David Fuller's view -
In a dock opening onto the Hooghly River near central Kolkata, one of India’s most lethal new weapons is going through a final outfit.
The Kadmatt is a submarine killer, bristling with Technology to sniff out and destroy underwater predators. It’s the second of four warships in India’s first dedicated anti-submarine force -- a key part of plans to spend at least $61 billion on expanding the navy’s size by about half in 12 years.
The build-up is mostly aimed at deterring China from establishing a foothold in the Indian Ocean. It also serves another goal: Transforming India’s warship-building industry into an exporting force that can supply the region, including U.S. partners in Asia wary of China’s increased assertiveness.
“India’s naval build-up is certainly occurring in the context of India moving towards a greater alignment with U.S. and its allies to balance China,” said David Brewster, a specialist in Indo-Pacific security at the Australian National University in Canberra. “India wants to be able to demonstrate that Beijing’s activities in South Asia do not come without a cost, and Delhi is also able to play in China’s neighborhood.”
China showed its growing naval prowess when it deployed a nuclear-powered submarine to patrol the Indian Ocean for the first time last year, while a diesel-powered one docked twice in Sri Lanka. India says another Chinese submarine docked in May and July in Pakistan, which is reportedly looking to buy eight submarines in what would be China’s biggest arms export deal.
The U.S.’s Seventh Fleet has patrolled Asia’s waters since World War II and is backing India’s naval expansion. On a January visit to New Delhi, President Barack Obama pledged to explore ways of sharing aircraft carrier Technology. The two countries also flagged the need to safeguard maritime security in the South China Sea, where neither has territorial claims.
There has been considerable concern over Communist China’s rapid military expansion during the last decade, not least concerning its maritime and island claims within the South China Sea. These claims are clearly not based on international maritime agreements, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Consequently, in the South China Sea alone, China is in dispute with Brunei, Taiwan, Malaysia the Philippines and Vietnam, and proceeding on a might is right basis.
These countries would like to see the United States remain a presence in the region. The US, in turn, has a strong alliance with Japan, and now increasing also with India, which it sees as potentially the fastest growing regional power. India, which also has a longstanding boarder dispute with China, will almost certainly receive at least technological assistance from the US in developing its navy. This will help India’s economy to grow, as it aims to export naval equipment to allies within the Asia Pacific region and beyond.
Clearly, as the Asia Pacific region develops there will be a considerable increase in military strength, led by India and Japan, mainly in response to China. This is not without some risk, and thus it always was. However, a balance of power, which, incidentally Europe does not really have with NATO, is also a restraint on territorial ambitions.
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