India’s dominance in Indian Ocean is intact, Current Affairs 6th May, 2017

India’s dominance in Indian Ocean is intact, Current Affairs 6th May, 2017

India’s dominance in Indian Ocean is intact

Introduction:

Previously, we had covered an article dealing with China’s increasing naval expansion and influence in the Indian Ocean.

  • The author had highlighted about China launching its first indigenous aircraft carrier, Type 001A carrier which may be named Shandong, and about China getting an edge for the first time in the carrier race with its Asian rival, a literal two-to-one advantage.

A senior Chinese official was quoted as saying: “China needs two carrier strike groups in the Western Pacific and two in the Indian Ocean. So we need at least five to six aircraft carriers.”

  • The article had also warned about India’s present naval capabilities, failure of carrier-first strategy and India getting encircled by a growing ring of Chinese power and influence.

However, today’s article discusses about the intactness of India’s dominance in Indian Ocean – reply from the editor of Defence Forum India and a commentator on defence and strategic affairs.

India does not have to match China in the number game

Type 001A carrier or Shandong is likely to be commissioned in 2020. It will be China’s second carrier after it commissioned a modified Ukrainian Kuznetsov class aircraft cruiser Varyag into its navy as Liaoning in 2012.

Many Indian commentators have written about the implication of China acquiring its second aircraft carrier on India’s security and China getting an edge for the first time in the carrier race with its Asian rival. However, the premise is wrong on various counts.

Reasons:

  1. First, China’s existing carrier, the Liaoning, is being used to train the crew to operate aircraft carriers and is not on operational deployment yet. Compare this with India’s aircraft carrier: The INS Vikramaditya is fully operational. And India also has decades of experience in operating aircraft carriers, it has used them in warfare.
  2. Second, the Shandong has only been launched, it doesn’t mean it’s ready for operational deployment. It will undergo outfitting with various systems and then undergo sea trials before being commissioned around 2020. India launched its first indigenous carrier, Vikrant, in 2013 and it is likely to be commissioned in the early 2020s after delays for various reasons.

Imagery expert Colonel Vinayak Bhat, who analysed the pictures of the Shandong, said that the engines of the carrier have not yet been started and no radar or weapons installed.  It also does not have the arrestor cables and work in lot of areas are yet to be completed ( such as the ammunition elevator and jet blast deflectors). Moreover, they don’t have enough J-15 fighter jets for the carrier.

  1. Third, even after China commissions the Shandong, it will not send both its carriers on permanent deployment in the Indian Ocean. China’s primary areas of interest are the hotly contested waters and islands of the East and South China Sea. The US maintains a potent naval presence in the area. China will maintain both its carriers there although it will make symbolic port visits in the Indian Ocean region especially to Gwadar in Pakistan.

China plans a four- to six-carrier navy which will give it the capability to permanently deploy in the Indian Ocean. But that will take a couple of decades at best and depends on the trajectory of the Chinese economy, which is slowing down. By that time, India will have three aircraft carriers in service.

  1. Fourth, the two Chinese carriers are conventionally powered, not nuclear, which means they cannot be put on extended deployment. They lack the logistics capability to operate far away from Chinese shores.
  2. Fifth, China has to contend with India’s two unsinkable aircraft carriers: the Andaman and Nicobar Islands located close to the choke point of Malacca Strait and the Indian mainland itself which juts into the Indian Ocean.

The Andamans has India’s only tri-services command and there are plans to beef up military presence there. India will be able to target PLAN (People’s Liberation Army Navy) warships and interdict supplies using land-based assets like aircraft and missiles. India has deployed its premier fighter aircraft, the Su-30MKI, in the Andamans and also in southern India.

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