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SPECIAL REPORT

Oceanic Role
India’s geography imposes huge responsibility on it
Force Structure and capability development in many respects is the most complex area of defence policy. Not only does it involve a commitment of huge resources, it also reflects on a wide array of complex issues. These range from national security interests, to factors as diverse as strength of the nation’s economy, fluidity and complexity of strategic environment, specific threats to national security, strategic geography, technological strength and degree of self reliance achievable. Wider international responsibility is also a factor to be taken into account.

Strategic Geography
India’s geographic location at the base of continental Asia and astride the Indian Ocean gives her a central position in relation to littoral states of the Indian Ocean, West, central and south-east Asia and the Middle East. India is located close to the world’s most important hydro carbon sources in the Gulf region and Central Asia. Being an energy deficient country, India relies heavily on import of oil and natural gas. Most of it and also a large majority of her trade, transit through the sea. India’s geographic location astride important sea lines of communication (SLOCS) gives her a major stake in the security and stability of the Indian Ocean region. Almost 70,000 ships transit these SLOCS each year. India has a coastline of 7500 kms and an exclusive economic zone of 2.1 million sqkm. The Indian Ocean covers an area of 73.5 million sqkm. The region contains 1/3rd of the world’s population, 25 per cent of its landmass, and 40 per cent of the world’s oil and gas reserves. The important choke points that give access to the Indian Ocean are:
 * Straits of Hormuz at the entrance to the Persian Gulf, between Iran and Oman
 * Straits of Malacca, between Singapore and Indonesia
 * Straits of Bab-el-Mandab, joining Red Sea and Arabian Sea
 * Sunda Strait
 * Lombok Strait
Sea Harrier taking-off from INS Viraat These choke points are vulnerable and have to be protected to ensure unhindered and free flow of international trade.
By Vice Admiral Sangram S Byce (retd)

Strategic Environment

A large majority of India’s neighbouring countries are poor, unstable, and face varied political challenges. Developments in these countries have a direct bearing on the security of India. Some of these states, particularly Pakistan, are breeding grounds for terrorists and also provide safe havens to them. So much so, that the world’s most wanted terrorists Osama bin Laden was provided shelter in Pakistan. He was gunned down by US Special Forces in the cantonment town of Abbotabad in Pakistan. Some of India’s most wanted criminals are also known to be in Pakistan with a full knowledge of the Pakistan regime.

India is the largest democracy, an emerging economic and technological power and a nuclear weapon state. Her smaller neighbours, with the exception of Pakistan, look up to India for their security. If India is unable to provide it, they may all move into the sphere of influence of China. This is already noticeable. The trend has to be reversed, so that, India is able to shape her immediate and extended neighbourhood.

Currently, India’s neighbourhood is perhaps the most dangerous region of the world. The entire spectrum of threats exists here and India has been a victim of these. Two of her unfriendly neighbours — Pakistan and China — are both nuclear weapon states and have close cooperation between them. A case in point is that of China providing nuclear and missile technology to Pakistan. The collusion between these countries is clearly against India’s security interests.

India faces a cross border proxy war on her western borders. Presently, a ceasefire agreement along the international border is in place. However, this is periodically breached by Pakistan. The latest such violation was on 14 May 2011, when Pakistani rangers, reportedly killed a Border Security Force soldier in Arnia sub sector, of RS Pora in Jammu. The other disturbing input is about Pakistan continuously enhancing her nuclear weapon capability. It has been reported that Pakistan is focusing on developing tactical nuclear weapons. For this purpose, Pakistan has reportedly commenced work on the fourth nuclear reactor at Khushab military facility. Pakistan is politically unstable and economically moving towards bankruptcy. Hence, there is a distinct possibility of nuclear weapons falling in the hands of religious extremists, terrorist and non-state actors. This is a cause for worry not only for India but also for rest of the world. Since independence India has faced a number of conflicts and aggressions with Pakistan and China. The Kargil operations launched against India by Pakistan in 1999 has clearly brought out that Pakistan was not deterred by India’s nuclear weapon capability. The overwhelming need for conventional weapons superiority is also necessary to create the required deterrent.
 
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