An IDC Analysis


New Delhi, 10 April 2005

Albert Einstein ,when asked why he was interested in the future, 

answered simply, "I intend to spend the rest of my life there."

We were encouraged by the statement of Craig Barret, outgoing CEO of Intel, who said he was suffering for America and he claimed Bill Gates also shared the sentiment, “Watch out for China and India, they are out to eat America’s lunch. I lead a schizophrenic existence worrying for America”.

This article is not in that vein but revisits India’s Maritime Doctrine a 135-page glossy document issued last year by the Indian Navy. It unambiguously articulated the Navy’s desire and commitment to become the guardian of the littoral region and match China in the years to come, and urged the nation to also do so, mainly to thwart China’s ambitions in the Indian Ocean.

Considering that USA had global ‘responsibilities’, Washington was amenable to security arrangements involving India to secure its vital interests in the Indian Ocean region, which included sea-lane security and market stability, especially of energy resources. This change portends long-term benefits for the Indian Navy. The Indian Maritime Doctrine published in mid 2004 by the Indian Navy had just these ambitions inked into its script.

The world appeared to have recognised that the most crucial type of warfare evolving today was ‘Littoral Warfare’, so it was interesting to see how the Indian Navy –– with 20 ships on order including two aircraft carriers, INS Vikramaditya and the indigenous one at Kochi –– appeared to be preparing for the region with its ambitions and capabilities. India was not trying to prepare for a Pax Indiana, like Britain and America crafted in the 18th and 20th centuries, with sea power as their base, but the portends of ambition for the region were in evidence.

The need for nations to articulate their short and long term security strategy was inevitably based on the appraisal of the prevailing, and the prospective geo-strategic environment, and India as an emerging economic and military power in the Indian Ocean could not be any different. In addition to its domestic and bureaucratic politics, organizational inertia, groupthink and psychological barriers, it was gleaning lessons from history.

Failure of security strategies may be attributed to inappropriate assessment of the environment. Since strategic decision making was influenced by a huge variety of factors –– cultural, technological, ethical and other factors –– successful statecraft required that military, economic, diplomatic and other forms of power all be used to attain national goals and to create international conditions in which polity can thrive. A state’s security does depend on other states, was international, and to shape a better environment, besides its own interests, a state must take interests of other states into account, and to do otherwise was bad strategy.

The central theme was that in the oncoming era of uncertainty of nuclearism and jihadi terrorism, despite an increased globally intertwined geo-strategic environment, the South Asian region would experience complex integration, previously not witnessed in the region’s history. In fact the first coinage of the term ‘Littoral Warfare’ came from USA –– keeping in mind the Middle, South and East Asia regions, for preemptive defence.

Therefore, India’s strategic formulations had begun to consider the landscape as systemic, rather than the time-old ‘threats–challenges’ approach. Such methodology allowed for development of national power, capacities and capabilities in toto, rather than preparing against threats that may or may not manifest themselves. It was also imperative, that a grand strategy was stated –– enunciating a regional and international outreach in exercise of national power. The Indian Maritime Doctrine did just that. The Chief of Naval Staff in the foreword stated, “If we are to fulfill our maritime destiny, all of us –– the Government, the armed forces, the civil services, the media and the public –– must have a maritime vision and a thorough understanding of the maritime concepts outlined in this doctrine”.

The highlights of the Maritime Doctrine were:

Spectrums of Conflict” –– defined with a pictorial matrix which included internal conflict, terrorism, insurgency, low intensity maritime operations, and rose to include conventional and nuclear conflict while maintaining that the Navy was best suited for nuclear deterrence from the sea. The doctrine clearly underscored that nuclear submarines equipped with nuclear missiles were the ideal platform for this. It was now reasonably certain if media is to be believed that the Indian Navy would acquire the type 971 Akula nuclear submarine by 2007, possibly from the Amur shipyard on lease for 10 years, for a speculated $500 million, on the lines that the Charlie class INS Chakra, was leased in the late 80s for four years, in a very secret deal, which took the world by surprise.

There was also every indication that the indigenous nuclear submarine ATV would also be at sea by that time under nuclear power, with a single screw and a Russian nuclear power plant, with home coming motors. There was no indication yet that these boats would be armed with vertical launched ballistic missiles but indigenous tube launched missiles were being pursued aggressively by the DRDO in collaboration with the Indian Navy and civilian engineering firms like Larsen & Tubro. Trials of the 250 km Dhanush and Brahmos had thus far been very successful, including one from under water and could be harbingers of what could arm India’s nuclear boats.

The Principles of War and the chapter on Geo-Strategic Imperatives for India and India’s Maritime Interest were extremely well spelt out with a preamble on geoeconomics, extra regional presence and energy security, forming important subjects in which maritime support would be a necessity. Without spelling out the Malacca, Sunda, Hormuz and Bab El Mandap Straits per se the document referred to Sea Lanes Of Communications (SLOCs) as “the life blood of India for trade and keeping them open would be a primary national interest, especially as $260 billion worth of oil passes through these straits and the figures are rising with China and India’s demands accelerating”. Seabed resources and the 2.1million sq km of India’s EEZ and interest in Antarctica also figured, as India was setting up its third experimental base there. The Navy had rightly laid stress on energy needs of future India.

Concepts of maritime power, the attributes of sea control, sea denial, choke points, exclusion zones, guerre de course, convoy system, visit board search and seizure (VBBS) and center of gravity along with the traditional naval manoeuvre, were very cogently discussed for both the professional seafarer in uniform, and interested civilians to appreciate.

Missions of the Navy and Operational Tasks, laid down the background to the most interesting chapter in the Doctrine titled “Planning of Maritime Operations”. Since the 1971 War in which the India Navy had adequate time to prepare to attack Karachi in the east and what is now Bangladesh in the west, it had gained hands-on experience.

Threats to India, Pakistan and China figured prominently, as the steady inflow of military technology and hardware into these countries was emphasised. The doctrine stated that the Chinese Navy had the responsibility to safeguard approx. 2. 6 million sq km of exclusive economic zone (EEZ), compared to the Indian EEZ of approx. 2. 01 million sq km. But it stated that Chinese Naval plans on the anvil were much more ambitious in comparison, and highlighted that although China appeared to spend only 3% of its GDP on defence, the actual expenditure was much higher. The PLA Navy was allocated a 24% share of the defence outlay as against 16% in India’s case.

On Pakistan it highlighted a steady inflow of military technology of three Agosta 90B submarines incorporating Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) technology, with sub-launched missile firing capability and P3C Orion Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) capable of firing Harpoon missiles. With the United States now having granted Pakistan Major Non-NATO Ally status and sale of F-16 aircraft, a quantum increase in Pakistan’s naval capability could be expected. The doctrine went on to state that apart from Pakistan’s hostile posturing and Chinese expansion plans, India’s maritime security environment stood affected with other security concerns, straddled as India was in the following manner.

  • To the west was the Gulf oil area, simmering on the flash point of a global energy crisis

  • To the east was the steadily growing economy of the ASEAN states coupled with China’s vigorous exertion that tends to spill over into our maritime zone

  • To the South, lie the vast majority of the Indian Ocean Region;s (IOR’s) developing states that were a potential hotbed for extraregional intervention

  • Sitting astride the vital waterways of the IOR, India could not but remain the central focus of concerns in the Asian arc

Disclaimer   Copyright