Maritime Security

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  • Sambit Patra asked: Is the lease of the Russian Nerpa class submarine, with its non-combat clause, justified? Should India have gone for either a Borie or Typhoon class?

    S.S. Parmar replies: To understand the rationale behind the leasing of the Russian Nerpa class submarine (renamed INS Chakra), a look at the time line of India’s nuclear submarine programme and some treaties like Non Proliferation and Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) is essential.

    India had earlier leased and operated a Charlie class Russian nuclear submarine from 1988 to 1992 for training its personnel on nuclear powered submarines. This submarine was also called INS Chakra. Construction of the Nerpa class submarine commenced in 1993 and it was scheduled for delivery in 2007 on lease to India. However, various reports indicate that issues related to equipment and an accident at sea resulted in the delay. The Typhoon class submarines have been in service since 1981 and are due to be decommissioned (removed from service) reportedly due to restrictions imposed on Russia by the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. However, as per reports, no such decision to remove from service has been made and the submarines would remain with the Russian Navy. Given this situation, taking the Typhoon class on lease would not have been beneficial to India. The Typhoon class is scheduled to be replaced by the Borei class. Construction of the Borei class began in 1996. By that time, in all probability, the deal between India and Russia for the Nerpa would have been concluded.

    It is surmised that no matter which submarine India would have taken on lease, the non combat clause would have been applied. As per reports, the Russian submarine (Nerpa) can carry strategic weapons but they are not being transferred to India because of the MTCR. Out of the 10 tubes, four are blank, while six are open. The MTCR prevents the transfer of missiles above the range of 50 nautical miles, and Russia has never flouted the MTCR. The four blanked-out tubes are for bigger weapons with a wider diameter.

    Apart from the international treaties the cost factor of acquiring, maintaining and operating a nuclear powered submarine is also a consideration. Admiral Arun Prakash, India’ former Chief of Naval Staff, had remarked, “The problems with acquiring a foreign nuclear submarine on lease are obvious: the current sources are limited (until the Nuclear Suppliers Group looks more benignly at us), it will carry a conventional weapon load, and it will come at a huge cost.”

    Therefore, the taking on lease of the Nerpa class submarine by India is mainly to gain expertise and experience before India develops its indigenous nuclear powered submarines. In this respect, the deal for the Nerpa, given the circumstances and time line mentioned above, could be considered optimal.

    Making the Law of the Sea – A Study in the Development of International Law by James Harrison

    The cornerstone of international law is ‘applicability of law based on consent’. Being bereft of any legislative machinery to legislate international law in the international sphere, the statute of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) adumbrates ‘treaty, customary international law and general principles of law, etc.’, as the sources of international law. Treaties (both bilateral and multilateral) formulation, however, is one such mechanism of codification of international law in which consent is given explicitly to a rule of international law.

    May 2012

    Asian Maritime Power in the 21st Century: Strategic Transactions, China, India and Southeast Asia by Vijay Sakhuja

    The rise of Asian maritime power is a sequel to Rising Powers in Asia. Maritime power in the age of globalisation has been a critical instrument for the emergence of the latent powers and capabilities of the once pre-eminent ‘civilisational states’ in the contemporary international order. It is important to note here that the rise and fall of maritime power determined the rise and fall of ancient civilisations.

    May 2012

    The Chinese Navy, Its Regional Power and Global Reach

    The Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN)’s recent accomplishments are impressive but have not gone beyond ‘pocket excellence’, as its overall structure and equipment are still out of date. However, the PLAN now has ships and powerful weapons that enable it to extend its combat range and engage its foes in a relatively large-scale maritime campaign beyond the Yellow Sea—its traditional battlefield. Depending on the nature of operations, it may already be able to carry out blue water missions around the first island chain in the West Pacific.

    May 2012

    China's Post-1978 Maritime Relations with South Asia: Towards Greater Cooperation

    The objectives of this article are, firstly, to identify the place occupied by the Indian Ocean and South Asia in China's maritime strategy, and secondly, to identify the appropriate means of dealing with the global and regional maritime security concerns arising from China's maritime strategy as far as the Indian Ocean and South Asia are concerned.

    May 2012

    The Creation of Indian Integrated Commands: Organisational Learning and the Andaman and Nicobar Command

    India took an unprecedented step 10 years ago by setting up a joint theatre operational command for the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (ANC). This article seeks to examine the following questions: why did India decide to establish its first joint operational command? Why has the creation of this and other unified commands been so incremental in the Indian context? What are the arguments for and against jointness, integration and joint operational commands in the Indian context?

    May 2012

    Maritime Developments in the South Western Indian Ocean and the Potential for India's Engagement with the Region

    The Indian Ocean region, being a vast geographical entity, is composed of various regional and sub-regional entities. This article addresses prominent maritime developments in the South Western Indian Ocean (SWIO) region of the Indian Ocean Rim and highlights the multi-dimensional growth of strategic maritime activities in the region.

    May 2012

    India's Maritime Core Interests

    While the maritime doctrine was published by the Indian navy in 2004 and improved upon in 2007, the core interests identified were as seen through the prism of the navy. The national maritime interests of India are distinctly different from the ones identified by the Indian navy and need to be analysed to understand the nuances and the dimensions of such interests so as to promote India's maritime power potential.

    May 2012

    Charting a Maritime Security Cooperation Mechanism in the Indian Ocean: Sharing Responsibilities among Littoral States and User States

    The main objective of this article is to highlight the challenge of maritime security in the region geographically bounded by the Indian Ocean. It studies the current status of maritime security in the region from both the traditional and non-traditional points of view. From the traditional security perspective, it examines the strategic interests of the major Indian Ocean players—the China–India competition and India–US relations in particular—in addition to the existing maritime disputes among the littoral states.

    May 2012

    A Neo-Nixon Doctrine for the Indian Ocean: Helping States Help Themselves

    In recent years the Indian Ocean has received significant attention from the defence-intellectual community in the United States. However, the actual strategic importance of the region to US interests is less clear. In an environment of fiscal austerity, if commitments abroad are not firmly linked to interests, any significant involvement in a region of secondary concern could contribute to ‘imperial overstretch’.

    May 2012