Dominance of Indo Pacific region – II
— Part II of the series by Maj. Gen. CP Singh (Retd.)
NAVAL STRENGTH TO DOMINATE IOR
The Indian Navy performs four sorts of roles within the Indian Ocean region—military, diplomatic, constabulary and benign to guard the maritime interests of the state . Given the geopolitical nuances within the Indian Ocean , the Indian Navy must transform itself into a blue water navy. For that to happen, it will have to first become a builder’s navy and achieve nation building through shipbuilding. Buying naval equipment is very costly and navies are not built in a day. Atmanirbhar route is the ideal way to pursuit our dreams of becoming blue water navy. The Indian Navy also must begin with concrete plans to adopt new age technologies. The annual Budget for Indian Navy should also be increased keeping in mind, the rising aspirations of India as a regional superpower. Nevertheless, India still retains a focused desire to buld a naval force capable of fulfilling its strategic goal of emerging as a significant global player and a regional super power.
INCREASING FOOTPRINTS WITHIN THE INDIAN OCEAN
• ANDAMAN & NICOBAR TRISERVICES COMMAND India has positioned it’s first tri services command at Port Blair, Andaman & Nicobar island. The first aim was to guard its strategic interests within the Strait of Malacca but aim plus was to put a command and communication structure at the islands, with reasonable logistics facilities. This tri services command will act as fulcrum for Indian Navy operations and also friendly naval forces , within the Indo-pacific region. After establishment of a Tri-Services Command, there’s also a proposal to roll out a ten year perspective plan to create facilities for extra troops, warships, aircrafts and drones on the islands, strengthening the prevailing military facilities. Andaman and Nicobar isn’t only important from strategic point of view but has also become a pivot for India’s joint operations within the IOR.
• OFFSHORE BASES India is increasing it’s footprints within the blue waters of Indio-Pacific Ocean region. Strategically located islands within the Indian Ocean are crucial for domination of blue waters and safeguarding the country’s maritime natural resources. These islands are suitably located near strategic chokepoints and trading routes. Therefore, India is functioning overtime to determine bases on these islands, in conjunction with friendly countries. A collaborative approach to utilising their island territories within the Indian Ocean could provide a chance to watch the IOR better. Given the current geopolitical competition within the Indo-Pacific region, these islands can provide advantages for strategic, logistical and signalling purposes. These islands also provide a suitable oppurtunity for coordinated and joint anti-submarine warfare missions for India and other countries in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
• LISTENING POSTS The Indian government has setup listening posts and established Naval surveillance facilities in Madagascar and Mauritius. A smalland remote Mauritian island called ALAGELA, located within the south-western Indian Ocean , 1,122 kilometres north of Mauritius is being developed as listening post and offshore base by India and Mauritius jointly. This base on Agalega will cement India’s presence within the south-west Indian Ocean and facilitate its power projection aspirations in this region. In recent years, India has sought to further develop its military access to the south-west Indian Ocean and Mozambique Channel by building a replacement naval and air facility on Seychelles’ remote, Assumption Island.
• PORT ACCESS AGREEMENTS India has negotiated agreements with several states within the littoral IOR to get military access to their bases. Such agreements include access to Indonesia’s strategically-located deep-sea Sabang port and Oman’s Duqm port. India has also engaged with powers outside the IOR, deepening cooperation with France and USA through logistics agreements, which grant India access to port facilities at the U.S. base on Diego Garcia and the French base on Reunion Island. This was followed by agreement between India and Japan to provide India access to naval facilities at Djibouti. Certainly, there is potential for India-Australia-France collaboration in using their respective islands to augment their presence under a burden sharing model.
• MARITIME DOMAIN AWARENESS (MDA) MISSIONS Cocos Islands, an Australian island in Indian Ocean territory, which is nearly midway from India’s maritime neighbour Sri Lanka and mainland Australia, falls right within the middle of sea trade routes. A key advantage of these islands is surveillance and Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) missions. While the Malacca straits provides the busiest trading route connecting economies across Western Pacific and therefore, the Indian
Ocean, the opposite straits through the Indonesian archipelago offers alternate routes for surface and sub-surface vessels. Agreements and understanding with Australia has been reached to use Cocos islands for joint naval surveillance of sea routes.
It is extremely important for India to strengthen its naval capabilities before some rivals appear in Indian Ocean , especially China. The Indian Navy has shown an exceedingly high operational tempo and emerged as a multi-dimensional networked force, that’s able to combat any challenge within the maritime domain in the 21st century. The Indian Navy remains a reputable , organised and combat worthy force. It must be augmented to become a blue water navy for dominance of Indo Pacific Region.
Increasing the footprints and dominance in Indo-Pacific Region by having strategically placed bases and enhanced role for Tri-Services Joint Command at Port Blair, is a move in the right direction. Collaboration with other friendly countries like QUAD will also pave the way for India to acquire an excellent power status within the coming years. The Indian Ocean is correctly described as a part of India’s ‘extended neighbourhood’ and India’s diplomatic, security and economic interests got to be safeguarded by the Indian Navy, in this region. The Indian Ocean is critical for India’s strategic interests and India should work towards making it as the ‘INDIA’S OCEAN’.
Maj Gen C P Singh, Retd
Maj Gen C P Singh, Retd is a scholar soldier accredited with MA, MSc, LLB, MBA, M Phil (Def Mgt) and M Phil (International Strategic Affairs).
Widely travelled in India and Abroad, the General Officer is an avid reader and prolific writer.
Post retirement, he is a Social Activist, Career Consultant and a Motivational Speaker of repute.
The author can be contacted at www.majgencpsingh.com