Options for India in Indian Ocean Region

CHAPTER7INDIANSTRATEGY FOR BETTER CONTROL OF THE INDIAN OCEAN REGION  “History has taught India two bitter lessons:firstly, that neglect ofmaritime power can culminate in a cession ofsovereignty, and secondly, that ittakesdecades to revert to being a considerable maritime power after a period ofneglectand decline.”[1]   46.       Over the past few years, India has placeditself on a path to achieve, potentially, the regional influence in the IndianOcean to which it has aspired.

To this end, New Delhi has raised its profileand strengthened its position in a variety of nations on the littoral,especially Iran, Sri Lanka, Burma, Singapore, Thailand, and most of the ocean’ssmall island nations. India also has become a more palpable presence in keymaritime zones, particularly the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. Of equal orgreater importance, India’s links with the most important external actors inthe Indian Ocean—the United States, Japan, Israel, and France also have been strengthened.These are significant achievements, and they derive from India’s growingeconomic clout and from a surer hand visible today in Indian diplomacy.

   47.       Gaps inevitably remain in India’sstrategic posture. New Delhi will need to strengthen further its hand incoastal Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. More work also will be required toupgrade still somewhat distant relationships with Australia and Indonesia. Atthe same time, India will need to be more skillful than it has been incultivating better relations with, and an environment more attuned to Indianinterests in, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Further, much will depend on theperformance of the Indian economy and on India’s ability to avoid domesticcommunal discord. Another variable will be the extent to which otherstates—particularly China and the United States but also Pakistan and others insouthern Asia—are willing or able to offer serious resistance to India’sambitions. The future of political Islam is another wild card. However, barringa halt to globalization—one of the megatrends of the contemporary world—therise of India in the IO is fairly certain.    India’sObjectives in the Indian Ocean   48         To emerge as a dominant power  and to contain China’s designs in the IndianOcean, India has set the following Objectives for herself :- (a)       Attemptingto spread its influence across the entire Indian Ocean Region, through tradeand investment, diplomacy and strategic partnerships. (b)       Upgradingrelations with Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia; regions that holdmineral deposits and energy reserves critical to India’s economic developmentand great power aspirations. (c)        Positioning itself to emerge as the dominant Indian Oceanpower in the decades ahead. (d)       Ensuring that China does not gain a significant strategicfoothold in the region.

(e)       Strengthening influence and control over Indian Ocean chokepoints through security relationships with key littoral states such asSingapore, Mauritius and Oman.  IMPLICATIONSFOR INDIAN SECURITY   32.       Sub Surface Threat.    Implications for India’s security have tobe examined in the context of the analysis above.

  The most significant implication of thegrowth of the Chinese Navy emerges from the threat of the Chinese submarineforce  (especially the SSN’s) to Indiansecurity interests.  With all thelimitations on routing, deployment and time on-station, the sub surface threatis the most credible one, which needs to be addressed by the defence planners.  As the PLAN modernisation progresses infuture, this potential threat would increase in significance.  33.

      Surface Threat.    The only scenario where the surface fleetof the PLAN could create any credible threat to India’s security interest wouldbe in the shape of a threat to the Andaman and Car Nicobar group ofIslands.  During a period of Sino-Indiantension  and crisis, especially along theland border, it is conceivable that such an operation could be threatened to belaunched for political objectives, in other words, in the process of coercivediplomacy. 34.       Strategic Threat.

   A Chinese military presence in the IndianOcean will directly pose a threat to India. The threat will be both political and military if Pakistan andBangladesh agree to provide some port facilities to the Chinese Navy.  The political tilt of some of ourneighbouring countries towards Beijing under such a situation will grow andbecome stronger along with the growth of the Chinese militarycapabilities.  If an armed conflictbetween India and Pakistan breaks out, the presence of the Chinese Navy in theIndian Ocean will certainly work against the Indian interest; it would work asa psychological pressure as well. 35.       Strategic/Diplomatic Encirclement.

China hasestablished cordial political relations with many countries in the Indian Oceanregion especially Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan.   Thus apart from enhancing its economythrough better trade relations, China has also emerged as a prime supplier ofarms to the security forces of these countries. In the process it has acquired significant influence.  The spadework, which it has been doing forsome years now, is likely to pay dividends when China decides to make its navalpresence felt in the Indian Ocean region.  INDIANRESPONSE  Present Operational Response 36.       The PLAN, at present hasstill not overcome its deficiency in blue water ships to constitute a crediblethreat to India.  In a worst-casescenario, therefore the Indian navy would need to deal with a few modernguided-missile destroyers, as also two or three Han class nuclear-poweredsubmarines (all of which could be equipped with C-801 Eagle Strike anti-shipmissiles) in the Indian Ocean.

  Whilesuch a force could threaten the Andaman and Nicobar Islands for the purposes ofcoercive diplomacy, it would be at a considerable disadvantages in view of theIndian Navy’s range and extent of operations in the area, including missilestrikes from the air, co-ordinated ASW missions and overwhelming logisticsupport.  It is also unlikely that the IndianNavy would seek out the PLAN in the South China Sea rather than meet it at thestrategic waterway of the Straits of Malacca.  FutureNaval Doctrine to Include Threat From PLAN     37.      In the near future, possibly as close as the turn of thedecade, the maritime dimensions of the Chinese military threat to India willincrease in intensity.  This would evolvefrom a sense of rivalry between two powerful navies over their respectivespheres of influence in the Indian Ocean.

 38.       India will have toincrease her naval assets and efforts to contain China’s maritimemodernisation.  India will have torethink its naval doctrines and operational capabilities.  The composition of the forces of Indian Navyin the future should take into account the threat arising from Chinese interestin the Indian Ocean.  Nuclear submarinesin the Indian inventory would always be the greatest deterrent to any Chineseadventurism in the Indian Ocean.

 39.       India should set up betterfacilities for support and maintenance of Indian naval vessels at theAndamans.  The naval base should beenlarged to set up permanent base for a Far Eastern Fleet, which should ofcourse include submarines.  Creatingfacilities for the operation of LRMP aircraft from Andamans could increaseIndian maritime surveillance over the Malacca Straits, South China Sea and theapproaches to the Indian Ocean from south of the Andamans. 40.       The facilities at Andamansshould also cater for effective close monitoring of activities of the Chinesein Myanmar and Coco Islands to enable India to take effective counter measuresin order to forestall and contain any Chinese initiatives and extension of anybase facilities in the region.

  DiplomaticInitiatives   41.       As China begins to lookfor a role in the Indian Ocean region, New Delhi needs to consider seriouslythe politico-security implications of such a development.  It is more so because India’s own modestnaval development programme has resulted in wide spread misconceptions andmisplaced apprehensions. .  42.

       The nature and range ofPLAN missions would be determined to a great extent by its prevailingrelationship with New Delhi and the Indian Navy. An early indication of thedilemmas involved in this regard were brought out by the policy of maritimeco-operation as a confidence building measures between states.  While the Indian navy carried out exerciseswith warships of several countries, including those of extra regional powers,it stopped short of similar interactions with the PLAN.  Although it realizes that this may be a goodway to moderate its influence in the area, and impose relations, it is not keento encourage a Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean through jointexercises.  In view of this paradox, theIndian Government has hesitated from suggesting anything beyond visits byIndian and Chinese warships to each other’s ports.  It is imperative, therefore, that the IndianNavy and government seriously begin to consider the manner in which they intendto deal with the emerging blue water capacity of the PLAN in the Indian Ocean.[2] 43.       As regards Myanmar Indiashould not only seriously try at improving relations between the two countriesbut also strongly object and bring to their notice the implications of theirgranting of greater access to the Chinese.

  IndianStrategy “India’s growinginternational stature gives it strategic relevance in the area ranging from thePersian Gulf to the Straits of Malacca…India has exploited the fluidities ofthe emerging world order to forge new links through a combination of diplomaticrepositioning, economic resurgence and military firmness”. -DrManmohan Singh 49.        India, a Regional power in its own right, hasmade attempts to secure what can be legitimately considered its back yard.However, to achieve the objectives the Govt has to consider and execute allforms of international diplomacy, ensuring capability building for its ArmedForces, the Indian Navy in particular and form alliances with friendly littoralstates. Some of the important facets of Indian Strategy have been enunciated inthe succeeding paragraphs. Cooperative Arrangements with Maritime Forces 50.       Reaching out to the maritimeneighbours of China by engaging the maritime forces of the countries are beingvisited at regular intervals.

Such visits have galvanized the regionalcooperative mechanisms particularly in the field of disaster relief and SAR. Inaddition, such interactions enable the Navies in different parts of the worldto work out Standard Operating Procedures, work out inter operability issuesand keep templates ready for both war and peace. The Navies and the CoastGuards of the region in the Asia Pacific do look at India and Japan asbalancing forces in the region to thwart any Chinese advances. India thereforeis required to engage Chinese neighbours with purpose and intent to OBORng outthe required balance.  IndianInitiatives in the Neighbourhood 51.         Whilenot exactly matching China event by event, India has also upped the ante interms of engaging its maritime neighbours.

The maritime neighbours would bequite happy with the sense of competition between the two Asian giants whichpays them rich dividends in terms of economic investments and development.Therefore, one sees India also engaging in projects in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh,Myanmar and Maldives. India has also nurtured excellent maritime relations withSeychelles and Mauritius[3]. While India does lagbehind by over two decades in terms of its economic liberalization there arestrengths that have attracted many players who prefer India to China for someinteresting reasons.   Security Pact with Littoral States   52.       Keeping the aggressive designs ofChina in perspective India needs to sign security agreements with smallneighbors in the Indian Ocean. The proximity of Maldives and the pastrecord of India rushing to its aid when threatened by mercenaries have helpedIndia to maintain cordial relations and engage its Arabian Sea neighbour botheconomically and in strategic terms.

The frequent exchanges and the trainingbeing offered to the security forces have helped in cementing the relations.However, the latest act of the Maldives Govt to suspend the agreement for constructionof Male Airport by the Indian company GMR seems to be on the behest of China.This kind of hostile coercion of small littoral states by china may pick up innear future. Hence, long term security arrangements must be made with thesecountries to ensure effective domination of the region.  Launchof INS Arihant –ATV 53.         Theinduction of the nuclear capable submarine Arihant would provide the muchneeded second strike capability as part of the Triad.

Though it would take sometime before this component of the Triad becomes fully operational it is clearthat India is charting the right course. India has a declared policy of ‘nofirst use’ of nuclear weapons however it reserves the right of massiveretaliation[4].  Modernisationof India’s Maritime Assets 54.         Whilethe Indian Navy may be lagging behind in terms of sea based nuclear forces, interms of its modern naval platforms centered around a Carrier, the IN is areckonable force which has demonstrated its potential both during peace andwar. While it has resolved its differences on the cost of acquisition of theSoviet era Carrier, Gorshkov.  it isbuilding its own carrier in Cochin Ship Yard to be named Vikrant. India is alsoadding to its infrastructure potential in the maritime sector by creating newports and allowing private players to participate in building ships for theNavy and the Coast Guard. The mix of both indigenous and imported modern shipshas given the Indian Navy a qualitative edge in the region.

Indian Navy inaddition enjoys a geographic location advantage. It also has a strategicmaritime edge due to the location of its far flung Island territory both oneither flank in the Arabian Sea and in the Andaman Sea[5].  InfrastructureImprovements 55.       India has shed its pastinhibitions about augmenting its defence preparedness in strategic areas ofArunachal Pradesh and has also been modernizing its Navy, Air Force and theArmy. India is preparing itself for a two-front war simultaneously withPakistan and China and accordingly the Govt has started giving due priority tothe infrastructure projects along the Northern borders. Though China is showingconcern on these issues but india is moving ahead to prepare its forces for anyfuture misadventure by its biggest rival in the North.

  Assertive India  56.        With the increasing militarymight, economic clout and also against the public perception that India is toodefensive, India in the recent past has displayed a degree of assertivenessmuch to the consternation of China[6].The notable incidents that OBORng out this aspect of new assertiveness isrelated to the participation in the Noble Award ceremony for a Chinese Scholar,holding firm ground on Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, Omission of thereferences to one China, post the visit of the Chinese Premier in December2010, and the firm handling of the stapled visas to Indian visitors fromdisputed areas.

India’s latest Quid pro quo action of printing its map withAksai chin and Arunachal as its integral part is a strond sign to the Internationalcommunity and China in particular. With these strong assertions india issafeguarding its national interests. Roleof Navy in Kargil Conflict 57.       Oneearly sign of maritime renewal was the confrontation with Pakistan in 1999.

Land setbacks in Kargil were offset by successful naval deployments againstKarachi and the Pakistani coastline. The Indian Navy deployed frigates,destroyers and submarines within striking range of Karachi harbour, throughwhich more than 90 percent of Pakistan’s trade, including oil supplies, werebeing received. The Indian fleet’s manoeuvres in the Arabian Sea resulted inPakistan’s fleet being shackled to its immediate coastline. Pakistan consideredthe Indian Navy about to enforce a quarantine or blockade of Karachi andprevent the supply of oil from the Persian Gulf. Islamabad was not keen to openanother front for itself against the Indian military and so chose to withdrawfrom Kargil. Indian naval projection had been tangible and successful.

Thisexperience would clearly ensure the strategic role of Indian Navy in any futureconflict with China or Pakistan thus requiring speedy modernization and betterpreparedness. IndianPresence in South China Sea 57.        To counter China’sinfluence in the IOR, India has started joint oil exploration with Vietnam andtrying to establish maritime relations with Philippines.

Both these countriesare in conflict with China over the Islands in the South China Sea. India’slatest maritime exercise with Japan Navy is also a step in the right direction.As part of its future strategy India should form strong maritime ties with allthe unhappy neighbours of China. India’s greater presence in the South ChinaSea will act as a deterrent for China in the IOR.

   CapabilityBuilding for the Indian Armed Forces 58.      Supplementing its diplomatic andpolitical initiatives, India is shaping its growingmilitary capability. Theseforces should be able, should the need arise, to: keep China’s navy out of theIndian Ocean; enter the South China Sea and project military power directlyagainst the Chinese homeland; project military power elsewhere in the IndianOcean—at key choke points, on vital islands, around the littoral, and along keysea routes; and—in a presumably altered strategic environment—pose an importantpotential constraint on the ability of the U.S.Navy to operate in the IO. Atpresent, the overall thrust is to get weapons toproject power, especiallysystems with greater lethality and reach.

 59.     The Govt has taken major strategic decisions to ensure betterpreparedness and coordination amongst its Armed Forces. The first relates to the process of jointnesswithin the armed forces by the creation of the Headquarters Intergrated  Defence Staff that has been effectivelyimplemented at various levels. It is to be hoped that the Government willinitiate early action for the appointment of a Chief of the Defence Staff.Secondly, there is a concerted effort to focus on the long neglected maritimedimension of our national security particularly in context of the security ofmaritime traffic in the Indian Ocean. The establishment of a tri-serviceregional headquarters in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is not only a step inthe jointness process but a major step forward in the enhancement of India’smaritime capability[7]. 60.

       Thirdly,the establishment of the Strategic Command is not only another move towardsgreater jointness but also a recognition of the vital importance of theeffective management and control of our nuclear assets. Fourthly, among otherassets being acquired or improved upon, are airborne early warning and controlsystem that will enhance strategic surveillance and monitoring capability,unarmed aerial vehicles, tactical and strategic missile and anti-missilesystem, electronic warfare systems and so on. Fifthly the long overduerequirement of strategic airlift capability a apparently being addressedtogether with added acquisition and improvements for a credible strategicprojection of air power. 61.

        Lastly, there is greater focus on increasingand improving the capability of Special Forces not only to provide a forcemultiplier option in the conduct of conventional operations, but also to enableeffective action against terrorists[8]. Such forces would alsoprovide the ability to deploy rapid action forces at short notice in regionalconflict situations where our assistance is requested. All this capabilitywould, besides enhancing the military capability of the Indian Armed Forces todeal with operational situations that may arise, also allow for more effectiveand meaningful deployment for international peace operations when called uponto do so. 62.        India’s futuristic appreciation of thestrategic importance of the Indian Ocean in its rise as a regional power hasgiven new momentum to the diplomacy and capacity building of its Armed Forces.

Its strategy of dominating the Ocean and containing China’s influence in theregion are the positive signs of an emerging power. With the correct and timelyuse of its massive soft power and efforts to build up the credible hard powerwill ensure a favorable power projection over China in the region[9].          


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