Ranjit B Rai
Security decisions are all about ‘pushes and pulls’. In the preamble IDF can state India’s security history is seeing a new epoch, which began after the Cold War ended. India’s ship of state altered course, and has now turned “hard a Starboard” to USA. The driving force is dictated by ‘strategic convergences’ between US and India (just like marriages), just like the winds that hurled India into the Soviet Camp in the 1960s. A military Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Security followed, despite Non Alignment. Convergences are now driving India in to USA’s lap, India’s best and only option in the circumstances, that IDF analyses.
India today is in USA’s security camp with eighteen Exercise Simbexes and has an Indian Naval officer in Singapore’s International Fusion Centre (IFC) at Changi along with US, Japan and France’s International Liaison Officer (ILO) and Madagascar’s IFC which monitors all shipping in the Indo-Pacific. It provides strategic import, and Intelligence.
Indian Navy with Exercise Malabars gets Intelligence and the NSAs of USA and India co-operate for Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) to jointly and confidently track intruding PLA (Navy) ships and submarines as CNS Adm Sunil Lanba has stated. Nothing is in writing except a one page general Defence Framework and one out of three foundational agreements called LEMOA, for logistics to guide the militaries. The other two CISMOA and BECA will consummate the India US security relationship as the first step. Only Indian Navy seems to be in step with US Navy with its Maritime Centre in Gurgaon.
USA’s and India’s convergences are not far to seek, and are largely based on maritime pinning’s with US interests in the Indo-Pacific which includes the Indian Ocean and are aligned; USA wishes to dominate the region with its Military Pivot and India has nominated itself to be the Net Security Provider (NSP) in the IOR, despite its stretched Navy, a Robert Gates idea that Dr Manmohan Singh accepted in 2013 as thanks, for a Nuclear Deal.
Neither India nor USA wants China to dominate power in Asia. India sees China as India’s challenge Numero Uno without tom-toming it , just like USA which has begun a Hot Trade War with China and sanctions on Iran and Russia with CAASTA which kick in by November. IDF will predict what beleaguered Iran will do with Hormuz and its daily output of 2.2 mill barrels of oil per day, as International airlines reduce flights to Tehran. Cheeky Nikki Hailey even asked PM Modi to reduce oil imports from Iran in a sales pitch for US OIL?!
India’s big tilt to USA was solemnized by a dynamic PM Modi with President Obama during Republic Day in 2015 with a joint common strategic view statement for the Asia Pacific. Later PM Modi marketed India as a strategic nuclear partner to the US Congress with his oratory, and needs to be congratulated. Things to make India a favoured Defence partner and trade has improved. The stock market is up for the invested. Poor can wait for the crumbs from the table which have begun to flow.
USA agreed to put the screws on Pakistan but India sees no end to terror across the border, which the Security Forces led by the Army battle unabated, and the political situation in Kashmir is messier. A new RSS Governor may have palliatives. The challenge is, that India and USA both also want to dialogue with China which has a grip on Pakistan, at a time when China is becoming bigger with its military and nuclear boots with Nationalism the Chinese call, ‘Love for your country’. China’s consumer led economy is not stalling and unlikely to in a hurry, and will go down fighting if needed.
IDF can therefore say two things with confidence. First, never underestimate a Chinaman or Chinese woman’s desire to win. A loss means loss of face. Chinese have patience to further their thought-out strategies to achieve the “China Dream”, and to expand their size and stature, to that of the Middle Kingdom of yore with inroads into the warm waters of the Indian Ocean to win the Great Maritime Game, that no nation has won so far. A convergence have driven Pakistan to China and is working with China with an ambitious CPEC which India wants to derail in POK, and BRI with its own dormant BIMSTEC and BSIM but the basics of Connectivity is lacking! The BIMSTEC summit in Khatmandu end Aug will see PM Modi unfold his vision with other leaders, as India refuses to attend a SAARC summit in Islamabad, sending SAARC in to the bin.
Recent history teaches us, China moved slowly in to the South China Sea and agreed to a Code of Conduct with ASEAN and lulled the world, and it has Taiwan’s Taiping Island as its possible trump card, that IDF has researched. China now covets the South China Sea Islands which are being armed to the teeth after 12 years of game play, and opened to tourism. ASEAN has been broken by Laos and Cambodia becoming vassals of China, to never vote against China. They had no option. Is Doklam going the same way for Bhutan ?
China worries about India, especially maritime India with its Naval Power and so will be watching the visit of the duo, of US Secretary of State Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mattis to New Delhi on 6th Sept, to confer with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Possibly India’s NSA will join as USA’s 2 are fomidable. In tweets and briefings Alice Wells US Under Secretary for this area has indicated the time for talks is over for India to show solidarity on ground and at sea with USA and Japan and ‘Operationalise India US security relations’.
India is set to sign the second of the three foundation Operational Co-operation Agreements COMCASA (SISMOA for others) for communications. The next on the cards is BECA for space co-operation, and then formalize the QUAD of USA, India, Japan and Australia, and rope in UK and riparian IOR nation France as the next logical aspiration of USA, short of a NATO WARSAW type of a pact.
These steps are signals to India’s Indian Armed Forces to plan together with US Military, in Operations and in Logistics and interoperability for the Indo-Pacific Command, and post officers there for Intelligence also. Indian forces already operate logistic forces of 10 huge C-17s, 12 C -130s and 12 P8is MR aircraft which form the backbone of India’s lift, transport and Maritime Domain Awareness capability to jointly track PLA(Navy) activity in the Indian Ocean. An Air Sea battle plan with fighters, AWACs, Refuellers and nuclear submarines can deter China.
Chinese have seen through this, and China has offered an operational plan to avoid unintended actions at sea, that even Sri Lanka’s PM has offered as Sri Lanka and Maldives are the Hadis (bones) that India and China as two hungry dogs want to covet in International relations.
The above shifts saw Japan’s Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera come to India invited by RM Mrs Sitharaman from 19th August 2018 and called on PM Modi. The subject was clearly the need to enhance defence and security cooperation. Under the ‘Japan-lndia Special Strategic and Global Partnership’ that aligns Japan’s ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy’ with India’s ‘Act East Policy’ Onedera emphasized peace and stability of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean as crucial for ensuring the peace and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region. A prelude to 2 plus 2?
Immediately after Gen Wei Fenghe, Defence Minister State Councilor invited by RM from 21th August arrived to sustain the decisions PM Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping took at the Wuhan summit to formalize strategy and communications for peace along the 3,444 km border. Earlier Lt Gen Liu Xiaowu, of China’s Western Theater Command which oversees India in President Xi Jining’s re-orgaised Command structure visited Sukhna 33 Corps in July for preliminary talks. Joint border management from the five or six border meeting points, expanding joint exercises and training at the tactical level, enhancing cultural and sports exchanges, as well as jointly safeguarding peace and stability in the border areas were sorted out. These and peace on the border and a Hot Line were agreed with Gen Fenghe. It means Doklam too where PLA is reported to be consolidating and India watches from Dokala to stop futher ingress towards the Chicken’s Neck.
Indian military’s DNA will have to change to be more American in thinking with a urgently needed re-organisation to be a Defence Partner of USA. Shan na Varuna.