Tag Archives: Indian Ocean

The Indian Navy’s Master Defense Plan 

By Periklis Stampoulis


The South Asian region is dominated by India. Along with Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, it forms a self-contained geographic region called the Indian subcontinent. Geopolitical imperatives for India’s security and independence are the control, or at least influence, of the sub-continent and maritime expansion through the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).1

The Strategic Environment and Maritime Requirements

By fulfilling its “destiny,” India bumps into Chinese regional interests. Attempting to expand its own interests, commercial activities, and energy goods imports, China has launched the “String of Pearls” project, namely the construction of a web of naval infrastructure (ports and bases) throughout the IOR. These activities, along with the arms sales to IOR states, cause fears of Chinese encirclement and thus fuel a long simmering rivalry between India and China.2

China has already built and operates a military base in Djibouti, while Chinese-financed ports in the IOR such as Gwadar in Pakistan, Hambantota in Sri Lanka, along with Chittagong and Sonadia in Bangladesh, provide amenities in Chinese Navy (PLAN) ships.

In order to address these upcoming issues in its “natural” maritime environment, Indian political leaders realized that a strong and formidable Indian Navy (IN) is the answer to increasing maritime competition in the IOR. Therefore, a Maritime Security Strategy was promulgated, where it is stated that the primary interest in the region is the IOR.3

The implementation of this strategy is primarily centered on the Indian Navy. Critical missions and tasks are outlined in 2015 Indian Maritime Doctrine. There are four types of operations in which the Indian Navy (IN) is (and will be) involved: a) military, b) diplomatic, c) constabulary and d) benign.4

The military role is a navy’s essence. The most important military missions derived from the IN’s objectives adhere to Corbettian theory (Sea Control, Sea Denial, and SLOC protection),5 while tasking entails the whole spectrum of modern naval warfare such as Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW), Anti-submarine Warfare (ASW), Anti-Air Warfare (AAW), and Electronic Warfare (EW).6

Diplomatic and constabulary roles cover a range of activities from participation in Peace Support Operations to anti-piracy and anti-terrorist operations.7 The benign role of the IN is comprised of Humanitarian Assistance, Disaster Relief, and Search and Rescue (SAR).8

The Indian Navy’s Current and Future Situation

However ambitious the IN’s official documents are, they are limited by the IN’s real capabilities. A quick analysis reveals the numbers are not yet there. The IN currently operates:9

  • 1 Aircraft Carrier (INS Vikramaditya), capable of carrying 26 MiG-29 fighters and 10 Ka-31 helicopters – a second, the INS Viraat, is slated for decommissioning this year
  • 11 Destroyers
  • 14 Frigates
  • 23 Corvettes
  • 1 nuclear-powered submarine
  • 13 conventionally-powered submarines
  • 4 Mine countermeasures vessels
  • 1 Landing Platform Deck (LPD)
  • 8 Landing Ships (LST)
  • 4 Fleet Tankers (AORs)
  • 10 large Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs)

Taking a closer look at India’s primary area of interest, the IOR, it is appararent that it can be divided into smaller areas. Two of the areas are especially critical for Indian maritime policy: the Arab Sea and the Gulf of Bengal. The IN has only one aircraft carrier, thus one fully operational Task Force (TF). This means that only one of the two vital areas can be adequately covered at any given time in the event of armed conflict. This TF’s missions could vary from sea control of the assigned area to escorting the LPD and LST-comprised Amphibious Task Force (ATF).Therefore, the Indian Naval High Command must prioritize which of these areas is more critical and assign the carrier group within. Remaining units will deploy in the “secondary” area, maintaining a more defensive posture and with the aid of shore-based aircraft.

Submarines could monitor critical chokepoints such as the Hormuz Strait, Bab el Mandeb, and Andaman and Nicobar islands. Additionally, the IN would mostly likely establish patrols along critical Sea Lines of Communications (SLOCs). Strategic missiles submarines would deploy in the open sea, ready to launch their payload if ordered.

Tensions with neighboring states and China’s ascent have forced India to re-evaluate its naval strategy and strengthen its navy. The IN has launched an ambitious 200-ship-navy initiative utilizing Indian shipbuilding industry and indigenous research and development programs (R&D), along with foreign defense firms (e.g. Rafael).10 Between 2025 and 2030, the projected IN will consist of the following units:

  • 3 Aircraft Carriers (AC), one of them nuclear-powered, capable of carrying 26, 30, and 45 fixed-wing aircraft respectively.
  • 12 Destroyers
  • 20 Frigates
  • 12 ASW, 16 Shallow Water ASW, and 6 ASuW Corvettes.
  • 12 Minesweepers
  • 18 Attack Submarines (SSNs)
  • 4-7 nuclear Ballistic Missile Submarines (SSBNs)
  • 4-5 LPDs
  • Various offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) capable of carrying SR SAMs (e.g IGLA SA-18)
  • Various multi-role helicopters and UAVs
  • 5 AORs and 4 Multi-Utility Vessels

Zone Defense

With a fleet of this size, the IN is significantly more capable of addressing regional military tensions  with another major power such as China, along with its regional allies (mainly Pakistan), or provide support to a friendly country attacked by an adversary – e.g. Myanmar attacked by China.

As part of the ongoing sea trials, the first indigenously built, Scorpene class submarine Kalvari undertook it’s first torpedo firing on 26 May 2017. The submarine is being built by the Mazagaon Docks Limited (MDL) at Mumbai. As part of the project, MDL will build a total of six submarines. (Wikimedia Commons)

India can currently exert influence over a large portion of the IOR and has no desire to expand its territory in the littorals. Therefore, it can be classified as a status quo power. Its main objective is to defend its dominant position, relative to the rest of the sub-continent, against any outsider’s attack. But how is this defense best accomplished?

The most suitable strategy would be zone defense. The overall area to be defended by the IN can be divided into two distinct sub-areas, where the first contains the Indian littoral. Therefore, small surface combatants, attack submarines, land-based aircraft, and shore installations are most useful here.11

The second sub-area covers the vast oceanic region starting from the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and covering the rest of the IOR, namely of the Arab Sea, the Gulf of Bengal, and the region south of Sri Lanka. It is a vast sea mass without any sign of land, except for minor islets in the southern part (e.g. Ascension Island, Diego Garcia). Consequently, the most appropriate form of naval warfare involves carrier-based task forces with ships and aircraft equipped with long-range sensors and weapons for the purpose of exercising sea control.

There is also another key geographic feature: the Andaman-Nicobar island complex, which is a perfect setting for Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) operations due to its infinite bays. These can provide safe havens for small craft or submarines, air defense installations, and anti-ship missile batteries. The significance of the Andaman-Nicobar A2/AD “bubble” has already been acknowledged by the Chinese.12

The Andaman & Nicobar islands. (Himfact via Youtube)

In this plan, India would deploy a basketball-style two-zone defense (inner-outer, each one favoring different types of naval operations) and an A2/AD “bubble” in the vicinity of the Andaman-Nicobar island complex to act as a bulkwark against Chinese intrusions from the east.

The Scope of Potential Operations

The IN’s master naval war plan is probably based on the establishment of Sea Control of the IOR obtained by the three CBGs. Depending on the prioritization of threats, two CBGs could unite and form a Carrier Task Force (CATF), with significant firepower capable of bringing a decisive outcome. By obtaining Sea Control of the Arab Sea, the Gulf of Bengal and the region south of Sri Lanka, CBGs/CATF, could provide long-range protection to an Amphibious Task Force in order to occupy an enemy naval base or to reoccupy a previously lost national territory.

A CBG’s probable composition could consist of 3-4 Destroyers, 5-6 Frigates, 4 ASW Corvettes, and probably one submarine. Every CBG possesses enhanced ASuW capabilities because of BrahMos anti-ship missiles (240nm range), and organic air assets (fighter/-helicopters),  defense-in-depth against air threats (fighters, Barak-8 MR SAM, Barak-1 SR SAM, SA-16 SR SAM and AK-630 CIWS), ASW capabilities (e.g. towed sonar arrays), EW capabilities, and a submarine capable of executing multiple tasks (ASuW, SSK, patrolling, intelligence gathering, etc.)

There are some remaining units not joining a CBG: 2-3 Destroyers, 2-5 Frigates, and probably a number of ASuW Corvettes. This task group could be assigned various additional tasks from the close escort of the ATF(s), to the harassment and outflanking of an enemy naval force.

Amphibious operation capabilities are upgraded with the presence of 5 LPDs which can form one or two ATFs occupying a hostile naval base (e.g. a Pakistani or another “String of Pearls” base) or re-capturing national territory. Minesweepers can be utilized for “paving” the way for the ATF to come or clear national territory from enemy mines.

Indian maritime security strategy acknowledges 10 chokepoints in the entire IOR as of critical importance.13 Monitoring them is an appropriate task for attack submarines. Apart from 3 submarines for CBG support (1 per CBG), remaining units could be utilized as their substitutes or establish patrols in assigned sectors covering the IOR SLOCs. SSBNs are expected to deploy in certain areas in order to strike enemy strategic infrastructure. A certain number of them could be expected to deploy in the South China Sea.

Other small units such as patrol vessels could be a threat in the littorals, harassing the advancing enemy force in coordination with shore batteries. Patrol vessels could be an asset in an Andaman and Nicobar A2/AD outpost. Unconventional swarm attacks by fast patrol boats, missile “traps” by armored OPVs or UAVs, minefields, and other types of operations against westbound “incomers” could severely impede their passage and cause significant losses.

The same concept of operations applies in the “inner” zone of the Indian littoral. OPVs, land-based aircraft and UAVs, and shore installations will operate against “incomers.” There is however a vital difference: unlike the other areas of operations, this inner zone constitutes the final line of defense in case of other areas’ breach.


There is an escalating tension in the IOR between two regional powers: India and China. The latter hopes to extend its influence by controlling IOR SLOCS (among other things), which deprive India of its natural maritime environment. India is trying to create a formidable navy, capable of addressing ever-growing Chinese ambitions and supporting its regional rivals in the Indian sub-continent (e.g. Pakistan). Judging by the IN’s future composition, a basketball-style two-zone defense, along with an A2/AD outpost in the Andaman/Nicobar islands, is the most probable way of the IN defending the country’s vital areas.

Periklis Stampoulis is a Hellenic Navy Officer. He holds a Master of Arts (MA) in International Relations and Strategic Studies from Panteion University, Greece.

Views expressed in this article are the author’s personal opinion and do not necessarily coincide with the official view of the Hellenic Navy.


[1] Stratfor, 2012, ‘The Geopolitics of India: A Shifting, Self-Contained World’, 01/04/12, [online], available in < https://www.stratfor.com/analysis/geopolitics-india-shifting-self-contained-world>, access 14/06/17

[2] Kaplan R.D., 2009, ‘Center Stage for the 21st Century: Power Plays in the Indian Ocean’, Foreign Affairs, March/April 2009, [online], available in < https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/east-asia/2009-03-01/center-stage-21st-century>, access 15/06/17

[3] Integrated Headquarters, Ministry of Defence (Navy) 2015, Ensuring Secure Seas: Indian Maritime Security Strategy (Naval Strategic Publication (NSP) 1.2), October 2015, p.32, [online], available in < https://www.indiannavy.nic.in/sites/default/files/Indian_Maritime_Security_Strategy_Document_25Jan16.pdf>, access 16/06/17

[4] Integrated Headquarters, Ministry of Defence (Navy) 2015, Indian Maritime Doctrine (Naval Strategic Publication 1.1), first print August 2009, p.91, [online], available in https://www.indiannavy.nic.in/sites/default/files/Indian-Maritime-Doctrine-2009-Updated-12Feb16.pdf, access 17/06/17

[5] Ibid, p.92-97

[6] Ibid, p.97-105

[7] Ibid, p. 116-119

[8] Ibid, p.120-122

[9] International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2016, ‘The Military Balance 2016’, Routledge, London- New York, p.252

[10] Further information at www.janes.com

[11] Vego M., 2005, Naval Strategy and Operations in Narrow Waters, second revised and expanded edition, Frank Cass, London-Portland OR, p.134

[12] Kaplan R.D., ‘Center Stage for the 21st Century: Power Plays in the Indian Ocean’, ibid

[13] Ensuring Secure Seas: Indian Maritime Security Strategy, ibid, p.18-21

Featured Image: INS Rajput firing a BrahMos missile (Wikimedia Commons)

The ‘Indo-Pacific’ Concept: Retrospect and Prospect

The following article originally featured at the National Maritime Foundation and is republished with permission. Read it in its original form here.                

By Gurpreet S. Khurana

Since 2010, the concept of ‘Indo-Pacific’ has gained increasing prevalence in the geopolitical and strategic discourse, and is now being used increasingly by policy-makers, analysts and academics in Asia and beyond.1 It is now precisely a decade since the concept was proposed by the author in 2007. Although the Australians have been using the term ‘Indo-Pacific’ earlier, it was the first time, at least in recent decades, that the concept was formally introduced and explained in an academic paper. The said paper titled ‘Security of Sea Lines: Prospects for India-Japan Cooperation’ was published in the January 2007 edition of Strategic Analyses journal of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), New Delhi.2

The term ‘Indo-Pacific’ combines the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and the Western Pacific Region (WP) – inclusive of the contiguous seas off East Asia and Southeast Asia – into a singular regional construct. There are some variations based on specific preferences of countries. For instance, the United States (U.S.) prefers to use the term ‘Indo-Asia-Pacific’, to encompass the entire swath of Indian and Pacific oceans, thereby enabling the U.S. inclusiveness for it to maintain its relevance as a resident power in this important region. Nonetheless, the fundamental ‘idea’ of ‘Indo-Pacific’ is accepted nearly universally. It has been argued that the concept of the Indo-Pacific may lead to a change in popular “mental maps” of how the world is understood in strategic terms.3

It may be conceded that there are some fundamental and distinct differences between the IOR and the WP in terms of geopolitics – including the geo-economics that shape geopolitics – and even the security environment. If so, how did the concept of ‘Indo-Pacific take root? It is a conceptual ‘aberration’? What was the underlying rationale behind the use of the term? This essay seeks to examine these pertinent issues. Furthermore, based on current trends, the analysis presents a prognosis on the future relevance of the ‘Indo-Pacific’ concept.

Indian Ocean-Western Pacific Divergences

Undeniably, the IOR and the WP differ substantially in nearly all aspects, ranging from the levels of economic development of countries and their social parameters, to the security environment. Unlike the IOR, the WP has been beset by major traditional (military) threats. Such insecurity is based on historical factors, mainly flowing from the adverse actions of dominant military powers, particularly since the advent of the 20th century – for instance, Japan; and now increasingly, China – resulting in heightened nationalism and an attempt to redraw sovereign boundaries, including ‘territorialization’ of the seas. The military dominance of these powers was a consequence of their economic progress, beginning with Japan, which later helped the other East Asian economies to grow through outsourcing of lower-end manufacturing industries – the so-called ‘Flying Geese Paradigm.’4

In contrast, the recent history of the IOR is not chequered by onslaught of any dominant and assertive local power. Why so? Despite being rich in natural resources – particularly hydrocarbons – the IOR countries were severely constrained to develop their economies. Not only did the colonial rule of western powers last longer in the IOR, but also these countries were too diverse in all aspects, and were never self-compelled to integrate themselves economically; and therefore, lagged behind East Asia substantially in terms of economic progress. As a result, many of these countries could not even acquire adequate capacity to govern and regulate human activity in their sovereign territories/maritime zones, let alone developing capabilities for military assertion against their neighbors. Therefore, the numerous maritime disputes in the IOR remain dormant, and have not yet translated into military insecurities. (The India-Pakistan contestation is among the rare exceptions, and is based on a very different causative factor.) The IOR is plagued more by non-traditional security issues, such as piracy, organized crime involving drugs and small-arms, illegal fishing, irregular migration, and human smuggling.

The Rationale

The broader rationale behind the prevalence of the ‘Indo-Pacific’ concept is the increasing developments in the area spanning the entire ‘maritime underbelly’ of Asia, ranging from the East African littoral to Northeast Asia. This is best exemplified by the launch of the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) in 2004 to counter the sea-borne proliferation of WMDs and their delivery systems. The PSI focused on the maritime swath stretching from Iran and Syria to North Korea.5 These developments led strategic analysts to search for a suitable common regional nomenclature to be able to communicate more effectively. The term ‘Asia’ was too broad and heterogeneous; and ‘continental’ rather than ‘maritime.’ The term ‘Asia-Pacific’ – which traditionally stood for ‘the Asian littoral of the Pacific Ocean’ – was inadequate.6 The ‘Indo-Pacific’ – shortened from ‘Indian Ocean–Pacific Ocean combine’ – seemed more appropriate.

The coinage of ‘Indo-Pacific’ has much to do with the increased eminence of India with the turn of the 21st century. It began in the 1990s with India’s impressive economic growth, and later, its nuclear weaponization. In 2006, Donald Berlin wrote that the ‘rise of India’ is itself a key factor in the increasing significance of the Indian Ocean.7 Also, India could no longer be excluded from any overarching reckoning in the Asia-Pacific; be it economic or security related. For example, India was an obvious choice for inclusion in the ASEAN Regional Forum (in 1996) and the East Asia Summit (in 2005). Even for the PSI (2004), President Bush sought to enroll India as a key participant through PACOM. However, even while India is located in PACOM’s area of responsibility, ‘technically’, it does not belong to the Asia-Pacific. During the Shangri, La Dialogue 2009, India’s former naval chief Admiral Arun Prakash highlighted this contradiction, saying,

I am not quite sure about the origin of the term Asia-Pacific, but I presume it was coined to include America in this part of the world, which is perfectly all right. As an Indian, every time I hear the term Asia-Pacific I feel a sense of exclusion, because it seems to include north east Asia, south east Asia and the Pacific islands, and it terminates at the Malacca Straits, but there is a whole world west of the Malacca Straits…so my question to the distinguished panel is…do you see a contradiction between the terms Asia-Pacific, Asia, and the Indian Ocean region?” 

The ‘Indo-Pacific’ concept helped to overcome this dilemma by incorporating ‘India’ in the affairs of ‘maritime-Asia,’ even though the ‘Indo-’ in the compound word ‘Indo-Pacific’ stands for the ‘Indian Ocean’, and not ‘India.’

Since long, the IOR had been a maritime-conduit of hydrocarbons to fuel the economic prosperity of the WP littoral countries, which was another significant linkage between the IOR and the WP, and provided much ballast to the rationale of ‘Indo-Pacific.’ In context of China’s economic ‘rise’ leading to its enhanced military power and assertiveness, this linkage represented Beijing’s strategic vulnerability, and thereby an opportunity for deterring Chinese aggressiveness. Ironically, China’s strategic vulnerability was expressed by the Chinese President Hu Jintao himself in November 2003 through his coinage of the “Malacca Dilemma,” wherein “certain major powers” were bent on controlling the strait.8 The reference to India was implicit, yet undeniable. In his book ‘Samudramanthan’ (2012), Raja Mohan says, “India-China maritime rivalry finds its sharpest expression in the Bay of Bengal, the South China Sea and the Malacca Strait…” which demonstrates the interconnectedness of “the two different realms (of) Pacific and Indian Ocean(s).”9

The Genesis

Against the backdrop of strengthening India-Japan political ties following the 2006 reciprocal visits of the two countries’ apex leaders, Indian and Japanese think tanks had intensified their discussions on strategic and maritime cooperation. At one of the brainstorming sessions held at the IDSA in October 2006, the participants took note of China’s strategic vulnerability in terms of its ‘Malacca Dilemma,’ and sought to stretch its sense of insecurity eastwards to the IOR with the objective of restraining China’s politico-military assertiveness against its Asian neighbors.

Besides, Japan itself was vulnerable due to its rather heavy dependence on seaborne energy and food imports across the IOR, and thus sought an enhanced maritime security role in the area in cooperation with India. During the discussions at IDSA, a clear concord was reached that the IOR and the WP cannot possibly be treated separately, either for maritime security, or even in geopolitical terms. It was during that event that the ‘Indo-Pacific’ concept was casually discussed, which led to the publication of the January 2007 paper in Strategic Analyses (as mentioned above). Interestingly, a few months later in August 2007, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe addressed the Indian Parliament, speaking of the “Confluence of the Indian and Pacific Oceans” as “the dynamic coupling as seas of freedom and of prosperity” in the “broader Asia.”10

In 2010, the U.S. officially recognized ‘Indo-Pacific’ for the first time. Speaking at Honolulu, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke about “expanding our work with the Indian Navy in the Pacific, because we understand how important the Indo-Pacific basin is to global trade and commerce.”11

In 2012, the Australian analyst Rory Medcalf wrote that he was convinced that the “Indo-Pacific (is) a term whose time has come.” A year later in 2013, Australia released its Defence White Paper, which carried the first government articulation of the ‘Indo-Pacific’ concept.12 Soon thereafter, Rory Medcalf endorsed India’s centrality in the Indo-Pacific construct stating that “Australia’s new defense policy recognizes India’s eastward orientation.”13

China was initially circumspect of the ‘Indo-Pacific’ coinage. As the Australian writers Nick Bisley and Andrew Phillips wrote in 2012,

…Viewed from Beijing, the idea of the Indo-Pacific…appears to be to keep the U.S. in, lift India up, and keep China out of the Indian Ocean… (which is why), the Indo-Pacific concept has…received a frosty reception in China…14

In July 2013, Chinese scholar Zhao Qinghai trashed the ‘Indo-Pacific’ concept on the basis of his interpretation of it being an “India too” geopolitical construct.15 Notwithstanding, not all Chinese scholars have been dismissive of the concept. In June 2013, Minghao Zhao wrote,

“…And it is true that a power game of great significance has unfolded in Indo-Pacific Asia. The U.S., India, Japan, and other players are seeking to collaborate to build an “Indo-Pacific order” that is congenial to their long-term interests. China is not necessarily excluded from this project, and it should seek a seat at the table and help recast the strategic objectives and interaction norms (in China’s favor).”16

Interestingly, in November 2014 the Global Times, an official Chinese English-language daily, carried a commentary cautioning India on the ‘Indo-Pacific’ concept. It said that the Indo-Pacific concept has not been endorsed by the “Indian government and scholars,” but scripted by the United States and its allies “to balance and even contain China’s increasing influence in the Asia-Pacific region and the Indian Ocean,” and who have made India a “linchpin” in the geo-strategic system. Paradoxically, however, the commentary was titled “New Delhi-Beijing Cooperation Key to Building an Indo-Pacific Era.”17


It emerges from the foregoing that the current prevalence of the ‘Indo-Pacific’ concept is premised upon – and necessitated by – the growing inter-connectedness between the IOR and WP, rather than any similarities in their characteristics. This leads to another pertinent question: What would be the relevance of the concept in the coming years?

According to preliminary indicators, the relevance of the ‘Indo-Pacific’ concept may be enhanced in the future due to the strengthening linkages between the IOR and the WP. Events and developments in one part of the ‘Indo-Pacific’ are likely to increasingly affect countries located in the other part. Furthermore, over the decades, the growing trade and people-to-people connectivity between the IOR and WP countries may benefit the IOR, and slowly iron out the dissimilarities in terms of economic and human development indices.

China’s ‘Maritime Silk Road’ (MSR) and India’s outreach to its extended eastern neighborhood through its ‘Act East’ policy could contribute substantially toward the economic integration of the IOR and the WP. Indonesia’s putative role is also noteworthy. It is an archipelagic country that straddles the ‘Indo Pacific’ with sea coasts facing both the IOR and the WP. Possessing substantial potential to become a major maritime power, Indonesia is likely to be a key player in the process of melting the IOR-WP divide, and thereby reinforcing the ‘Indo-Pacific’ construct.

Over the decades, the current dissimilarities between the IOR and the WP in terms of the security environment may also diminish, if not vanish altogether. Greater economic prosperity in the IOR is likely to be followed by increasing stakes in the maritime domain, besides the ability to develop naval capabilities. The hitherto ‘dormant’ maritime disputes in IOR could become ‘active.’ Furthermore, the MSR could be accompanied by China’s invigorated efforts toward naval development to fructify its ‘Two-Ocean Strategy.’18 China’s intensified naval presence in the IOR could lead to increased likelihood of acrimony due to its politico-military involvement in regional instabilities and maritime disputes. It may also cause the PLA Navy to increase its activities in the maritime zones of IOR countries, and have unintended encounters at sea with the naval forces of other established powers, leading to enhanced maritime-military insecurities. In such a scenario, the ‘Indo-Pacific’ concept would be essential to manage the regional developments and integrate China into the established norms of conduct in the IOR.

In the broader sense, as India’s leading strategist Uday Bhaskar avers, “In the global context, the Pacific and the Indian oceans are poised to acquire greater strategic salience for the major powers of the 21st century, three among whom – the China, India and the U.S. – are located in Asia.”19 Indeed, a holistic treatment of the Indian-Pacific Ocean continuum would be required to assess the evolving balance of power in Asia, and to address the fault-lines therein, with the overarching aim of preserving regional and global stability.

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

Notes and References

[1] ‘Indo-Pacific: Strategic/ Geopolitical Context’, Wikipedia, at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indo-Pacific

[2] Gurpreet S Khurana, ‘Security of Sea Lines: Prospects for India-Japan Cooperation’, Strategic Analysis (IDSA/ Routledge), Vol. 31 (1), January 2007, p.139 – 153

[3] David Brewster, ‘Dividing Lines: Evolving Mental Maps of the Bay of Bengal’, Asian Security, Vol. 10(2), 24 Jun 14, p.151-167, at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14799855.2014.914499

[4] Shigehisa Kasahara, ‘The Asian Developmental State and the Flying Geese Paradigm’, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Discussion Paper No. 213, Nov 2013, at http://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/osgdp20133_en.pdf

[5] ‘Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI)’, Arms Control Association, 2 Jun 2007, at https://www.armscontrol.org/taxonomy/term/21

[6] Japan and Australia promoted the term ‘Asia Pacific’ in the 1970s and 1980s to draw them closer to the United States and the economically burgeoning East Asia. India was far, geographically, from the region, and politically, economically and strategically remained uninvolved for inherent reasons. See D. Gnanagurunathan, ‘India and the Idea of the ‘Indo-Pacific’’, East Asia Forum, 20 Oct 12, at http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2012/10/20/india-and-the-idea-of-the-indo-pacific/

[7] Donald L Berlin, ‘India in the Indian Ocean’, Naval War College Review, Vol.59(2), Spring 2006

[8] Ian Storey, ‘China’s Malacca Dilemma’, China Brief (The Jamestown Foundation), Vol. 6(8), 12 Apr 2006, at https://jamestown.org/program/chinas-malacca-dilemma/

[9] C Raja Mohan. Samudramanthan: Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Indo-Pacific (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: October 2012)

[10] Confluence of the Two Seas”, Speech by H.E. Mr. Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan at the Parliament of the Republic of India, August 22, 2007, Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) website, at http://www.mofa.go.jp/region/asia-paci/pmv0708/speech-2.html

[11] Remarks by Hillary Rodham Clinton, US Secretary of State, ‘America’s Engagement in the Asia-Pacific’, US Department of State, 28 Oct 10, at http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2010/10/150141.htm

 [12] ‘Defending Australia and its National Interests’, Defence White Paper 2013, Department of Defence, Australian Government, May 13, at http://www.defence.gov.au/whitepaper/2013/docs/wp_2013_web.pdf

[13] Rory Medcalf, ‘The Indo-Pacific Pivot’, 10 May 13, at http://www.indianexpress.com/news/the-indopacific-pivot/1113736/

[14] Nick Bisley (La Trobe University, Australia) and Andrew Phillips (University of Queensland, Australia), ‘The Indo-Pacific: what does it actually mean?’, East Asia Forum, 06 Oct 12, at http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2012/10/06/the-indo-pacific-what-does-it-actually-mean/

 [15] Zhao Qinghai, ‘The Concept of “India too”(“Yin Tai”) and its implications for China’(translated from Mandarin “印太”概念及其对中国的含义), Contemporary International Relations (现代国际关), No. 7, 2013, 31 July 2013,at http://www.ciis.org.cn/chinese/2013-07/31/content_6170351.htm

 [16] Minghao Zhao, ‘The Emerging Strategic Triangle in Indo-Pacific Asia’, 4 Jun 13, at http://thediplomat.com/china-power/the-emerging-strategic-triangle-in-indo-pacific-asia/

[17] Liu Zongyi, ‘New Delhi-Beijing Key to Building an <Indo-Pacific Era>’, Global Times, 30 November 2014, at http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/894334.shtml

[18] Robert D. Kaplan, ‘China’s Two Ocean Strategy’ in Abraham Denmark and Nirav Patel (eds.) China’s Arrival: A Strategic Relationship for a Global Relationship (Centre for New American Strategy: Sep 2009), p.43-58, at https://lbj.utexas.edu/sites/default/files/file/news/CNAS%20China’s%20Arrival_Final%20Report-3.pdf

[19] C Uday Bhaskar. ‘Pacific and Indian Oceans: Relevance for the evolving power structures in Asia’, Queries, Magazine by the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS), No. 3(6), Nov 11, p.123-128

Featured Image: Composite rendering of the Eastern Hemisphere of Earth, based on data from Terra MODIS, Aqua MODIS, the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, Space Shuttle Endeavour, and the Radarsat Antarctic Mapping Project, combined by scientists and artists. (NASA/ Wikimedia Commons)

Enhance Maritime Presence in the Indian Ocean

New Administration Topic Week

By Vivek Mishra

The Indian Ocean together with the maritime area of the Asia-Pacific should be on the high priority list for the next Administration. The region has been witnessing a twin factor rise in its importance: the rise in trade transmission through the Indian Ocean has increased tremendously over the past decade, besides witnessing a dramatic ascendancy in strategic importance owing to vulnerabilities of geographic choke points and more importantly, an ever increasing Chinese presence.

Increasing Chinese inroads in the Indian Ocean was not perceptively noticed by the last administration in Washington. The Indian Ocean seems likely to represent the maritime arena that would bear the second thrust of Chinese maritime power after the South China Sea. The Chinese leased their first international naval base in Djibouti denoting the extra-regional dimension of what is increasingly being seen as China’s hegemonic rise. The increasing Chinese submarine presence in the Indian Ocean is a real and present danger for the countries of the Indian Ocean littoral and should definitely concern the U.S. Navy which has been actively present in the Indian Ocean since the Cold War; both on and beneath the surface.

The Indian Ocean for the next administration, then, could be a ground to better facilitate coordination between two important numbered fleets, the Fifth and the Seventh Fleets. Hitherto, the Indian Ocean’s maritime expanse has been divided between the two numbered fleets of the U.S. Navy with respective Areas of Responsibility. However, to increase effectiveness and coordination, particularly in the backdrop of strategic augmentation of the Indian Ocean, the two numbered fleets should be given some overlapping areas in the Indian Ocean. These exchanges could be coordinated with strong regional navies in the Indian Ocean such as India’s. Given increasing maritime coordination between the two navies, such collaborations would bolster maritime reconnaissance in the Indian Ocean and enhance submarine tracking capabilities in the region.

The forward presence of the U.S. Navy in the Indian Ocean has for much of the past been eclipsed by fleet concentration near the Gulf region in the Arabian Sea. It will be timely for the next administration to increase Diego Garcia’s role in military coordination. With India’s recently leased Assumption Island (from Seychelles) not very far from Diego Garcia, there is enough potential to impart a fresh impetus to joint reconnaissance and submarine tracking in the Indian Ocean waters under the next administration.

Vivek Mishra is an Assistant Professor in International Relations of Asia at Netaji Institute for Asian Studies, Kolkata, India and was previously a Fulbright Scholar at Columbia University.

Featured Image: The island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. (Reuters)

Reinforcing China’s Malacca Dilemma

The Red Queen’s Navy

Written by Vidya Sagar Reddy, The Red Queen’s Navy will discuss the The Red Queeninfluence of emerging naval platforms and technologies in the geostrategic contours of the Indo-Pacific region. It identifies relevant historical precedents, forming the basis for various maritime development and security related projects in the region.

“Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.”– The Red Queen, Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll.

By Vidya Sagar Reddy

China has been pressing to complete the Gwadar port in Pakistan and build the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), allowing it to be connected over land to an Indian Ocean port. Gwadar and CPEC allow China to circumvent the Strait of Malacca which can be blockaded by rival navies in the event of  conflict, termed as “Malacca Dilemma.” However, the rising activism of Balochistan independence parties could complicate these projects, compelling China to continue to depend on this Strait. This situation certainly bodes well for maintaining regional stability.

As China’s economic power burgeoned, its political class sought to transform the country into a major power by building comprehensive national power, which also requires investing in a sophisticated military. Political narratives were developed citing “historical” facts and figures to re-establish China’s position in the world order. However, China’s attitude towards its neighborhood has become increasingly assertive in  recent years, signaling the rise of a potential regional hegemon. Those countries with stakes in maintaining the peace dividend responded by building alliances and partnerships to counter this security threat.

By signaling the intent to blockade the Strait of Malacca, these regional countries seek to deter China from military adventurism in the region. China’s economic growth is dependent on the seas, both for receiving energy and other raw materials required for low cost manufacturing, as well as the shipping of finished goods to markets in the U.S., Europe, etc. These ships have to pass through the Strait of Malacca situated between Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia connecting the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Therefore a blockade of this Strait will impose energy and trade crises in China that can trickle down to hurt society, and in turn lead to pressure on the political class. Losing the people’s support will undermine the legitimacy of the Communist Party of China and could lead to an internal political transition. In fact, China’s history shows such transitions occurring after wars.

India has established credible naval presence in the Andaman Sea adjacent to the Strait of Malacca and is partnering with the U.S. and other countries in safeguarding it. Such presence can be translated into a formidable blockade. On the other hand, China has yet to showcase its capabilities and willingness to fight to keep this Strait open for its ships. Citing these developments, Hu Jintao termed this situation “Malacca Dilemma.”

His successor Xi Jinping resolved to overcome this dilemma by investing in the One Belt, One Road initiative. China moved determinedly to build ports in the Indian Ocean countries Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Maldives. The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has been transformed into a blue water navy and is routinely deployed in the Indian Ocean. The docking of PLAN ships and submarines in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and elsewhere in the region signals China’s intent to safeguard its energy and trade shipments in the Indian Ocean.

A map depicting China’s sea lines of communication through the Malacca Strait as well as the land route of the proposed China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. (SCMP)

The ports in Myanmar and Pakistan have the added advantage of being connected to China via overland routes. This sea/land interspersed connectivity allows China to minimize maritime threats by rerouting its energy and trade over the land. During a conflict, China can focus its forward deployed naval assets f in the Indian Ocean on safeguarding the sea lines of communication connected to its ports in Pakistan and Myanmar instead of stretching those assets across the Ocean. The development of overland routes also serves Beijing’s intention to develop poorer western regions of the country.

China’s projects in Myanmar are proceeding with difficulties, with some of them cancelled due to opposition from local communities and environmental groups. Furthermore, China’s ships have to navigate the Bay of Bengal to reach Myanmar’s port which gives opportunity for rival navies to interdict. More significantly, Myanmar has recently undergone political transition from military rule to a democratically elected government. This transition signaled the country’s willingness to break through international isolation and normalize diplomatic relations with the outside world. As a result, China lost Myanmar as a client state and can expect a review of its projects as the new government balances between competing political and economic narratives in the region.    

The trump card for China remains to be Pakistan. Despite international condemnation and American displeasure for its unwillingness to cease state sponsored terrorism, Pakistan continues to enjoy diplomatic leverage with the U.S., and despite the show of political clout in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Maldives, India is still lacking a credible strategy to curtail Pakistan’s destabilizing behavior in the region.

China has adopted the earlier U.S. policy of hyphenating India with Pakistan and is willing to safeguard its client state’s interests across international forums. It has promised to invest $46 billion in Pakistan to complete the CPEC project. In addition, China is building nuclear plants, co-producing military jets, and will sell eight submarines; all incentives for Pakistan to align its interests with China’s.

In return, China will gain access to the Arabian Sea in the Indian Ocean, which is connected to the Persian Gulf, through the Gwadar port. The CPEC envisions building the requisite land route from Gwadar to China via the sensitive Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Karakoram mountains, ignoring India’s apprehensions regarding building infrastructure in the disputed territories without consultations.

However, Pakistan itself is not without problems. The Balochistan province where Gwadar is located forms a major part of Pakistan’s territory and is highly rich in natural resources. However, its development needs have long been ignored by Islamabad. The Baloch people argue that neither the Gwadar port will benefit them but can instead lead to further exploitation of the province’s natural resources and affect their livelihoods.

A graphic depicting the various forms of investment, their estimated costs, and proposed infrastructure linkages. (Wall Street Journal)

India is convinced that the Gwadar port and the CPEC projects have underlying strategic intentions while the Baloch people question the veracity of economic benefits that can be derived from these projects to their province. Both parties are concerned about infrastructure build up in those areas considered sensitive for historical or strategic reasons. In this situation, Modi’s reference to Balochistan in his recent Independence Day speech signals India’s willingness to work with the Baloch people to confront the common problem and fulfil mutual interests.

While more details are pending, China is apparently concerned with these developments as its options to connect to the Indian Ocean via land routes fall into jeopardy, forcing continued reliance on the Strait of Malacca. This could be a welcomed development for upholding regional stability as it offers concerned countries an opportunity to maintain strategic deterrence and escalation dominance against China by controlling access to the Strait of Malacca.

Vidya Sagar Reddy is a research assistant in the Nuclear and Space Policy Initiative of the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.

Featured Image: Crew members work on the Chinese Navy ship Wei Fang as it docks in Myanmar on the outskirts of Yangon on May 23, 2014 (AFP 2016/ SOE THAN WIN)