Maritime Security

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  • Naval Operations Analysis in the Indian Ocean Region A Review

    The end of the Cold War resulted in a fundamental swing from a navy designed to engage a blue water battle fleet to one focused on forward operations in littoral waters. The Cold War era had fuelled massive research and development (R&D) in design of sonars that was able to substantially minimize the uncertainties of the underwater environment. The shift of the naval theatre to the littoral waters led to a paradigm change in terms of technology requirements to retain the effectiveness of these sonars.

    January 2013

    Kumar Saurav asked: To counter the ‘string of pearls’, what is the position of India on the Vietnamese offer of a naval base?

    Sarabjeet Singh Parmar replies: The usage of a facility by a foreign military is often misconstrued as an offer for a military base. Therefore, in the first instance, the difference between having a base and availing of facilities must be clearly understood. In the traditional sense, a base would imply that the host nation has offered land with or without infrastructure to another nation to use as a base. The modalities of usage depend on the understanding or agreement signed by the two nations as is the case with the US and the nations where it has bases. That base could then be viewed as belonging to the invitee nation.

    In the existing world order, the pressures that a nation would have to face for inviting a foreign military presence would be tremendous. Therefore, the setting up of military bases in another nation, in the traditional sense, could be viewed as difficult if not improbable. Nautically speaking, availing of port facilities means that ships of any nation are welcome to dock at the port for refuelling and taking on supplies. Such a visit would be at the discretion of the host nation and would depend on the relations the host nation has with the visiting nation.

    As per reports, the Vietnamese had planned to develop the facilities, including repair, at Camh Ran Bay for use by foreign ships, but no offer has been made by Vietnam to any nation to develop it as a naval base in the traditional sense of the term. Ships of the Indian Navy have visited ports of Vietnam earlier, and it was also the first navy whose ship, INS Airavat, was permitted to enter the port of Nha Trang. Both Camh Ran Bay and Nha Trang are strategically located near key shipping routes in the South China Sea and are close to the potentially oil-rich Spratlys and Paracel Islands. The oil fields in which ONGC has invested in collaboration with Vietnam are also in close proximity.

    India has time and again reiterated its stand on its presence in the South China Sea, delving on the aspects of freedom of navigation, diplomatic and commercial interests. For more on India’s position, refer to an earlier response to a query on the issue, available at http://idsa.in/askanexpert/stakeforIndiaintheSouthChinaSea

    Therefore, even if India offers assistance or is requested to assist in the development of Camh Ran Bay, or any other port, it could be viewed as a purely commercial and diplomatic (including military diplomacy) endeavour and not as a counter to the “string of pearls”.

    Praveen CV asked: How Sri Lanka’s denial of Chinese ‘string of pearls’ policy and its claim that Chinese presence in Hambantota harbour is for economic or developmental purpose is to be viewed?

    Sarabjeet Singh Parmar replies: The Chinese engagement, presently, is based mainly on infrastructure development and improvement of diplomatic ties, thereby availing of the facilities available for extending what could be called its “Look West Policy”. As far as Hambantota being part of the string of pearls is concerned, it would depend on how the Chinese use it and to what extent Sri Lanka would permit it to be used. In this regard, the establishment of a Chinese military base in the port of Hambantota is far fetched and in today’s scenario extra-regional presence and economic strangleholds does not seem realistic. The pressures that a nation would have to face after inviting a foreign military presence would be tremendous. The establishment of a Chinese military base would imply a form of alliance that most nations, especially small island nations like Sri Lanka, would like to avoid. There are several economic and security implications involved both at the regional and wider international level.

    However, the port of Hambantota would be an asset for the Chinese as it would be a major facility for refuelling and resupply of Chinese vessels half way along the SLOCs en route from the Malacca Straits to the choke points in northwest Indian Ocean Region (IOR), namely the Gulf of Aden, Bab-el-Mandeb, the Suez Canal and the Straits of Hormuz. Hambantota would also grant the Chinese the ability to turn south and enter the Indian Ocean.

    Therefore, Hambantota, as of now, could be viewed as a stepping stone for the Chinese to increase their presence in the IOR. A lot would depend on how the relations between Sri Lanka and India either grow or diminish in view of increased Chinese economic engagements in the region.

    China to Survey Disputed Marine Territories for Natural Resources

    China seems to have made this move to strengthen its claim to disputed marine territories by conducting “surveys” which a country normally does in its own territory.

    January 11, 2013

    Trespassers will be Prosecuted: China’s latest Billboard in the South China Sea

    The issuance of these ordinances will not only add to the growing tensions in the disputed areas, specifically the South China Sea, but also add to the growing suspicions about Chinese intent.

    December 08, 2012

    Towards an Asia-Pacific Alliance

    Coincidentally or not, China’s maritime disputes with its neighbours in the littoral have been gaining global attention ever since Obama’s announcement in January 2012 of his country’s “pivot” strategy in the Asia-Pacific.

    November 26, 2012

    INS Sudarshini’s Mission of Peace and Goodwill

    INS Sudarshini is undertaking the goodwill mission to commemorate 20 years of friendship between India and the Association of South East Asian Nations which falls in December 2012.

    October 10, 2012

    D. Aravind asked: How safe is the Indian coastline? What steps has the Government taken recently to improve the security of our coastlines?

    Pushpita Das replies: India’s coastline continues to remain vulnerable to terrorist attacks as well as to smuggling of drugs, arms and explosives. However, the situation is not so bleak. Thanks to the various measures undertaken by the government, the country’s coastal security situation is fast improving. Some of the measures initiated by the central government are:

    • The Indian Navy has been entrusted with the overall responsibility of coastal and maritime security; the Coast Guard given the additional responsibility of patrolling the territorial waters
    • The Navy and Coast Guard are being provided with additional manpower as well as suitable assets for coastal security
    • 73 Coastal Police Stations have been established under Coastal Security Scheme Phase I; additional 131 Coastal Police Stations will be set up under Phase II
    • Coastal Police Stations have being provided with trained manpower and interceptor boats to patrol the coastal waters
    • Four Joint Operation Centers (JOCs) have been set up for coordination and intelligence sharing among various agencies involved in coastal security
    • 46 static radars are in the process of being installed to provide complete coverage of the entire coast off the mainland and island territories,
    • All vessels (merchant ships and fishing boats) above 20 meters are required to install Automatic Identification System (AIS) devices, and to track and monitor these vessels 84 AIS Stations are being set up along the coastline.
    • All fishing boats are being registered under a uniform registration system
    • All the coastal villagers are being provided with identity cards.

    It is important to emphasise that given the nature of the problem, India’s coastline cannot be made foolproof; it can at best be managed efficiently so that the consequences of any untoward incident are minimised to the extent possible.

    International Order at Sea: Anti-Piracy and Humanitarian Operations

    International Order at Sea: Anti-Piracy and Humanitarian Operations
    • Publisher: Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies
      2012

    International Order at Sea is a workshop series chaired by the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies (IFS) in partnership with the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), New Delhi; China Foundation for International and Strategic Studies (CFISS) and China Institute for Marine Affairs (CIMA), Beijing; and the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA), Alexandria, VA.

    The workshop series examines seapower and the future of the global commons. It explores how international order at sea is established, maintained, changed and challenged, and it focuses on the interaction and cooperation among leading, emerging and smaller naval powers to maintain order at sea

    • ISBN 978-82-91571-15-7,
    • E-copy available
    2012

    Min Goo Lee asked: Is China a threat to the Indian Navy or does India has the advantage by being able to control China's sea lines of communication?

    S.S. Parmar replies: Threat perceptions are normally based on capabilities and perceived intentions in an area of common interest. The same would apply in the case of China in the Indian Ocean, which apparently appears to be the theme of the question. China’s entry into the Indian Ocean is presently based on economic engagements and ensuring safety of their maritime trade, especially oil, that traverses the Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOCs). In order to ensure security of these interests, the presence of the PLAN is normative.

    To be perceived as a threat, a Navy must have the ability of firstly presence in adequate numbers and secondly sustained supportable operations. The first aspect requires a good mix of combat ability in all three dimensions – air, surface and sub surface. The Chinese Navy has a big disadvantage in the air dimension, primarily the lack of ship based air cover, and the land based maritime reconnaissance capability due to the distance involved. An aircraft carrier could provide this air cover but it would be restricted in time and space. The second aspect of sustenance of operations would be driven by the number of bases available for resupply and maintenance. Air operations and support from friendly foreign bases is a possibility but nations permitting this type of support would weigh the pros and cons in terms of international pressure, and the aspect of neutrality in the event of a conflict.

    India on the other hand has the advantage over China in the Indian Ocean as the proximity of bases and operations over distances in the region are part of its normal operating philosophy, thereby permitting it to be present in adequate numbers. Therefore, presently, the Chinese Navy is not considered a cogent threat.

    The aspects covered above permits India to monitor the SLOCs in the Indian Ocean so as to ensure a secure maritime environment. As India believes in and supports the aspect of freedom of navigation in the seas, it would under normal circumstances not like to be viewed as an impediment in another nation’s maritime trade. However, in the event of a conflict, it would have the advantage of monitoring and interdicting Chinese trade traversing the SLOCs in the Indian Ocean.

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