An IDC Analysis


New Delhi, 05 March 2005

The Indo US Nuclear deal will go down as a watershed event, when India's security policy and defence mosaic took on a pragmatic and outward looking posture –– befitting its size, economic potential and its geographic location. Jutting into the Indian Ocean, the Indian peninsula ­–– with its Nicobar Islands situated just 50 nautical miles from the mouth of the Malacca Straits –– India sits astride the trade routes that carry 60% of the world’s trade especially oil energy. In this era of so called ‘Cold Peace’ –– no war no peace, energy security is now a formal part of a nation’s security agenda. It has been defined as ‘the availability of energy at all times in various forms, in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices’, by the United Nations. India imports over 70% of its oil and gas needs (worth $21b in 2004) which is rising, and is viewed as a key vulnerability and cause for concern.

India’s PM Dr Manmohan Singh signed a historic nuclear deal with President Bush on 18 July 2005 in Washington, to safeguard India’s future and secure alternate sources for India’s energy needs, and on 2 Feb 2006, President Bush on a visit to India accepted India's plan for separation of civilian and strategic nuclear facilities. India listed the civil nuclear facilities which would be subject to IAEA inspection, to enable India to legitimately import civil nuclear technology and uranium from USA and the NSG, that at present it is denied, not being a signatory to the NPT.

With USA’s commitment to help make India a world power, India has become an accepted nuclear power and has taken on the mantle to maintain stability in the Indian Ocean region for which the Indian Navy is being strengthened. Navy Chief Admiral Arun Prakash articulated it well. “The Indian Navy is the largest and most capable ‘resident’ Navy in the Indian Ocean region, and is seen by most powers as a stabilising force. As India grows economically India's stake in the seas will grow, and our maritime power will also increase commiseratively”.

Media reports that India will have a base for piracy control in Madagascar and so the aspirations have begun to show. Air Chief ACM S P Tyagi who was in Singapore recently, was not far behind in India’s quest to develop strategic forces. He stated, “India’s strategic interest will look at the oil producing and oil supplying areas. If this hypothesis is somewhat correct, then we will have to start looking at our strategic boundaries being somewhere between the Gulf and the Straits of Malacca at the least”. The IAF is looking to acquire more air-to-air fuelling tankers, AEW and AWACS assets and 126 advanced fighters.

In 2005 India was invited to the G 8 meet at Gleneagles as an observer, confirming its newly acquired relevance to the West and EU. India’s position vis-a-vis China, the undisputed rising power in the East is not articulated in any policy, but India’s Deputy NSA and former Ambassador to China and Pakistan, Vijay Nambiar minced no words, “Today the vocabulary of international discourse is changing. In a growing number of regions in the world, the language of competition is being replaced by cooperation, autarky by interdependence, threats are being seen as challenges and crises as opportunities. As China and India grow they face the simultaneous imperative of asserting their essential interests and emphasizing that their rise is peaceful and non threatening to their neighbours and our partners in the region and beyond”.

China’s PM Wen Jiabao visited India in 2005 with a large delegation of businessmen to discuss matters of trade policy, and nudge India towards resolving the border dispute almost on China’s terms along the Line of Actual Control conceding Sikkim to be part of India. India’s trade with China is fast rising ($16b already in 2005) and Indian investment in China is growing, though Chinese engineering firms complain they have not been able to make sufficient inroads in India, as some of their bids for infrastructure projects have been rejected as “not security cleared”.

India was invited to the East Asia Summit and relations between India and Singapore in security terms could be termed as incestuous. A review of Japan the current economic power in the East, which is experiencing frosty relations with China is also called for. Japan which is heavily dependent on imported hydrocarbons through the Indian Ocean has made overtures to support India’s strategic buildup and offered resources to cooperate towards stability and invest more heavily in to India’s infrastructure. Their Chief of JSDF was in Delhi and held secret parleys a month ago. PM Junichiro Koizumi’s visit to India in mid 2005 was the first for a Japanese PM after the 1998 nuclear blasts. Out of the gaze of the media, numerous Track II initiatives have progressed to discuss security cooperation. Japan is constrained by Article 9 of its Constitution to self defence under a US umbrella, but changes are likely. Admiral Arun Prakash visited Japan in September and DG Coast Guard VAdm AK Singh in November, when CGS Samar exercised with Japan’s MSA off Moji and the event was televised in Japan.

Condoleezza Rice was seen in a gorgeous long blue dress at the Presidential Banquet after the signing ceremony on 2nd February and she had visited India in 2005 to chalk out future US-India relations and numerous military exchanges at high level took place in 2005. In November Defence Minster Pranab Mukherjee signed a historic wide ranging US–India Defence Framework with Mr Donald Rumsfeld.

India’s leg up in its ‘Look East’ policy saw India sign a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation agreement with Singapore providing concessions, which observers say could pull in surplus Saudi and Mid East oil money to India, and India participated in the East Asia Summit. India played an active role in the WTO negotiations in 2005 — these and the nuclear deal are perhaps the best indicators of the pivotal role that India has begun to play in the emerging Asian balance of power.

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