Monday, June 29, 2009

Who will control Indian ocean?

Indian ocean, the biggest ocean in the face of earth after Pacific and Atlantic, named after Indian subcontinent. Now in this globalized world, when Asian economies too attaining new heights, the commercial and strategic importance of Indian ocean is in its peak. The war in Afghanistan and Iraq, a nuclear crisis in Iran, the two important oil routes all multiplied the importance of Indian ocean.

India have long coastline, not only India but Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Australia many south-east Asian countries, oil rich gulf countries along with African continent shares the coastline of India ocean.

And now countries are competing for the control of the Indian ocean. But who will gain the control? US already have a naval base in Indian ocean, Indian also in the plan of trying to her navy to a blue water navy and China is building ports after ports in the region. Chinese too want to play a big role in the Indian ocean. Their strategy is commonly known a 'string of pearls’ and are increasing their presence in the region; Gwadar port in Pakistan is a good example.

Besides the Chinese built Pakistani port "Gwadar" they have keen interest in building more and more ports in Indian Ocean. Their latest pearl in the string is under construction in "Hambantota", SriLanka. Not only in naval bases; but they are expanding their fleet strength and deploying their vessels in the pirate affected regions, far from its shores. They may be many interests;

1) First and foremost is the problems with Taiwan, they want Taiwan to be a part of mainland China by diplomacy or by force. But integration by force will create an international backlash and they fear that at this time US may go for a naval blockade on them, by cutting the important oil routes to China through Indian ocean.

2) Chinese export driven economy is highly depended on the imported oil and majority of the oil goes through Malacca straits. They fears about the security of these channel in the times of a war.

3) The growing power of US navy may create more worries to them.

4) India’s growing power and influence in the region and India’s decision to create a blue water navy.

5) India’s look east policy, Chinese may fear that the growing economic relations with ASEAN countries may be transformed into a maritime relationship.

And for increasing their sphere of influence they are creating base after base in the Indian Ocean region. Whether its in Gwadar in Pakistan or in Myanmar they are fast and moving ahead in their mission but the question remains the same, will it solve all the problems of China? I think most of them are imaginary as a naval blockade in Malacca straits have a rare possibility as it will create chaos in the economies of Japan, China and Korea and its will not do any good for anyone except of course in war.

In peace time the Gwadar port in Pakistan will be a good help for China, as well as its base in Myanmar to control its oil interests. The more and more energy hungry economy of China want consistent supply of energy. But the problem with China is that it is highly depends on middle east and Malacca straits for its oil supply.

Chinese strategists thinks that any naval blockade in these regions by other naval powers like India and US will be disastrous for China. And they also fears about building a chain of bases around them. So they are going on their maritime doctrine of "Strings of Pearls" which starts from Chinese seas to Horn of Africa. And these bases are bases are constructing with full momentum in these regions.

They think that the Gwadar port in Pakistan will be a great help for them in terms of energy at the times of war. As they can overrun a blockade in Malacca straits by their enimies. But its will not be a good option for China, because,

1) The transportation of oil from the Gwadar port to mainland China is not at all a practical option . The construction and operational cost will be very high.

2) Moreover if there is a naval blockade in the Gulf of Persia, Gwadar port will remain useless.

3) Gwadar port is a small peninsula connected to mainland Pakistan through a chicken neck, in times of war if China want to support their port then they have to build high naval power in the surrounding region- otherwise cruise missile attacks will be enough for the port to become useless - but this will force India to take counter measures.

4) The region is very far from Chinese waters, and the primary concern of Chinese strategists will be in the waters surrounding Taiwan, as the problem is yet to be solved.

5) Its almost sure that Pakisthan will not like the loss of a port and a new war front in its door, if there is a Sino - US conflict. Moreover Pakistan will not choose the post of Washington's opponent for the energy cooperation with China.

But in peace time this port will able Chinese to put an eye on the trades through the region and may be act as a catalyst for a strong army and naval base in the future. This will also enhance their relation with Pakistan.

Where India is standing?

Its said that whichever country controls the India ocean they control the south east Asia. In the ancient time Hindu mariners controlled the Indian ocean for centuries, they propagated the culture and tradition of India across Indian ocean but after the down fall of Hindu maritime supremecy in the 13th century, Indians were unable to regain its past glory. In Mugal era politics is more concentrated on continental affairs and then British came into the theatre. They built a large ocean fleet and became the prominent force.

But after independence Indian navy grown and now the talks for changing the navy to a blue water navy is going on. But how long we can find happiness in talks? Whatever China doing they are doing it with unbelievable speed. For every costal countries the majority of the trade are through seas, and for the protection of trade and prominence in the egion they have to maintain a highly equipped navy will all capabilities.

Indian navy is one of the prominent force in Indian ocean, but will it be able to enlarge its prominence? Its operations in the time of Sunami earned a lot of good will. But will it be able to create a advanced blue water navy in the face of new Chinese strategies? Will it be able to secure new naval bases abrod and attain the capabilities of a bluue water navy? Can it be able to reach and excecute operations in the far Indian ocean sides, Atlantic, Pacific and South East Asian countries? The answers will decide what will be position of India in maritime affairs in the future.


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