The Indian Navy recently sent a witty, yet strong message to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (Navy) which entered the Indian Ocean through the straits of Ombai Wetar, the narrow stretch of water between Indonesia in the North and East Timor in the south.An unusual tweet by the Indian Navy said, “Extend a warm welcome to the 29th Anti-Piracy Escort Force (APEF) of PLA (N) in Indian Ocean Region (IOR) Happy Hunting.”
The Indian Navy made it amply clear that they are closely keeping an eye on the Chinese maritime movements.
The trajectory of the Indian Ocean and its role in defining geo-politics and trade in the region makes it significant. Its ever-expanding importance to trade expeditions has made it a victim to military competitions. Indian Ocean region serves as an immediate geo-strategic space for India. Its existence on fringes of our boundaries makes it crucial in determining both external and internal state of affairs.The geo-strategic space from Gulf of Aden to the Strait of Malacca has long been defining the security and stability in our country and will continue to influence the same in the future.
There has been ongoing discussion on the rising Chinese tendencies as a National Security threat in the Indian Ocean region since 2014. Its accelerating presence in the Indian Ocean region is to protect its investments which it cannot afford to lose in order to push its economy. China has taken a huge risk by investing in number of third world countries. The perceived threat from its rivals is forcing China’s PLA to establish its presence in various littorals in and around the Indian Ocean region.
Apparently, China is trying to secure its national interest, but the biggest challenge it would face in the region will be from India. During a panel discussion at the launch of the acclaimed journalist’s book, “China’s India War: Collision Course on the Roof”, Bertil Lintner aptly predicted that “Any conflict with China is going to be in the Indian Ocean.” And given the current dynamics, it makes it quite evident.
The way to becoming a regional hegemon is possible only by defeating India. Hence, there is a high possibility that war may happen not due to a reasonable conflict but to prove sphere of influence. It is therefore critical for the Indian Naval Forces to pose a strong deterrence and be ready for confrontation.
In a recent panel discussion held at The Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) on India’s security concerns in the Indo-Pacific, Ambassador Anil Wadhwa suggested Quadrilateral (QUAD) Security Dialogue (QSD) and the fundamental basis of cooperation between the Quad countries, ranging from imperatives of freedom of navigation and overflight over vital trade routes, which is extremely important to address common concerns including China’s aggressive military drills in the region.
Captain Gurpreet Khurana reiterated the “geo-economic” concerns in the region leading to instability. He stated that the lack of consensus is an important factor accelerating the stability among the ASEAN members. He further suggested that it is extremely important that we devise our maritime strategy to strengthen regional organisations such as the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), and evolving (QSD) as a possible means to accommodate the varying security compulsions of the member states as well as expansion of membership.
The discussion by experts reinstates the fact that we must create a parallel deliberative strategy to balance out China in the region as an effective deterrence.
Simultaneously, it is also important that we work on equipping the Indian Navy with the best available surveillance equipment and best possible ammunition to tackle any crisis.
Xi Jinping’ life time presidency has larger plans than just becoming an economic superpower. The debt politics and sweeping Chinese political spheres within string of pearls is to win dominion on the world, which increases the possibility of war. It is now no more a choice, but a necessity for India to work closely on evolving its Maritime strategy, including both diplomatic and military, and be prepared for a possible confrontation with China in the Indian Ocean.