Tag Archives: Book Review

Chinese Naval Shipbuilding: An Ambitious and Uncertain Course

Andrew S. Erickson, ed. Chinese Naval Shipbuilding: An Ambitious and Uncertain Course. Naval Institute Press, 2016 pp 376. $39.95

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By Michael DeBoer

Chinese Naval Shipbuilding Capability: An Uncertain Course, adds the most recent volume to Dr. Andrew Erickson’s excellent edited collections on the increase of the People’s Republic’s military, economic, and industrial power published by the Naval Institute Press. Erickson’s credentials include a professorship in strategy at the Naval War College, a research associateship at Harvard’s Fairbank School for Chinese Studies, and a regular congressional witness on areas pertaining to Chinese capabilities and strategy. He is a giant in the field. The work combines seventeen articles written by thirty-two authors, among them storied names such as CRS naval analyst Ronald O’Rourke and former former Director of Intelligence and Information Operations (N2) for U.S. Pacific Fleet CAPT James Fanell (ret). The volume provides a nuanced and insightful view of a major Chinese strategic investment, its shipbuilding industry, and is required reading for anyone, academic or laymen, trying to understand the associated capabilities and implications of the People’s Republic’s maritime rise.

The three hundred-forty-page tome is broken into five sections, describing the PRC’s shipbuilding industry’s foundation and resources, infrastructure, approach to naval architecture and design, remaining challenges, and a section which provides strategic conclusions and predictions for the future of American naval and maritime power. The articles are easily readable, each approximately ten to fifteen pages of crisp, synthesized content, with end notes allowing readers to further explore the author’s research, although most references are translated from Mandarin Chinese. The works also feature multiple graphs, tables, and illustrations, providing further resources for students and researchers. While each article provides fascinating insights into the past, present, and future of Chinese shipbuilding, four areas of study especially stood out as enjoyable, informative, and useful.

First, Christopher P. Carlson and Jack Bianchi’s Chapter I review of the People’s Republic’s naval and maritime history from the formation of the communist state to Xi Jinping provides a concise review of the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) strategic development. Carlson and Bianchi first review the PLAN’s operational shift from Near Coast Defense, to Near Seas Active Defense, and finally to Near Seas Defense and Far Seas Operations, as the PLAN’s resources, capabilities, and objectives adapted to match the nation’s goals. The pair provide an excellent linkage between China’s strategic situation since Mao’s victory and the requirements of PLAN platforms as the force shifted from a coastal force to a limited blue water force and finally to a force intended to defend Chinese interests on both the near and far seas. This evolution brought an increase in the complexity and technical sophistication to the Chinese military shipbuilding industry.

Second, Leigh Ann Ragland-Luce and John Costello provide insight into a major limitation of Chinese military shipbuilding: combat electronics. Ragland-Luce and Costello point out that, while PLAN hull and mechanical systems are regularly manufactured using modern industry standards such as modular construction, the PLAN remains unable to field a top-tier indigenously developed combat control system. The authors use the Jiangkai-II (054A)-class guided missile frigate, a modern warship by any standard, whose combat control system (CCS) is based upon the French TAVITAC, vice a comparable Chinese design. This potential lack of integration between the French CCS and developing Chinese weapons and sensor systems might well prove a combat handicap for PLAN forces in future conflicts. Similarly, editor Andrew Erickson with Jonathan Ray and Robert T. Forte provide an excellent dissertation on the limitations of Chinese propulsion plant designs. According to the trio, the PLAN appears proficient in coastal diesel submarine propulsion technologies. The PLAN effectively integrates Sterling Engine Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) systems into its Yuan-class diesel-electric boats (SSPs), and it leads research into safe Lithium-Ion battery storage systems, potentially increasing coastal submarine endurance. It still lags considerably in both modern integrated surface propulsion plants and nuclear powered propulsion designs.

Third, the work uses present shipbuilding capacity to extrapolate future PLAN capability and force structure. CAPT James Fanell (ret) and Scott Cheney-Peters (Founder of CIMSEC) provide a realistic warning regarding the long-term challenge of Chinese strategic depth in military shipbuilding. Ronald O’Rourke caps the work with a set of implications for the U.S. Navy if PLAN force structure continues to expand.

Fourth, the work also provides an excellent overview of the curious public-private nature of an industry. The ten-year old split of Chinese shipbuilding into competitive public-private corporations Chinese State Shipbuilding Company (CSSC) and Chinese Industrial Shipbuilding Company (CSIC), induced formidable challenges to reintegrate as demand for commercial Chinese-built shipping demand drops and the People’s Republic attempts to cut excess overhead in its public ventures. The work also appropriately conveys the confusing and byzantine structure of the Chinese military-industrial complex, broken into multiple institutes and directorates with potentially overlapping responsibilities.

The edition could have improved by better integration between authors. Several articles re-visit the growth of PLAN naval strategy over the PRC’s history, which becomes redundant. Secondly, in some cases, it is difficult at times to compare Chinese shipbuilding structure and practices to those of other industries worldwide. Is China’s anticipated post-merger structure in line with other shipbuilding industries? The work does not, at times, draw clear comparisons.

Overall, Chinese Naval Shipbuilding provides a very useful window into an area of intense Communist Party strategic investment. The work gives the reader an excellent overview of the industry as a whole, overlapped with strategic context and geopolitical implications. As discussed, the volume also provides a unique look at the industry’s challenges, including increased engineering costs, poor integration with modern combat systems, and challenges in surface ship engineering plants and nuclear propulsion technologies. Nuanced and complex, it describes both the accomplishments of an industry that now leads the world in commercial tonnage produced, but also lags behind in critical areas mastered by much smaller and less-rich nations. Erickson’s volume is a worthy addition to his series and an enjoyable read.


Read CIMSEC’s interview with editor Dr. Andrew Erickson on this book here.

Michael DeBoer is a U.S. naval officer. The views herein are his alone and do not represent the views of the Department of Defense, the Department of the Navy, or any other organization.

Featured Image: China’s first indigenously produced aircraft carrier CV-17/001A under construction at Dalian shipyard. (CJDBY.net)

Initiative of the Subordinate: Dudley Knox and the Modern U.S. Navy

Kohnen, David. 21st Century Knox: Influence, Sea Power, and History for the Modern Era. Naval Institute Press, 2016 176pp. $24.95

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By Dale Rielage

A century ago, Dudley Knox was one of the U.S. Navy’s up-and-coming leaders. His operational resume included combat experience in the Spanish-American War, the Boxer Rebellion, and the Philippines insurrection. In a generation that learned its trade from Mahan, Knox achieved intellectual distinction as an observer of naval command and control. Between the First and Second World Wars, Knox developed into one of the nation’s foremost practitioners of naval history, a respected commentator on maritime issues, and advisor to political and naval leaders. Through his professional associations, writings, and commentary, his influence reached to the battles of the Second World War and beyond.

It is precisely to rescue naval thinkers like Knox from obscurity that the Naval Institute Press began the “21st Century Foundations” series. In 21st Century Knox, David Kohnen has selected key writings spanning Knox’s more than fifty year career and combined them with a thoughtful introduction and commentary that places these writings in contemporary context. The result is a handy collection of short articles that speak both to the U.S. Navy’s history and to the challenges it faces today.  

Knox came of age in a nation that was finding its place among the world’s great powers. The U.S. Navy was growing rapidly in capability, capacity and stature. While the new battleships that comprised the Great White Fleet were the most public face of President Theodore Roosevelt’s Big Stick, Knox himself preferred service on torpedo boats and destroyers, whose small size and independent operations offered maximum opportunity for initiative and responsibility. These smaller units also offered junior officers a glimpse of the challenges of coordinating multiple units in coordinated action – a challenge that was preoccupying Royal Navy leaders on the far side of the Atlantic.

Within the British Royal Navy, the tug-of-war between centralizing command and control and decentralizing authority had been playing out for more than a century. During the nineteenth century, the highly decentralized command style of Nelson had given way to a more centralized style, enabled by increasingly sophisticated means for signaling between units. Andrew Gordon, in his seminal study of the issue, noted how the trend towards centralization limited Royal Navy success at Jutland.

The U.S. Navy’s rapid growth in the 1880s and 1890s made command and control issues secondary to more fundamental issues of fleet proficiency and organization. Thanks to reform efforts spearheaded by Admiral William S. Sims, the U.S. Navy had significantly modernized its gunnery training – the foundation of applying combat power at sea at the time. However, this focus on the tools of tactical excellence had not yet expanded to a sophisticated system for managing large fleet actions.

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A 1934 Portrait of then Captain Knox. (Wikimedia commons)

It was the interplay between initiative and command that prompted Knox to produce his first significant writings. In 1913, then-Lieutenant Commander Knox placed in the U.S. Naval Institute annual essay contest with the article “Trained Initiative and Unity of Action.” It is no surprise that Knox, having experienced independent command as a junior officer, would instinctively support the decentralization of command. As a relatively junior officer, he dared to critique the current attitude in the service – a service which had enjoyed overwhelming victory and acclaim in its first modern combat experience against the Spanish Navy just fifteen years prior. “It is hardly necessary to enter into a description of our present system of command…it has never stood the supreme test of a large fleet action against a formidable enemy; and it is safe to say that even our greatest triumphs were accomplished in spite of glaring faults which most of us will candidly admit.” Knox then offered a detailed inventory of the impact of excessive control from above in both peace and war. Perhaps more perceptively, he asserted that detailed oversight invites unhealthy critique of seniors by juniors, where a delegated leadership style requires subordinates to own the actions of the team. Knox concluded his essay by asserting that the “initiative of the subordinate” should be the governing principle in U.S. naval doctrine and leadership.

It is important to note that Knox did not base his advocacy of decentralized control on the limitations of command and control mechanisms. In his mind, no improvement in the mechanics of command and control could meet the requirement for speed of action in the face of an adaptive enemy.  As he wrote, “neither signals, radio-messages, nor instructions, written or verbal, can suffice…to produce the unity of effort – the concert of action – demanded by modern conditions in a large fleet.”

Knox followed his 1913 success by winning the Naval Institute Prize in 1915 with an examination of “The Role of Doctrine in Naval Warfare.” An examination of history convinced Knox not only that speed was critical in exploiting opportunity, but that command and control systems inherently degrade in combat. Well articulated and understood doctrine offers the first defense against this challenge, Knox asserted, by ensuring that subordinate commanders approach operations with the same basic assumptions. This doctrine should, in Knox’s mind, clarify for the force to what extent they should act offensively or defensively, as well as what actions should be carried out by the “primary force” (i.e. the entire fleet, with a focus on battleships) or the “secondary force” (i.e. mines, submarines, and small combatants). Knox emphasized that the development of doctrine should be a broad, collaborative process within the Navy in order to ensure buy-in from different communities and continuity of approach and investment across the tenure of different leaders.

Reading these two pieces, many readers will be impressed that they could be written today. Indeed, with minor updating in style and references, they could be published as commentary on today’s U.S. Navy. It is encouraging for today’s innovators that Knox did have profound influence on the culture and conduct of the U.S. Navy, albeit indirectly. Knox built a network of shipmates who were also interested in innovative ideas. Many of his friends, such as Ernest King, Earl “Pete” Ellis, Harold Stark, and Bill Halsey, would rise to positions of influence over the years. Knox’s work was also heavily influenced by his studies at the U.S. Naval War College, where he enjoyed the encouragement of Admiral Sims. Sims – himself the subject of another volume in the 21st Century Foundations series – and who offered an example of a passionate innovator who as a Lieutenant had written a letter to the President trying to drive improvements in U.S. Navy gunnery.

After Sims departed the War College for operational command in the Atlantic, he pulled Knox and a number of other promising young officers onto his staff. Shortly after, with the U.S. on the verge of entering the First World War, Knox was hand-selected to join Sims’ staff in London, placing him at the heart of the U.S. Navy’s first experience in modern coalition warfare. There, Knox was instrumental in tying U.S. Naval Forces in Europe into the Royal Navy’s extraordinary intelligence network. While an informal arrangement, it laid the groundwork for the “very special relationship” between U.S. and British naval intelligence during World War II.

By the 1920s, Knox’s philosophy of command and control had slowly moved from counter-culture to accepted doctrine. Knox’s articles became standard reading at the Naval War College and influenced the famous student wargames which contemplated naval war against Japan. Almost every senior navy leader in World War II attended the War College during this era was influenced by these games. In his outstanding history of naval command and control, Michael Palmer observes that the U.S. Navy would be exceptional in enshrining decentralized command and control and aggressive exercise of initiative in its doctrine. For example, Palmer notes that the U.S. Navy’s 1924 war instructions specified that “when attacked by an enemy, American ships were to turn towards the threat, and not away from it as had Jellicoe, in conformity with his own doctrine, at Jutland.”1 

The summit of Knox’s indirect influence on his navy was reached on the eve of World War II. In his CINCLANT Serial 053 of January 21, 1941, Knox’s shipmate, Admiral Ernest King, instructed the entire Fleet that “initiative of the subordinate” was the “essential element of command.” King noted that he had “been concerned for many years over the increasing tendency…to issue orders and instructions in which their subordinates are told “how” as well as “what” to do to such an extent and in such detail that the ‘Custom of the Service’ has virtually become the antithesis of that essential element of command.” The Navy was close to war, King wrote, and the force was often “reluctant (afraid) to act because they are accustomed to detailed orders and instructions.” If this tendency was not reversed, asserted CNO King, “we shall be in a sorry case” when war arrives. Reversing this tendency required strong leadership, but ultimately the U.S. Navy’s victories in World War II were in no small part due to a culture of finding the right commanders and allowing them latitude to conduct combat operations with a deliberate economy of detailed higher headquarters direction.2

As Knox grew more senior and moved into retirement, his professional focus shifted to history and naval commentary. It is fair to say that today Knox is mainly remembered for his efforts to establish naval history as a discipline and to motivate the U.S. Navy to preserve its own history. That reputation, however, obscures Knox’s ongoing influence during his “historical” period. During the interwar years, a close relationship existed between naval intelligence, naval history and planning; and Knox was a regular if unofficial advisor of naval decision makers through the end of World War II.

Dudley Knox Library, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California. (Wikimedia commons)
The Dudley Knox Library at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. (Wikimedia commons)

If there is a weakness in this book, it is that Dave Kohnen sometimes comes across as a historian admiring another historian. Knox was a practitioner, a status that made him acutely interested in the impact of this analysis. Nonetheless, in making Dudley Knox readily accessible to the current generation of naval professionals, Kohnen and the Naval Institute Press have done a significant service. With the Chief of Naval Operations calling for the U.S. Navy officer corps to read, write, and fight, Knox offers an example of how an officer with ideas and the willingness to challenge the status quo can have a profound influence on the U.S. Navy. CIMSEC is one place for that writing to find a voice today – and 21st Century Knox is a great place to start reading.

Captain Dale Rielage serves as Director for Intelligence and Information Operations for U.S. Pacific Fleet. He has served as 3rd Fleet N2, 7th Fleet Deputy N2, Senior Intelligence Officer for China at the Office of Naval Intelligence and Director of the Navy Asia Pacific Advisory Group. His opinions do not represent those of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, or Department of the Navy.

1. Michael Palmer, Command at Sea: Naval Command and Control since the Sixteenth Century, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007, p. 255.

2. The full text of King’s memo is found in The Administration of the Navy Department in World War II, Washington, DC: Naval History Division, 1959, as appendix 1.

Featured Image: USS BB 30 “Florida” – April 1919.

Crouching Tiger: What China’s Militarism Means for the World

By Sally DeBoer

Navarro, Peter. Crouching Tiger: What China’s Militarism Means for the World. New York: Prometheus Books, 2015, 335pp. $19.95.

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Those focused on the realm of maritime security have watched China’s actions in the East and South China Seas with some combination of fascination and trepidation over the past several years. From land reclamation efforts on Johnson South Reef to “cabbage” strategy successes around Scarborough Shoal, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has repeatedly defied convention, their neighbors’ sovereignty, and yes, international law in their expansive effort to exercise control over the seas about the first and second island chains under the guise of historical righteousness. The impending arbitration ruling from the United Nations has tensions in the region at a fever pitch. Questions abound: Will China declare an ADIZ in the South China Sea, as they did in the East China Sea in November of 2013? Will a ruling in the Philippines’ favor spur China to double down on its expansion activity and militarism? Will there be war with China, and what might such a conflict look like? It is this last question, an overarching theme in any discussion of China’s militarization and the international community’s efforts to reckon with it, that author Peter Navarro seeks to address in his book Crouching Tiger: What China’s Militarism Means for the World.

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Author Peter Navarro. Image courtesy of the author.

Navarro, a bestselling author and professor at the University of California Irvine’s Merge School of Business, takes a holistic and comprehensive approach to answering the question of whether or not a war with China will occur and, in the event of war, what form such a conflict might take. Perhaps most importantly, Navarro also details pathways to avoid conflict through means of diplomacy and deterrence. Navarro’s prose is engaging and moves at a rapid pace. Styled as a “geopolitical detective story,” Crouching Tiger’s text is widely accessible and consistently clear, making an issue that is opaque to most readers digestible. Each chapter begins with a multiple-choice question about the subject matter, which readers (detectives, as the book calls them) themselves are equipped to answer by its conclusion. The direct tone of the book should not be confused for simplicity, however. Navarro does not shy away from detail, addressing the complexity of great power politics head-on. Navarro’s argument is strengthened by the opinions and research of some of the world’s foremost scholars on geopolitics and China, with statements from the likes of the University of Chicago’s John Mearsheimer and the U.S. Naval War College’s Toshi Yoshihara woven throughout the text. Though short, Crouching Tiger is indeed quite dense, providing a truly sweeping account of the subject matter.

Crouching Tiger begins by setting the stage for the discussion, succinctly but completely outlining the schools of thought on great power politics, the history of China’s interactions with both the United States and the global system at large, and assessing the capabilities of the Chinese military. Navarro deftly characterizes China’s rapid military build-up in their quest for regional hegemony, covering topics from the DF-21 “carrier killer,” to China’s “Underground Great Wall” and truly staggering nuclear stockpile (this will come up again later.) Further, Crouching Tiger addresses China’s Anti-satellite (ASAT) capabilities (demonstrated famously with the destruction of the PRC’s own FY1-C weather satellite in 2007), which leave the United States’ overhead constellations, on which it has become militarily, economically, and comprehensively dependent, at risk.

Moving quickly, Navarro then delves into possible “triggers, trip wires, and flash points” that could ignite a conflict between China, the U.S., and their various allies and defense treaty cosigners. Some of these triggers will be familiar to readers who keep an eye on the news in the South China Sea, while others, such as China’s territorial disputes with India and their possible implications for coming periods of water scarcity, are less well known. In the third section of the book, Surveying the Battlefield, Navarro provides a synopsis of U.S. vulnerabilities and strategies with regard to a notional conflict. Crouching Tiger’s final sections discuss possible “pathways to peace.” In a particularly effective section, Navarro gleefully dismantles the arguments for U.S. isolationism (which seem to grow louder by the day), peace through economic engagement (which provided no guarantee of peace in World War One), and traditional nuclear deterrence a-la USSR-U.S. Cold War relations. Crouching Tiger concludes with Navarro’s own strategies to avoid conflict and ensure peace.

If Navarro can be criticized for anything, it is that Crouching Tiger lands a little on the alarmist side. But perhaps in a nation that has tolerated the squeeze of sequestration, watched its military readiness decline as the U.S. Navy rides out the last of its Reagan-era investments, and where more than one politician on either side of the aisle has promoted isolationism (either directly or by reduced investment in defense) as a sound fiscal and geopolitical policy, a little alarmism may not be a bad thing. Indeed, if Navarro’s goal in publishing Crouching Tiger is to provide a wake up call to his readers about the stark realities and implications of U.S. policy, investment, and presence in the Asia-Pacific, he has done so with considerable aplomb. The text is not lengthy; some scholars of the Asia-Pacific may find that some of Navarro’s arguments lack some context. Despite this, a broad audience will find much to consider in the pages of Crouching Tiger. As such, this book comes highly recommended to readers from the most accomplished geopolitical scholars to high-level policymakers and diplomats. I will add my voice to this chorus.

Note: There is an accompanying film series for Crouching Tiger. Find more details at Crouching Tiger’s website.

Sally DeBoer is the Book Review Coordinator for CIMSEC. She can be reached at books@cimsec.org.

Diplomatic Dimension of Maritime Challenges for India in the 21st Century

Kumar, Yogendra. Diplomatic Dimension of Maritime Challenges for India in the 21st Century. New Delhi: Pentagon Press, 2015, pp. 258, 995 Rs.

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By G. Parthasarathy

While the present discourse in India is largely on its civilizational past and on the contemporary challenges across its land borders, very little attention has been paid to the crucial and indeed imperative role of seafaring trade and maritime security, and indeed the entire spectrum of maritime affairs. Until recently, there has been little realization of the importance of these issues in safeguarding the Indian way of life and ensuring that India emerges as an increasingly influential power, dedicated to peace and cooperation with all. Even school textbooks contain very little information about India’s maritime traditions or the decline of India’s role in maritime trade with the advent of European Power across the world, particularly since the 18th century.

India’s maritime history began in the 3rd millennium BCE when the Indus Valley established maritime contacts with Mesopotamia. Following the Roman occupation of Egypt, trade flourished with the Roman Empire, not only with India’s west coast, but also with Tamil Pandyan Kings. The Chola Dynasty reached out beyond the shores of what is now Tamil Nadu between the Third and Thirteenth Centuries, extending its domain from Sri Lanka to Srivijaya (Indonesia) in Southeast Asia. Similar trade and maritime contacts flourished between rulers of Kalinga (Orissa) and the kingdoms of South and Southeast Asia, including Myanmar, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka.

Across India’s western shores, Quilon enjoyed growing trade links with the Phoenicians and Romans. Trade with Mesopotamia and the shores of Africa flourished.  Further north, the Marathas developed a maritime force that could challenge the ships of European powers like the Portugal and Britain until they inexplicably lost interest in maritime power. Trade flourished from western shores across the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean until European dominance of the sea lanes gained ascendancy. From the 18th century onward, India lapsed into a centuries long phase of ‘maritime blindness.’

India and China played a significant and even dominant role in world trade up to that point. India is estimated to have had the largest economy in the medieval world until the 16th century. English historian Angus Madison has estimated that India’s share in world income was then 27%, compared to Europe’s share of 23%. After three centuries worth of European domination, India’s share fell to 3% of the global economy. In 1950, China’s share in world trade was 1% and India’s was 1.9% – virtually double that of China. In 2014, India’s share of world trade had a fallen to 1.7 % while China’s had grown to 12.2%. This falling share of our world trade sadly reflects the relative decline of India’s regional influence in Asia and indeed globally since independence.

The book Diplomatic Dimension of Maritime Challenges for India in the 21st Century, by former diplomat Yogendra Kumar, carries out a detailed analysis of these factors while spelling out the challenges and prospects for a future Indian role in shaping the governance of maritime affairs in the coming decades. In this endeavor, he casts the spotlight on the civilizational dimension of India’s role as a reinvigorated maritime power which, as part of its contemporary diplomacy, aims to subserve the larger Indian foreign policy which finds its inspiration from the lofty ideals of the country’s freedom struggle.  While most diplomats tend to focus primarily on the diplomatic dimensions of maritime security, naval officers focus more on actual maritime power. Having served on the Faculty of India’s National Defence College and worked with the National Maritime Foundation in Delhi, the ambassador has brought his experience to bear on his meticulous research, and his handling, at a senior level in the Indian foreign office, of several multilateral institutions analyzed in his book. His intellectual inquiry not only spans India’s recent post-independence past, especially post-Cold War maritime history, but also offers insightful comments on the capacities and shortcomings of the relevant maritime agencies as they face myriad existing and over-the-horizon challenges to national security. These strategic challenges get compounded, geographically and paradigmatically, as the country charts its course to emerge as one of the fastest growing economies in the world. These challenges are also evaluated from the point of view of failed political power transitions since the end of the Cold War.

In addressing the diplomatic dimension of the country’s maritime challenges, the author holistically examines the evolution and the potential role of all the key maritime agencies in today’s unique circumstances, framed by deep geopolitical turbulence and uncertainty, paying extensive attention to the Indian Navy, the Coast Guard, the Coastal Police belonging to the country’s maritime provinces, the Indian shipping services, and the Department of Ocean Affairs. Whilst the Indian Navy remains the centerpiece of his narrative, the array of these agencies signifies that a favorable maritime order can only be shaped by the breadth of these organizations. Thus, approaching this effort in balance-of-power or zero-sum terms will be counter-productive, even in a shortened time horizon. The ambassador’s thought-provoking analysis of the security paradigm involves an examination of causative factors, ranging from the phenomenon of failed/failing states, the fragility of multilateral institutions, to the whole range of so-called ‘non-traditional’ security challenges induced by revolution of technology, including military technology. The author also, significantly, posits that maritime security is a subset of wider international security, especially of the littoral regions. He points at the deteriorating relations amongst the major powers, creating a worrying, de-stabilizing maritime salience. He analyzes the impact of these rapidly mutating constituent factors on the doctrines and structures of the Indian maritime agencies; introducing an interesting discussion on the recommended role and capacities of the Indian foreign office as well as other government structures. The leveraging of both hard and soft power maritime capabilities in diplomacy would help regional stabilization, resting on India’s benign image and its historically non-disruptive political consolidation model.

Quite naturally, as he discusses the entire threat spectrum of ‘traditional’ and ‘non-traditional’ maritime challenges, Kumar focuses on what we have done for the safety of our nationals living in our western neighborhood, where thousands have had to be evacuated from countries experiencing political instability and violence. India’s national maritime policies will also have to cater to the possibility of a much larger scale evacuation of Indian nationals should instability and violence spread to the Arab Gulf countries, where over 7 million Indians live, in addition to catering to the security of our sea lanes from where we get over 70% of our energy requirements of oil and gas. He also focuses on challenges posed by an emerging and assertive China as it proceeds with its ”One Belt One Road” initiative across our shores; in his discussion on naval grand strategy for India, the ambassador offers an interesting take as to how this challenge can be ‘finessed.’ The high seas are, after all, vast areas where powers can both cooperate and contend.

The most significant aspect of Mr. Kumar’s book on maritime challenges is his focus of attention on what needs to be done for restructuring institutions and building maritime capabilities in shipyards and research institutions,to meet the forthcoming challenges and opportunities in coming decades. With its ambitious plans for more Aircraft Carriers as well as both attack and ballistic missile submarines, the Indian navy has fortunately been more far-sighted that the other armed services in realizing that military power cannot be built primarily on imports of crucial defense equipment. Yogendra Kumar has quite appropriately noted that for the foreseeable future, India’s concentration will be on the sea-lanes of the Indian Ocean. He also notes that in maritime affairs, there is need for both regional and global institutions in order for trade across the high seas remains unaffected. While institutions are being built for trade and cooperation across the Indian Ocean, India cannot ignore that over 40% of its exports are routed through the South China Sea, now the focus of escalating rivalries over maritime boundaries. As he reviews these governance mechanisms, the author makes concrete suggestions to make them, especially those concerning the Indian Ocean, capable of multilateral efforts and of thought leadership to stabilize and buttress the maritime order for salutary effect on the global security paradigm as a whole. His approach of ‘fore grounding’ the ‘non-traditional security’ agenda for these institutions over that of ‘traditional security’ agenda in their activities offers considerable food for thought for the proponents of hardcore security doctrines.

For that last-named reason, Yogendra Kumar’s meticulous study of maritime institutions, strategies and diplomacy is “essential reading,” not just for scholars and lay readers, but also for every young officer who wishes to make the Navy a fulfilling career.

G. Parthasarathy is a strategic analyst and columnist. He last served as the India‘s High Commissioner to Pakistan. He has also been Indian Ambassador to Myanmar and High Commissioner to Australia and Cyprus, with  earlier diplomatic tenures in Moscow, Washington and Karachi. During his diplomatic career, he has been Adviser to both India‘s Foreign Secretary and former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi.