Home Contact Us  
   

South Asia - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#4099, 23 August 2013
 
Indian Ocean Region: Can New Delhi Guarantee Regional Stability?
Barana Waidyatilake
Programme Officer, Regional Centre for Strategic Studies, Colombo
 

With the recent launch of its first indigenously-developed aircraft carrier, India has announced its entry into yet another elite club. Historically, developing naval power projection has been seen as a major indicator of ‘great power’ status; the launch of INS Vikraant underscored India’s intention. Beyond the prestige factor, it is worthwhile considering how such burgeoning strategic capabilities impinge India’s role within the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). 

With its growing economic and military clout, strategic analysts discuss  India’s  increasingly capable of playing an effective role as a guarantor of peace and stability within the IOR. What are the enabling factors and obstacles for New Delhi in meeting the challenge?

Firstly, it must be emphasised that, India is the only country in the IOR possessing adequate resources and, more importantly, a central strategic location, to effectively provide a security umbrella for the region. As underscored by reputed historian like K.M. Panikkar - the Indian subcontinent, juts out by a thousand miles into the Indian Ocean, placing India in a strategically advantageous within the IOR than, say, the USA in relation to the Atlantic Ocean or China in relation to the Pacific Ocean. India could most definitely perform this role with greater technical proficiency and at a lower cost than the USA (which has faced substantial costs in deploying forces and combating piracy in the IOR, with dubious results). Therefore, geopolitical circumstances make a strong case for India being the nation to provide a comprehensive security umbrella for the region.

Internal political structure should also be considered while discussing the Indian capabilities regard is its. Being a democracy, and having a foreign policy that (despite recent pro-US tilts) is generally non-aligned and non-aggressive, India can be trusted to use its burgeoning military capabilities in the region in a responsible manner without engaging in unilateral adventurism. It is worth drawing a contrast in this regard with China; its launch of its first aircraft carrier was greeted with a significant amount of anxious speculation among its neighbours in the Asia-Pacific, due to the opaque nature of its political structure and its generally aggressive foreign policy within its immediate neighbourhood. Therefore, Indian soft power (supported by its democratic structure and relatively benign foreign policy) are major factors that will assuage any concerns that its IOR neighbours might have about its strategic intentions; this, in fact, would be a good working example of what Joseph Nye termed ‘smart power’. All this makes a strong case for India’s ability to effectively guarantee regional security.

When considering strategic naval doctrine, India again displays strengths that mark it out as a good candidate for ensuring security in the IOR. The Indian navy’s doctrine encompasses a very broad understanding of security, taking into consideration the importance of the IOR as a region through which two-thirds of the world’s oil shipments and half of its container trade passes; it also highlights new security threats emerging from piracy and maritime terrorism. Therefore, it could plausibly be argued that the Indian navy possesses a comprehensive strategic vision that accurately captures the emerging security needs of the IOR. Furthermore, it goes without saying that the development of carrier fleets significantly increases the Indian navy’s capability to conduct surveillance over larger parts of the IOR, and also reduces the response time against various maritime threats (piracy naturally comes to mind). 

Besides, India’s strategic doctrine for the IOR highlights its willingness to enter into cooperative security in policing the region. To this end, India appears prepared to engage in ‘a broad spectrum of cooperative and inclusive endeavours [which] encompass coordinated operations, bilateral exercises, security assistance and military-to-military dialogue’, as stated by Admiral D.K. Joshi, Chief of Naval Staff of the Indian Navy. Initiatives such as the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) and the biennial MILAN gathering of regional navies could arguably increase the confidence of India’s neighbours that peace in the IOR is not based on Indian hegemony, and that they too are important stakeholders in ensuring stability in the region. 

While all these factors strongly indicate that India could play an effective role in guaranteeing IOR stability, it is also worth mentioning a major obstacle that it faces in this regard, especially concerning its immediate neighbours: the pressure of domestic electoral considerations in determining Indian foreign policy towards these countries. Given India’s heterogeneous population, federal governance structure and the trans-border nature of some of its major ethnic communities, foreign policy towards some of its close neighbours becomes closely bound up with the imperatives of maintaining domestic political coalitions with state-based (ethnic) parties. This, admittedly, prevents Indian neighbourhood policy from being consistent, and thereby from inducing confidence in its neighbours about Indian strategic behaviour in the IOR. Nevertheless, on balance, India seems quite capable of providing an effective security umbrella for the IOR. 

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
 
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Indo-Pacific
Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Indus-tan
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within


OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


 
Related Articles
T.C Karthikeyan,
"India, Sri Lanka & Maldives: Regaining India's Strategic Space," 8 August 2013
Vijay Sakhuja,
"India, Sri Lanka & Maldives: A Maritime Troika Leads the Way," 2 August 2013
Iranga Kahangama,
"India, Sri Lanka and Maldives: The Tripartite Maritime Security Agreement and the Growing Chinese Influence," 30 July 2013

Browse by Publications

Commentaries 
Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 
China 
Myanmar 
Afghanistan 
Iran 
Pakistan 
India 
J&K  

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Indo-Pak 
Military 
Terrorism 
Naxalite Violence 
Nuclear 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
How Peaceful is South Asia: A Review of the Global Peace Index (GPI) 2013

ADD TO:
Blink
Del.icio.us
Digg
Furl
Google
Simpy
Spurl
Y! MyWeb
Facebook
 
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2017
 January  February  March
 2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010  2009
 2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002  2001
 2000  1999  1998  1997
 
 

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

 
Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2017, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.