New Delhi: The Indian Ocean region has become a highly competitive area of global geopolitics. The competition in this region is not only limited to the major powers of the world, but has also attracted the surrounding coastal island states. The most important actor in the Indian Ocean region (IOR) after India is the People’s Republic of China (PRC). India has treated the Indian Ocean as a peaceful and stable region. But with the rise of China and its expansionist ideals, the Indian Ocean is losing its tranquility and becoming more hostile as the days go by.
Chinese submarines are known to have been very active in the Indian Ocean region. Satellites and intelligence have found and reported many submarines (nuclear and non-nuclear) in the IOR. To give an appropriate response to China, the Indian Navy has deployed INS Vela. It is the fourth of the six Kalvari class submarines for the Indian Navy. She is a conventional diesel-powered submarine with good experience and expertise in the Indian Ocean. It falls under the Scorpene Submarine program built by Mazagaon Docks Limited and a French organization called Naval Group.
This submarine was inducted into the Indian Navy in 2021. It has advanced stealth and combat capabilities. Attacks can be launched by launching torpedoes and anti-ship missiles. It can work both on the surface and underwater. It is capable of offensive operations spanning the full spectrum of maritime warfare. It can hold eight torpedoes and 30 mines, as well as Exocet missiles.
Maritime Lanes of Communication (SLOC) in the Indian Ocean region are strategically important to all nations in Asia. This region is home to one of the largest and busiest straits and choke points. Some of them include the Strait of Malacca, the Strait of Hormuz, and Bab-e-Mandab, to name a few. China’s String of Pearls strategy endangers India’s maritime security. China is developing more firepower with more destroyers, ships and ships. Their presence will pose a threat to India’s security across water. It is an encirclement strategy to isolate India in the IOR by building military bases in neighboring countries. The port of Gwadar (Pakistan), Hambantota (Sri Lanka), the Coco Islands (Myanmar) and the Maldives are some examples. They developed a military port in Chittagong (Bangladesh).
Indian resources will be diverted to defense and security. Thus, the economy will not reach its potential hampering economic growth. This could further lead to instability in India and throughout the eastern and southeastern region. India has formed a multi-pronged counter-strategy to ward off Chinese influence. The first step was to strengthen India’s Act East policy. It aims to engage in cooperation with ASEAN (nations of Southeast Asia). Military and strategic agreements have been signed with Vietnam, the Philippines, South Korea and Japan.
Second, India is developing a large number of port networks in the IOR. Chabahar Port (Iran) offers a watchtower view to witness Chinese military activities at Gwadar Port, just 72 km away. The port of Sabang in particular (Indonesia) is of strategic importance for India as it is close to the Strait of Malacca and the Indian command of Andaman and Nicobar. Another port has been established at Sittwe (Myanmar). India has facilities in Oman and Singapore which are equally important.
India is a member of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD). Along with his American, Japanese and Australian colleagues, he conducts naval exercises in the Indian Ocean region, commonly referred to as Malabar exercises. India and France have signed an agreement that allows military personnel from both countries to visit each other’s naval facilities, bases and airfields. A similar pact called LEMOA with the United States allows India access to Diego Garcia in the IOR.
Coastal surveillance radars have been installed in Bangladesh, Mauritius, Seychelles, Si Lanka and the Maldives. The majority of them were designed and built by BEL (Bharat Electronics Limited). To the north, India has invested heavily in its relations with Central Asian countries that have a sour relationship with China.
Finally, the Indian Ocean Region – Information Fusion Center (IFC) will share real-time maritime information with friendly nations, which will be based in Gurgaon. All coastal surveillance radar systems are connected to provide a complete real-time picture to the Indian defense establishment regarding the Chinese presence in the region.