Win-Win Strategy

A credible amphibious warfare capability is essential for India’s superpower dreams

Maj. Gen. Rajesh Singh (retd)Maj. Gen. Rajesh Singh (retd)

India, as a nation aspiring for a greater role in the new world order, cannot remain detached from global developments and has to be prepared to influence the world with its geography and all elements of national power.

India’s security environment is influenced by the geographical configuration bestowed by nature which includes land borders of 15,000 km in the North, a vast coastline of 7,516 km surrounding the subcontinental size mainland from three sides, 1,197 island territories/offshore assets and 2 million sq km of EEZ. The Indian peninsula, jutting 2,000 km into the Indian Ocean, gives the country a strategic and commanding location to exercise tremendous leverage to preserve peace, promote stability and maintain security in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

A brief environmental scan is indicative of the challenges that India is faced with being a regional and an emerging global power having to shoulder responsibilities and obligations in keeping with her status in the region and the comity of nations. These challenges primarily concern safeguarding India’s national interests in her areas of strategic and maritime influence and interest that range from the Eastern Coast of Africa through the IOR, Malacca Straits, South and East China Seas, Eastern Pacific Ocean and up to the Southern Pacific Ocean.

The Asia-Pacific Region is fast emerging as the world’s new centre of gravity, its importance is further enhanced due to the heavy volume of merchant marine traffic flowing through this area, there are large trade and economic interests for India and it is part of India’s Look East Policy; and stability in the region is essential for the security of sea lines of communication (SLOCs). The IOR is an area of concern for India as this region plays a key role in determining India’s policy perceptions and is an important element in her security calculus. The world’s busiest trading routes pass through the Indian Ocean.

India’s interests in the IOR are energy security, ensuring influence/leverage in OIC, maintaining strong strategic ties with Iran as it provides land access to Afghanistan and CAR and safety interests of the large Indian diaspora in the Middle East. Thus, there is a need for India to ensure the stability of the region from non-conventional threats, ensure security of the SLOCs, be part of anti-piracy operations and maintain order at sea. The challenges to India not only encompass concerns in terms of protecting territory but cover a much broader canvas like shaping to her advantage the environment in the country’s legitimate sphere of influence/area of interest, exercising political leverage in international arena, having bargaining power and ensuring self-respect.

The national interests of India in view of her strong and growing economy as also her emergence as an important player in the comity of nations have to be global in nature and not get restricted to being just territorial. India needs to maintain balance of power vis-à-vis China in Asia-Pacific and IOR on account of China’s assertiveness and growing naval power. Military diplomatic initiatives are needed so as to counter Chinese influence and instil confidence in the ASEAN and IOR states regarding India’s strong commitment and will.

India in view of her national interests and to meet the aspirations/obligations of a rising power requires the capability to respond comprehensively to political or military contingencies, with little or no warning. There is thus a need to ensure credible power projection capability that provides the nation with a range of political response options to apply military force and project national power. Towards this end, having a credible amphibious capability as one of the essential components of an expeditionary force is an imperative for a country like India for power projection.

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