Indian Navy and Operation Pawan
Several of the more recently developed capabilities of the Navy have proved their utility in the challenging risk that Operation Pawan has become. The scale and quality of the naval role in the peacekeeping mission in Sri Lanka warrants special mention. In fact long before the conflict in the northern part of the island nation assumed its present character, the Navy was at work. The signing of the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement on 29 July 1987 and the stand taken thereafter by the LTTE added several scopes to the situation. It is a multi-purpose role that the Navy has been required to play. Transportation and maintenance of the Indian Peace Keeping Force has necessitated a virtual 'milk run' to the island from ports in South India. An estimate of what has been involved tells some of the story - 200,000 men ferried, in direction, 100,000 tones of stores, and 8,000 vehicles. Ships from the merchant navy have also lend their support; the dedication of their Masters (a few having been with the Navy earlier) has contributed significantly.
Ships and aircraft have constantly patrolled a 300-mile-long line of control. At any given time more than a dozen vessels are enforcing that blockade. The result has been a snapping of the line of supply to the militants, and therefore a marked decrease in their violence. The smaller vessels - seaward defence boats, landing craft, and inshore patrol vessels have rendered remarkable service under trying conditions. The ability of the Navy to sustain a large body of troops for such an extended period has attracted special attention in military circles, for it adds a qualitative edge to the overall defence capability. Combat landing on beaches, airborne observation, and support to the troops by naval helicopters and aircraft are now standard operating procedure.
As conditions in the Jaffana Peninsula improved the refuges began to return and over 25,000 of them were transported from Tamil Nadu to ports in Sri Lanka. Once again, merchant ships were used extensively. Operation Pawan has been unique in several ways. Revolution puts any military force to severe stress. The Indian Navy can derive justifiable satisfaction that it has executed a difficult task with rare determination. When the history of the operation is written, there will surely be high acclaim for the naval personnel who performed their varied tasks so effectively.
Indian Airforce and Operation Pawan
The mission of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in northern and eastern Sri Lanka lasted some thirty months and the statistics tell it all. Some 70,000 sorties (armed attack, especially one made from a place surrounded by enemy forces) were flown by the IAF's transport and helicopter force to and within Sri Lanka, without a single aircraft lost or mission aborted.
In support of nearly 100,000 troops and paramilitary forces, IAF An32s maintained a continuous air link from air bases in Southern India to Divisional headquarters at Palaly (Jaffna), Vavuniya, Trincomalee and Batticaloa, transporting men, equipment, rations and evacuating casualties on the outbound flights, No. 19 Squadron being the main formation involved. Earlier, during the massive build up in the Jaffna peninsula in October 1987, the IAF carried out more transport and helicopter sorties in support of the ground forces in action than at any such concentrated space and time in the history of the armed forces of India. In 20 days, some 3000 strategic transport and assault helicopter sorties were carried out during the bitter fighting to disarm the LTTE as a key provision of the Indo-Sri Lanka agreement.