This is an IDF ANALYSIS of the Indo Pacific which is unfolding as the strategically most important water body with sea lanes that carry valuable and increasing world trade, but the region is also witness to increasing security challenges. China’s displayed it’s capabilities on 1st October with a Parade IDF dubs as ‘China’s Second Coming Party’ after the Olympics. Only Hong Kong protests and falling economy are worrisome.
China lacks maritime geography and is determined to claim the South and East China Seas from its rightful owners to possess a larger rich Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and dislodge US interests and influence from the Indo-Pacific with maritime power. It is also predicted that the region will be an area of competition between India(the elephant), and China(the dragon), but whether it will be peace or conflict between the two, cannot be assured. Gen JJ Singh has elaborated on this and offered a border deal of sorts with China in his researched book, “The McMAHON Line”,(Harper Collins) but issues have been overtaken by the abrogation of Article 370.
In a change, Japan’s Researcher Akio Tanhara on 4th October at IIC admitted in a slide that JAPAN too has realized the pendulum has shifted to Eurasia from USA, so Japan may co-operate with China in selected BRI projects to provide Infrastructure goods for sake of Japan’s economy. As Groucho Marx would say, ”It’s the economy stupid”.
This is where Wuhan(2018) and the coming meeting of PM Modi and President Xi Jinping at Mahabalipuram (11 Oct) kicks in. The flip side is, the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) nations worry about what deals India makes and there are no issued guidelines for India’s Navy as the Net Security Provider(NSP) in IOR ordained by PM Manmohan Singh on 13th Aug.2013 or PM Modi’s call for SAGAR(Security and Growth for All) and LEMOA with USA which is secret. Sri Lanka wants to join LEMOA.
The Pathfinder Foundation in Sri Lanka led by Admiral Collambage and team under directions of the President Srisena consulted major IOR nations and scripted a ‘Code of Conduct’ in the IOR, titled ‘Concerning The Repression Of Piracy, Armed Robbery Against Ships, and Illicit Maritime Activity in The Indian Ocean’, and offered it to the twenty one members of IORA to be signatories, but as Pakistan a close ally of China is not an IORA member, and Pathfinder has Chinese partner Think Tanks like Indian Think Tanks have, India is diffident to even look at it. Pathfinder has offered India ownership to modify as all fear the consequences in the China India competition in the IOR, more evident after 370, as China has sided Pakistan which may never use its nuclear weapons but always threatens. This got RM Rajanth Singh to review the No First Use(NFU) meaning.
India has risen as a military and economic power, with a large potential attractive virgin market. It is that, that President Trump is wooing as he knows India has a pragmatic and decisive effusive leader in his friend PM Modi that can temper China. So he talks of co-operation in security and a trade deal and calls PM Modi the “Father of the Nation”, and announces military exercises like Tiger Triumph first time heard in Houston over Howdy and the QUAD to rope India into a formal alliance with Japan and Australia. Trump always puts his cards on the table for America First and India figures high.
China and other nations also covet India’s juicy market and IDF many times heard the Deputy PM of Singapore Admiral Teo Chee Hean in the 1990s say to every Indian dignitary visiting Singapore, “A Benign Strategic Relationship is Great for Trade”. Today tiny Singapore is a big player with trade hitting $18 bill and security relations are the closest with a confidential strategic pact and 27 unbroken Simbexes. France as a Riparian IOR state has offered outside support to QUAD and its bases in the IOR to India, and UK has joined the chorus. For France that possibly counted for the 36 Rafale deal inflated to $ 8 billion to support India on nuclear plants, but Areva that L&T was talking to, went bust.
On QUAD China had warned India that QUAD is like ganging up against China when former President Pranab Mukherjee was the Defence Minister. The provocations was QUAD nations including Australia and Singapore exercised in Malabar. Australia and Singapore were put out in 2007 but are knocking for entry. India has risen since and China and USA are in a trade war. India has to think how it can gain. In China leaders listen to Intellectuals who help economic decision making and are working on China’s falling economy and strategy with India.
IDF is tempted to what IDF learnt after exiting Navy at IIM(A). In any transaction IIM teaches you must be clear who is the ‘Vendor and who is the Customer’ and act accordingly. Vendors humour the customer and some say Customer is King (India is No 1 importer of defence wares). Trump looks to the market of India and PM Modi is balancing defence deals between USA and Russia. Trump has sanctioned Russia and Iran to get India’s large oil and gas market as USA has become a net energy exporter and gas prices have fallen. Price of oil is a crucial factor for India and China’s economy.
Two decades ago USA behaved like a vendor to the big Chinese customer market. China took full advantage. USA used cheap Chinese labour to set up US industries in China to sell and export. China grew in double digits and invested its surplus in USA. China bought technology, imbibed technology and grabbed technology by means fair and foul in Make in China, even from Russia and Ukraine to become a leader in many technologies. Hence the USA CHINA trade war, which is a technology war too. Huawei and ZTE are banned by USA. Xi Jinping may discuss Huawei and such issues along with QUAD when he meets PM Modi on 11th October. Wuhan 2018 saw borders cool after Doklam stand off and Chinese PLA and Indian Army officers meet regularly now, and it is reported daily in Doklam where a road to move troops and armour is readied. India is better prepared.
As a consequence, there have been many articles and talks and conferences in Think Tanks on China and USA with foreign and Indian speakers. Chinese warn China has 17.3% of the world’s economy with 1.4 billion people and India has 2.3% of the world’s economy and 1.3 billion, so ask, “are you with the East or West without naming USA or QUAD”. NSA Doval spoke at the Goa Maritime Conclave at Fort Aguada in Goa on 4th October to littoral Navy Chiefs on “Common Common Maritime Priorities in IOR and need for Regional Maritime Strategy”.and subjects mentioned in this posting show their relevance as Adm Columbage was present from Sri Lanka.
In view of the above the Indian Navy needs more attention, healthier budgets for long term plans, as it is a capital intensive three dimensional force of quality, but lacks quantity called, ‘A Long Grey Line of Ships’. It deserves adequate warships and nuclear ISBN/SSN and conventional submarines including three aircraft carriers and Aerial power to be called a true Blue Water Navy as RM Rajnath Singh said.
Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh recently lamented that from 18% allotted to the Navy earlier the 2019-20 Defence Budget has provided only around 13%, from the allocated Rs3.18 Lac Crores ($46 Billion). The Army has got Rs 1.67 lac crores ($23 billion), the Air Force Rs 68,949 crores($10 billion) and Navy only Rs 45,368($6.5 billion).leaving little room for new naval orders, as escalation and time delays of the 34 ordered ships has taken a toll on the Navy’s plans to be a 200 ship and 400 aircraft Navy by 2027. Navies cannot be built overnight like ‘fly in planes’ in an Air Force, or on shoe string budgets. Yet India’s Navy is coping as well as it can with 134 ships and P8I planes like ships and quality manpower, hoping it is given more funds, well aware of the major committed payments of over $12 billion in trances for the Indian Air Force.
Much maritime India will depend on India’s economy which has dipped to 6.1% as per the RBI and so has the world economy. Shan No Varuna.