By: Mustansar Klasra
Indian Ocean has become a new global center for trade and energy flows accounting for half of world’s container traffic and approximately 70% of petroleum shipments.
This has made the Indian Ocean the potential arena for strategic cooperation and competition both for India and China. Infect the competition between India and China in this region is heating up in the recent path with both regional powers making moves to exert influence in the domain to developments of ports and navy patrols.
Chinese doctrine of string of pearls which was initiated in 2005 is aimed at expanding China’s footprints in the Indian Ocean region by allowing its Navy to develop basis and have access to facilities across the northern Indian Ocean.
China’s increasing presence into the Indian Ocean has brought India’s maritime policy back in focus. India continues to have a significance presence in critical sea lanes in the Indian Ocean.
In recent past India has reached out to the Indian Ocean’s littoral states by allocating more resources, bilateral and multi-lateral naval exercises and finalizing the developments of two islands were Indian military bases in the smaller but strategically located countries i.e.
Mauritius and Seychelles. Initial moves by China into the Indian Ocean were made at the end of 2007. Currently Navies of South Asian countries are also ensuring their presence in the Indian Ocean in order to keep an eye for what’s happening in their periphery and of course such moves protect one’s interests of the sea as well. Sri Lanka has expanded its ties with Royal Australian Navy and US Navy. Infect It has potential to act as a facilitator for extra regional powers especially at the sea.
Pakistan and China are also building up their naval strength gradually and with the assistance of China, Pakistan is also becoming a potent actor in Northern Indian Ocean which is considered to be a strategically important region for Indian Navy. It can somehow challenge or make Indian Navy conscious for making suspicious moves in the region.
United States has always backed India when it comes to Chinese increasing Naval presence in the region. Basic reason for such support and cooperation with India is that US want to contain China in the region, particularly in Indian Ocean.
Increasing cooperation between China and Pakistan is one of the key concern for India as China is increasing its presence in Indian Ocean. Inception of CPEC and development of Gwadar port by China is also one of the major reason of Sino-Pak Co-operation.
India and US recently signed a Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), which, according to the joint statement released after the meetings, “will facilitate access to advanced defense systems and enable India to optimally utilize its existing U.S.-origin platforms.”
COMCASA follows the signing of the U.S.-India Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016 and the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) in 2002.
The U.S.-India COMCASA — known earlier by its generic name CISMOA, or a Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum Agreement — requires India to safeguard sensitive and secure U.S.-sourced military communication equipment and, in turn, facilitates Indian use of previously restricted communication channels to enable closer interoperation between U.S. and Indian military assets as well as those of friendly armed forces that have also concluded a similar agreement with the United States.
Even after years of bilateral military exercises, without COMCASA, Indo-U.S. military communications were able to use a limited feature set of the U.S. CENTRIX (Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange) communication system. That limit will no longer apply.
While signing agreements with US and many other technologically advanced countries, India has also never ignored Russia as well. India also keeps on doing deals and agreements with Russia as well.
Purchasing of S.400 missile defence system and also deal of 500 million USD for acquiring two naval warships for Indian Navy are the significant and latest one. Under this deal of 500 million USD, Russia will provide design, technology know how and key materials to GSL for construction of the ships in India.
The ships will be fitted with most advanced missiles and other weapon systems. “We have finalised a USD 500 million deal with Russia for construction of two warships in Goa,” CMD of GSL Shekhar Mital told PTI.
He further disclosed that construction of the ships will begin in 2020 and the first one will be ready for induction in 2026 while second one will be ready by 2027.
Ambitions of China as well as Pakistan has increases manifolds in Indian Ocean. There are multiple reasons of increasing Chinese presence in IOR but the significant one is that China is relying for its energy resources mostly on Gulf and Central Asian States.
Indian Ocean has become significant for trade routes particularly for China because gulf states are at the mouth of Strait of Hormuz.
Similarly right after the inception of CPEC and development of Gwadar port, which is considered to be a deepest sea port of the world, cooperation between China and Pakistan has become indispensable for each other.
Both countries are in a position to provide mutual benefits to each other’s. Secondly, Sino Pak cooperation is also challenging so called dominance and hegemony of India and US in the region which is supportive for other littoral states of the Indian Ocean.