India's Look-East Policy - Targets China, says commentator
India?s Look-East Policy and Vietnam - Mainstream Weekly
The 64th anniversary of Vietnamís National Day was observed on September 2, 2009. On that occasion the embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam brought out a publication Vietnam-India in Focus. The following article, appearing in the publication, is being reproduced here for the benefit of our readers.
Indiaís Look-East Policy was initiated in the early 1990s with the specific objective of its economic integration and political cooperation with South-East Asia, resulting from a more pragmatic approach by her foreign relations. The objective of this policy was also to expand its area of influence by developing security relations in all directions, especially so in South-East Asia, with a view to becoming a major player in the emerging balance of power in Asia.
The security element in Indiaís Look-East Policy received an assertive diplomatic endeavour more after India declared herself as a nuclear state after a successful nuclear test in May 1998. Chinaís emergence as a major economic and military power together with its irredentist claims over the whole of South China Sea and exclusive economic zones that has brought it into conflict with some of its neighbouring countries in South-East and East Asia, particularly over the Spratlys Islands, have created apprehensions in Asia about Chinaís future ambitions and intentions.
A major manifestation of the growing political and economic interaction is the ASEANís decision to confer upon India, first the Sectoral Dialogue Partnership (SDP) in 1992 and then the Full Dialogue Partnership (FDP) in 1995. There are three major aspects in Indiaís involvement in the region. First, Indiaís membership of a range of institutions connected to South-East Asian governments on security matters. Second, Indiaís bilateral security and defence agreements with important ASEAN members like Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. Third, Indiaís growing naval activities in the Indian Ocean cited as a ďlegitimate area of interestĒ in the Indian Maritime Doctrine of 2004. Indiaís Look-East thrust involving the ASEAN and the Ďrim landí states farther afieldólike Japan and South Koreaóhas been a success in great part because of naval diplomacy. Indiaís naval flotillas streaming into Asian ports to showcase Indian designed missile destroyers, holding annual joint exercises in the Andaman Sea with the smaller littoral navies, exercising off shore during extended ďgoodwillĒ tours with the host countryís naval vessels and, generally, establishing a presence in proximal as well as distant seas constantly reminds these of Indiaís strategic importance.
The Indian Navy has been taking an active role in combating piracy in the Malacca Straits. India has a significant naval build-up at the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and created a special Far Eastern Naval Command (FENC) based on these Islands. The bilateral naval exercises were a manifestation of a more strategic ĎLook-Eastí policy. In 2000, the Indian Navy had sent warships, tankers and submarines to Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Vietnam for bilateral exercises and as gestures of goodwill.
South-East Asian nations perceive India as a benign power whose peaceful rise accrues significant strategic benefits for her to play a larger role in the region.
India had already attended a number of ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conferences (PMCs) and participated in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) meetings. This allowed her entry into multilateral security deliberations outside the United Nations aegis for the first time. During the last twelve years, India participated in a number of ARF activities relating to confidence-building measures (CBMs), maritime search and rescue, peace-keeping, non-proliferation, preventive diplomacy and disaster management and found them productive and useful for the facilitation of the introduction of appropriate CBMs among participants. India has now graduated itself to the status of ASEAN-India summit, at par with ASEAN plus Three (China, Japan and South Korea). India is also now a major participant in the East Asian Summit (EAS) along with Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, South Korea and the ten ASEAN countries.
The strategic imperatives for cooperation between India and South-East Asia arise from the uncertainties in the regional security environment. The threats of terrorism, both from within and across borders, are now confronting both India and the ASEAN countries calling for close monitoring, coordination and fashioning a joint approach in combating the scourge. Among other areas where India and the ASEAN nations are co-coordinating their efforts are problems of piracy, environmental pollution, narcotics traffic, illegal migration, other security-related issues, including the safety of the sea-lanes-of-communication (SLOC) vital for the economic prosperity of the region. Above all, India and ASEAN need to contribute to the maintenance of peace and stability in the region, so that the countries in South-East Asia can pursue their economic development and progress for their people.
Vietnam in Indiaís Look-East Policy
Vietnam is important in the promotion of Indiaís political, economic and security interests in South-East Asia, and in turn, in the success of our Look-East Policy. Vietnam is a potential regional power in South-East Asia with great political stability and a successful economic performer with an annual growth rate of seven per cent. Vietnamís geo-strategic location, its demonstrated military prowess and its national will-power lends it a critical place in the strategic calculus of South-East Asia. Economically, Vietnam with its stress on economic liberalisation offers very attractive preferential prospects for Indian foreign direct investment (FDI). In terms of Indiaís energy security, Vietnamís offshore oil deposit offers opportunities for exploration and eventual supply to India. On political and foreign policy issues Vietnam had been a consistent supporter of India, including our scheme for the reform of the United Nations and our recent bid for permanent membership in the Security Council. Apart from cooperation in the bilateral framework, the two countries have maintained close cooperation and mutual support at the regional and international fora such as the UN, NAM and other mechanisms in the ASEAN like the ARF, East Asia Summit and Mekong-Ganga Cooperation. In more concrete terms, India can play a vital role in the capacity building of Vietnamís military deterrence capabilities.
The latest in the defence interactions between the two countries was the visit to Vietnam of Defence Minister A.K. Antony in 2007 when he announced at a meeting with his counterpart General Phung Quang Thanh that India will transfer 5000 items of naval spares belonging to the Petya class of ships to Vietnam. He also announced the deputation of a four-member team to impart training on UN peacekeeping operations in the first half of 2008. The two sides had agreed to set up a joint working group to facilitate the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on defence cooperation.
General Phung, in his remarks, expressed gratitude to India for providing training to the armed forces officers in various areas and said ďthey are bringing back valuable knowledge and skills to their work areasĒ. So far, 49 officers have attended various Army and Navy courses in India and 64 officers have attended English language courses.
Vietnamese and Indian Prime Ministers agreed to officially establish a strategic partnership between the two countries in New Delhi in July 6, 2007. The strategic partnership will support each countryís durable growth and prosperity and work for the sake of peace, stability, co-operation and development in the Asia-Pacific and the world. To promote this new strategic partnership, the two leaders agreed to further bolster the two countriesí political ties in addition to establishing a strategic dialogue mechanism at the level of Deputy Foreign Ministers. They also reached an agreement on continuing strengthening security and defence co-operation, especially in training and the sharing of information on anti-terrorism, sea pirates and transnational crimes.
On trade co-operation, the two PMs agreed to bring the two-way trade to US $ 2 billion in 2010 and US $ 5 billion in 2015. India took note of Vietnamís request to recognise the South-East Asian countryís full-fledged market economy and pledged to take necessary measures to enable Vietnamese products to enter Indian markets so as to balance the two-way trade.
PM Dung said at the Vietnam-India Business Forum that the Vietnamese state and government always created favourable conditions for Indian investors to invest in fields such as information technology, electricity, oil and gas, metallurgy, coal, transport, agriculture, fisheries, food processing, health care and medicine.
The two countries also signed agreements on cooperation in fisheries and aquaculture, agriculture, culture and educational exchange. As part of the MoU on cultural exchange, a team of the Archaeological Survey of India is to undertake conservation work in Cham monuments in Vietnam. The memorandum between the Department of Atomic Energy and the Vietnam Ministry of Science and Technology focused cooperation in the training of Vietnamese manpower in India in nuclear and related fields, study and evaluation of uranium ore processing technology for Vietnamese uranium ores and Indian assistance to the activities of the India-Vietnam Nuclear Science Centre at Dalat in Vietnam.
Prof Ghoshal is a former Professor and Chair, South-East Asian Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University; New Delhi; he is currently a Senior Visiting Fellow, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi.
vietnam, india have been stead fast friends since nehru days. it is gratifying to note that continues to date. it is in each others interest what with china breathing down their neck. india needs to cultivate others in the region too on a bilateral track apart from the ASEAN route.
Rank 1 General
Subject :Chindits Column : CHINA‚ÄôS STRING OF PEARLS VS INDIA‚ÄôS IRON CURTAIN IN THE INDIAN OCEAN, THE JURY IS
‚ÄúIndia‚Äôs growing international stature gives it strategic relevance in the area ranging from the Persian Gulf to the Straits of Malacca ‚Ä¶..India has exploited the fluidities of the emerging world order to forge new links through a combination of diplomatic repositioning, economic resurgence and military firmness‚ÄĚ--India‚Äôs Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh
‚ÄúWe see the Indian Navy as a significant stabilising force in the Indian Ocean region, which safeguards traffic bound not only for our own ports, but also the flow of hydrocarbons and strategically important cargo to and from the rest of the world across the strategic waterways close to our shores‚Ä¶..And so, the safety of SLOCS will always remain a priority for India in the foreseeable future‚ÄĚ‚Ä¶‚Ä¶.Admiral Sureesh Mehta former Chief of Naval Staff at the Shangri la Dialogue Singapore May 2009
The above statements have given grist to China to defend itself on what has been touted by a US researcher as ‚ÄėChina‚Äôs String of Pearls‚Äô of bases in the Indian Ocean. Naval analyst Zhang Ming recently proclaimed that the Islands of India‚Äôs Andaman and Nicobar Archipelago could be used as a ‚Äėmetal chain‚Äô to block Chinese access to the Straits of Malacca. China has gone further to claim that India is building an ‚ÄėIron Curtain‚Äô in the Indian Ocean, which is debatable. In recent years, a number of analysts have drawn attention to the similarities of nationalism, between the rise of modern China and the rise of Wilhelmine Germany. Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria, says that "like Germany in the late 19th century, China is growing rapidly but uncertainly, into a global system (including the Indian ocean) in which it feels it deserves more attention and honor. The Chinese military ( CMC) is a powerful political player, as was the Prussian officer corps. Like Germany, the Chinese regime is trying to hold onto political power even as it unleashes forces in society that make its control increasingly shaky."
More recently President Obama has stated that the future of the world will depend on the USA- China relationship, and that could well turn out to be a truism. The 19th century strategic thinker Mahan had prophesised that the future of the world in the 21st Century would be decided on the waters of the Indian Ocean and in this, India‚Äôs expansion of its maritime power and Navy, and inroads in to the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is very much on China‚Äôs radar, which deserves introspection.
It is less publicised or talked about, but in the last two decades India has stealthily straddled its interests in the Indian Ocean Rim which includes the islands of Mauritius, Maldives, Seychelles and Madagascar and the rim states of South Africa, Tanzania and Mozambique by very deft moves in foreign policy, economic sops like the double taxation exemption with Mauritius, and military inroads. This is the classical strategy of gaining influence by conjoining economic perks and power, with military diplomacy called ‚ÄėShowing the Flag‚Äô, so well perfected by larger maritime naval powers in the past. The Indian Navy has transferred offshore naval patrol vessels, provided staff and training, and refit facilities and most importantly provided naval hydrographic support to the island nations of the IOR, which steps have left strategic imprints on the recipients.
It is less known, that in the late 80s the Indian Navy moved in a Leander pretending it needed repairs, and concurrently flew in armed personnel to Victoria from Mumbai, to help ward off a coup against President Albert Rene of the Seychelles. The coup was engineered by Col Mike ‚ÄėMad‚Äô Hoare of the Longreach Company of South Africa, now made public in a book ‚ÄėMercenary Invasion of Seychelles‚Äô, by Aubrey Brooks and Graham Linscoff. In 1998 the Indian Navy‚Äôs INS Godavari berthed at Maldives, and Army troops flew in by IL-76s in Op Cactus and staved off a coup. Dissident Abdullah Luthufi had led 80 armed mercenaries of the Sri Lankan organisation (PLOTE), in an attempt to capture and overthrow President Gayoom.The Indian Navy has deputed warships and helicopters to provide security at the African heads‚Äô meetings, a move very much appreciated by the population at large.
INDIAN NAVY‚ÄôS HYDROGRAPHIC ARM‚ÄôS INROADS IN TO THE IOR
The Indian Navy possesses a sophisticated hydrographic cadre, with 8 well equipped survey ships , numerous survey craft, a large world class electronic chart production facility in Dehra Dun and a hydrographic school at Goa which trains several foreign naval and civilian personnel. Much funding for the Navy‚Äôs survey ships has been contributed by the Ministry of Shipping, which allows easier induction of latest equipment, and a swifter procurement route than the cumbersome MOD‚Äôs DPP-08, which is still to prove its efficacy. China views India‚Äôs hydrographic activities as strategic inroads in to the Indian Ocean.
The Indian Government appreciative of the hydrographic work done by the Indian Navy swiftly ordered six, 600 ton Austal (Australia/USA) design Catamaran Survey ships in 2006 at the Alcock Ashdown Shipyard at Bhavnagar. The IN‚Äôs Chief Hydrographer Vice Admiral B A Rao has stated the first platform will be in service by 2010, and balance in annual series production. Indian Navy will then be the second Navy in the world to employ low draught catamarans with on board helicopters, which will have the advantage to speedily survey close inshore, doing away with the age old time consuming ‚Äėboat work for survey‚Äô, which requires meticulous re- validation.
As a silent strategic arm, Indian Navy‚Äôs hydrographic branch‚Äôs has made significant forays in the IOR to undertake over a dozen survey assignments for island nations and recently executed surveys in Oman and now is set to advise Saudi Arabia, for which an MOU has been signed in March this year. These successes have almost blocked out the more expensive western navies that had provided essentially needed hydrographic support to the island nations which possess large coast lines and EEZ. India‚Äôs hydrographic policy has already paid off, and will pay richer dividends in the future to compete and ward off China‚Äôs influence in the region, and its ‚Äė String of Pearls‚Äô that has funded ports like Gwadar in Pakistan, Chittagong in Bangla Desh, Humbantota in Sri Lanka and Sittwe in Mynmar covering the rim of India.
THE INDIAN OCEAN MATRIX FOR INDIA CHINA RELATIONS
The Indian Ocean holds importance for India‚Äôs development in the 21st century and the Chatham House paper states, ‚ÄúIndia‚Äôs strategy is deepening not only commercially but due to concerns over its security and hegemony in the region, which are underpinned by India‚Äôs 2004 Maritime Doctrine.‚ÄĚ The Chinese views aired at the 2009 Malacca Straits Kula Lumpur Conference was that ‚ÄėIndia is looking East and forming an Iron Curtain in the Indian Ocean‚Äô. The Chinese view the Indian Navy‚Äôs gathering of 28 IOR Naval Chiefs including France, a riparian state under one roof at the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) in February 2008 in New Delhi and Goa for a retreat, as ganging up in the IOR. When confronted with the String of Pearls, Chinese brush it off as small change provided to poor nations for port development, adding India gets easy ADB and World Bank loans for port development. The swords were out on this.
India‚Äôs Indian Ocean African Rim grouping called IOR-ARC(the Arrangement for Regional Cooperation ), and India Brazil South Africa(IBSA) forum which are groupings for commercial links, provision of energy and other resources from Africa, are viewed by the Chinese in security terms, as there is another ‚ÄėScramble for Africas‚Äô, made famous in a book by that title by Thomas Pakenham. India‚Äôs maritime military strategy and the Navy‚Äôs 2004 maritime doctrine, both issued by the Indian Navy are very clear that it is the Indian Navy‚Äôs responsibility to ensure stability in the IOR, which irks the Chinese as they view the Indian Ocean as their life line for trade and energy. Chi Haotin had said, ‚Äėit is Indian Ocean not India‚Äôs ocean‚Äô. India‚Äôs out going Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta made his mandate clear at the recent Shangri la dialogue in Singapore in the presence of Chinese General Mao stating, ‚ÄúConcerted efforts at capability enhancement and capacity building of the smaller countries of the region(IOR), through active assistance of larger neighbours, would be crucial to such efforts in the long term‚ÄĚ.
India has developed a special relationship with Mauritius, which is a fulcrum island state because of its strong Indian diasporas. India has instituted a favourable taxation treaty that makes it India‚Äôs largest offshore investor. The Indian Navy set up the Mauritius Coast Guard in the 70s, and has provided ships and personnel, and Mauritius has close security coordination with India‚Äôs CIA, the RAW. Chinese and Pakistan activities in the IOR are closely monitored by India‚Äôs intelligence and India has forestalled Chinese expansionist moves to lease islands in the Seychelles. The India-China competition to seek influence in the region is set to intensify as China‚Äôs cheque book diplomacy currently finds favour in small African states especially in Sudan and Zimbabwe. Deng‚Äôs philosophy of ‚Äėthe colour of the cat does not matter as long as it catches rats‚Äô, is still relevant.
When the IOR-ARC, was formed Mauritius, Madagascar and Mozambique supported India‚Äôs move to block Pakistan‚Äôs membership and later China‚Äôs access to India Brazil South Africa- IBSA. The Indian Navy has also made in roads to gain over flying and berthing rights in Oman, which holds a strategic location especially for the fight against piracy off the Gulf of Aden, and Indian Navy can monitor the SLOCs of Hormuz and Aden. India has signed an MOU to provide piracy patrols to Mozambique . It was also reported India has established a listening post in Madagascar in 2007. No denial was issued by the Government. Chinese alluded to these issues at the Malacca Conference held in Kula Lumpur, offering all support for the security of the Straits, in what is termed as China‚Äôs Malacca dilemma.
INDIA‚ÄôS MILITARY MARITIME STRATEGY IN THE IOR. C3I
India‚Äôs maritime strategy envisages a swath of area as its watch from Aden and the Straits of Hormuz to the Straits of Malacca and Mahan appears to have seen the coming importance of this region which provides 70% of the world‚Äôs hydro carbons. K Santhanam former Director of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis(IDSA) and one of the architects of India‚Äôs nuclear programme , has coined the C3I theory for India- China relations and needs heeding. It envisages that India and China will seek active cooperation as China has become India‚Äôs largest trading partner, and yet both will always be in competition, for the same markets. In the future confrontation cannot be ruled out if both nations‚Äô interests clash, hence the three Cs, as India has an unresolved border dispute with China. The I stands for which nation will obtain superior Intelligence and includes space and cyber warfare abilities. This writer feels the world has to be prepared for C3I as nation‚Äôs juggle to balance China and India in their relations as both are growing economic powers.
China has invested $ 200 million and China Harbour Engineering Company has assisted Pakistan to set up Phase One of the Gwadar deep water port which is 75 nautical miles east of the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. India uses Bandar Abbas, which is at the narrow entrance of the Hormuz as a transit hub, to transport its $ 1.2 bill worth of on going aid projects in Afghanistan. The Chinese plan to use Pakistan‚Äôs Gwadar as the transit hub for its energy and other imported resources, especially from Africa to be ferried by road and pipe line to Central China in the not so distant future. This is a core national endeavour and aspiration for China. Hence China supports Pakistan and this leads to the importance of Pakistan ‚Äď China vis a vis India‚Äôs - Iran relations. This triangle needs to be factored as it could lead to challenges if any nation‚Äôs national interests, like Iran‚Äôs nuclear ambitions are at stake.
Much of India‚Äôs oil and gas arrives by sea from the Middle East. Hence ensuring no disruption of the sea lanes of communication in the Indian Ocean are not only vital for the world‚Äôs economy but for India too, and China feels it has a stake in providing maritime forces and resources in the IOR when it has the capability or havens, to do so. The Nippon Foundation and China contribute generously to the Tripartite Technical Expert Group (TTEG) of Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore that administer the Malacca Straits. India recently decided to contribute $ 1.2 million as a response, and advanced $ 774,000 to the TTEG on 31st March, 2009. India has volunteered to survey wrecks in the Malacca Straits which has been accepted by the TTEG, another red rag to the Chinese. The PM of Malaysia whose speech was delivered at the 2009 Malacca Straits Conference in Kuala Lumpur stated some nations( USA and India that patrolled the straits arbitrarily post 9/11 in Op Sagittarius) look at Malacca Straits in terms of hard power, but we would like to look at it in soft power terms, implying TTEG does want to see military assets of other nations to come to the region, though Singapore has been ambivalent on this issue.
The Chinese and Indian swords are sheathed for the time being, but could be out and India has to be prepared for the String of Pearls vs the Iron Curtain debate in what Santhnam has coined as C3I, for it was Chi Haotin who had said, ‚ÄúIndian Ocean is not India‚Äôs Ocean‚ÄĚ. As the Chinese warn never dig a spear in to the Dragon‚Äôs eye, and do not hammer at a stone, chisel it. The stationing of three PLA Navy ships to fight piracy off Aden and Somalia is China‚Äôs way of chiseling in to the Indian Ocean. In the 21st century China‚Äôs PLAN may well straddle the Indian Ocean, to protect its national interests. It would be in India‚Äôs interest to add a C to C3I to make it C3IC so that India can cope with the rise of China.
(Cmde (retd) Ranjit B Rai is Vice President Indian Maritime Foundation, International Correspondent for India Strategic Broadcaster, former Director Naval Intelligence and Operations and author of a Nation and its Navy At War. He visited China recently.
Courtesy: Indian Defence Review
Rank 1 General
India will have "to cope with the Rise of China" and as the respected journalist and former media adviser to the PM Dr Manmohan Singh who recently returned from China Sanjaya Baru stated at a prestigious seminar in New Delhi on 16th April, "Indians will have to accept China is miles ahead of India". The only major advantage India has is its strategic geographic locale jutting into the Indian Ocean, new friends in the West,a very intelligent though undisciplined people and a fine expanding Navy which needs nurturing and is the envy of China.
China's 1st October National Day Parade loaded with military power on display has been commented upon by the Economist as, "The world has accepted that China is emerging as a great power; it is a pity that it still does not always act as one", and goes on to say, " for many Chinese, daily life remains a grim struggle, and their government rapacious, arbitrary and corrupt. Take that spectacular parade. What message was it meant to convey to an awestruck world? China is a huge, newly emerging force on the world scene. And it is unapologetically authoritarian, as were Japan and Prussia, whose rises in the late 19th century were hardly trouble-free."
In recent years, a number of analysts have drawn attention to the similarities of nationalism between the rise of modern China and the rise of Wilhelmine Germany a century ago. Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria, commented that "like Germany in the late 19th century, China is also growing rapidly but uncertainly into a global system in which it feels it deserves more attention and honor. The Chinese military is a powerful political player, as was the Prussian officer corps. Like Wilhelmine Germany, the Chinese regime is trying to hold on to political power even as it unleashes forces in society that make its control increasingly shaky."
This is where India, and Indian Ocean come in. The strategic thinker Mahan had prophesised that the future of the world in the 21st Century would be decided on the waters of the Indian Ocean and India's expansion of its maritime power and Navy and inroads in to the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is very much on China's radar. A US researcher from Boston Consulting had coined China's investment in ports like Gwadar in Pakistan, Hambantota in Sri Lanka, Sittwe in Mynmar and Chittagong in Bangla Desh as a 'String of Pearls' to encircle India, noting the pearls in the string can be increased, and China made overtures to lease an island in the Seychelles, which India appears to have thwarted.
The recent India- China sparring match on intrusions on the border, issuance of visas on separate paper arbitrarily by the Chinese Embassy to Kashmiris, and India's service chiefs commenting on India's order of battle(ORBAT) vis a vis China seems to be the flavor of the times, and needs to be introspected. The sparring had actually begun earlier, with the Chinese Ambassador's orchestrated claims on Arunachal and Tawang, and China's strong objections in the ADB forum to block India's developmental loan.
In 2006 Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh speaking at the Commander's conference , had made a policy statement when he stated, "India's growing international stature gives it strategic relevance in the area ranging from the Persian Gulf to the Straits of Malacca ‚Ä¶..India has exploited the fluidities of the emerging world order to forge new links through a combination of diplomatic repositioning, economic resurgence and military firmness". Many dubbed this as India's 'Singh Doctrine', and China took note of this.
In May 2009 at the Shangri 'la Dialogue in Singapore, the Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta confirmed the role of the Indian Navy in the Indian Ocean in his key note address as, "We see the Indian Navy as a significant stabilising force in the Indian Ocean region, which safeguards traffic bound not only for our own ports, but also the flow of hydrocarbons and strategically important cargo to and from the rest of the world across the strategic waterways close to our shores‚Ä¶..And so, the safety of SLOCS will always remain a priority for India in the foreseeable future.".
Chinese researchers have taken up the gauntlet to staunchly defend China's String of Pearls, as small change to developing countries, since it claims India has built its ports with ADB and World bank loans, which these countries find difficult to come by. Chinese naval analyst Zhang Ming recently proclaimed that the Islands of India's Andaman and Nicobar Archipelago could be used as a 'metal chain' to block Chinese access to the Straits of Malacca, and argued that India is building an 'Iron Curtain' in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), and ganging up with USA, Japan and Australia in what is called the Quad. The Japanese used the Andaman and Nicobar islands in the second world war as airfields for launching strikes, and are strategically located.
It is less publicised or talked about, yet the Chinese cite that in the last two decades India has stealthily strengthened its involvement in the IOR which includes the islands of Mauritius, Maldives, Seychelles, Madagascar and Zanzibar and the rim states of South Africa, Tanzania and Mozambique by very deft moves in foreign policy, economic sops like the double taxation exemption with Mauritius, and military inroads. Recently Defence Minister AK Antony visited Maldives and has promised to set up a radar chain for the country. This is the classical strategy of gaining influence by conjoining economic power and perks, with military diplomacy called 'Showing the Flag', so well perfected by larger maritime naval powers in the past. In recent times the Indian Navy has generously transferred offshore naval patrol vessels, provided staff and training and refit facilities and most importantly provided free and subsidised naval hydrographic support to the island nations of the IOR, which steps have left strategic imprints.
The Indian Navy has a very sophisticated hydrographic branch with 8 large well equipped survey ships, many survey craft, a large electronic chart production centre in Dehra Dun and a world class hydrographic school at Goa which trains several foreign naval and civilian personnel annually. Much funding for the Navy's survey vessels has been contributed by the Ministry of Shipping, which allowed easier induction of latest equipment, and a swifter procurement route than the cumbersome MOD's DPP-08. As a silent strategic arm of the nation the Navy's hydrographic branch has made forays in the IOR to undertake over a dozen survey assignments for island nations and recently executed surveys in Oman, and now is set to assist Saudi Arabia, for which an MOU has been signed. These successes have almost blocked out the more expensive western navies that had provided essentially needed hydrographic support to the island nations with large coast lines and EEZ in the past.
The Indian Ocean holds immense significance for India's development in the 21st century and the Chatham House paper states, "India's strategy is deepening not only commercially but due to concerns over its security and hegemony in the region, which are underpinned by India's Maritime Doctrine." The Chinese look at Indian Navy's gathering of 28 IOR Naval Chiefs including France, as a riparian state, under one roof at Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) in February 2008 in New Delhi and Goa for a retreat, as ganging up. The next IONS is being hosted by the UAE in March 2010 and Rear Admiral Ahmed Mohammed Al Sabab Chief of the UAE Navy and a graduate of the Pakistan Naval Acadmey who visited India in 2009, and will take over the Chairmanship. The preparatory meeting was held in Mombasa from 1st October, 2009.
The India Brazil South Africa(IBSA) grouping which was designed for commercial links, provision of energy and other resources from Africa is viewed by China as another grouping. In recent times China has taken the lead in what is seen as its 'Scramble for Africas'for resources, earlier made famous in a book by that title by Thomas Pakenham. India's maritime military strategy and the Navy's Maritime doctrine, both issued by the Indian Navy are clear on the Navy's responsibility for security support in region. The outgoing Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta made this amply clear at the Shangri'la dialogue stating, "Concerted efforts at capability enhancement and capacity building of the smaller countries of the region(IOR), through active assistance of larger neighbours, would be crucial to such efforts in the long term".
In this endeavour, India has a special relationship with Mauritius, a fulcrum island state because of its strong Indian diaspora and instituted a favourable taxation treaty that makes it India's largest offshore investor. The Indian Navy set up the Mauritius Coast Guard in the 70s and provided ships and personnel. Mauritius has close security coordination with India, and Chinese and Pakistan activities in the IOR are closely monitored by India's intelligence. The India-China competition to seek influence in the region is set to intensify as China's cheque book diplomacy currently finds favour in small African states and in Sudan and Zimbabwe. Deng's philosophy of ' the colour of the cat does not matter as long as it catches rats', is still relevant.
When the IOR-ARC, the Arrangement for Regional Cooperation was formed Mauritius, Madagascar and Mozambique supported India's move to block Pakistan's membership and later China's access to IBSA, though Pakistan is a full member of IONS. The Indian Navy has also made in roads to gain over flying and berthing rights in Oman which holds a strategic position especially for the fight against piracy off the Gulf of Aden, and from where India can closely monitors the SLOCs of Hormuz and Aden. India has signed to provide piracy patrols to Mozambique and it was also reported India has established a listening post in Madagascar in 2007. Chinese highlight these issues.
India's maritime swath is from Aden, the Straits of Hormuz to the Strait of Malacca as a region of its watch, and Mahan appears to have seen the coming importance of this region which provides 70% of the world's hydro carbons. K Santhanam former Director of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis(IDSA) and one of the architects of India's nuclear programme as the Project Director of India's 1998 nuclear blasts, with a back ground in intelligence and nuclear science, has coined the C3I theory for India- China relations and needs heeding. He is convinced India and China will seek cooperation as China has become India's largest trade partner totting up $ 40 bill, and yet will always be in competition for markets and influence, and in the future confrontation cannot be ruled out if both nations' interests clash. This writer feels the world has to be prepared for that contingency as nation's juggle to balance China and India, both growing economic powers, in their overall relations. In this matrix Santhanam avers Intelligence which includes cyber warfare will play a major role to ensure which nation succeeds better to gain influence, hence Santhanam's C3I theory of cooperation, competition and possible confrontation is eye opening for strategic gazers of the scenario. In this matrix the China- Pakistan nexus and the future of Afghanistan where India has interests is also a muddied by military operations against the Taliban and Al Queda.
China also has a 'Malacca Dilemma', and contributes generously to the Tripartite Technical Expert Group (TTEG) of Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore that control the Malacca Straits. India too has contributed $ 1.2 million as a response, and advanced $ 774,000 to TTEG on 31st March, 2009. What has irked the Chinese is the Indian Navy's offer to survey wrecks in the Malacca Straits which has been accepted by the TTEG . India looks at hydrographic assistance as a cooperative measure, while China sees this as strategic move by India by its hydrographic prowess, which has notched up successes.
The Chinese and Indian swords are sheathed for the time being, but could be out and India has to be prepared for the String of Pearls vs the Iron Curtain debate in what Santhnam has coined as C3I, for it was Chi Haotin who had said, "Indian Ocean is not India's Ocean". As the Chinese say never dig a spear in to the Dragon's eye. India will have to cope, and add a C to the C3I. Both nations have internal challenges of rampant poverty, and it is also been said, India is like boiling water. Steam and froth on top but rather calm below. China is like boiling oil, calm above but violent and seething below. If and when an eruption does takes place in any nation, it could be violent. The jury is still not out whether the Chinese top down approach is superior to India's rather slower, democratic and consensual approach.
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Last edited by SHASH2K2; 02-06-10 at 02:51 PM.
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07 Feb 2010 8ak: Increasing security concern and emerging need of revamping security in the Andaman and Nicobar Island has prompted India to set up new airbases and upgrade the existing ones in the Island. The Admiral said that the existing air-strip was not suitable for meeting the security requirements and plans were in place to build new air-strips in the 572 islands to establish better control over the territory and provide adequate security cover to the island, which is 700-km from the mainland.
The airstrip up north (Northern Andaman Islands) needs to be refurbished. Even for smaller aircraft it is a tight fit,' Verma told reporters in Port Blair. Adding further, he said that night landing facilities would also be established at the air-strips.
The airfield at Shibpur is about 1,000 feet in length and is inadequate for smaller cargo aircraft like Dornier and AN-32. Currently, only helicopters are capable of conducting operations from the airfield. Other airbases in the region are situated at Port Blair, Car Nicobar, and Campbell Bay, with plans to establish new ones in Katchul and Hut Bay.
The decision comes at a time when China is focussing on establishing their stronghold in the waters by expanding its navy at an unprecedented pace. Additional airbases would augment the capability of Indian armed forces to enhance the pace of troop mobilisation and logistical support in wake of any Chinese hostility. It will also enable India to extend its sphere of influence South China Sea.
The IAF has also opened three Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs) in the past two years to counter China‚Äôs military expansion. The latest being Nyoma in eastern Ladakh, just 23 km from the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, which was opened in September 2009. The other two ALGs are Daulat Beg Oldi, the world's highest airfield at 16,200 feet, in May 2008 and Fuk Che in November in the same year.
The Indian army on its past is modernising their artillery in a US$4 billion modernisation program to counter China. The big neighbour continues to be a threat to India, with whom it has a border dispute and even fought a war in 1962.
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China and India, who is encircling whom?
"India has long had dominance or, you might say, hegemony in South Asia. India has seen China's moves to build a deep water port at Gwadar in Pakistan and assist in setting up a monitoring station on the Great Coco Islands, Myanmar, more as an attempt to ‚Äėencircle' India", said Dr. Francine R. Frankel, who is in charge of the Center for the Advanced Study of India at the University of Pennsylvania, in an interview with Washington Observer Weekly. "Therefore, India, itself wanting to assert influence in South Asia, naturally does not welcome it".
However, Frankel stressed that while China and India have conflicts of interest in South Asia, she sees no possibility of military conflict, because neither country has the capability of power projection in the Indian Ocean at present. Nevertheless, she predicted that such ability will be attained in the future.
In the eyes of many Chinese scholars and South Asia experts in Washington, there are ulterior motives behind the United States' latest active cottoning to India. Its potential goal is to join forces to "hedge against China".
During the Indian Prime Minister Singh's visit to Washington in July 2005, the United States and India reached an agreement to upgrade their "global partnership" and strengthen cooperation in the Asia/Pacific strategy and in anti-terrorism. The United States also agreed to assist India in developing its civilian nuclear program. For this, the United States has risked condemnation in order to export advanced nuclear technology to India, blatantly ignoring the fact that India is not a signatory of the International Non-proliferation Treaty or NPT. This has not only aroused great dissatisfaction from the international anti-nuclear community but also raised frequent criticism from the government and the public in the United States: is it truly in line with US interests?
"The agreement between the United States and India is mutually beneficial in many ways. One cannot say that the United States has made more of a contribution than India", Frankel pointed out, "Currently, China can only be said to be a ‚Äėbackground factor' to the strengthened relationship between the two countries".
"A strong India accords with the interests of the United States"
According to the provisions of the Non-Proliferation Act, which took effect in 1978, the United States cannot sell to India civilian nuclear energy, space technology or technology suitable for both military and civilian purposes, because India is not a signatory state of NPT. Consequently, though Bush has promised the Indian government that the law will be amended in order to complete the historical deal between the two countries, whether the agreement will smoothly fall into place will still depend on Congress approval. For this, the US House Committee on International Relations has held 3 hearings in the past few months and examined the US-Indian cooperation agreement from the perspectives of regional strategy, anti-nuclear proliferation and US national interests. Frankel accepted the invitation from the Committee and testified in the capacity of expert on Indian issues in the hearing held on November 15.
"The United States hopes to see rapid growth in the Indian economy. Given the increasingly close economic and trade exchanges between the two countries, the United States has also made considerable investment in India's hi-tech industry. Many companies on Fortune's Top 500 List have set up branches in India", Frankel explained, "From this perspective, rather than merely from the viewpoint of non-proliferation, it makes sense for the United States and India to establish a partnership".
However, many in the United States who are against international nuclear proliferation say that the practice of the Bush administration not only defies international law, they further charge that this "special treatment" of India has actually set a bad precedent, and is a setback to the various international efforts to prevent nuclear weapon proliferation, let alone its negative impact on other countries like Iran and North Korea which have been censured for secretly developing nuclear weapons. (see Upgraded strategic partnership between US and India: aiming the "nuclear cooperation" ward at China?, Washington Observer Weekly, Issue 27, July 27, 2005).
Against this background, US congressmen attending the hearings could not help asking the question again and again: can India really contribute to the United States' strategic interests in the Asia/Pacific Region? Given the price which the United States must pay, does such a contribution warrant Congress making such a significant law amendment?
"Geopolitically speaking, a strong India accords with US interests, whether the United States needs to help her or not", Walter Andersen, deputy director of the South Asia Research Program at the School of International Relations (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University told Washington Observer Weekly, "If you believe that regional peace and stability must be achieved through a balance of power, you then should believe that apart from China, the growth of influence of India or Japan in Asia is also very important".
Andersen also mentioned that for the United States, the "China factor" is only part of the reason. There is an equally important reason for balancing power in the Asia/Pacific Region with the establishment of a US-Indian partnership; namely, cooperation between the two countries on global anti-terrorism action. He directly pointed out that "India is the only stable democratic country in South Asia" and therefore represents an active force for cracking down on terrorism. Frankel also held a similar view on this and believed that the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in South Asia is also a primary reason for the United States and India to improve their partnership.
"The United States hopes that it can get support from Pakistan to crack down on local terrorists, particularly those on the run in the North-West Frontier, while India is also very concerned about the terrorists exported from Pakistan, particularly in the India-controlled Kashmir", Frankel commented. "The two countries obviously share common interests in dealing with terrorism. This does not require any party to particularly encourage it". US military intelligence personnel have long suspected that Bin Laden, leader of the Al Quade Organization is hiding in the mountains at the North-West Frontier.
While acknowledging the positive side of an upgraded US-Indian partnership, Dr. Satu Limaye, researcher at the Institute for Defense Analysis, and another expert on South Asia who attended the hearing, did not neglect to mention that in expecting India to support its strategic interest in the Asia/Pacific Region, the United States should not ignore the fact that India, as a sovereign democratic state, has its own national interests to consider.
India will not "walk into a US trap"?
"India's activities in East Asia are designed to achieve its strategic autonomy and aim to prevent India from being marginalized. Meanwhile, these activities will also raise India's influence and ability. When supporting the United States' regional strategic goals, India will also consider its own goals", Limaye pointed out, "In any strategy to contain China, we cannot count on India to support the United States".
Limaye has recently left the post as head of the Research Department of the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies at the U.S. Pacific Command.
"The relations between India and China are not so good as to be able to establish a Sino-Indian axis. However, things are not so bad that India wants to enter a formal alliance with the United States", Limaye commented, "India will continue to hedge on both sides so as to continue to benefit from both the United States and China".
Limaye also stressed two major hot spots for military conflict in Asia - the Taiwan Straits and the Korean Peninsula - if something does happen, he "can hardly imagine that India will stand on the US side". One illustration of this is that out of its own security, energy and strategic considerations, India is cooperating with the Myanmar military government. Such behavior does not accord with US values. In addition, though India supports Japan to play a bigger role in Asia, its starting point nevertheless lies in the hope that multilateral mechanisms will emerge in Asia to eventually allow Japan to rely less on the United States and be more willing to accept India as its partner.
"Basically speaking, as far as the role India currently plays in Asia is concerned, her motives and capabilities are not sufficient motivation for the United States to improve US-Indian relations", Limaye concluded.
Frankel said: It is very important for New Delhi to improve its relations with Beijing. India therefore, will not go so far as to express strong support for US interests. She used what Indians have said themselves to state that India should not become so anti-China as to "walk into a US trap". However, Frankel also believes that a US-Indian partnership indeed offers many benefits to India.
"The United States and India can still cooperate on many issues, such as security. To keep the navigation route in the Indian Ocean safe, the two countries may jointly strengthen sea patrolling. This will have a positive impact on regional security", Frankel said. But, she also stressed: "The United States and India have not reached a stage for military cooperation".
Andersen, however, thought that people should not always ask "What India can do for us". He said that the crux of the matter does not lie in whether India truly acts according to the wishes of the United States, and is duty-bound in its support of strategic US interests in Asia, but rather in "whether India is strong enough to sustain its balancing role in Asia". He did not directly answer this question. But, he did point out that the United States exerts a vital influence on raising India's position in Asia, implying that the United States nevertheless has high expectations of India, and will certainly expect things return for its support.
Limaye also pointed out that India's influence in East Asia is of potential benefit to the United States. "India is also improving its relations with other US allies in Asia, such as Japan, Australia and Singapore. It is possible that multilateral security cooperation frameworks can be nurtured. This will help to avoid other East Asian countries over-relying on China. This is indeed good for the United States."
China is "encircling" India?
The new round of wrestling between China and India in the South Asian Region was staged at the South Asian Alliance on Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit closed in Dacca, capital of Bangladesh on November 13. All member states then agreed to invite Afghanistan to join the organization and let China become an observer country at the regional forum. But according to a Pakistani press report, India as a member country which has long considered itself number one in South Asia made the only call against China's entry to SAARC at the meeting.
As for Frankel's notion that "China is encircling India", Andersen disagreed. He said that what China has done is nothing more than maximally develop its economic interests in South Asia. Bilateral trade value between China and India totaled $13.6 billion in 2004. China has become India's second largest trade partner. India mostly exports industrial raw materials and agricultural products to China, while China's exports to India mainly consist of textile and electromechanical products. There is certain trade complementarity between the two countries.
"I am not saying that China does not want to encircle India but rather that China has no blue water navy in the Indian Ocean. Moreover, China should look eastwards rather than southwards in its military deployment", stressed Andersen. "The real problem lies in how these two countries can maintain a stable relationship. How to ease the mood of tension in their relations will be the greatest target and also the biggest challenge for the two countries".
Frankel also said that India and China both have ambitious plans to raise their navy power in the next decade or two. For India, the deployment of military forces is deployment of the navy. Reports say that the Indian Navy announced in May 2005, that a new giant navy base at Kadamba along the Arabic Sea coast on the Indian Island had been put into trial operation. This is also a deep water port, wholly independently used by the Indian Navy, sufficient to harbor 42 warships, one aircraft carrier and nuclear submarines.
"Neither India nor China wants conflict between them", Frankel said, "The two countries are only competing for prestige and influence in South Asia". As for whether India can continue to keep its exclusive dominance in the region, or when China will replace it, Frankel believes that the trend has already started. Developments in the next ten years will be worthy of particular attention.
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Analysts have long wondered if the Chinese navy (PLAN) had a third island chain strategy, beyond the publicly declared strategies for the first island chain (centered on Taiwan) and second island chain (extending from Japan to Indonesia). Many American commentators believed that such a strategy would refer to the ability to project power capable of reaching America's bases in Hawaii.
However, China's recent maritime activities -- such as its extended counterpiracy patrols in the Horn of Africa and its involvement in a number of port development projects in Indian Ocean littorals (dubbed the "string of pearls") -- have raised the suspicion in Indian defense circles that the third island chain lies in the Indian Ocean, and specifically refers to the waters surrounding the Indian Andaman and Nicobar islands.
As China's dependence on Middle Eastern energy sources has grown, so has its concern over protecting its sea lines of communication for those energy imports. Given projected rates of growth of the Chinese economy, this dependence is only set to increase, from between 40 percent and 50 percent today to up to 80 percent in 2025. Naturally, the PLAN has been tasked with coming up with a strategy that can secure the lines of communication for China's oil -- not an enviable task, given the tyranny of geography.
As PLA Gen. Qian Guoliang stated in an article written in 2000, the threat to China emanates concurrently from "one point and one lane." While the "point" refers to Taiwan, the "lane" was an allusion to the long voyage of Chinese tankers returning home via the Indian Ocean and the Straits of Malacca. It could be argued that China has built up its military capabilities to where the "point," Taiwan, is no longer that much of a concern. But the "lane" continues to be one.
The chief and most immediate area of concern for the PLAN is the six-degree channel that lies between India's Great Nicobar Island and Indonesia's Sumatra Island, where China's shipping is especially vulnerable to Indian and other forces. Indeed, one of the key aims of India's own impressive naval build-up as well as the accretion of assets to its Andaman- and Nicobar-based tri-services command is to "surveillance seed" the Lumbok and Sunda straits as a non-lethal demonstration of Indian capabilities -- in much the same way the U.S. Navy is building up Guam. In this context, China's recent provocations and overall aggressive stance along the disputed Sino-Indian border in the Himalayas could be seen as an attempt to make India spend more on its army and air force, thereby leaving less for India's emerging blue-water navy.
For its part, the PLAN has also sought to raise the profile of its South Sea Force through the construction of hardened deep-water bases like the one at Sanya, on Hainan Island. That base, in particular, is designed to handle both attack and nuclear ballistic submarines, as well as possible future Chinese aircraft carriers, the first of which may be inducted by 2015. Nevertheless, China is still two decades away from being able to project serious carrier battle groups into the Indian Ocean, and for the near future, any unfolding "third island" strategy will depend essentially on nuclear attack submarines and air bases in Burma.
More specifically, China is likely to resort to a greater number of nuclear-powered submarine patrols in the Lumbok and Sunda straits, as well as the northern Indian Ocean, to demonstrate what it calls a "punishment strategy" for nations making contingency plans to interdict Chinese energy supplies. The Chinese may also be looking to station SU-30 MKK attack fighter jets in Burmese bases such as Ann and Sittwe to extend an airborne strike umbrella over the channel.
Despite the military posturing around the "third island chain," some observers feel that the Chinese string of pearls located further afield in places such as Hambantota (Sri Lanka), Chittagong (Bangladesh), Gwadar (Pakistan) and Mukkala (Yemen) will remain essentially commercial ventures. By this logic, China is hoping that substantive economic relations with Indian Ocean littoral states will weave a "soft-power web" around India, making it politically costly for India to take military action against Chinese interests in the Indian Ocean.
However, India is naturally wary of such moves, which perhaps explains why it refused to give China either observer or associate member status in the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium. That 33-member grouping of Indian Ocean littoral states, started by India, seeks to evolve a common security agenda for member states in the seas that wash their shores.
The Chinese have also sought to ensure that their posture does not encourage further Indo-U.S. naval cooperation in the Indian Ocean. Despite recent naval incidents in the South China Sea, the Chinese have consistently sought to signal to the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) the regional nature of the PLAN's buildup. In fact, PACOM's commander, Adm. Timothy J. Keating, recently revealed that a high-ranking Chinese officer had "offered to divide the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions between China and the U.S. after Beijing launched its own fleet of aircraft carriers."
Keating went on to describe the remarks as tongue-in-cheek. Nevertheless, the PLAN is clearly considering more permanent basing in the eastern Indian Ocean, as highlighted by comments made by retired Rear Adm. Yin Zhou last week, referring to the difficulties encountered by the Chinese navy's counterpiracy patrols with respect to logistics and sailor health in the absence of port calls.
For its part, India has already acquired berthing rights in Oman, and may be setting up military facilities in Madagascar and the Maldives. It seems New Delhi also wants to convince Beijing that the latter's best chance of securing SLOCs lies in a "joint initiative," rather than possible confrontation. Only time will tell whether the "third island chain" strategy becomes a factor driving heightened geopolitical rivalry between Asia's emerging giants or, to the contrary, serves as the chill before the thaw.
**Saurav Jha studied economics at Presidency College, Calcutta, and Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He writes and researches on global energy issues and clean energy development in Asia. His first book for Harper Collins India, "The Upside Down Book of Nuclear Power," is scheduled for publication in January 2010. He also works as an independent consultant in the energy sector in India. He can be reached at [email protected].
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Maldives: Tiny islands, big intrigue
By Sudha Ramachandran
BANGALORE - Concerned about China's growing interest in the Indian Ocean, a body of water and region that New Delhi considers to be its own sphere of influence, India is strengthening its already close military cooperation with Maldives, a nation of 1,192 tiny, low-lying coral islands strategically located about 300 miles off subcontinent's southeast coast.
India is transferring to Maldives INS Tillanchang, a 260-ton fast-attack craft commissioned in 2001, which has a range of 3,600
kilometers and is designed for quick and covert operations against smugglers, gun-runners and terrorists. India will also provide Maldives with funds for training, material and technical assistance for three years after the transfer of the vessel.
The ship will be formally transferred to Maldives in mid-April when Indian Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee visits the Maldivian capital, Male. Besides, an Indian navy survey ship, INS Darshak, will conduct a hydrographic survey in the waters around Maldives.
Close cooperation between the two countries is not new. In 1988, in response to the request of the Maldivian government, India rushed paratroopers and naval forces to crush a coup attempt. India's relationship with Maldives has deepened in the post-coup period. It has provided Maldives with armored cars and other military equipment and has trained Maldivian paratroopers in counter-insurgency operations. Indian navy vessels patrol along the archipelago's many coastlines and watch over its sea lanes.
In addition to strengthening Maldives' internal security, there exists close cooperation in developing the archipelago's health, civil aviation, telecommunications and other civilian sectors. Indian and Maldivian coast guards have also participated in joint dosti (friendship) exercises. Moreover, the Indian navy was at the forefront of massive relief operations after the 2004 tsunami.
Not everyone in Maldives is not happy with the growing military relationship, as some see this as further consolidating President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's grip on power. Maldives, a seemingly serene tourist paradise, has in recent years been rocked by street demonstrations opposing Gayoom's autocratic rule. There is concern that Gayoom will use the military assistance he gets from India against his domestic political opponents, whom he tends to label indiscriminately as "Islamist terrorists".
So there are plenty of good reasons for New Delhi to keep a close watch over its neighbor. Maldives shares ties of religion with Pakistan (both countries are Sunni Muslim). India would not want that bond to blossom into a stronger political-defense relationship or have other interests inimical to India gain influence in territory so close to its coastline.
That's why reports of growing ties with China are of great concern to New Delhi. The visit of then Chinese premier Zhu Rongji to Male in 2001 immediately prompted rumors that the Chinese were seeking a base on one of the atolls. According to these reports, the Chinese managed to persuade the Maldivian government to grant them a base on Marao, one of the largest islands of the archipelago, and that Pakistan had played an important role in pushing the deal through. The base was to become operational in 2010.
The deal appeared to have run into trouble in 2002, but reports of renewed maritime cooperation on the part of China and Maldives surfaced again in 2004. Both the Maldivian and Chinese governments denied the reports and have since maintained that the deepsea surveys that were carried out were for environmental protection, not for military purposes.
China might deny it has plans for a base in Maldives, but such plans fit a long-standing pattern. To the west of India lies China's longtime "all-weather friend" Pakistan. China's cooperation on missiles and nuclear weapons is well known and its funding of Pakistan's Gwadar port will enable the Chinese navy to sit at the mouth of the strategic Strait of Hormuz, through which passes much of the world's petroleum supply, as well as provide it access to the Arabian Sea.
To India's east, China has substantial influence over the military junta in Myanmar. It is helping modernize several bases along the Andaman Sea in Hianggyi, Akyab, Kyun and Mergui to support Chinese submarine operations. Myanmar is said to have leased a base to the Chinese in the Coco Islands, which are just a few nautical miles from India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands. India believes that Beijing's surveillance facilities there facilitate its monitoring of India's missile-testing activity in the eastern state of Orissa. China also has extensive military relations with Bangladesh. Dhaka is said to have offered the Chinese access to Chittagong port.
Given China's known interest in having bases around the Indian Ocean littoral, a Chinese base in Maldives would not be surprising. But while defense experts in India see the Chinese base in Maldives as motivated by Beijing's determination to contain and encircle India, it is possible that Beijing has another motivation for stringing bases like pearls from the Strait of Hormuz to Southeast Asia, namely securing energy supplies to feed its growing economy.
This strategy is described in a report titled "Energy Futures in Asia" produced by Booz Allen Hamilton for the Pentagon. The report draws attention to the "pearls" in this string such as the Chinese naval presence at Gwadar in Pakistan, at Chittagong in Bangladesh, in Myanmar, Cambodia and Thailand, and in the South China Sea. The base in Marao, Maldives, could be part of this strategy of securing the sea lanes through which pass oil tankers from the Middle East heading for China.
Of course, India has its own designs in the Indian Ocean. Analysts view India's security perimeter - its "rightful domain" - as extending from the Strait of Hormuz to the Strait of Malacca, from Africa's east coast to the western shores of Australia. It has been reaching out to Indian Ocean littorals from Africa and Asia through joint naval exercises with some countries and by patrolling sea lanes. Recent reports suggest that India is planning to set up a high-tech monitoring station in northern Madagascar. The package to Maldives is part of this larger Indian Ocean strategy.
India's military package might prompt some smiles in the Gayoom government. But whether it will keep Gayoom from courting the Chinese remains to be seen. India just might find itself having to do more than offering a speed boat to keep the Chinese away from its southern doorstep.
A China-North Korea-Myanmar ‚ÄúAxis‚ÄĚ in the making?
June 17, 2010
June 17, 2010
The suspected North Korea-Myanmar nuclear links are a potential destabilizing factor in India‚Äôs immediate neighbourhood. Even as the international community is battling to find ways and means to get Pyongyang back to the negotiating table, the Six-Party Talks from which it walked out in April 2009, a leaked UN report has claimed that North Korea is defying UN sanctions and is engaged in exporting nuclear and missile technology to such countries as Iran, Syria and Myanmar.1 If Myanmar‚Äôs nuclear weapons quest is indeed true, the immediate concern for India is finding another nuclear state along its eastern border, which will drastically alter the security situation in the region.
The UN report, which was prepared by a panel of experts that monitors sanctions against North Korea after it conducted the nuclear weapons test in 2006 and again in 2009, accused Pyongyang of using shell companies and overseas criminal networks to export the technology. The 47-page report that was leaked in New York in late May 2010 listed North Korea‚Äôs sanctions violations, including four cases of arms exports. The panel accused Pyongyang of using ‚Äúa number of masking techniques.‚ÄĚ Pyongyang was found to be ‚Äúfalsely labelling the contents of shipping and giving inaccurate information about their origin and destination.‚ÄĚ As an impoverished economy desperate to earn some foreign exchange, Pyongyang is suspected of exporting ‚Äúnuclear and missile technology with the aid of front companies, middlemen and other ruses.‚ÄĚ
Earlier, during a visit to the Thai resort island of Phuket in July 2009 for the regional security meeting, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had expressed concerns about the growing military cooperation between North Korea and Myanmar and the possibility of nuclear links between the two.
As in the case with North Korea, some military officers in Myanmar have defected to other countries and revealed startling details about the military junta‚Äôs nuclear weapons development programmes. However, the junta is not yet appropriately positioned to launch such a programme due to lack of technology and resources, and therefore the programme remains primitive at the moment. Yet, the junta‚Äôs intention seems to be clear and the ultimate goal seems to be to acquire nuclear weapons and make Myanmar a nuclear weapon state.
The report was commissioned by the dissident group Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) and was co-authored by Robert Kelly, a former senior nuclear inspector with the International Atomic Energy Agency. After reviewing the photographs and equipment in Myanmar, Kelly came to the conclusion that the equipment was ‚Äúfor chemical processes needed to make uranium compounds in various stages of processing, such as uranium hexafluoride for enrichment and bomb reduction vessels for uranium metal.‚ÄĚ However, Khin Maung Win, the deputy director of the Oslo-based DVB is of the opinion that the military junta is ‚Äústill far from developing a nuclear weapon because they are using very primitive technology.‚ÄĚ This led to the cancellation of a planned visit by US Senator Jim Webb to Myanmar, who felt that the visit would be ‚Äúunwise and potentially counter-productive.‚ÄĚ2 Webb, the chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, and a leading proponent of greater engagement with Myanmar, seemed to have been persuaded by the report‚Äôs findings and felt that the time was inopportune to undertake the visit.
The main source of information for the report was Major Sai Thein Win, who defected from Myanmar, and whose evidence corroborated rumours already in circulation. Win, seen as an ‚Äúarmy deserter‚Äô by Myanmar since February 2010, had a degree in power engineering from State Technical University in Moscow, and is believed to have smuggled out files and photographs of critical sites in Myanmar3 Kelly described Win ‚Äúas Myanmar‚Äôs version of Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli nuclear technician who revealed details of the Jewish state‚Äôs nuclear programme in 1986.‚ÄĚ4 The photographs provided by Win could as well have been faked since modern technology makes it possible. But since the pictures were consistent with other available information, the suspicion appears credible. However, the view that Myanmar‚Äôs nuclear programme is ‚Äúpoorly planned, unrealistic‚ÄĚ and that it is seeking ‚Äúthe highest and most difficult technologies, such as laser isotope separation, using machine-shop drawings of unprofessional quality and photo evidence of crude items‚ÄĚ seems closer to the truth.
The reaction from the military junta was of denial. The ruling junta denounced the allegations as ‚Äúbaseless accusations that are politically motivated‚ÄĚ and clarified that it had no intention of building an atomic bomb. It brushed aside the report expressing Western concern that Myanmar has nuclear cooperation with North Korea. The statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused the West of aiming ‚Äúto undermine the political process as Myanmar is striving for democracy by holding general elections this year.‚ÄĚ
Though Yangon severed ties with North Korea in 1983 following a failed assassination attempt by North Korean agents on former South Korean President Chun Doo-Hwan during the latter‚Äôs visit to Myanmar, their bilateral ties have warmed up in recent years. The junta has admitted to inking a deal with Russia to build a nuclear reactor for its civilian sector, though the reactor was never built because of insufficient resources. Myanmar‚Äôs Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected the charge that the junta ignored UN Security Council sanctions resolutions by permitting a North Korean vessel to dock at a port in Myanmar in April 2010, clarifying that the ship was unloading and loading cargo unrelated to the targeted weapons activities. The ministry‚Äôs statement reminded the West that Myanmar is a member of the NPT and the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapons Free Zone Treaty and ‚Äúhas been actively participating in the United Nations Conference on Disarmament in Geneva as a founding member.‚ÄĚ5
Myanmar which has been under military rule since 1962 has been accused of violating a UN Security Council ban on North Korean arms exports imposed in June 2009. When the US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell visited Myanmar in May 2010, he expressed concern about Myanmar‚Äôs links with North Korea with respect to an arms shipment.
As noted earlier, India has a legitimate reason to worry about the military junta‚Äôs nuclear plan. An axis of sorts seems to be emerging between China, North Korea and Myanmar, which is detrimental to India‚Äôs interests. The situation gets further complicated as Myanmar‚Äôs links with China gets further strengthened. Notwithstanding the economic bonhomie between India and China, there exists huge trust deficit between the two as China expands its strategic reach and builds up close ties with countries such as Pakistan and Myanmar.
As much as 87 per cent of the total investment in Myanmar has come from China.6 China‚Äôs investment in Myanmar is focused mainly on strategic projects such as in energy and natural resources. Chinese corporations are involved in 90 hydropower, mining and oil and gas projects across Myanmar. The Chinese aim seems to be procuring gas and oil for its landlocked southern Yunnan province. ‚ÄúThe pipeline is designed to open the Indian Ocean for fuel shipments and act as a means to circumvent the congested Straits of Malacca, through which over 70 per cent of China‚Äôs current oil and gas imports travel.‚ÄĚ7 A study undertaken by Lex Rieffel suggests that as far as Myanmar is concerned, its earnings from the growing energy sector will double in the next five years.8
China‚Äôs real intentions can probably be measured from the fact that while the US imposed sanctions on the import of precious stones from Myanmar, China‚Äôs presence in that country‚Äôs gem mining and export industry soared. Like in the case of North Korea, Myanmar has emerged as one of China‚Äôs closest allies in recent years. Though China claims to be pursuing a policy of non-interference in the domestic affairs of both North Korea and Myanmar and does not tie politics to business, tacit Chinese endorsement of the policies pursued by Pyongyang and military junta in Myanmar has emboldened them to persist with policies that are detrimental for peace and stability in the region. The possible emergence of a China-North Korea-Myanmar ‚Äėaxis‚Äô will be an unwelcome prospect for India.
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I think if we act wisely we can at least make sure that Myanmar is not Anti India. It cannot get everything from Chinese. Regarding remaining two they will always be pet to their masters.
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China‚Äôs String of Pearls and India‚Äôs Enduring Tactical Advantage
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June 8, 2010
When in 2003 a team of Booz Allen consultants, in a report for the Pentagon, coined the term ‚Äėstring of pearls‚Äô to describe China‚Äôs attempts to gain a strategic foothold in the Indian Ocean, they were in all likelihood little aware of how rapidly their colourful image would gain currency in turn of the century geopolitical discourse. Amidst Delhi‚Äôs vibrant strategic community, in particular, the expression has come to embody, occasionally more metaphorically than factually, India‚Äôs innate, almost visceral fear of maritime encirclement. What, however, is the reality behind China‚Äôs so-called string of pearls? And in what way does it pose such an existential threat to Indian security? It will be argued here that China‚Äôs naval positioning in the Indian Ocean is not only legitimate to a certain degree, but also, paradoxically, to Delhi‚Äôs tactical advantage in the event of a Sino-Indian conflict. This tactical edge can only be guaranteed, however, by the dogged pursuit of certain diplomatic and military measures.1
I. A String of Clouded Pearls
The term ‚Äėstring of pearls‚Äô was coined to describe China‚Äôs increasing forays into the Indian Ocean , discernible through its efforts to establish ‚Äėnodes of influence‚Äô in the region, via an assertive diplomacy primarily geared towards strengthening its economic and security ties with countries as diverse as Pakistan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. In some cases this firming up of ties has led to joint port construction or enlargement deals, such as with Pakistan at Gwadar, or with Sri Lanka at Hambantota.2
When evoking its Indian Ocean Policy, Beijing tends to paint it in broader economic and maritime security-related terms. Increasingly dependent on foreign oil, China is to some extent a prisoner of its own geography, as it is positioned far from some of the world‚Äôs most strategically salient shipping lanes, where the US and Indian Navies hold sway. It is in order to remedy this ‚ÄėMalacca dilemma‚Äô, argue Chinese strategists, that Beijing is compelled to venture further afield into the balmy waters of the Indian Ocean. For India, which has been entrapped in an often tension-fraught relationship with China for over half a century, China‚Äôs strategy bears greater resemblance to a noose woven to encircle and constrict India within its own backyard rather than a sparkly, peace-imbued constellation of trade linkages. In short, it could be argued that both nations are imprisoned in a textbook security dilemma.
The String of Pearls has become one of the most widely commented subjects in contemporary strategic debate, despite the fact that it is also one of the most factually opaque. This paradox is especially blatant in India, where there seems to be an increasing disconnect between strategic commentary and official declarations,3 with the latter taking great pains to emphasise that China has currently no naval bases in the Indian Ocean. Regularly stories surface in the press that are subsequently disavowed or contested, ranging from the supposed presence of a Chinese submarine base at Marao in the Maldives to conflicting accounts of the extent of Chinese military presence in the Coco Islands off Burma.
What is clear, however, is that there is no compelling evidence yet to suggest that the PLAN has engaged in basing activities of an overtly military nature. Nevertheless, this does not mean that it has no future intention to do so. Chinese naval commanders have said as much, recently stating that China may also seek to obtain a base in the Gulf of Aden. The deep-sea water port of Gwadar, of which the first phase of construction has been completed, is projected to undergo militarization by the Pakistani Navy, which means that Chinese surface and sub-surface platforms could easily be stationed there. Most of the ports the PRC is helping to develop, be at Hambantota or Chittagong, can have a dual use, by hosting both merchant and military vessels. And the absence as yet of Chinese warships at berth does not mean that China is not busy conducting naval espionage be it via the alleged SIGINT facilities it is erecting in places such as the Coco Islands or via discreet hydrographic research.
It seems clear that China‚Äôs string of pearls strategy is still very much in a nascent, or even embryonic, phase. If it were to take on a decidedly military nature, however, what would be the security implications for India?
II. Why China‚Äôs String of Pearls will ultimately be to India‚Äôs Tactical Advantage?
While many in India lament the supposed military emasculation induced by the presence of permanent Chinese bases in the region, it will be argued here that such a development would actually be to India‚Äôs tactical benefit provided it takes certain preparatory measures that will be detailed later on.
The unresolved land border issue and Tibet, both of which are intrinsically linked, are the focal points of Sino-Indian tension and are likely to remain so in the future. This means that if a conflict between these rising powers does occur, it would most likely be a largely land war, most probably in the Himalayan Northeast. As of now, the Indian Navy can only be expected to play a minor role in such a conflict. With the future presence of Chinese naval bases in the region however, this could change, by providing the Indian Navy with a novel warfighting role.
A cursory review of the tactical options available to the Indian fleet in the event of a Sino-Indian war reveals the tactical flexibility on offer:
Tactical Option number 1: A strategy of commodity denial, either via sea-lane blockade or through the targeted interdiction of Chinese shipping
This option would require a long, protracted conflict in order to be effective. This effectiveness is likely to take ever longer to attain as China continues to build up its strategic oil reserves over the next decade, until it reaches its avowed goal of six months self-sufficiency.4 Furthermore, as the recent tragedy off the coast of Gaza starkly brought to light, naval blockades can be messy affairs, resulting in collateral civilian casualties. This risk would be further compounded if Chinese merchant ships started to provide their crew members with small arms to fend off Somali pirate attacks. Finally, such a blockade would severely disrupt international trade, and would put into question India‚Äôs role as a responsible stakeholder in the international system.
Tactical Option number 2: An expeditionary force into the South China Sea
Not only would this escalate the conflict into a full-spectrum war, it would also result in disaster for the Indian fleet. Even if by 2020 the Indian Navy can boast two immediately deployable carrier groups, they would not be able to withstand a sustained aerial assault from Chinese fighters stationed on the mainland or on Hainan, especially when combined with a salvo of DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missiles. In addition, the Indian Navy would have to face down the rapidly expanding South China Sea Fleet, as well as the latest Jin class SSBNs and Shang Class SSNs stationed at Sanya.
Tactical Option number 3: Breaking China‚Äôs String of Pearls
If one looks at a potential naval conflict between both powers in the Indian Ocean, it makes no sense to compare each force in its totality, ship for ship, missile for missile. Theatre dominance is all that matters, and in this respect India will display two unalterable advantages:
Firstly, by virtue of India‚Äôs immense geographical advantages in the region, it is difficult to imagine China ever being able to wield as much military clout in the region as India can. India‚Äôs natural peninsular formation means that it has been described by some as akin to an ‚Äúunsinkable aircraft carrier‚ÄĚ jutting out into the Indian Ocean. Any naval taskforce venturing into the Bay of Bengal with hostile intentions would have to contend with India‚Äôs airforce and naval aviation, operating not only from the mainland, but also from the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago in the Andaman Sea, whose airstrips are currently being extended, and which is slated to eventually host Sukhoi squadrons, and possibly MiGs and Mirages.5
Secondly, China‚Äôs naval presence in the region will be dispersed along the several, often distant, nodal points that constitute its string of pearls. Assuming that these forces together are superior in both quantity and quality to the Indian Navy, which is, all in all, most unlikely, India will still have the immediate advantage of force concentration and hence superiority if it decides to conduct a rapid strike at an isolated group of Chinese vessels. A direct attack on a naval base would be highly undesirable, as it would trigger a severe crisis with the hosting country. A massive naval deployment outside one such base could have the desired effect however, by compelling the Chinese to de-escalate their land assault, much as the Indian Navy‚Äôs stationing of its fleet 13 nautical miles outside Karachi during the Kargil War prompted, some claim, the Pakistani Army to accelerate the withdrawal of its forces from the disputed areas.6
III. Necessary Preparatory Measures
Reinforcing the ANC
The Andaman and Nicobar Command, which was inaugurated as India‚Äôs first joint command structure in 2001, is of absolutely vital strategic import. Separated from the mainland by almost 1200 kms of sea, the island chain, which lies only 18 km from the Coco Islands, constitutes India‚Äôs first eastern maritime defence perimeter. It has been also been described by certain Chinese analysts as a ‚Äėmetal chain‚Äô which could lock China out of the Indian Ocean.7 It goes without saying that the command will play a first-line role in the event of a Sino-Indian naval clash in the Indian Ocean. Although measures have been taken to strengthen India‚Äôs force presence on the islands, most notably by enlarging airstrips for Sukhois, or by announcing the stationing of India‚Äôs first full-bodied joint amphibious force and the ramping up of its existing 3000 strong 108 Mountain Brigade to a division level force of 15000 troops, the ANC is still having to making do with an assortment of fast offshore patrol vessels, LSTs and aging Dornier-228 Maritime Patrol Aircraft.8 More needs to be done to accelerate the strengthening of India‚Äôs military deterrent in the Andaman Sea. This can be done by stationing one or two large warships there on a permanent basis, by setting up Brahmos cruise missile silos on some of the larger islands, and by providing the ANC with its own separate budget so that its platform acquisition efforts no longer fall victim to inter-service turf wars.
Signing an Intelligence Sharing Agreement with the US involving the sharing of maritime satellite-based surveillance
As the Chinese Navy extends its presence into the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf, the region will be witness to a growing strategic congruence between both Washington and Delhi in their desire to carefully monitor the PLAN's comings and goings. Both navies already share very strong ties and have begun to display an ever increasing degree of interoperability, in large part thanks to the Malabar bilateral or multilateral exercises held each spring. India and the United States have recently upgraded their intelligence sharing in the field of counter-terrorism. In future, both states may well find that the surveillance of China‚Äôs naval activities in the region is an equally pressing concern.
It would be in India‚Äôs interest to press for a maritime intelligence sharing agreement, which would result in the linking of India‚Äôs new ocean surveillance satellite with the US‚Äôs own satellite-based surveillance system. India could also offer to share radar and sonar data compiled in the Andaman Sea with US Naval Intelligence in exchange for US satellite imagery, thus gifting the Indian Navy with a bird‚Äôs eye view of everything that goes on in the Indian Ocean. This would be a good stop-gap measure while waiting for India‚Äôs own burgeoning satellite-based surveillance system to attain the capability of covering the entire region in real time. In order to not make the measure appear too overtly directed against China, both countries could ‚Äėsell‚Äô the initiative as being part of their larger effort to ensure maritime security in the region, and help protect maritime shipping from non-traditional threats.
Sustain and Reinforce Indian Maritime Diplomacy in the Indian Ocean Region
While much has been said of China‚Äôs inroads into the Indian Ocean, India‚Äôs own charm offensive in the region has also been bearing fruit over the past two to three years, whether it be through the establishment of electronic monitoring systems in Madagascar in 2007, or more recently, in August 2009, in the Maldives. Indian officials have also become more reactive to the attempt of their Chinese counterparts to woo small but strategically placed nations such as the Seychelles or Mauritius. For example, Delhi reacted to Beijing‚Äôs offer of military assistance to the Seychelles by rapidly bestowing on its minute navy one of its own patrol aircraft.9 This sort of rapid, reactive diplomacy, when combined with more long-term institutionalized efforts such as the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium launched in 2008, will help sustain the strength and visibility of India‚Äôs presence in the region.
China‚Äôs so-called string of pearls strategy, the degree of advancement of which has frequently been overstated, is not likely to immediately put Indian maritime security in jeopardy. Nevertheless, there will inevitably come a time when India will have to face the reality of a Chinese naval presence in its own backyard. Beijing cannot afford for its Achilles heel, i.e. its acute vulnerability to any interruption of its overseas trade, to be bared for much longer.
Only when India‚Äôs strategic community grasps that India is already squarely poised over China‚Äôs energy jugular, will they be able to break with an acutely ingrained sense of vulnerability. Not only would the presence of Chinese vessels present no real existential threat to Indian naval dominance in the region, it would also, paradoxically, provide the Indian Navy with a far greater degree of tactical flexibility in the event of a future conflict with China, be it on land or at sea. This advantage can only be guaranteed, however, if India undertakes certain preparatory measures designed to effectively lock down its control of its maritime surroundings, and curb Chinese influence among certain key oceanic ‚Äėswing‚Äô states.
Finally, as China edges its way into the Indian Ocean over the course of the next few decades, both nations would do well to agree to draft a ‚ÄúSino-Indian Incidents at Sea Agreement‚ÄĚ, which could be loosely modelled on the Cold-War era INCSEA, and which helped prevent routine US-Soviet naval encounters from spiralling out of control. The quest for adequate military readiness and tactical flexibility does not, after all, render the prospect of a future Sino-Indian naval conflict any less dire.
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Any Ideas on what should be Indian strategy in Indian Ocean?
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