperity. Understanding Mission Sagar is not just crucial for competitive examinations like the IAS but also for comprehending India’s evolving diplomatic and strategic landscape in the Indian Ocean region.

Expert Editorial Comment

Mission Sagar reflects India’s commitment to regional leadership and humanitarian values. By extending a helping hand to its maritime neighbors, India not only provides essential aid but also strengthens diplomatic ties and showcases its role as a responsible global player. These missions demonstrate the power of soft diplomacy, underlining that security and growth are intertwined in the region. It’s a testament to India’s evolving role on the world stage, and its ability to respond swiftly to regional challenges while maintaining strategic foresight.

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