India, which operates one of the world’s largest navies, straddles the Indian Ocean sea routes that connect China to its main sources of oil and gas in the Middle East and to its main markets in Europe. Although growing rapidly, the Chinese navy still has only a limited ability to operate in an area far from its home shores – and must face the United States in its own backyard.
“On the northern border, the best we can hope for is to come to an impasse. But at sea we have an advantage over the Chinese, ”said retired Admiral Arun Prakash, former head of the Indian Navy. “A show of force at sea can send a message to China that you are vulnerable, that we can interfere with your shipment and with China’s energy supply. Their economy would be shaken.
India is stepping up joint naval maneuvers with the United States and its allies while building new ships and setting up a network of coastal surveillance outposts that would allow New Delhi to keep an eye on maritime traffic of the Indian Ocean.
The Indian military has historically focused on the long land borders with the other nuclear powers, Pakistan and China. The country’s rulers have started paying more attention to the Indian Ocean over the past decade as its foreign trade increased – and China began to make inroads into smaller countries in Southeast Asia. that New Delhi used to consider within its sphere of influence.