Tag Archives: India

Communist China’s Approach to Force: 1962 Lessons for the Senkaku Islands?

By Alex Calvo

Given the continued tensions in the East and South China Seas, and the constant speculation on whether Beijing may choose to escalate, it can be useful to have a look at how the PRC has traditionally resorted to force, and in particular the 1962 Sino-Indian War.

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Professor Brahma Chellaney wrote an interesting summary of Communist China’s approach to war, based on that conflict, which saw the Chinese Army penetrate deeply into India for 32 days, after which “Beijing announced a unilateral ceasefire, and the war ended as abruptly as it had begun. Ten days later, the Chinese began withdrawing from the areas they had penetrated on India’s eastern flank, between Bhutan and Burma, but they kept their territorial gains in the West—part of the original princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. India had suffered a humiliating rout, and China’s international stature had grown substantially”. The six principles displayed were:

  • Surprise. As already advised by Sun Tzu, who wrote that all warfare was “based on deception”.

  • Concentration, “hitting as fast and as hard as possible”.

  • First Strike.

  • Waiting, and choosing the right moment.

  • Camouflaging offence as defence, engaging in “defensive counterattacks”.

  • Daring. A tendency to gamble and take risks.

When it comes to the Senkaku Islands, a question is whether these principles may be employed, in the form of an airborne or seaborne landing of troops or a mixed force of military personnel and “activists”, bypassing the Coastguard units shielding them and taking advantage of the lack of land forces.

Aerial view of the Senkaku Islands
Aerial view of the Senkaku Islands

Concerning surprise, we can see a clear distinction between 1962 and this scenario in terms of strategic surprise. Beijing is announcing every day that she wants the Senkaku, and not making any effort at all to pretend that she is only ready to resort to non-violent means. No ambiguity here, therefore no strategic surprise is being sought. At the tactical level, on the other hand, there is no surprise either in the constant harassment at the hands of paramilitary assets or “civilian” expeditions, but this could be a cover behind which to prepare a landing by military or other government personnel. It is here that surprise may lie, since Beijing may try to take advantage of the presumption that it is only unarmed activists who try to land, inserting an armed force, maybe by air.

With regard to concentration, the nature of the islands means that this principle would not be applicable in exactly the same sense as it was in 1962. Rather than hitting “as fast and as hard as possible”, as Chellaney explains China did against India, the goal would be still be to do it as swiftly as possible but not as hard as possible, rather the contrary, since the idea would be to avoid a clash with the Japanese Coast Guard or other government agencies. Beijing’s goal would be to force Tokyo to take the always difficult decision in a democracy to fire the first shot.

When it comes to striking first, again we have to note an essential difference. Beijing would still be interested in surprise, as already noted, that is she would try to make the first move (and by definition she would, since the islands are already in Japanese hands) but not to shoot first. This would be a major difference with 1962 or with the 1979 “lesson” against Vietnam.

The idea that an attack should be launched at the right time, with a view to a favourable worldwide state of affairs, remains as relevant as ever. This is linked to one of Beijing’s imperatives, preventing the US from coming to Japan’s aid. It would also involve other, regional, powers however. China has a need to keep an eye on Russia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and India, among others. It must be said, concerning this, that while it is true that Beijing has usually been smart to launch its limited offensives at the right time (this includes the seizure of the Paracel Islands, occupation of Johnson Reef, and capture of Mischief Reef), when it comes to Japan she miscalculated in 2010. Beijing imposed an embargo on rare earths exports in reaction to the arrest of a trawler’s skipper, not only failing to secure any objective beyond his release but unleashing a major effort to implement alternative technologies, recycle, seek new suppliers, and even explore seabed deposits. The result is that Japan has significantly cut down her dependence on Chinese rare earths.

Japanese air patrol over the Senkaku Islands
Japanese air patrol over the Senkaku Islands

The tendency to carry out “defensive counterattacks” seems to be a constant in Chinese behaviour, which Chellaney reminds his readers had already been noted by the Pentagon in its 2010 report on “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China” to Congress. This report lists a number of instances where Beijing chose to seize the initiative, while framing her actions in a “response” narrative. In a way this is already been happening in the Senkaku Islands, since after each incident Beijing not only rejects Japanese protests but actually issues her own, saying that they are part of her territory and that therefore it is Japanese units which are trespassing. The text also points out how Chinese doctrine calls for waiting for the enemy to strike first, while defining that first strike in political, not necessarily military, terms. Thus it is fine to be the first to resort to force in reaction to a political offensive. The report quotes from “the authoritative work, Science of Military Strategy,” to explain that “Striking only after the enemy has struck does not mean waiting for the enemy’s strike passively.… It doesn’t mean to give up the ‘advantageous chances’ in campaign or tactical operations, for the ‘first shot’ on the plane of politics must be differentiated from the ‘first shot’ on that of tactics… if any country or organization violates the other country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the other side will have the right to ‘fire the first shot’ on the plane of tactics.'”

Would this doctrine be compatible with a sneak landing on the Senkaku Islands? It could fit with it if we expanded it to comprise three, as opposed to two planes. The first one would still be the political, with Beijing claiming (as she does) that the islands are hers and that therefore the Japanese are invaders, a position made much easier to sustain by Tokyo’s reluctance to develop the islands, thus contradicting her claims that not only do they belong to the country but that there is no territorial dispute. The second one, where Beijing would be taking the initiative, would be the “tactical-cold” one, that is the employment of force (in the sense of deploying military or paramilitary personnel in violation of Japan’s borders but without inflicting casualties). Finally, the third would be the “tactical-hot,” that is the actual employment of weapons with live fire, where China would rather have Japan be the first to shoot, in the knowledge that it is difficult for democracies to take such decisions and thus in the hope that Tokyo would refrain from doing it or that, if she did, this could be used to Beijing’s advantage on the propaganda and diplomacy fronts.

Finally, with regard to China’s tendency to gamble and take risks, Chellaney notes that this could be furthered by her “second-strike nuclear capability and unprecedented economic and conventional military strength.” In addition to these two powerful factors, we could perhaps mention two additional ones, whose impact is less clear cut but which may nevertheless have some influence: a possible economic crisis and popular demand for the seizing of the Islands. Concerning a crisis, a growing number of voices are alerting about the possibility that the country’s uninterrupted economic growth may sooner or later be brought to a halt. Whether that would prompt a more cautious foreign policy or on the contrary whet Beijing’s appetite for adventures is open to debate. With regard to her domestic public opinion, Beijing is playing a dangerous game by pushing so hard for the Senkaku Islands and thus risking becoming a prisoner of her own narrative. This brings to mind Hugh Bicheno’s comment, in his unofficial history of the Falklands War, that territorial conflicts may be useful to “distract the masses,” but that this “creates an issue others will exploit to question the Nationalist credentials of whoever is refraining from recovering the lost lands.”

We can thus conclude that Communist China’s traditional approach to force, as exemplified by the 1962 War, means a clear danger that Beijing will try to seize the Senkaku Islands by inserting forces and daring Tokyo to be the first to open fire.

Alex Calvo is a guest professor at Nagoya University (Japan) focusing on security and defence policy, international law, and military history in the Indian-Pacific Ocean Region. A member of the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) and Taiwan’s South China Sea Think-Tank, he is currently writing a book about Asia’s role and contribution to the Allied victory in the Great War. He tweets @Alex__Calvo and his work can be found here.

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Upcoming Topic Weeks Announcement

CIMSEC Topic Weeks have always been an excellent way to engage our community of defense and foreign policy professionals and academics to highlight issues that deserve greater attention. CIMSEC’s  upcoming topic weeks will be listed well in advance in this post to give our prospective authors more lead time to develop their ideas and contribute superb publications. Expect subsequent announcements at the beginning of each month listing specific dates and deadlines for individual topic weeks.

Note: The  schedule has been amended to accommodate the Distributed Lethality topic week in February. 

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January: The Littoral Arena

Submissions due by Thursday, January 21
Topic Week runs from Monday, January 25 to Sunday, January 31

The littorals only constitute around 15 percent of the world’s oceanic expanse, yet  60 percent of the world’s urbanized populations are located within sixty miles of the coast, including 80 percent of the world’s capitals. The U.S. Navy has only recently drawn attention to the littoral domain after decades of emphasizing blue water sea control. What are the unique warfighting challenges posed by the littorals? What capabilities and operating concepts best enable power projection in this complex environment? Can navies optimized for blue water operations effectively translate their experience into the littorals?

midget sub
Iranian midget submarine.

February: Distributed Lethality

Submissions due by Sunday February 21
Topic Week runs from February 22-February 28. 

The Distributed Lethality Task Force partnered with CIMSEC to launch a topic week exploring the concept and outlined various lines of inquiry the task force is interested in pursuing. Distributed Lethality is an initiative launched by Navy leadership to explore the warfighting benefits offered by dispersing surface combatants, employing them in new roles, and adding more firepower across the fleet. 

PACIFIC OCEAN (May 23, 2014) The guided-missile destroyers USS Halsey (DDG 97), USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112) and USS Gridley (DDG 101) are underway in formation during a strait transit exercise. The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group is underway conducting a composite training unit exercise off the coast of Southern California. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)
PACIFIC OCEAN (May 23, 2014) The guided-missile destroyers USS Halsey (DDG 97), USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112) and USS Gridley (DDG 101) are underway in formation during a strait transit exercise. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

March: Naval Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief (HA/DR)

Time and time again, naval forces have performed admirably as first responders to devastating natural disasters. Naval forces can rapidly maneuver to disaster struck areas and facilitate the transfer of millions of pounds of critical supplies in a matter of weeks. The Asia-Pacific is especially prone, with over half a million lives lost and $500 billion in damages incurred within the last decade due to natural disasters. Can HA/DR operations refine warfighting skills? What are the political challenges and benefits of deploying naval forces in support of humanitarian operations? Could demand for naval aid increase as sea levels risen and climate change progresses? 

Airmen set sail aboard USNS Mercy for humanitarian mission
Hospital ship USS Mercy.

April: Sino-Indo Strategic Rivalry

Much has been made of great power competition in the Asia-Pacific, with the U.S. and China considered the main actors, but India is a powerhouse in the making. India’s rapidly growing economy and modernizing armed forces ensures its relevance in the Asia-Pacific. Prime Minister Modi aligned India with U.S. policy towards South China Sea maritime disputes with a joint statement stating “We affirm the importance of safeguarding maritime security and ensuring freedom of navigation and over flight throughout the region…” Additionally, the Indian peninsula juts 1000 km into the Indian ocean, providing India’s carrier equipped navy superb positioning to affect sea lines of communication flowing towards the straits of Malacca. How might this strategic rivalry evolve, and is there precedent and potential for conflict?

The Deputy Chief of General Staff of the Chinese PLA, Gen. Ma Xiaotian calls on the Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Nirmal Verma, in New Delhi on December 09, 2011.

Authors can send get in touch with the editorial team and send their submissions to Nextwar@cimsec.org. Topic weeks are competitive and not all submissions may be accepted, so we encourage thoroughly researched contributions. CIMSEC topic weeks are our opportunity to make our mark as a community on the big discussions, and we look forward to promoting your insights. 

Dmitry Filipoff is CIMSEC’s Director of Online Content. Follow us @CIMSEC.

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November Member Round-Up

Welcome to the November 2015 Member Round-Up. Over the past several weeks CIMSEC members have examined several international maritime security issues, including the modernization of U.S. Naval capabilities and strategies, France’s air war against ISIS, Russian military involvement in the Syrian conflict, the future of the U.S. Air-Sea Battle operational concept and growing maritime trilateral relations between India, Japan and the U.S.

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Beginning the Round-Up at The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Bryan Clark discusses the unsustainable operational stress the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are facing with longer and more frequent deployments in multiple areas of operation. As the U.S. combats ISIS across Africa and the Middle East while also addressing Chinese and Russian international boundary conflicts, Mr. Clark explains that current processes to prepare forces for deployment are insufficient and limit the abilities for naval and marine forces to deliver certain capabilities effectively. Also at CSBA, Mr. Clark explains the affects of a decreasing Defense Department budget and the possible steps it can take to minimize the impact of reduced spending levels.

Chuck Hill, for his Coast Guard Blog, discusses the development of the National Fleet Plan and its objective to increase cooperation between the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard through increased opportunities of commonality and interoperability. Mr. Hill describes the strategic laydown of the plan concerning shared facilities and ports, particularly the stationing of Coast Guard Offshore Patrol Cutters at U.S. Naval bases.

At The War on the Rocks, Bryan McGrath provides an analysis outlining key components of Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio’s military modernization platform. Mr. McGrath is supportive of Rubio’s focus to place priority on undersea and electronic warfare technologies considering these features of naval power are imperative for the U.S to maintain primacy in the maritime domain. Further to this, the strategy supports the development and construction of the Navy’s next ballistic missile submarine (SSBN(x)), the Air Force’s LRS-B and modernization of the U.S. nuclear arsenal to enhance strategic deterrence in the future.

Also on the future of U.S. military and naval strategy, Harry Kazianis at The National Interest shares an interview he recently participated in with the Air-Sea Battle Office. In the interview Mr. Kazianis poses several questions concerning the operational capabilities of U.S. forces within challenging environments where advanced Anti-Area/Access-Denial strategies are in effect. The interview focuses on the applicability and difficulties key components of the ASB concept encounter within A2/AD environments and the corresponding development of the Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons (JAM-GC) framework.

Entering the Asia-Pacific, Mira Rapp-Hooper at Lawfare discusses the U.S.S. Lassen’s freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) in the Spratly Islands and the legal implications the operation has concerning the status of the U.S. government’s recognition of the artificially constructed islands. Ms. Rapp-Hooper analyzes the U.S.S. Lassen FONOP attempting to establish whether the operation was an exercise of innocent passage or a demonstration of normal military operations within the surrounding Chinese-claimed 12 n.m. territorial waters. Ankit Panda, at The Diplomat, also interprets tensions in the South China Sea with an explanation of the political statements released from senior Chinese and American officials. Mr. Panda discusses the opposing remarks provided by Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter concerning U.S. FONOP’s in the South China Sea and the overall security of the region’s maritime domain.

Paul Pryce, for Offiziere, explains aspects of the Papua New Guinea Defense Force procurement strategy and the regional pressures demanding its success. Mr. Pryce suggests that Papua New Guinea become a more independent actor in terms of patrolling and monitoring its territorial waters without extensive foreign assistance from regional allies such as Australia. The procurement of affordable high-capacity offshore patrol vessels as opposed to advanced and expensive frigates is crucial for New Guinea to develop the ability to control its expansive EEZ territory and contribute to maritime stability within the region.

To conclude the November Round-Up, Darshana M. Baruah also for Offiziere, discusses the evolving trilateral relationship between Japan, India and the U.S. in the Indo-Pacific. An analysis of the trilateral naval exercise Malabar 2015, where an aircraft carrier, missile cruisers and frigates participated, reveals that the alignment of Indian, American and Japanese interests are consistent with the developing geo-strategic landscape of the region. Ms. Baruah suggests that the rise of China and the changing dynamics of maritime security and naval strategy have resulted in the need for these new political and strategic arrangements.

Members at CIMSEC were also active elsewhere during the month of November:

At CIMSEC we encourage members to continue writing, either here on the NextWar site or through other means. You can assist us by emailing your works to dmp@cimsec.org.

Sam Cohen is currently studying Honors Specialization Political Science at Western University in Canada. His interests are in the fields of strategic studies and defense policy and management.

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‘Net Security Provider’ Defined: An Analysis of India’s New Maritime Strategy-2015

This publication originally featured at the National Maritime Foundation, and was republished with permission. You may read it in its original form here

By Dr. Gurpreet S. Khurana

During the Naval Commanders Conference held in New Delhi on 26 October 2015, the Indian Defence Minister Shri Manohar Parrikar released India’s revised maritime-military strategy titled, ‘Ensuring Secure Seas: Indian Maritime Security Strategy’ (IMSS-2015). It supersedes the 2007 strategy document titled, ‘Freedom to Use the Seas: India’s Maritime-Military Strategy (IMMS-2007). This essay seeks to examine the salient features of the new strategy, including in comparison to IMMS-2007.

IMSS-2015 is the first strategy document released by the Indian Navy since the 26 November 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai (26/11), when jihadi operatives well-versed in nautical skills used the sea route from Karachi to Mumbai, and carried out dastardly cold-blooded killings in India’s ‘financial capital.’ In wake of 26/11, the Indian government designated the Indian Navy as the nodal authority responsible for overall maritime security, including coastal and offshore security. The new strategy reflects the overwhelming imperative for the Navy to counter state-sponsored terrorism that may manifest in the maritime domain, and prevent a repeat of 26/11. It also addresses India’s response to other forms of non-traditional threats emanating ‘at’ and ‘from’ the sea that pose security challenges to ‘territorial’ India and its vital interests.

While 26/11 may have been among the major ‘triggers’ for India to review its maritime-military strategy, IMSS-2015 clearly indicates that proxy war through terrorism has not prevented India to adopt an outward-looking approach to maritime security. The new strategy dilates the geographical scope of India’s maritime focus. Ever since the Navy first doctrinal articulation in 2004—the Indian Maritime Doctrine, 2004, which was revised in 2009—India’s areas of maritime interest have been contained within the Indo-Pacific region, with the ‘primary area’ broadly encompassing the northern Indian Ocean Region (IOR). IMSS-2015 expands the areas of interest southwards and westwards by bringing in the South-West Indian Ocean and Red Sea within its ‘primary area;’ and the western Coast of Africa, the Mediterranean Sea and “other areas of national interest based on considerations of Indian diaspora, overseas investments and political reasons” within its ‘secondary area’ of interest.

IMSS-2015 is merely an expression of intent of the Indian Navy to engage with the countries and shape the maritime environment in these areas. Nonetheless, the Navy’s multi-vectored and expanding footprint in recent years through overseas deployments clearly indicates that the maritime force is developing the capabilities to implement the intent.

India has always maintained that the International Shipping Lanes (ISL) and the maritime choke-points of the IOR constitute the primary area of interest. However, the new strategy goes beyond IMMS-2007 to include two additional choke-points: the Mozambique Channel and Ombai-Wetar Straits, which are strategically located at the far end of the south-western and south-eastern Indian Ocean (respectively). Through a formal ‘recognition’ of these choke-points, IMSS-2015 not only reiterates the embayed nature of the Indian Ocean, but also highlights—albeit implicitly—the ocean’s geo-strategic ‘exclusivity’ for India.

IMSS-2015 also clarifies India’s intent to be a ‘net security provider’ in its areas of interest. The concept of ‘net security’ has hitherto been ambiguous and subject to varied interpretations. It is, therefore, refreshing to note that the document defines the concept, as “…the state of actual security available in an area, upon balancing prevailing threats, inherent risks and rising challenges in the maritime environment, against the ability to monitor, contain and counter all of these.” In the process, India’s role in this context also stands clarified. India seeks a role as a ‘net security provider’ in the region, rather than being a ‘net provider of security’ as a regional ‘policeman.’

IMSS-2015 expounds on India’s strategy for deterrence and response against conventional military threats and the attendant capability development, sufficiently enough for an unclassified document. In doing so, it may be inferred that the concept of ‘maritime security’—at least in the Indian context—operates across the entire spectrum of conflict. The new strategy attributes this to the “blurring of traditional and non-traditional threats…(in terms of their) sources, types and intensity…(necessitating) a seamless and holistic approach towards maritime security.” Notably, in contrast, for the established naval powers of the ‘western hemisphere,’ the usage of the concept of ‘maritime security’ is limited to ensuring security at sea against non-traditional threats, including those posed by non-State actors.

Although the epithet of India’s maritime-military strategy has changed from “Freedom to Use the Seas” (IMMS-2007) to “Ensuring Secure Seas” (IMSS-2015), ‘freedom of seas’ for national purposes remains inter alia a key objective of the current strategy, which is sought to be achieved through the attainment of a more ‘encompassing’ end-state of ‘secure seas.’

India’s role as a ‘net maritime security provider’ in the region is not only its normative responsibility as a regional power, but is closely interwoven with the nation’s own economic growth and prosperity. The ‘roadmap’ in IMSS-2015 provides a direction to the Navy to play this role as an effective instrument of the nation’s proactive foreign policy, in consonance with the ongoing endeavour of its apex political leadership, and echoes the enunciation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of “SAGAR” (Security and Growth for All in the Region). However, it remains to be seen how India’s navy would effectively balance the rather conflicting national security priorities of ensuring territorial defence across its oceanic frontiers versus providing ‘net maritime security’ in its regional neighbourhood.

Captain Gurpreet S Khurana, PhD is the Executive Director, National Maritime Foundation (NMF), New Delhi. The views expressed are his own and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Indian Navy, the NMF or the Government of India. He can be reached at gurpreet.bulbul@gmail.com.