Indian Ocean Region: Rapidly increasing Strategic and Economic Vitality

Sub Title :

Issues Details : Vol 14 Issue 5 Nov – Dec 2020

Author : Maj Gen Harvijay Singh, SM (Retd)

Page No. : 15

Category : Geostrategy

: December 4, 2020

Asia Pacific and IOR are a new, expanded theatre of power competition. IOR is also central to energy security; Sea Lines of Communication are critically located for transit of energy supplies from Gulf states to South and East Asia, including China, projected as world’s largest oil importing country. A few interesting features of the Indian Ocean:

♦  It is the only ocean named after a country

♦  It is the World’s third largest Ocean

♦  40% of world offshore oil production comes from the Indian Ocean

♦  It connects four continents (Asia, Australia, Africa, & Antarctica), 18 countries in Asia, 16 in Africa, and at least 57 island groups

♦   It connects to Mediterranean Sea through Suez Canal. Accessible via the Red Sea, the canal was built in 1869. It saves 9,654 km circumnavigation of Africa for ships passing through it!

Threats and Opportunities

♦   Threat: Chinese Naval Modernisation and Expanding Blue Water Capabilities

♦   Opportunity: India, Dominant Resident Naval Power in the IOR; an overwhelming Geographical advantage

♦   Threat: India imposes too many limits on growth of its own Military

♦   Opportunity: India has begun to engage major powers and littoral states. Policy of Engagement and not Isolation

♦   Threat: China’s String of Pearls

♦   Opportunity: India’s Necklace of Diamonds.

Encircle India: China’s ‘String of Pearls’ Strategy

♦   Establish Bases in Sri Lanka (Hambantota), Maldives (Marao Atoll), Pakistan (Gwadar), Bangladesh (Chittagong), Myanmar (Coco Islands) and Djibouti.

Counter Encirclement Strategy: India’s Necklace of Diamonds

♦   Changi Naval Base, Singapore, located near the South China Sea. Indian Navy ships can refuel and rearm. Singapore seeks more engagement and activity by both in the Strait of Malacca through which China’s oil and natural gas imports pass.

♦   Sabang Port, Indonesia. Located 710 km South East of Andaman Islands and 500 km from Malacca Strait, a strategic maritime choke point. Access is available to the Indian Navy. The port’s 40 M depth is suitable for all kinds of vessels, including submarines; Chinese are flustered.

♦   Al Duqm Port, Oman. Access, including dry docks and logistical support is available. This port is strategically located and in close proximity to Chabahar port; enhances India’s strategic outlook in the region.

♦   Chabahar Port, Iran jointly developed by India, Iran and Afghanistan, provides access to Afghanistan and trade route to Central Asia.

♦   India to develop Agalega (Mauritius) and Assumption (Seychelles) Islands as Indian Navy Bases, there are a few delays due to internal issues.

Strategic Collaboration

♦   Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) with the US gives access to each other’s military bases and ports. The agreement encompasses medical services, training, spare parts, fuel, food, water, transportation, clothing, repair, maintenance, and communication services.

♦   Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) with Australia, support for maritime reconnaissance missions. The agreement will facilitate reciprocal access to military logistics facilities, allow more complex joint military exercises and improve interoperability.

♦   Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) informal strategic forum between US, Japan, Australia and India: semi-regular summits, information exchanges and military drills between member countries (Ex Malabar).