India’s Growing Naval Prowess And South China Sea

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Context
10-12-2012_Indian_NavyAs the American foreign policy increasingly focuses on the Asia Pacific, Indian naval strategy is also gradually looking like a pivot for the US in the region. This emerging posture is likely to complicate its diplomacy with Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.

In this regard, two significant developments took place in the first week of December that are raising alarm in China. First, US Senate approved an amendment, not yet signed by President Obama, bringing Diaoyu Islands (known as Senkaku in Japan) under the purview of US-Japan security pact. The step was interpreted by China as a move to counter its claims and stir up dispute between China and Japan over the contested islands. The issue escalated in September when the Japanese Government bought three of the five islands from its private Japanese owner.

The move was accompanied by a decision of the Indian Navy to start operating in the South China Sea. Admiral Joshi declared on December 3 that its navy would act to protect the commercial interest of state owned ONGC Videsh. In this respect, its Eastern Naval Command will play an important role. India signed a joint oil exploration agreement in the South China Sea with Vietnam in October 2011, despite Chinese objections.

India and US may be reacting to recent actions taken by the Chinese concerning the contested islands of South China Sea. The authorities of Chinese southern province of Hainan gave its police the authority to inspect ships passing through the waters. Moreover, a map appearing on the new Chinese passport indicates the disputed areas as belonging to China. The move sparked protest from India, Philippines, Vietnam, and Taiwan.

In the coming months, India is looking to conduct acquisition of 6 next generation submarines, anticipated to be worth $10 billion. In 2009, Indian Navy also signed a contract with Boeing for the delivery of eight P-8 Poseidon maritime reconnaissance planes worth $2.13 billion.

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