India — Force Planning To Shape India’s Maritime Space: The Nuclear Dimension

Both Julian Cor­bett and Admi­ral of the Fleet Sergei Gor­shkov had an astute per­spec­tive of the impor­tance of a the­o­ry of war. Such a hypoth­e­sis, they advo­cat­ed, pro­vid­ed a con­text to for­mu­late and enable a strate­gic pol­i­cy to deter war and, should the need arise, to wage that war. Cor­bett sug­gest­ed that “by mar­itime strat­e­gy we mean the prin­ci­ples that gov­ern a war in which the sea is a sub­stan­tial fac­tor” he went on to add “Since men live upon the land and not upon the sea, great issues between nations at war have always been decid­ed — except in the rarest cas­es — either by what your army can do against your enemy’s ter­ri­to­ry and nation­al life, or else by the fear of what the fleet makes it pos­si­ble for your army to do”. Gor­shkov on the oth­er hand enlarged the scope and of sea pow­er and placed it with­in the frame­work of com­pre­hen­sive nation­al pow­er. In his sem­i­nal book, The Sea Pow­er of the State he empha­sis­es that “the essence of sea pow­er of the state is how far it is pos­si­ble to make effec­tive use of the World Ocean or, as it is some­times said, the hydros­phere of the earth, in the inter­est of the state as a whole”. 

This arti­cle is pub­lished with the kind per­mis­sion of “Defence and Secu­ri­ty Alert (DSA) Mag­a­zine” New Delhi-India

Defence and Security Alert (DSA

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India’s armed forces have tra­di­tion­al­ly evolved to cope with oper­a­tional sce­nar­ios. At gen­e­sis, this may have been attrib­uted to the military’s role in cre­ation and uphold­ing colo­nial empire, how­ev­er, post-inde­pen­dence; to have delib­er­ate­ly brought about a sep­a­ra­tion between the armed forces and the strate­gic deci­sion mak­ing process was a para­dox that defied norms of nation build­ing. The Amer­i­can strate­gist, George Tan­ham inci­sive­ly argued, that India had prob­lems devel­op­ing a robust secu­ri­ty pol­i­cy includ­ing a strong mil­i­tary force because the coun­try was bereft of coher­ent strate­gic thought. This oper­a­tional can­vas is a tran­sient that abhors futur­is­tic force plan­ning. It was, there­fore, the ‘imme­di­ate intim­i­da­tion’ of the chang­ing glob­al sce­nario that drove plans and con­se­quent­ly result­ed in the accre­tion of forces. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this inspi­ra­tion of the instan­ta­neous intim­i­da­tion was and con­tin­ues to be the pre­tender that serves to fill the strate­gic space. The case of our strate­gic mar­itime pos­ture as a func­tion of declared ‘Look East’ pol­i­cy is a study in point.

The strate­gic approach

It is inter­est­ing to exam­ine the Chi­nese case not just to view how inter­na­tion­al events catal­ysed a strate­gic approach but also how their inabil­i­ties worked to bring about a trans­for­ma­tion in their strate­gic pos­ture. To Chi­na, two events of the 1990s had sig­nif­i­cant impact on the shap­ing of their mil­i­tary strat­e­gy. The first of these is the Gulf War of 1991. Chi­na took home not lessons or answers but, a rea­son for strate­gic pre­emp­tion. In the words of Gen­er­al Liu Jing­song “allow­ing a mod­ern mil­i­tary oppo­nent unfet­tered access to land, sea and air ter­ri­to­ries in which to build-up and employ forces, as well as region­al bases and logis­tic hubs to sus­tain them, was a recipe for defeat”. He point­ed out that “the very assem­bly and posi­tion­ing of coali­tion forces con­sti­tut­ed first fir­ing and jus­ti­fied action to pre­empt or deter actu­al war”. The sec­ond event was dur­ing the Tai­wan Strait cri­sis of 1995–1996, which to the Chi­nese was a humil­i­at­ing expe­ri­ence of their sov­er­eign­ty being vio­lat­ed when the US deployed two car­ri­er groups in the Straits with impuni­ty. These two events were the pri­ma­ry caus­es for them to for­mu­late and enable their ‘Access Denial’ strat­e­gy. Chi­na has nev­er pub­licly acknowl­edged this strat­a­gem; how­ev­er force plan­ning and struc­tur­ing that we are cur­rent­ly wit­ness to, whether it is the ASAT pro­gramme, the mis­sile mod­erni­sa­tion, the thrust on ‘infor­ma­ti­sa­tion’ and cyber war­fare or indeed, of focus to the arti­cle, the nuclear sub­ma­rine build and replace­ment agen­da; should leave none in doubt of the course which their force plan­ners have charted.

Gor­shkov enlarged the scope of sea pow­er and placed it with­in the frame­work of com­pre­hen­sive nation­al pow­er. In his sem­i­nal book, The Sea Pow­er of the State he empha­sis­es that “the essence of sea pow­er of the state is how far it is pos­si­ble to make effec­tive use of the World Ocean or, as it is some­times said, the hydros­phere of the earth, in the inter­est of the state as a whole

Chi­na did not fol­low the course set by the US and USSR in the cold war. Influ­enced more by Chair­man Mao’s belief that nuclear weapons were paper tigers took a more real­is­tic approach to its mil­i­tary nuclear pro­gramme and adopt­ed no first use and lim­it­ed its arsenal.

Admit­ted­ly, sub­stance of the geo-polit­i­cal con­text that India found itself in was marked­ly dif­fer­ent from that of Chi­na or the cold ‘war­riors’ in terms of its own aspi­ra­tions, nation­al char­ac­ter, his­tor­i­cal bag­gage, chal­lenges that it was con­front­ed with and the eco­nom­ics of build­ing a cred­i­ble con­ven­tion­al and nuclear arse­nal. Yet, the need to adopt a strate­gic approach and to artic­u­late a cogent the­o­ry which inte­grat­ed the pro­mo­tion, nur­tur­ing and main­te­nance of force with a con­vinc­ing con­tract for use remained much the same. It is the under­stand­ing and prac­tice of this imper­a­tive that has per­sis­tent­ly elud­ed India. Enabling of nuclear capa­bil­i­ties in the mar­itime sphere is a spe­cif­ic case in point. The his­to­ry of nuclear mil­i­tari­sa­tion par­tic­u­lar­ly in the Indi­an mar­itime con­text is dogged by secre­cy, the lack of open archival infor­ma­tion, deci­sion mak­ing being left to a politi­co — tech­no — bureau­crat­ic enter­prise bereft of crit­i­cal mil­i­tary par­tic­i­pa­tion and, sig­nif­i­cant­ly, in spasms oper­a­tional con­sid­er­a­tions over­whelm­ing the strate­gic. The essence of the debate that now unfolds is a deep­er under­stand­ing of the mar­itime space of inter­est, its cor­re­la­tion with pol­i­cy, the chal­lenges that it con­tains and the essen­tials of force plan­ning includ­ing nuclear forces to fill and shape the strate­gic space.

The strate­gic mar­itime space

This dis­cus­sion begins by defin­ing the geo­graph­i­cal con­tours with­in which the impact of the now appar­ent glob­al pow­er shift will be most felt and with­in which mar­itime strat­e­gy will oper­ate. In this con­text the sea space between the 30 degree East Merid­i­an and the 130 degree East Merid­i­an extend­ing to the Antarc­tic con­ti­nent pro­vides the the­atre with­in which the strat­e­gy will func­tion. This sea space includes the Indi­an Ocean and the South Chi­na Sea Ocean and may be termed the Indi­an Ocean and the East­ern Ocean (IOEO).

The IOEO hydro­space, bound by land­mass­es on all sides except the 130 East Merid­i­an, has some unique fea­tures. Its weath­er is dom­i­nat­ed by the mon­soons and trop­i­cal sys­tems, the hydrol­o­gy of this Ocean makes it dif­fi­cult for under­wa­ter sur­veil­lance oper­a­tions between the 30 degrees north south par­al­lels. Wide­spread cloud­ing impairs domain trans­paren­cy. Small ship oper­a­tions, oth­er than in the lit­toral seas, are par­tic­u­lar­ly inhib­it­ed dur­ing the 6 month mon­soon peri­od. Den­si­ty of traf­fic through the nar­row pas­sages and straits makes sur­veil­lance with­out iden­ti­fi­ca­tion inco­her­ent. This Ocean­ic body is dom­i­nat­ed by ten impor­tant choke points and nar­rows. From west to east these 10 crit­i­cal choke points may be iden­ti­fied as fol­lows: The Cape of Good Hope: The Strait of Babel Man­deb, the Strait of Hor­muz (this is a key ener­gy cor­ri­dor ship­ping 40 per cent of seaborne oil trad­ed glob­al­ly), Don­dra Head (which pro­vides the pas­sage which con­nects SLOC from the 9 degree chan­nel to East Asia); 6 degree chan­nel (is the pri­ma­ry route that feeds into the Strait of Malac­ca); the Malac­ca Straits (which links the Indi­an Ocean with the Pacif­ic Ocean (being the most com­mer­cial­ly viable sea route with con­sid­er­able depths, it offers the most cost effi­cient SLOC); The Sun­da Strait; Lom­bok Straits: Makas­sar Strait and final­ly, the Luzon Strait which pro­vides the Pacif­ic pas­sage into the South Chi­na Sea.

The even­tu­al­i­ty of a US draw­back from the region, while of a low prob­a­bil­i­ty, remains a con­tin­gency that will leave a vac­u­um which has the poten­tial for fric­tion between Chi­na on one side and India and Japan on the oth­er with the lit­torals going by interests

In essence the ocean space of inter­est the IOEO, with its ten choke points and nar­rows, pro­vides the strate­gic con­text in gen­er­al to glob­al trade pass­ing through these waters and in par­tic­u­lar to Indi­an mar­itime forces that would seek to sur­veill, deny or con­trol these waters.

Pol­i­cy, pow­er and vision

An analy­sis of the cur­rent state of inter­na­tion­al rela­tions and the devel­op­ments in the region will demand con­ti­nu­ity in growth and con­ti­nu­ity in mod­erni­sa­tion of region­al mil­i­taries. This con­ti­nu­ity in mil­i­tary affairs will most affect Chi­na, India and Japan. While the lit­torals of the IOEO may well devel­op denial capa­bil­i­ties with their focus on indi­vid­ual inter­ests in these waters, their effec­tive­ness can only be assured through co-oper­a­tive engage­ments with like mind­ed nations whose com­bined pres­ence in the region would bet­ter serve indi­vid­ual as well as col­lec­tive interest.

With­in such a co-oper­a­tive group it is rea­son­able to assume that indi­vid­ual fric­tion would be sub­sumed to the larg­er denial objec­tives, the expan­sion of the ASEAN and the cre­ation of the ASEAN Region­al Forum (ARF) are sug­ges­tive of the littoral’s aspi­ra­tions to counter-bal­ance the loom­ing pres­ence of Chi­na in their group­ing. USA’s pres­ence will dom­i­nate activ­i­ties in the region in the imme­di­ate and mid-term future. Flash points such as ter­ri­to­r­i­al claims both in the mar­itime and con­ti­nen­tal domain will remain a source of fric­tion that would nec­es­sar­i­ly demand mil­i­tary capa­bil­i­ties and a strate­gic ori­en­ta­tion that serves to assure restraint. Where Amer­i­can inter­ests dif­fer with the three major play­ers the lat­ter will demand a role in order to assure its own inter­ests. The even­tu­al­i­ty of a US draw­back from the region, while of a low prob­a­bil­i­ty, remains a con­tin­gency that will leave a vac­u­um which has the poten­tial for fric­tion between Chi­na on one side and India and Japan on the oth­er with the lit­torals going by interests.

India’s strate­gic nuclear pol­i­cy is artic­u­lat­ed in her nuclear doc­trine made pub­lic on 04 Jan­u­ary 2003. The doc­trine presents two per­spec­tives; the first deals with ‘Form,’ nuclear war avoid­ance is the leit motif. It rein­forces the belief that nuclear weapons are not for use, so ‘No First Use (NFU)’ is a nat­ur­al choice

Since the dec­la­ra­tion of India’s Look East Pol­i­cy, the ASEAN-India rela­tion­ship has grown in leaps and bounds from the lim­it­ed sec­toral part­ner­ship in 1992 to a full dia­logue ven­ture in 1995 and sub­se­quent­ly to a sum­mit lev­el col­lab­o­ra­tion in the first ASEAN-India sum­mit held in 2002. India and Chi­na along with ASEAN are set to become the world’s largest eco­nom­ic bloc. The group­ing is expect­ed to account for about 27 per cent of Glob­al GDP and will very quick­ly over­take the EU and USA economies. The ASEAN Region­al Forum pro­vides a crit­i­cal stage for pro­mot­ing sta­ble rela­tion­ships between major pow­ers and is a use­ful com­ple­ment to bilat­er­al activ­i­ty which is accept­ed to be at the heart of the secu­ri­ty con­struct in the ‘East­ern Ocean.’ The buoy­an­cy of the Indo-ASEAN rela­tion­ship is backed by surg­ing trade fig­ures which in 2007 was US$ 15.06 bil­lion and is slat­ed to hit US$ 60 bil­lion in the cur­rent year and is billed for US$ 100 bil­lion by 2014. With such bur­geon­ing stakes in the region, the rea­son to estab­lish strong and sta­ble secu­ri­ty ties now becomes a core issue. 

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

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