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Subhash Mishra asked: What are the strategic, technological and infrastructural preparedness of India to ensure its overall stability, security and sustainability concerns in the Indian Ocean Region?

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  • Abhijit Singh replies: India’s technological and infrastructural preparedness in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) translates into defensive readiness in three concentric spheres which encompass the immediate maritime neighbourhood: the territorial waters up to 12 nautical miles (nm) from the coast (of vital national security interest), the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) extending to 200 nm, and the putative zone of Indian geopolitical influence – a region comprising the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea and parts of the Western and Central Indian Ocean.

    India does have fairly well-developed coastal security architecture – in terms of shore-radars, surveillance and strike aircrafts, naval patrolling assets, and coastal artillery and missile systems - to defend its territorial waters. The available military and technological assets are sufficient to provide security in the broader EEZ too, although it is worth mentioning that the naval force structure is likely to get stretched in the event of conflict/hostilities continuing for a prolonged duration. This is particularly true in the event of a concerted assault on Indian interests by a stronger adversary – with superior reconnaissance and strike platforms and undersea capabilities.

    India’s main problem lies with regard to conserving its strategic influence in its neighbourhood. With the present state of its naval and aviation force levels, India has been finding it hard to exert strategic leverage in the Eastern and Central Indian Ocean – a region New Delhi considers to be the inner perimeter of Indian security interests. Notwithstanding Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent maritime outreach to smaller island states, it still remains a space where the Indian navy‘s aspiration of playing the net-security provider is yet to fully fructify.

    Against the backdrop of China’s Maritime Silk Road, there is a sense that Beijing has outpaced India in maritime infrastructure development - widely seen as a prelude to more lasting Chinese military presence in the IOR. This has lead to anxiety in some quarters that India may be ceding vital strategic ground to China.

    For more analysis on the subject, please refer to my following IDSA publications:

    Abhijit Singh, “The Indian Navy’s ‘China’ Dilemma”, IDSA Comment, April 28, 2014.

    Abhijit Singh, “Maritime Security Partner in the Indo-Pacific”, in S.D. Muni and Vivek Chadha (eds.), Asian Strategic Review 2015: India as a Security Provider, Pentagon Press, New Delhi, 2015, pp. 145-165.

    Posted on May 08, 2015