New Indian Maritime Doctrine Needed

The clash between the Chinese Coast Guard and the Philippines Navy in a highly disputed part of the South China Sea points to the aggressive territorial claims of the dragon, in view of which India must enhance its vigil and also formulate a new maritime doctrine for the Indian Navy

By Pranay K Shome

Opinion

 

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That aggressiveness is anchored in human nature is a known fact. Robert Sapolsky, an American primatologist and neuroscientist in his book Behave has succinctly portrayed this, just like human beings are biologically wired to become aggressive at different points in time, so do nation-states. This applies specifically in the context of China.

Recently, the Philippines Navy found itself embroiled in a dangerous scuffle with the Chinese Coast Guard. The incident took place in the West Philippine Sea on the Second Thomas shoal, a disputed territorial unit that falls in the 200-kilometre-long exclusive economic zone (EEZ) within Filipino Territorial waters.

The incident involved Chinese Coast Guard armed with spears, swords and clubs engaging the Filipino personnel on-board the disputed territorial unit. This incident has ratcheted up international tensions with the US state department condemning what it calls “provocations” on the part of the Chinese Coast Guard.

But the incident is not an isolated one and is a part of a larger grand design of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to exert dominance over the majority of the world’s busiest maritime routes.

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Recently, the Philippines Navy found itself embroiled in a dangerous scuffle with the Chinese Coast Guards, in the West Philippine Sea on the Second Thomas shoal

Chinese Imperialism

If history is anything to go by, then it tends to repeat itself, while China was colonised by the Western colonial powers commencing from the early 19th century onwards, which China described as “century of humiliation”, the same imperialistic behaviour is now being exhibited by China.

The entire South China Sea, which sees the annual passage of close to $3 trillion of ship-borne trade, is one of the world’s most important trade routes, and China claims the South China Sea in its entirety.

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This has brought the dragon in conflict with its neighbours Vietnam, Philippines, Brunei, and Malaysia each of which have competing territorial claims on the disputed region. But it would be completely naïve to assume that it is a part of an isolated incident; China has, since the time of Mao Zedong has prioritised the development of grand territorial doctrines, both continental and maritime to assert its dominance.

To preclude the chances of any incident occurring in the strategic IOR, New Delhi must heighten its vigil in the maritime region. And also formulate a new maritime doctrine on the part of the Indian Navy that clearly outlines its priorities

The South China Sea is a part of China’s devious mission to establish global hegemony over the world’s most important maritime region- the Indo-Pacific. The building of ports, expansion of railway networks as a part of its BRI or Belt & Road Initiative and flooding countries with cheap yet predatory loans is a part of a devious design, to jeopardise the financial sovereignty of countries to force them to do China’s bidding in one way or the other.

Getting control of the world’s maritime zones will enable Beijing to arm twist smaller of less powerful neighbours to accede to unjust Chinese demands that will put in peril the current international political order, yielding in the process, space to a world order marked by totalitarianism, authoritarianism and a disdain for democracy.

Upping the vigil

The incident must worry the top civilian and military policy makers in India. India is already locked in a territorial standoff with China in the eastern Ladakh region for the past four years, with little chance of the Chinese restoring the status quo ante.

To preclude the chances of any such incident occurring in the strategic IOR or Indian Ocean Region, New Delhi must heighten its vigil in the maritime region. The need of the hour is a dedicated maritime doctrine on the part of the Indian Navy that clearly outlines its priorities; one of them should be asserting the freedom of navigation, not only in the IOR but also in the broader Indo-Pacific region.

Increased allocation for the Indian Navy is a must, with the focus on building a third aircraft carrier in order to develop three dedicated carrier strike groups to assert the ability of New Delhi to effectively take on Chinese threats

The doctrine must also focus on enhancing India’s role as a net security provider; this was already developed by India as a part of its SAGAR doctrine launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015. India must pledge itself to stand strong with the littoral state allies to thwart any threat to their maritime sovereignty.

In addition, India should embark increase collaboration with its allies, in developing a dedicated maritime corridor as a part of the IMEC (India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor) connecting the European Union’s busiest ports with Middle East’s busiest maritime regions via the Chabahar port in Iran with the Indian state of Tamil Nadu acting as the base node. A new addition to the economic corridor could be with Russia, something that the policymakers in New Delhi must actively explore.

Lastly, increasing the defence allocation of the Indian Navy is a must, with the focus on building a third aircraft carrier in order to develop three dedicated carrier strike groups to assert the ability of New Delhi to effectively take on Chinese threats, whether in India’s maritime backyard or elsewhere.

New Delhi needs to be on its guard against China because complacency can cost New Delhi dearly just like it did in the 1962 war.

References

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/06/books/review/behave-robert-m-sapolsky-.html
    https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/chinese-sailors-wield-knives-axe-in-disputed-sea-clash-with-philippines/article68311479.ece
  2. https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/chinese-sailors-wield-knives-axe-in-disputed-sea-clash-with-philippines/article68311479.ece
  3. https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/chinese-sailors-wield-knives-axe-in-disputed-sea-clash-with-philippines/article68311479.ece
  4. https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/chinese-sailors-wield-knives-axe-in-disputed-sea-clash-with-philippines/article68311479.ece
  5. https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/chinese-sailors-wield-knives-axe-in-disputed-sea-clash-with-philippines/article68311479.ece

–The writer is currently working as a Research Associate at Defence Research and Studies (dras.in) and is a columnist. The views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda