IDC Analysis of challenges on the Maritime front with CPEC and China’s attitudes towards India, Sri Lanka and Maldives in the IOR. A lesson from USA and China to learn is that as ‘ India’s power rises’, strategic moves should not to be measured in money terms, and Navy thinking can help. Six US Navy became Presidents of USA to propel it. Mahan was Navy too.
India thrived, when Whitehall made our strategic and economic plans for 300 years. India’s Banias and Cheetiyars became Dhanis(rich). Even Churchill owed money when he left India , and is displayed in the Bangalore Club as Brits borrowed from Indian money lenders every month at interest, they paid back especially to maintain their horses given to each officer.
Strategically, India has never had white papers or National Strategic documents, lives by PM or PMO announcements, but needs them now. Even to woo a girl one need’s Strategy, as RN Staff College teacher begins the Strategy Studies week, while Indian staff Colleges begin with heavy doses of Military appreciations and Table Top and sand model exercises train Grade 2 staff officers to fight neighbours. RN trained were not welcome in DSSC !
Indian strategists therefore have a task in hand to see India grows as a power despite Pakistan and China attempting to ensure India is kept occupied with terror, pin pricks and non co-operation on issues like NSG, Maulana Md Aazar in UN (China wants permanent block on resolution 1627 exercising Veto power as Pakistan has let him off ), UN seat and seeks bases in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
China now has a big base in Djoubiti to connect Africa and is challenged with a , ‘Do Or Die’ CEPC programme worth $ 46 Bill promised to Pakistan to enable connectivity to the warm Indian Ocean. It has taken over Gwadar, despite rough going. So first step of $ 660 mill spent on the strategic port of Gwadar has been achieved and loans waived. It is worth more to China in Strategic terms like Diego Garcia is to USA in IOR. India used to object, but must use Diego now. PM Modi has attempted friendship with all IOR island state but must note Maldives has been China’s target after Sri Lanka with good relations with investments and China has set up Lankan tracking station, and ISRO can move in.
The CPEC power and energy projects in Pakistan worth $ 33 Bill will take time, but roadways, bridges and transport that China is good at, as depicted in map is worth $11.19 and is progressing despite local objections with military help for which China pays.
India is the new accepted ‘Kid on the Block’ as a military power, but touting India as the fastest yet over jammed economy, with poor infrastructure and the unknown effects of Demonetization and lack of trust in security policies is not currently helping, though India has signed in as the Non-Nato MAJOR DEFENCE PARTNER of USA which is momentous. However save technology co-operation, not much is known of the contours and President Trump’s policies will matter, as another Indian American is tipped to be the new Ambassador to replace Bihari Richard Verma who clocked up defence deals and partnership and LEMOA. Next is BECA for space and CISMOA for Int and Comms co-operation in fast moving strategic shifts in India’s sands, off its coast. A fast breeder reactor is set to fire this year and its success will be unique, to use Thorium in the years ahead and will be strategic for nuclear issues.
In any case PM Modi an authoritarian right wing clever leader, a trend in the world, has calibrated the final burial of Non Alignment in to its coffin, well. Internal political co-operation with three big disruptive upcoming elections is not easy for BJP, but if BJP wins in the forthcoming elections, ‘Maan ke Baat’ on radio waves can become but ‘Kaam Ke Baat’ and reforms and Danda like in 1991 supported with GST, that scares Excise bureaucrats.
Next Ormara naval base is coming up as a PN submarine base for supply of eight submarines from China and these PN bases will be used to scrutinize the movements of Indian warships closely with China’s Active Cyber Warfare Attackers that have USA worried.
A Type 093 7,300 ton Shang nuclear submarine which has unlimited range of operations , had called Karachi last May secretly. Japan has offered support for a FISH NET sonar SEA BED listening system in the Andaman seas for tracking submarines crossing the islands under water. It is no secret China is competing with India, USA and Japan for domination of the Indian Ocean, Choke points and trade routes, and their submarines can snoop.
PLA(N) has touted its continuous 1000th ship deployment as an ‘Out of Area’ operation off the Horn of Africa called expeditionary power ! China says its stakes in CPEC are Core Interests for the Chinese people who are nationalists and have an authoritarian President Xi Jinping who spent two years consolidating his position in CMC and reorganized PLA with regional commands USA style. India did that for the Surgical strikes leaving it to Northern Army Commander. There are lessons
CNS Admiral Sunil Lanba a man of few words, did make a statement in media that China’s PLA(n) should not send ships in to IOR as it will disturb its stability and added for comfort , “As far as People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy ships and submarines are concerned, the Indian Navy keeps a close eye and monitor their movements. We launch surveillance missions in the form of aircraft and ships to keep a track of them.” The maritime great game of surface and underwater warfare, a cat and mouse feature of the Cold War, has dawned in the Indian Ocean on India and Indian Navy’s 12 P8i submarine trackers and attackers, and a nuclear submarine is a relief to the Indian Navy which still lacks multi role helicopters on modern ships.
Sri Lanka changed tack, as winds of President Rajapaksha changed and in March 2015. THe Colombo Port City Project (CPC) UNDER HIM became contentious and newly elected Wickremesinghe government put it on hold. But it got re-negotiated in April 2016, despite India’s effort to diplomatically break the impasse in India’s favour. Investment terms mattered. The CPC is a US$ 1.4 billion project, spread over 575 acres, being executed as a joint venture between the Sri Lankan government and a Chinese state-owned company. Colombo is a a busy transshipment HUB for India and many International Shippers and as oil prices rise will pay back and in strategic terms.
Finally to MALDIVES which has 1,200 islands with just an area of 300 sq km (NCR Delhi equivalent) and rich and strategic EEZ of 9,233,22 sq km, four and half times India, and in old times Indian military helped foil a coup against Presdent Gayoom in OP Cactus Lily. It seems later India backed the wrong horse President Nadeem, ignoring old links with Gayooms aware Pakistani Muolvis there have great influence on the majority Muslims.
Maldives survives on aid, tourism which is expensive for Indians, fishing and shipping. Maldives strategic relations with China became close from September 2014, when President Xi became the first Chinese President to ever visit. They formalized the “Future Oriented All Round Friendly and Cooperative Partnership” and the Joint Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation (JCTEC), and later joined China’s Maritime Silk Road (MSR) Initiative, and subsided Chinese tourists in lacs who went to Maldives in charter fights to boost the poor country’s economy. China has undertaken social housing and road projects, including the longest road in the country, and set up a China-Maldives bilateral free trade area. Important landmarks in Male including the National Museum and the Headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were constructed with donor assistance of Chinese Government which is called a TRIBUTE in Chinese, in return for favours.
President Gayoom visited India in April 2016 and thanked India for support and has always hinted that Maldives needs investment and that can influence security matters. He inquired about India’s role as a Net security Provider. PM Modi must visit with offers of help and India’s dilemma is whether to prioritise democracy governance issues in Maldives over the Indian Ocean security issues with China deepening its footprints; and rise of radicalism in Maldives. India has stationed IN and CG helicopters for patrol, exercises and trains Maldivians, and can do more and must. Gadoo island and GAN was a airfield in WW 2.
Shan no Varuna.