INS Sumedha Marks Historic Visit to Kenya’s Lamu Port
In a groundbreaking move, the Indian naval warship INS Sumedha, belonging to the Saryu-class patrol vessels, recently made history by becoming the first Indian naval ship to visit Kenya’s Lamu port. This strategic visit, which occurred on December 9, 2023, is part of INS Sumedha’s extended deployment to Africa, underscoring India’s commitment to fostering stronger maritime ties with nations in the region.
Lamu port, situated near the Kenya/Somalia border, emerged as a key maritime hub following its inauguration in May 2021. This port is expected to play a pivotal role in enhancing trade, connectivity, and overall stability in the region. INS Sumedha’s visit signifies a milestone in the diplomatic and naval relations between India and Kenya, showcasing the importance of collaboration and engagement in the maritime domain.
INS Sumedha, the third vessel of the Saryu-class patrol ships, stands as a testament to India’s indigenous shipbuilding capabilities, being designed and constructed by the Goa Shipyard Limited. This versatile patrol ship is equipped to undertake various missions, including fleet support, coastal and offshore patrol, surveillance, as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. The vessel boasts a formidable arsenal, featuring a 76 mm gun, close-in weapon systems, CHAFF launchers, and a helicopter landing deck.
Under the command of Commander Kapil Mehta and part of the Indian navy’s Eastern Naval Command based in Visakhapatnam, INS Sumedha carries a crew of 108 personnel, including 14 officers. The ship’s crew actively engaged with their counterparts in the Kenya Navy during the Lamu visit, participating in diverse activities such as deck visits, sporting events, joint yoga sessions, deck receptions, and other planned interactions. The visit also served as an opportunity for logistical and fuel replenishment, highlighting the practical aspects of such diplomatic exchanges.
Beyond the immediate diplomatic context, India’s increasing involvement in Africa, as demonstrated by INS Sumedha’s visit, reflects a broader geopolitical strategy. One of the driving factors behind this heightened engagement is the need to counterbalance China’s growing influence in the region. Over the last 25 years, China has significantly expanded its footprint in Africa, prompting concerns within Indian security circles.
Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, India’s Foreign Minister, underscored these concerns during a discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. The rise of the Chinese Navy, with its expanding presence in key maritime locations, has raised alarms about potential geopolitical implications. In response, India has strategically intensified its diplomatic and naval activities in Africa, seeking to reinforce its partnerships and ensure a robust presence in a region of increasing geopolitical significance.
INS Sumedha’s visit to Lamu port aligns with this broader strategy, emphasizing the importance of strengthening maritime ties and security cooperation with African nations. As India strives to safeguard its interests and counterbalance China’s influence, diplomatic gestures like these contribute to building trust and fostering collaboration among nations in the region.
In conclusion, INS Sumedha’s historic visit to Kenya’s Lamu port marks a significant milestone in India’s diplomatic and naval relations with Africa. Beyond the symbolic gesture, this visit underscores the multifaceted capabilities of the Saryu-class patrol ship and highlights the strategic importance of Lamu port in promoting regional trade, connectivity, and security. As geopolitical dynamics continue to evolve, India’s proactive engagement in Africa serves as a key element of its broader foreign policy, aiming to shape a stable and secure maritime environment in collaboration with its African partners.
The port of Lamu, located near the Kenya/Somalia border, is a new and strategic maritime hub that was inaugurated in May 2021. It is expected to boost trade and connectivity in the region, as well as enhance security and stability.