expanding base

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 27 Jun 2018 12:52:21

THE importance of the proposed Naval Base which India plans to construct at Assumption Island in Seychelles as a joint project, cannot be underestimated in the given current geopolitical situation in the Indian Ocean. Once the project assumes appropriate shape and gets operational, the reach of the Indian Navy would increase in the ocean region, thereby paving the way for a strong presence. This is a critical part of India’s security perceptions not just in regional but also in the global context. 

For the past some years, China has been making systematic efforts to increase its military footprint in the Indian Ocean region by offering every possible help to smaller nations to build their respective military mechanics. This Chinese effort is described as ‘encirclement’ of India, which India views with a lot of suspicion. For the past some years, the Chinese have been quite aggressive in this regard and have been able to establish fairly critical presence in the ocean region.
Naturally, all these Chinese activities have changed India’s security perceptions in the Indian Ocean region, and the proposed naval project in Seychelles will act as India’s considered response to China’s military expansionism. India has already offered Seychelles a USD 100 million line of credit for its military infrastructure, something it proposes to do with other countries as well. This is a part of a planned strengthening of India’s presence in the ocean region.

The Indian approach is far different from that of China. While China pushes its military presence by trying to own up assets in different countries, India follows an altogether different line by offering to be only as a partner in progress with no eye on the assets of the host country. This approach is believed to have a positive impact on India’s allies whose cooperation would prove critical to overall security scenario in the region.

If this is the positive side of the overall picture, it is necessary that India takes a good look at its preparedness as regards Navy. It is all too well known that Indian Navy is a small force and cannot suffice in the vast Indian Ocean region in the true sense, particularly when India has more than 2,500 km long shoreline to protect. In view of this, a strong opinion is getting formed that India will have to expand its Navy in a big way with a special focus on greater combat-readiness on the basis of modern ships and other naval defence systems that would gel well with the overall national defence and security perception.

The very fact that India has only one aircraft carrier and the other one is going to take a long time to arrive, should make India’s security and defence planners sit up and worry. In the past few decades, India’s approach to its naval preparedness has been rather casual. Even though the defence planners and political leaders were aware that the country will have to contend with only one aircraft career for a long time, there were no visible efforts to change the situation. The past few years also saw many an accident in the Navy’s battle ships and submarines, causing a severe damage to its already fragile naval capacities.

If the Government plans to build a stronger military presence in the Indian Ocean region, then it must realise that the Navy would play a greater role in giving its security set-up stronger teeth. In tune with that, therefore, it is necessary for India to start strengthening the Navy in right earnest, as top-priority issue. For, in the absence of such a preparedness, any effort to expand the military footprint in the Indian Ocean region will have only a limited utility. What is required, thus, is a grand push to the task of expanding overall Naval prowess so that defence preparedness assumes a better leveraging capability in the long run. True, it will need resources. But that is a national imperative.