Japan and India in their seaborne ventures


Senior Member
Jan 17, 2010
In the Shadow of China’s Rise | James Holmes – The Naval Diplomat

On Thursday the Naval Diplomat will have the privilege of moderating a roundtable featuring Vice Admiral Yoji Koda, a former commander-in-chief of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force fleet, and Admiral Sureesh Mehta, a former chief of naval staff of the Indian Navy. That's distinguished company for your humble scribe to keep. The panel will take place at this year's China Maritime Studies Institute conference, which is probing "China's Evolving Surface Fleet." That should make for a bracing mix of perspectives on the PLA Navy.
Geographic distance affords India time — sort of. India is remote from China by sea. Ships must undertake tortuous voyages through the Malacca, Sunda, or Lombok straits to reach the Indian Ocean from East Asia (or vice versa), or else detour around the South China Sea rim, or else steam way, way around southern Australia. China also has abundant business to tend to in the China seas, limiting the forces it can spare for South Asia. India thus enjoys some leisure to build up its seagoing capacity, whereas Japan already finds itself in the thick of strategic competition with China. On the other hand, the two continental powers share a contested land frontier. They can apply pressure on one another without even putting ships to sea — much as Chinese troops have done along the "line of actual control" in recent days. Bilateral encounters, then, can unfold along direct or indirect axes, on land or at sea.

Nor do the differences stop at geography. Japan is an established naval power of decades' standing. The JMSDF boasts a world-class fleet featuring such platforms as light aircraft carriers, Aegis-equipped destroyers, and diesel-electric submarines. India is a sea power on the rise, albeit one with proven capabilities such as naval aviation. Whatever New Delhi's travails with the Admiral Gorshkov/Vikramaditya carrier project and indigenous flattop construction, naval aviation has a long pedigree in the Indian Navy. Indeed, seamanship and tactical excellence appear to be virtues common to Japanese and India seafarers. For now the human factor appears to work in their favor vis-à-vis the PLA Navy. Whether that will remain true as China's navy matures remains to be seen.

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