1 November 2012

Durand Line

Wed Oct 31 2012

The Durand Line is back in the news thanks to the assertion of a top US diplomat that it constitutes the “international border” between Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

The remarks by the US special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Marc Grossman, during a recent visit to the region, have drawn an angry response from Kabul. 

No one in Afghanistan, not even the Taliban that is widely seen as a proxy for Pakistan, is willing to accept the Durand 

Line as the nation’s legitimate eastern border. 

The 2,600 km line is named after Sir Henry Mortimer Durand, undivided India’s foreign secretary who “negotiated” it with the Amir of Afghanistan, Abdur Rahman Khan, in 1893. At the end of the 19th century, when the power of the Raj was at its apogee, the rulers of Kabul had no choice but to acquiesce. After the Partition of the subcontinent, the Afghans were less obliged to accept the claims of Pakistan that inherited the Durand Line. 

Protesting Grossman’s remarks, the foreign office in Kabul said it “rejects and considers irrelevant any statement by anyone about the legal status of this line”. Meanwhile, the ministry of foreign affairs in Islamabad insisted the Durand Line between Pakistan and Afghanistan is “a closed and settled issue”. 

Although London and Washington have long supported Pakistan’s claims on the Durand Line, some Western scholars say the decision was motivated by the logic of mobilising Pakistan’s support in the Cold War. A report of the House of Commons Library published in June 2010 argues, “The legal status of the Durand Line has never been definitively settled.” It suggests there is much credibility to the Afghan claim that the Durand Line was never meant to mark the separation of the territorial sovereignties of the Raj and Afghanistan. 

The line, according to some scholars, was about differentiating the spheres of influence of Calcutta and Kabul in the Pashtun lands across the Indus rather than defining the boundary. 

Indian View 

India has largely stayed away from the controversy over the legitimacy of the Durand Line. Its silence though is widely interpreted as supporting Pakistan’s position. 

In 1978, after the communist revolution in Afghanistan, India’s then foreign minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, reportedly called on the new government to respect the Durand Line and urged Kabul and Islamabad to settle their differences through negotiations. 

Sections of the Indian strategic community feel India is too passive on the disputes between Kabul and Islamabad. Former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran has underlined the virtues of Indian diplomatic ambiguity on the Durand Line. 

“It may be worthwhile for us to signal that we do not necessarily recognise the Durand Line as a legitimate frontier between Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Saran wrote about two years ago. For a New Delhi that shuns all political risk, that might be too bold a course. 

Borders & Orders 

A border becomes one only when both sides accept its legitimacy. Consider for example Delhi’s oft- repeated position that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and it does not recognise any dispute over the territory. 

In the real world, Pakistan does not accept India’s claim, is in occupation of a part of J&K, and has proxies operating across the Line of Control. Much like Kashmir that has put India and Pakistan at odds for so long, the dispute over the Durand Line deeply divides Kabul and Islamabad. 

While claiming it to be an international border, Pakistan does everything to undermine the Durand Line. The Pakistan army and the ISI behave as if the line does not exist, intervene in Afghanistan’s internal affairs, and support insurgent groups trying to destabilise Kabul. 

From another perspective, the war in Afghanistan has already spilled over into Pakistan; the US rains drones from across the Durand Line. Some Pakistani insurgent groups take shelter in Afghanistan and launch repeated raids across the Line. The Durand Line, then, is only on the map. Rawalpindi’s own search for strategic depth in Afghanistan has undone what little legitimacy the Line had. 

The problem of the Durand Line can only be settled as part of a larger political reconciliation between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Such reconciliation would involve skirting the question of sovereignty, promoting transborder economic connectivity and cooperation, meeting the aspirations of the Pashtuns on both sides of the Line, and ending support to cross-border terrorism. 

The writer is distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, Delhi and contributing editor, ‘The Indian Express’ 

Battle of Attrition

Prasenjit Chowdhury, 
Nov 1, 2012 :

China has sought to keep India strategically contained within South Asia by propping up Pakistan politically and militarily.

There seems to be discomfiture on the part of China about India memorialising this year the 50th anniversary of the Sino-India border conflict of 1962. The mainstream reaction of China has always been to underplay the 1962 border-dispute as a ‘minor scuffle.’

Why did 1962 happen? We have long been fed by the revisionist account of Neville Maxwell’s opus ‘India’s China War’ published in 1970 which blamed Nehru for arrogance and obduracy in the face of Chinese efforts to seek a negotiated solution. Not only Maxwell, but many of our pro-China communists, thought that it was India which asked for its humiliation at the hands of China in 1962. 

During the last two decades, however, a few former Indian defence officials including faculty at the Indian Defence Academy like Parshotam Lal and Srinivas Raghavan rubbished the central thesis of Maxwell. 

But the publication of Steven Hoffmann’s account in 1990 is an important corrective to the revisionist thesis by capturing Indian perceptions more closely. There seems to exist a near-universal consensus in tracing the problem to the colonial days.

Make no mistake about it. That China is a hydra-headed monster with massive expansionist plans across South Asia is no longer a secret. It was Mao who termed Tibet as the ‘palm’ of a hand with its five fingers as Ladakh, Sikkim, Nepal, Bhutan, and what has so long been as NEFA that pertain to our north eastern states. 

He claimed that these were ‘Chinese’ territories that needed to be ‘liberated’. And there is merit in the argument that the pacifist Indian leadership remained blind to Communist China’s repeated claims on Tibet and large part of Indian territories. 
Clearly, China is in no mood to attach much significance to a ‘war’ that India considers as of epic proportions.

A Beijing-based researcher on Sino-India relations has to say that the Chinese foreign policy at popular and elite levels is about competing with the US, putting Japan in its place and keeping a ‘wary’ eye on Russia, while maintaining China's unity in terms of, for example, recovering Taiwan and pacifying Tibet and Xinjiang. Compared to India’s demonic obsession about China, India merits little attention of China.

Is China really as indifferent about India as it makes itself to be? It is true that the People's Liberation Army withdrew from all the territory it gained in the eastern sector and gave the territory back after holding it for a few weeks. Much to the outrage of the nationalists, China has secretly signed quite a few border agreements with its neighbours, in particular Russia and Central Asian states.

But recently in context of Japan’s ‘purchase’ of the Diaoyu Islands, considered as a grave ‘violation’ of China's territorial sovereignty, Chinese vice foreign minister Zhang Zhijun registered strong protest.

Settled disputes

Fifty years is a long stretch of time in diplomatic calendar. China is no stranger to settlement of border disputes as China and Russia settled their decades-old border disputes signing an agreement fixing the 4,300-km border for the first time. China and Kazakhstan have resolved their border dispute and are working to demarcate their large open borders to control population migration, illegal activities, and trade.

Besides India, China has been involved in complex disputes with Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. But why is a settlement of the Sino-Indian border dispute given a slip, as years roll on, begs for an answer.

An article titled ‘Who sows discord in India-China relations’ in the Shanghai-based Liberation Daily regarded highly by the Chinese political and military establishment warned that the US and western media were trying to ‘sow discord’ between the two Asian giants and lead the two neighbours in the direction of a confrontation.

The article said that having to describe Chinese attempts to expand mutual co-operation with other South Asian nations as ploys to encircle India through a ‘string of pearls’ was a “a deliberate attempt to provoke the anti-Chinese forces in India”.

The problem is: one cannot attach a very benign tag to China’s desire of a peaceful rise. China has sought to keep India strategically contained within South Asia by propping up Pakistan politically and militarily with transfers of nuclear and missile technologies. 

It has fortified its military hold over Tibet, weighing down the military balance against us in the north. It has signed multimillion dollar aid, trade and defence deals with many Indian Ocean nations, while Chinese state-owned corporations have financed commercial ports in Pakistan (Gwadar), Sri Lanka (Hambantota and Colombo), Bangladesh (Chittagong) and Burma (Sittwe and Kyaukpyu). As a dominant economic player in central Asia, it is competing ferociously with India in shoring up areas of influence in both Iran and Afghanistan.

Perhaps, it is best not to repeat past mistakes and stick to inflexible stands. It is about time to get past the theory of surprise and betrayal spun around the defeat in 1962. On the one hand, we need solid military support to match the Chinese threat and on the other, we need to garner enough economic clout to neutralise China. 

There is enough room to accommodate the aspirations of China and India, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei recently said in response to India's commemorative activities. Engaging with China and improving relations with it wherever practicable must be encouraged. 

But, for two aspirational nations that some 2,000 years ago held the lion’s share of the world economy, this century could well be a battle of attrition – though there is little chance of a repeat of 1962 – India, in the face of China’s phenomenal economic growth, its obsession with national power and its expanding military capabilities, cannot not afford to lose. 

The real reward for their bravery

by Rajeev Chandrasekhar 

As the country gears up for Diwali, I would urge Indians to take a minute and remember that 50 years ago, in a 28-day conflict between India and China, 3,824 bravehearts gave up their lives for the nation. Reminiscences and analyses appearing in the media have focused on the political and 

military blunders. However, this battle should be memorialised as one about the grit and bravery of soldiers on the frontline — ill-equipped and badly betrayed by incompetent politicians — and generals sent into combat at 15,000 feet, insufficiently clad for a north Indian autumn, and equipped with outdated weapons from World War 2. 

In battles all across the border, in places that have gone down in military history like Rezang La, Tongpeng La and Bum La — places that most of us today don’t know but our future generations must remember — precious lives were lost as our brave soldiers defended our territory against the Chinese PLA. Each of these battles tells scores of stories of bravery, despite overwhelming odds the Indian soldier faced while doing his duty even when everyone above him failed to fulfil their responsibilities. 

The Ahirs of the C Company of 13 Kumaon at Rezang La (Ladakh), who fought virtually to the last man and last bullet; or the dogged platoon of 1 Sikh, defending a ridge at Tongpeng La (Arunachal Pradesh) till the bullets ran out and charging out with fixed bayonets in a glorious but suicidal last attempt — this is the valour we should never forget. 

The men who led those troops — Major Shaitan Singh at Rezang La and Subedar Joginder Singh — won the Param Vir Chakra (PVC) posthumously. There was a third PVC winner in that war — Major Dhan Singh Thapa of 8 Gorkha Rifles, who fought like a lion in Ladakh and, fortunately, lived to tell the tale. At Bum La, the valiant soldiers of 5 Assam rifles led by Jemadar AK Roy and soldiers of 1 Sikh, repulsed numerous attacks by the Chinese till they could not hold out any longer. Countless stories like this one played out across the border from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh. 

But a few years ago, there was a news report that the widow of Major Shaitan Singh, who gave up his life for India on the icy heights of Rezang La, was being paid a pension far lower than her entitlement. The Controller of Defence Accounts and the bank that disburses pension played the blame game. The rest of us shook our heads in despair. I often quote to people in the government and bureaucracy the famous line by Kautilya: “The day the soldier has to demand his dues will be a sad day for Magadha. For that day on, you will have lost all moral sanction to be King”. 

The sight of our veterans returning their medals should make most people with a conscience hang their heads in shame. The memories of the 3,800 bravehearts and their stories of ultimate service to the nation should galvanise our collective conscience and make us firmly resolve to stand by our soldiers and their families. 

The British Parliament has passed an Armed Forces Covenant, a contract between the people and those who fight for them, whereby an assurance is given that the members of the armed forces and their families will be cared for by the public. I have introduced a similar Bill in Parliament — The Armed Forces Covenant Bill, 2011 — which is awaiting discussion. I hope it is discussed and the government deems it appropriate to pass such a Bill, if not mine. By doing so we will pay appropriate homage to all the brave men who died in 1962 and promote a new relationship between the people of India and its armed forces. 

China-Pakistan Military Partnership


A Fellows’ Seminar on “China-Pakistan Military Partnership” was held at CLAWS on 27 September 2012. The Seminar was chaired by Maj Gen GD Bakshi, SM, VSM (Retd). Ms Aditi Malhotra, Associate Fellow, CLAWS presented her paper on the subject. The Discussants were Cdr (IN) KK Agnihotri, Research Fellow at the National Maritime Foundation (NMF) and Col SKS Chauhan, Senior Fellow, CLAWS. The Seminar was attended by a large number of serving officers, Defence Attachés and veterans from the strategic community. 

Maj Gen GD Bakshi, SM, VSM (Retd) Chairperson 

The emerging China-Pakistan nexus has added another dimension to India’s threat perceptions. Indian strategic planners now describe themselves as being confounded by a two and a half front threat scenario. It is important to deliberate of this issue and look for measures to counter this nexus that can greatly impinge on India’s national security. 

Aditi Malhotra 

Pakistan’s foreign policy and its relationship with other countries have been primarily dictated by its security concerns. Pakistan’s history reflects a deep sense of insecurity, which seems embedded in its choice of forming alliances with other countries of the world. 

Pakistan was the third non-communist country and the first Muslim country to recognise PRC on 4 January, 1950, after breaking its relations with the Republic of China (Taiwan). China considered the SEATO as a formation “to mount aggression against China and other Asian people.’ It was the Bandung Conference in 1955 that paved way for a strengthened Sino-Pakistan friendship. The Bandung conference was an assembly of Asian and African countries in Bandung, Indonesia in April, 1955. This conference was representative of the growing Third World non-aligned movement in the face of international Cold War politics. Pakistan utilised this opportunity to alleviate any possible Chinese fears about its agreements with the United States and assured them that the alliance was, in no way, against China. 

The security dimension surfaced and became evidently strong during the Indo-Pakistan war in 1965. China was quite vociferous in its support of Pakistan and deemed India as the aggressor. The animosity between China and India had not receded since the 1962 war. China attempted to weaken India and psychologically pressurise it by issuing volley of notes of alleged border violations by Indian forces and publicly criticising it. 

China and Pakistan have since enjoyed strong defence cooperation. Defence cooperation is reflected in their efforts towards upgrading and modernising the armed forces, joint research and development of defence systems, utilisation of IT for national defence, development and upgradation of defence production infrastructure facilities. 

The countries hold periodic joint exercises, upgradation of military training institutions and target exchange, international cooperation, collaboration between the defence industries, global/ strategic issues and capacity building to cope with natural disasters. These joint exercises ensure a high degree of inter-operability among the armed forces as it provides an opportunity to learn from the other side. Also, the choices of areas where the exercises are held have latent messages and illustration of priorities for India. 

China has also been offering an array of arms and weapon systems to Pakistan. After the 1962 war with India, China’s best bet was to militarily strengthen Pakistan to pursue its designs of strategically containing India. Therefore, without fighting India directly, China ensured that New Delhi remained embroiled in its vicinity and not poses a challenge to China’s supremacy in the region. 

In addition to the direct transfer of weapon platforms and systems, China has also bolstered Pakistan’s plans of indigenising its defence sector. Countries without a strong technical foundation such as Pakistan rely on foreign acquisitions or joint-productions, allowing it to jump various stages of technology maturation. Pakistan got Chinese assistance in the establishment of the Heavy Rebuild Factory (HRF) in Taxila and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) in Kamra. 

Additionally, nuclear and missile transfers have been part of a well orchestrated Chinese strategy to present India with another nuclear-enabled challenger in South Asia. As decades passed by, China gave dual-usage nuclear-related material and missile components through its private and government firms, adding to Pakistan’s strategic weight against India. 

China’s aid to Pakistan in going nuclear marked just one phase of the proliferation cycle. It was coupled by the transfer of delivery systems which went on simultaneously throughout the period of nuclear proliferation. China’s support in Pakistan’s quest for a robust nuclear programme was initially governed by its commercial, strategic and foreign policy interests. Economic rationales were prevalent during the early 1980s when the state-owned defence firms were pressed to earn profits by finding lucrative markets abroad. However, with time the dynamics changed and one infers that the strategic and foreign policy concentrations have gained strength overtaking all other motivations. 

Naval cooperation- Sino-Pakistan naval cooperation was formalised by signing the 1990 MoU on decade-long defence cooperation. The US imposed ban on military supplies subsequent to the Pressler Amendment in 1994 compelled the Pakistani leadership to further expand its naval cooperation with China and place orders of more sophisticated technologies and bigger ship. 

The main idea behind a strong naval coalition with PN is to add to China’s plan of maintaining a strong regional influence while ensuring the security of SLOCs in IOR. It is in this light that having Pakistan as a dominant player in the Arabian Sea is a favourable position for China; as it offers it greater influence and the potential to leverage its Pakistan link in the region. PN aids China’s fundamental objective of the Offshore Defence Concept i.e. to exercise control over sea gates pivotal for PLA’s force projection. 

With China officially taking over the Gwadar port, it would have direct access to the Arabian Sea, coterminous with India’s maritime periphery. It is natural that China would increase its capabilities there, which could in the future facilitate intervention during an Indo-Pakistan conflict. If not direct intervention, China could facilitate Pakistan’s logistical supply. In case of an Indo-China war, any possible deployment of nuclear weapons on land and maritime region in the Arabian sea (with the help of Pakistan cooperation) could have the potential to deter India’s Navy and may also divert Indian military’s focus during the period of war. 

China’s support to the PAF is a subject which has not received desired attention among strategic planners. Even though western sources have acted as the backbone for PAF’s technological advancements, China’s contribution in sustaining the PAF during years of isolation cannot be ignored. China’s interaction with the PAF was initiated in the year 1965. It was in light of the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war, which attracted US embargoes on Pakistan. Chinese assistance is not only solicited in enhancing the qualitative and quantitative edge of the PAF but is also visible in its quest for indigenisation with joint-production projects and assistance in air-related infrastructure. China successfully meshes with PAF’s strategic goals and contributes effectively to the same. 

When it comes to Sino-Pakistan space cooperation, what underscores China’s technical expertise is its record that since 2001, China has achieved a 90 per cent success rate, launching almost 50 satellites. Confident of its prowess in the space domain, China has been seeking to employ space cooperation to gain more strategic influence in the world. Pakistan has always sought to blindly ape India in the possession of military technology and weaponry. India’s forays into space have compelled Pakistan to follow suit. In view of Pakistan’s limitations in developing an independent space programme, the only option it had was to seek Beijing’s assistance. 

China’s policy of supporting Pakistan to counter balance India is once again manifested in China’s space relations with Pakistan. As Beijing’s space programme advances forward, Pakistan becomes an important beneficiary. BeiDou (Compass) Navigation System will greatly help Pakistan and China is also involved in establishing the Pakistan Remote Sensing Satellite (PRSS). 

Deductions of their military partnership are as follows: 

• The Cooperation between the two countries is likely to intensify after thinning of US presence in AfPak region. 

• China and Pakistan to play a dominant role in South Asia 

• Due to the deepening bonds between China and Pakistan and increased presence of Chinese in Pakistan, it will force China to bail out Pakistan in case of emergencies. 

• Pakistan will continue to see China as a reliable & dependent partner in terms of arms supplies, especially during contingencies. 

• Beijing and Islamabad will continue to undertake collaborative efforts in R&D & weapon systems manufacturing. 

• There is a possibility of Pak interfering in Indo-China conflict by employing its irregulars and exploiting the situation for its own advantages. 

• Apart from the internal problems India faces and the growing Maoist challenge, the presence of two rivals on India’s borders is bound to add pressure on India’s military preparedness. 

Cdr (IN) KK Agnihotri 

Apart from its advantages, the “all weather’ friendship also has some sticky points. The unequal nature of their partnership is evident in cases of humanitarian assistance, wherein Pakistan does little but magnifies the same in media reports. China too believes in publicising the help it offers to Pakistan during various humanitarian assistance projects. The use of media and psychological warfare is quite unique and commendable. When we take the case of foreign defence forces attending events in China, one sees that most other forces’ leadership is sidelined in the Chinese media reports (especially in the case of India) and it is Pakistan that is highlighted repeatedly. 

In terms of cooperation, one must realise that Chinese are hard-nosed business people and they invest in places after considering their self-interests. The case of the Gwadar port illustrates this. There were grand plans to establish refinery projects however China recently withdrew from a particular project because of the security concerns it had in the restive province of Baluchistan. China and Pakistan relations are also opportunistic to a certain degree. China gives very little help to Pakistan in economic terms but still continues to be regarded as the best partner Pakistan has ever got. 

Another sticky point between the two nations is the alleged support of Pakistan-based groups to Uighurs and separatist groups like the ETIM in the Xinjiang province. While Pakistan states that the government is not involved to any degree and the responsibility lies solely with uncontrollable jihadi groups, there may be another side to the story. Interestingly, Pakistan maintains that the militancy it exports to India is also not government-backed. A similar scenario may be present in its assertions with regard to separatist movements in Xinjiang and Pakistan’s support of the same. 

When it comes to space cooperation, one cannot ignore the fact that China operates a space telemetry station in Pakistan. The station supports China’s spaceflight missions through a range of land-based tracking stations located both within China and overseas, Pakistan being one of the overseas countries. This clearly shows that there is much more to their ‘great’ friendship. 

Col SKS Chauhan 

Sino-Pakistan military relations are the cornerstone of their friendship. Today, India feels challenged by China’s military assistance to Pakistan. It is an interesting case in point that China and India started their journeys together when they shared almost similar GDP figures. Fast forwarding six decades, one sees Beijing way ahead of New Delhi in innumerable facets such as military, economy, scientific development. 

China has grown into a major economic power, which has successfully made inroads into major economies of the world including its adversaries such as the US, Japan and India. Today, it is using its economic tools to justify, enforce its diplomatic/political stands. Despite India’s economic and monetary constraints, India can counter the Sino-Pakistan partnership. Besides upgrading its military capabilities, India can think of using the two Ds: ‘Democracy’ and ‘Diplomacy’. Currently, Pakistan is witnessing a failing democracy and when it comes to China, democracy’s roots have never grown. Whatever we may say, yet we have a prospering, vibrant and maturing democracy. In view of scenarios in Pakistan and China, India should expose their masses/common man to the tastes of democracy and the fallacies of non-democratic set-up. We could also explore causative factors for implementation, increase people-to-people contact, and expose others to the valued fruit of freedom of expression and right to life and personal liberty. 

Indian democracy should be aggressive so that we do not lose out on our friends and potential allies. We should utilise every opportunity and make inroads through the idea of democracy into countries that would matter to us when countering the China-Pakistan nexus. 


• China and Pakistan have also been collaborating in the cyber domain though this is rarely cited in studies possibly due to lack of verified reports on the same. 

• Chinese weapon/weapon systems supplies to Pakistan may include EMP weapons, HPMW-based weapons which will be pivotal technologies that would decide the course of future wars. 

• We lack charismatic leaders like Nehru and have limited funds to attract our neighbours and fortify our relationships with them. In these unfavourable circumstances, aggressive diplomacy is important for India. 

• China provided CSS-2 missile to Saudi Arabia in 1987 and Pakistan was a facilitator of the deal. 

• China’s with nuclear and missile technology transfers to Pakistan resulted in making Islamabad a co-equal state to India. This has been a deciding factor of their relationship. 

• China and Pakistan bear different ideas over terrorism in Xinjiang and China has accused its “all weather” friend of supporting fundamentalism and separatism in the province. It is also important to look at Chinese annoyance with Islamabad’s inability to protect Chinese workers in Pakistan, particularly Gwadar. 

• There is a feeling in the Pakistan Army that China is not doing enough and feels that Indian over-hype their relationship, from which Pakistan has not benefitted to the extent usually portrayed. 

Concluding Remarks: Maj Gen Dhruv Katoch, SM, VSM (Retd), Addl Dir, CLAWS 

The China Pakistan nexus has been a matter of concern for Indian policy makers. The most important aspects of Sino-Pakistan military cooperation that commands attention is their nexus in missile, nuclear and space technology. Also, their collaboration in spread of terrorism is something that cannot be overlooked. However, we should not get too worried about the conventional military transfers that have continued for decades. The Chinese weaponry is sub-standard and it can only add numbers of Pakistan’s Army and not comprehensive quality. When it comes to the Gwadar project, one can declare it a failure owing to the various retardation factors in the region, particularly the periodic unrest in Balochistan that has forced the Chinese to rethink some of their actions. 

Indian Strategic Thinking Vis-à-Vis Indian Ocean – OpEd

October 31, 2012 

By Siraj Nizamani 

Military strategist Colin S. Gray once said, ‘Man lives on the land, not on the sea, and conflict at sea has strategic meaning only with reference to what its outcome enables, or implies, for the course of events on land.’ No nation that aspires for great power status can neglect the maritime dimension. Hence, the U.S., Russia, China, France, Britain and Japan, have all developed maritime infrastructure and have robust and technologically advanced navies. The seas have great contribution to economy of the countries worldwide and they are also the foremost medium of transportation of the energy lifelines. Naval power is not only instrument of power projection, but also have the advantage of subtle presence, flexibility and immediate response. Therefore, Indian Navy in the twenty-first century will continue to spread its wings in the Indian Ocean Region. 

India’s search for a major player at the global level instigates her to go for an ambitious plan of military modernization, which is considered as one of the major step in this direction. That particular strategic reasoning induces New Delhi to perceive the Indian Ocean as “India’s Ocean”. Being a rising power not only India’s energy needs, but also its reliance on energy imports will increase. For achieving this, India plans to secure its sea-lanes of communication and choke points in the Indian Ocean including: the Strait of Hormuz, Bab-el-Mandeb, Cape of Good Hope, Mozambique Channel and the Malacca Straits. 

The process of navy’s modernization has been accelerated ever since India has begun to focus on projecting its position, strength and presence in the Indian Ocean. Today the Indian Navy is taking every possible measure to establish itself as a blue water navy, a classical definition of a blue water navy is “a maritime force which can operate 320 km away from its shores.” 

Indian strategic thinkers view their country as a nation with a large “security deficit,” where resources are put to ensure its territorial integrity: but they believe once it transforms its land environment; India will be in a position to offer security to other regional states; IN’s role will be central in future. They see a close connection between India’s maritime ambitions and its destiny as a great power. As former Indian Foreign Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, argues” after nearly a millennia of inward and landward focus, we are once again turning our gaze outwards and seawards, which is the natural direction of view for a nation seeking to re-establish itself, not simply as a continental power, but even more so as a maritime power, and as one that is of significance on the world stage.”Similarly, according to one observer: New Delhi regards the Indian Ocean as its backyard and deems it both natural and desirable that India function as, eventually, the leader and the predominant influence in this region—the world’s only region and ocean named after a single state. This is what the United States set out to do in North America and the Western Hemisphere at an early in America’s “rise to power”. 

Indian strategic thinkers have a strong perception that India holds center stage in the only ocean in the world which is named after a country. It’s peninsular configuration juts out 1,500 miles into the sea and places India the focal point of shipping lanes, besides other vital commodities, millions of tons of hydrocarbons travel from the Persian Gulf and Middle East to feed the industrial and economic engines of Southeast Asian countries. Whether India likes it or not, geography has placed a heavy responsibility on India’s shoulders and made her the natural sentinel of these trade routes. 

They explain that Indian western coast undertook commercial activity with the countries of Middle East and the Mediterranean, afterwards successive kingdoms in peninsular and eastern India created a powerful maritime vision and tradition. Similarly, dynasties like the Mauryas, Sattavahanas, Pallavas and Cholas sent out fleets that were instrumental in spreading India’s trade, culture, and religions by sea to Southeast Asia and further. It was the decline of Indian maritime power and tradition in the 13th century that coincided with the domination by foreigners for the next 600-700 years. 

Another popular view is that “India deserves to aspire to play the role of a regional power in South Asia and a facilitator for regional cooperation. Since independence, India has made substantial progress in establishing its pre-eminence in the Indian Ocean region. Its involvement in the 1971 Indo-Pak war, peacekeeping operations in Sri Lanka and suppression of the coup in Maldives are some examples of its superior power status in the region.” 

Taking into account its power potential, relationship with neighbors and its per-eminence in the region, India is likely to establish itself as a regional power in the Indian Ocean in future. Former President of India Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, once said, “A developed and strong India by 2020, or even earlier, is not a dream. It may not even be a mere inspiration in the minds of many Indians. It is a mission we can all take up and accomplish.” 

India’s Military expenditure has doubled in the past decade to about $US30 billion ($A36 billion) and if it keeps up with expected economic growth, analysts believe, India will be the third largest military power in two decades. It is speculated that by 2025 India is likely to possess three to four aircraft carrier battle groups, a fleet of nuclear submarines, an air force with 35 squadrons and sophisticated land-based weapon systems to go with its huge army.
Rational behind India’s military and naval build-up is its concern about growing Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal. India believes that eventually, India may emerge as a major force in the Indian Ocean but, for now, it is still constrained by internal security challenges. Because of the so-called perceived threat from nuclear-armed rival Pakistan, India maintains a huge land force-it’s regular army of about 1.3 million troops is supported by a part-time reserve force of 1.2 million and its paramilitary forces number about 1.1 million and India has about 60-70 operational nuclear weapons. India’s military has one of the most skewed army-to-navy ratios in the world: the Indian Navy only gets about 15 per cent of the defence budget; while the army gets about 60 per cent, therefore, India will have to devote far more resources to its navy. This is only one side of the coin several other factors pose threat to Indian security, as one Indian analyst admits, “the Naxalites has been identified as the biggest internal security threat to India by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The complex and structural causes of the problem support this proposition. The Naxal movement also presents the greatest overall threat to India in the future, as it highlights various underlying weaknesses of India’s governance, political institutions and socio-economic structure. Naxalism is the biggest threat because it affects several areas including the economy, security and foreign affairs, its citizens and rule of law.” 

Before it can claim to be the caretaker of the Indian Ocean region, India must overcome some big obstacles. For instances, lot of its military hardware is obsolete and it will be difficult for India to rapidly acquire and manage the sophisticated weapons systems it wants. These problems are considered major motive behind signing Indo-U.S. nuclear deal. 

One can easily understand the Indian strategic designs having taken into account Jawaharlal Nehru’s statement that “we cannot afford to be weak at sea. History has shown that whoever controls the Indian Ocean has, in the first instance, India’s sea-borne trade at her mercy and, in the second, India’s very independence itself.” At the India’s naval build up in the Indian Ocean poses a threat to its Western neighbor Pakistan, which has been witnessing Indian aggression since its inception in 1947. 

Siraj Nizamani currently teaches in International Relations Department at University of Sindh, Jamshoro, Pakistan. His areas of interests are: Security issues in South Asia and Indian Ocean region, China’s Strategic policy, nuclear proliferation and Terrorism. Mr. Nizamani is a regular writer of different newspapers and weekly magazines. He holds M.Phil degree in Defence and Strategic Studies from Quaid i Azam University, Islamabad. The author can be reached at sirajnizamani@hotmail.com