Indian Defence Minister AK Antony while addressing press (21 July) on issues in South China Sea said “India has a very limited role to play in the region.” At the same time, Antony also stressed that the Sea lines of communication (SLOC) should be kept open and India is exploring diplomatic ways to do it. “We do not believe in confrontation,” he said.
As we have always maintained that next is not going to be Indian Ocean century, as China has managed to bring attention upon itself by developing a threatening posture in East and South China sea. The region around the China Sea is home to trade powerhouses of the world. The regions security will be determined by Asia-Pacific strategic framework led by the US – Japan and the joint response by the smaller ASEAN nations. It will also be interesting to see the Russian response as it conducts Naval exercise with Chinese on one hand and then goes on to sign oil deals with Vietnam irking Beijing. Russia is likely to both prop and limit Beijing in future.
US is also promising to bring in a lot of fire power in the region that India will not be able to match in order to play a significant role in shaping the China seas. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B Carter said (23 July) in New Delhi, “”We intend to have 60 percent of our naval assets in the Pacific by 2020.” The Defense Department also is investing in new platforms and technologies relevant to the region, including a new bomber, new submarine-launched conventional weapons, cyber capabilities, and “a host of upgrades in radars, electronic protection, space and electronic warfare,” the deputy secretary said.
Indian military role for the region has been summed up by Carter while addressing a Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) gathering “India will be expected to discharge its responsibility as a regional power. The Indian armed forces are making efforts to enhance their military capability and preparedness.”
The sheer presence of a China wary military deployment is expected to reduce Chinese focus towards India and to a large extent the Indian Ocean. After almost a decade of ‘String of Pearls’ frenzy, it is dawning to Indian analyst that Chinese does not has the anticipated leverages with Indian neighbour’s.
As US, Japan, South Korea and South East Asian countries came calling to New Delhi, India should leverage its economic, military and diplomatic clout to proactively build stability in the region.