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Rationale for Maritime Forces

Discussion in 'Indian Navy' started by NS52, Oct 29, 2018.

  1. NS52

    NS52 MILITARY STRATEGIST

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    By

    Col Dr Narendar Singh

    For almost seven decades, our naval forces have faced a total neglect, despite the increase in the role and new orientation to security concerns. There is probably no nation whose history so clearly indicates its military policy, but whose translation of it into military terms has been so vague. Briefly stated, India’s policy is of procrastination or delay. History is evidence that in the last ten centuries, it is the maritime nation (nation dominating the oceans that have come out victorious in the power struggle. Last in the series of contests being between United States and Union of Soviet Socialist Republic) that has always come out successful. There is now a new strategic environment with multifaceted risks which are harder to predict assess. In consequence Indian Navy are faced with new uncertainties and challenges. Indian Navy today needs the qualities of flexibility, mobility, reach and sustainability to be ready to react to the unexpected.

    The essence of all navies is their military character. In fact, the Raison d’etre of navies is to ensure that no hostile maritime power can degrade own national security and interests. The navy's military role is characterized by the threat or use of force at and from the sea. This includes application of maritime power in both offensive operations against enemy forces territory and trade, and defensive operations to protect own forces, territory and trade. The military role is performed through the accomplishment of specific military objectives, missions and tasks.

    The sea is the great roadway that connects us with the principal nations of the earth. In war, it is the mission of the fleet to keep this avenue open to our forces and traffic and closed to those of our country. In general, it accomplishes this mission by seeking out and destroying the hostile flirt. To accomplish this result, it must be superior or at least approximately equal in strength to its adversary at the point of conflict. This consideration requires the fleet to be concentrated until the contest for the command of the sea has been decided.

    In carrying out its mission, a fleet is dependent upon its land bases for supplies. The radius of action is limited by availability of fuel. If, therefore. A fleet is to be free to carryout its mission, it must have a base of supplies in the waters where operations are contemplated. Otherwise, it will not be free to seek out and attack the hostile fleet. Commander Rodgers, US Navy who concludes in summation of a review of the principal attacks of fortified harbours in naval history:

    “Throughout the centuries, there has been but one sure way of accomplishing this; namely, by making the principal attack by shore and not involving ships themselves to such an extent to risk serious injury to them,”

    It is, therefore, indispensable to the success of our naval operations that bases secure against attack by sea and land be provided in all waters where our fleet may be called upon to operate. A fleet which is successful in obtaining command of the sea, will attempt to close that avenue of communications to its adversary. The most effective way of accomplishing this end is through the blockade of the enemy’s coast. To carry out blockading operations, it is necessary to secure a base on or near the blockaded coast by the combined action of land and naval forces.

    A nation’s sea power once decisively broken will rarely recovered within the duration of a modern war; the fragments of its fleet together with reserves will be reduced to conducting minor operations in harbour defence and against the enemy’s line of communications. In general, the mission of the Navy will have been concluded when the contest for the command of the sea has been decided.

    “The Indian Ocean area will be the true nexus of world powers and conflict in the coming years. It is here that the fight for democracy, energy independence and religious freedom will be lost or won.”

    —Robert D. Kaplan

    Over the last seventy years Indian Navy faced two concurrent but different types of concerns. The first is the threat from littoral states at the rim of Indian Ocean, and second is the treat of extra-regional naval threat poses a nuclear challenge. While it is recognised that India cannot match the power of extra-regional navies, however. It could pose a serious threat, and thus obtain a measure of sea denial, at least in its own waters. China currently does not have the capability to stage into the Indian Ocean on regular basis, it has from time to time shown interest in doing so.

    “The Indian Ocean area will be the true nexus of world powers and conflict in the coming years. It is here that the fight for democracy, energy independence and religious freedom will be lost or won,” said Robert D. Kaplan[1]

    Long acknowledged as ‘globalisation’s cradle’, the Indian Ocean Region has latterly grown considerably in its strategic importance. This has been for two main reasons. Firstly, the Indian Ocean Region has emerged in the post-Cold War period as the epicentre of the West’s ongoing struggle against violent transnational jihadist extremism. This struggle has in turn played out against the backdrop of endemic state fragility in many regional polities. The resulting conjunction of political extremism and local governance failures has resulted in the Indian Ocean Region R becoming the principal post-Cold War theatre of engagement.
    Secondly, India and China’s accelerating economic transformation in the last two decades has spurred a profound growth in Indian Ocean Region maritime commerce, the ocean constituting an indispensable ‘super-highway’ conveying the natural resources of Africa, the Middle East and Australia to the region’s voracious rapidly industrializing demographic giants.



    This area is important for India’s supreme national security interest of survival”. For China, it is vital transit route for energy imports sourced from West Asia and Africa. This makes China highly vulnerable in case of a Sino-Indian military conflict.
    Indian Ocean is a hub of energy; India is seeking to enhance its involvement in the region, seeking to increase its influence from the Plateau of Iran to the Gulf of Thailand. India is soon to become the world’s fourth-largest energy consumer, after the United States, China, and Japan—is dependent on oil for roughly 33 per cent of its energy needs, 65 per cent of which it imports, and 90 per cent of its oil imports could soon come from the Persian Gulf. Another reason behind developing naval power is India’s “Hormuz dilemma,” its dependence on imports passing through the strait, close to the shores of Pakistan’s Makran coast, where the Chinese are helping the Pakistanis develop deep-water ports.

    All parties to United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) are also members of the International Seabed Authority (ISA), the agency that manages the mineral resources of the seabed beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. There are three known classes of hard minerals on the world’s deep seabed:

    1. Polymetallic nodules of manganese and iron oxides enriched in nickel, copper, cobalt, and rare earth elements are found on the abyssal plains;

    2. Cobalt crusts consisting of iron and manganese oxides enriched in cobalt and rare earth elements and found on the slopes of seamounts; and

    3. Polymetallic sulphides of copper and zinc, sometimes enriched with gold, that are found near spreading canters and subduction zones.

    Over the past decade, rising demand (particularly in China) for seabed minerals with industrial applications drove metal prices upward, resulting in increased commercial interest in seabed mineral deposits. India and China have each sponsored national applicant for International Seabed Authority recognition of exclusive rights to explore mineral sites in the Indian Ocean. India’s claim is for a deposit of polymetallic nodules, while China’s claim is for a deposit of polymetallic sulphides.
    India carried out an analysis and evolved a maritime strategy titled Ensuring Secure Seas: Indian Maritime Security Strategy,’[2] in recognition of two key aspects. First, the rise in sources, types and intensity of threats, with some blurring of traditional and non-traditional lines, requires a seamless and holistic approach towards maritime security. Second, to provide ‘freedom to use the seas’ for India’s national interests, it is necessary to ensure that the seas remain secure. The expanded outlook, reflected in the title, also considers the additional mandate of the Indian Navy, which has been entrusted with the responsibility for overall maritime security, including coastal and offshore security.

    China spokesperson on being questioned on objectives of Chinese in Indian Ocean Region; deflects claims of hegemonic aspirations, it identifies security in the Indian Ocean Region as a primary concern for Chinese “core interests.” In 2015, a white paper charting China’s military strategy indicated a shift of People’s Liberation Army Navy to focus on both offshore water defence and open seas’ protection. Chinese behaviour suggests that Beijing seeks to establish a persistent regional maritime presence. It now boasts a semi-permanent naval presence through its counter-piracy activities in the Indian Ocean and has more aggressively asserted itself in the Pacific with extensive patrols and land reclamation projects in disputed waters.

    The Chinese government has already adopted a “string of pearls” strategy for the Indian Ocean, which consists of setting up a series of ports in friendly countries along the ocean’s northern seaboard like, Gwadar, Pakistan, a port in Pasni, Pakistan, 75 miles east of Gwadar, which is to be joined to the Gwadar facility by a new highway; a fuelling station on the southern coast of Sri Lanka; and a container facility with extensive naval and commercial access in Chittagong, Bangladesh. The Chinese government is also envisioning a canal across the Isthmus of Kra, in Thailand, to link the Indian Ocean to China’s Pacific coast—a project on the scale of the Panama Canal and one that could further tip Asia’s balance of power in China’s favour by giving China’s burgeoning navy and commercial maritime fleet easy access to a vast oceanic continuum stretching all the way from East Africa to Japan and the Korean Peninsula. Besides this strategy, China is cultivating its relations with the countries of the region through aid, trade and defence agreements. One important factor pushing China to build alternative routes is the fact that Indian navy, soon to be the third largest in the world after those of the United States and China, will function as an antidote to Chinese military expansion. Maritime terrorism also poses a potentially danger to the region. Although there has been little in the way of seaborne terrorist attacks in the IOR over the past decade, extremist groups affiliated with al-Qaeda (particularly al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) have expressed a continuing interest in closing strategic maritime chokepoints, such as the Bab al-Mandeb that separates Yemen from Djibouti. While the ability of al-Qaeda affiliated groups to successfully execute attacks on commercial vessels in the area remains the source of much speculation, there exists little doubt about these groups’ intentions.
    Having seen the threat and issuing a strategy document what is now needed. Implementation. Naval development will not be building up but a catching up effort. After independence. The British had left blue prints for larger Navy for India. While those were incorporated in India’s defence plans. The will and effort needed in building up was not there. Like all defence plans under Nehru Naval plan lost all momentum and was put in cold storage. However, no more procrastination can be possible the threat is looming large for all to see.






    [1] Kaplan, Robert D., (2009) Center Stage for the 21st Century: Power Plays in the Indian Ocean) Foreign Affairs, Mar-April. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/east-asia/2009-03-01/center-stage-21st-century
    [2] ‘Ensuring Secure Seas: Indian Maritime Strategy ,’ Naval Strategic Publication (NSP) 12 Oct 2015 ( New Delhi: Integrated Headquarters, Ministry of Defence (Navy)) https://www.indiannavy.nic.in/sites/default/files/Indian_Maritime_Security_Strategy_Document_25Jan16.pdf
     

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