Category Archives: Indian Ocean

Book Review-Strategic Vision 2030: Security and Development of Andaman & Nicobar Islands

(Published IndraStra Global 24 Aug 2017)

Air Marshal P K Roy and Commodore Aspi  Cawasji, Strategic Vision 2030: Security and Development of Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Pages 177. Vij Books India Pvt Ltd. Delhi, India. ISBN: 978-93-86457-18-9

The book is a topical release during a tense period in geopolitics of the region. The Doklam standoff between China and India, the South China Sea issues and the belligerent stance of North Korea, all have the potential to spark large scale wars in the Indo Pacific.

I have known the authors for a long period and admire them for their professionalism and their ability to put complex strategic issues in the correct perspective. This book represents their expertise in region of the strategic Andaman & Nicobar island territories of India, which sit astride the vital SLOCs leading to the Malacca Straits.

The book has ten chapters apart from the introduction, which provide an all-encompassing perspective in to the islands. These include not only the natural, industrial and economical potential, but also cover the important strategic significance, security issues and policy recommendations. The rise of China as an economic and military power has made significant difference in the Indian Ocean security environment. Its interest in the IOR emerges from the need to secure its energy supply lines and the route for export of its finished goods passing through the IOR. It has been expanding its sphere of influence in the IOR and security of the SLOCs is its priority at present.

Andaman and Nicobar Islands, ANI also face serious internal and non-traditional security threats that could have grave consequences affecting the security environment of ANI. These include terrorism, illegal migration, drug trafficking, proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), arms smuggling, poaching of natural resources, etc. The book brings out that these islands can be developed as a self-sustaining economic model and rationale of development of both commercial and military infrastructure as a “dual maritime eco-system” to counter Chinese forays in to the Indian Ocean. Security of ANI and its use as a launching pad in shaping the environment of the region must remain a top priority for India.

The book aptly brings in to focus the fact that the connectivity initiatives taken by China on both, the Eastern and Western flanks of India along with the increasing economic relations with ASEAN countries of IOR adjoining Malacca will create a favourable maritime strategic environment for it. China with its modernized PLAN and the support of these logistic nodes will be capable of deploying its major forces in the Indian Ocean within the next five years.

The book recommends that the infrastructure development in terms of ports, jetties, airfields, docking and ship-repair facilities etc must be dual purpose infrastructure serving the needs of civilian as well as the armed forces. There is a need to create a comprehensive economic engagement plan of these islands with the littoral for them to have a stake in its developmental process. Only then such an engagement would allay suspicions amongst them while India enhances the capabilities of ANC and the consequent increased military activity in the region.

The book is a must read for all those who have a need to study strategic complexities of the Andaman & Nicobar Island territories.

Initiatives for Clean and Green Indian Navy

(Published in IndraStra Global 07 Aug 2017) 

On 12 February 2017, INS Sarvekshak, a survey ship of the Indian Navy had completed installation of a 5KW solar power system on board[1]. It is estimated that in this project, the profit generated would be Rs. 2.7 Cr, taking the service life of the ship to be about 25 years. This solar power installation avoids 60,225 kg of carbon a year and saves 22,995 liters of diesel.

Green Energy Generation Options to Defense Forces

Green Energy options that are available to defense forces depending upon their geographical locations include a combination of the following:

Solar Energy. Solar energy is being utilized by the forces to reduce load on traditional generators. Solar energy can be generated using both fixed and portable solar systems to provide a clean source of energy especially at remote locations. This also helps in reducing the number of costly and at times dangerous fuel re-supply missions. With the rapidly reducing costs of PV cells, the rates of solar power are highly competitive. Further, since the PV cells are much lighter they can be easily carried on the backpacks in battlefield.

Biomass. Developments in Biomass have resulted in corn-based ethanol and soybean or canola based biodiesel. Lately, however there is shift away from food crops for generating fuel towards use of lignocelluloses feed stocks and energy crops that can be grown on wastelands. The biomass to liquids (BTL) includes synthetic fuels derived thermo-chemically via biomass gasification and cellulosic ethanol produced biochemically. The production of Fischer-Tropsch liquids (FTL)[2] from biomass is considered advantageous over cellulosic ethanol.

Fuel Cells. Fuel cells are one of the most efficient techniques for power generation and an alternate to petroleum. They can function on a number of different fuel sources like biogas, hydrogen, or natural gas. They also provide scalable advantage from megawatts down to a watt, which enable meeting a large variety of applications for the forces. They can power transportation systems on land and sea, provide power in remote areas, act as power backups, assist in distributed power, and so on. The byproducts of fuel cells are water and heat since they directly convert chemical energy in hydrogen to electricity. They are also highly efficient with conversion in the range of ~60%, which is nearly twice that of conventional sources.

Waste to Energy. Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) can be converted to energy in three ways, namely, pyrolysis, gasification, and combustion. These processes are differentiated by the ratio of oxygen supplied to the thermal process divided by oxygen required for complete combustion. It has been observed that a localized approach to generating energy from waste is beneficial as compared to a large facility located miles away. This helps in reducing the overall carbon footprint as well as facilities that do not look out of place.

Hydropower. Investments in small hydropower systems reduce the exposure to fuels considerably. Intelligently sited and planned systems assure clean and reliable energy over the years.

Marine Renewable Energy. A large source of renewable energy is presented by the oceans, in form of wind driven waves on the coast, ocean currents, ebbing and flowing tidal currents through inlets and estuaries, river currents, offshore wind energy and ocean thermal systems. All of these can be utilized for power generation by the forces.

Geothermal Power. It provides a number of advantages like, it is non-interruptible, it is cleaner, it is an established technology, and is abundant. This is a highly suitable energy source for land-based establishments that have access to it.

Green Initiative-US Navy

The US Navy had set the goals of energy efficient acquisitions, reducing the non-tactical petroleum use by 50 % by 2015 and sailing the Great Green fleet by 2016.Further, it had decided upon producing 50% of shore based energy from alternate sources, making 50 % installations net-zero by 2020, and lastly, ensuring that by 2020, 50% of its total energy requirements would be met from alternate energy sources.

The Great Green Fleet Initiative of the US Navy. The Great Green Fleet is a demonstrator of the strategic and tactical viability of bio fuels. A strike group had embarked on a yearlong deployment in West Pacific in January 2016. The strike group (JCSSG) consisted of USS John C. Stennis with Carrier Air Wing (CVW-9) and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 21 embarked, guided-missile cruiser Mobile Bay and guided missile destroyers Chung-Hoon, Stockdale, and William P. Lawrence. CVW-9 consisted of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71; Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 14; Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 112; Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 133; Fleet Logistics Combat Support Squadron (VRC) 30, Detachment 4 and Strike Fighter Squadrons (VFA) 151, 97, 41 and 14[3]. The JCSSG had used alternate fuel (10 percent beef tallow and 90 percent marine diesel) and incorporated energy conservation measures. The Great Green Fleet initiative also included use of energy efficient systems and operating procedures like changing of lights to solid-state lighting, temperature control initiative, installation of stern flaps to reduce drag etc.

Green Initiative -Indian Navy

In order to reduce the carbon footprint of the Indian Defense Forces and associated establishments the Government of India has initiated considerable efforts under phase-II/III of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission JNNSM. It includes setting up over 300 MW of Grid-Connected Solar PV Power Projects by Defense Establishments under Ministry of Defense and Para Military Forces with Viability Gap Funding under JNNSM. As per the annual report of Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) for the year 2014-2015[4], some of the salient features of the scheme include:

-A capacity of 300 MW to be set up in various Establishments of Ministry of Defense with the minimum size of the project to be one MW. The defense establishments would identify locations for developing solar projects, anywhere in the country including border areas from time to time. The projects under this Scheme will mandatorily use solar cells/modules, which are made in India. The Defense organizations/Establishments will be free to own the power projects i.e. get an Engineering, Procurement, Construction (EPC) contractor to build the project for them or get a developer who makes the investment and supplies power at a fixed tariff of Rs.5.50 per unit for 25 years. The MoD or the Defense Organization would be free to follow their own procurement systems or develop detailed guidelines or procedures for tendering.

-Inter-Ministerial group has recommended National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF) Support of Rs. 750 cr.

Indian Navy has completed three years of its Green Initiatives Program on World Environment Day in 2017. Smart LED lighting in Naval stations is also being adopted on its warships. Navy has undertaken a large number of green measures to reduce its overall carbon footprint. An Energy and Environment Cell[5] at Naval Headquarters has been created to monitor the implementation of the green energy programs. The Navy has initiated efforts to go green in ship designs as well as its operations. It also carries out mass awareness drives in its dockyards, and shore establishments to sensitize the personnel to energy conservation.

The Navy has set a target of 19 MW Solar PV installation[6],  in line with the National Mission of Mega Watt to Giga Watt towards achieving 100 GW Solar PV installations by 2022. Navy has also pledged 1.5 per cent of its Works budget towards Renewable Energy generation. Navy is exploring the feasibility of exploiting Ocean Thermal Energy and Wave Energy as sources of green energy.

 

[1] INS Sarvekshak goes green; installs solar power system. Indian Express,12 February 2017.

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/ins-sarvekshak-goes-green-instals-solar-power-system-4520969/ (Accessed 29 Jul 2017)

[2] James T. Bartis &Lawrence Van Bibber. Alternative Fuels for Military Applications. RAND Corporation, 2011, Santa Monica. https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monographs/2011/RAND_MG969.pdf (Accessed 30 Jul 2017)

[3]  The Great Green Fleet Explained. Military Spot, 27 Jun 2016.  http://www.militaryspot.com/news/great-green-fleet-explained  (Accessed 29 Jul 2017)

[4] Annual Report 2014-2015, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Government of India. http://mnre.gov.in/file-manager/annual-report/2014-2015/EN/Chapter%204/chapter_4.htm (Accessed 30 Jul 2017)

[5] Indian Navy Pledges 1.5 Per Cent of its Works Budget Towards Renewable Energy Generation. Press Information Bureau, Government of India, Ministry of Defence, 05-June-2016. http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=145978 (Accessed 01Aug 2017)

[6] Initiatives for Clean and Green Navy. Indian Navy.

https://www.indiannavy.nic.in/content/initiatives-clean-and-green-navy/page/0/1 (Accessed 01 Aug 2017)

Three Ports Under China’s Gaze

{Published in Indian Military Review Aug 2017 (https://goo.gl/2A1PGt) & IndraStraglobal (http://www.indrastra.com/2017/08/Three-Ports-Under-China-s-Gaze-003-08-2017-0050.html)}

The Baluch and their lands hold the key to prosperity of the land locked Central Asian Region and Afghanistan. The British had divided Baluchistan in to three parts with Goldsmid Line and Durand Line in 1890s. The parts were allocated to Persia, British India and Afghanistan. Iran annexed Western Baluchistan in 1928 and Pakistan annexed British India portion in 1948. The Baluch therefore are aggrieved and demand independence. The Baluchistan of yore (Baluch Lands), had Afghanistan & Iranian provinces of Khorasan and Kerman in the North, the Arabian Sea & Indian Ocean in the South, Punjab & Indus River in the East, and the Strait of Hormuz & the Gulf of Oman in the West. Today it would have had direct access to the Strait of Hormuz and sit atop the busiest of SLOCs carrying 40% of world oil. Baluch lands have large untapped reserves of natural resources like uranium, silver, oil and gas. It provides land, air and sea connectivity to South Asia, Central Asia, and Middle East. It provides a very economical trade link for land locked Afghanistan and Central Asian Region. If united, Baluchistan would have an EEZ of 200 nm along its 1000-mile coastline.

It is estimated that approximately 25 Million Baluchi are in Pakistan, 7 Million in Iran and about 3 Million in Afghanistan. Baluch Insurgency is on the rise in both Pakistan and Iran, though it is much more severe in Pakistan.

Due to the geographical locations of Pakistan and Iran and the fact that both provide the shortest routes to Arabian Sea ports, has led both the countries to progress developing infrastructure and connectivity of their ports with Afghanistan and the Central Asian Region(CAR). Apart from oil and gas, the ports expect to harvest other trade commodities like cotton, which currently are routed through Russia to Middle East, East Asia and South Asia.

Just over 100 km apart, Gwadar the Pakistani port and Chabahar the Iranian port are competitors for accessing the CAR markets. Both Iran and Pakistan are wooing Afghanistan by giving trade and fees incentives to favour their respective ports. Pakistan however fears that “Chabahar port would inflict a huge financial setback for Pakistan”[I].  This is as per a report by the Pakistan’s embassy in Dushanbe, to the Foreign Office in 2003.

Both port cities, Gwadar (Pakistan) and Chabahar (Iran), lie on the erstwhile Baluch land.

Gwadar Port- Pakistan

The Gwadar port development project was commenced in 2002. Millions of dollars poured in to the quiet village of Gwadar from Chinese and Pakistani investors (~$200mn was the Chinese investment for the first phase of the project completed in 2005). Gwadar had a population of about 5000 in 2001, mainly comprising of poor fishermen, once the Chinese assisted deep water port development began, it has crossed a population of 125000. Apart from a network of roads, rail air and infrastructural projects, Pakistan plans include a liquid natural gas (LNG) terminal, an international airport, a cement plant, an oil refinery, and a steel mill. China’s interests at Gwadar are very clear; China is looking for monitoring of its Gulf oil supply route as well as an opening for import/ export trade from its Muslim majority Xinjiang Autonomous Region. The first phase of Gwadar port was completed on schedule by the Chinese in 2005. The running of the port had been leased for 40 years to PSA International of Singapore in 2007 by the Pakistani government. The agreement has however run into problem and in April 2017 it has been leased to be operated by China Overseas Port Holding Company (COPHC) for 40 years. With Gwadar port commencing operations it has given the Chinese an opening in to the Arabian Sea, a strategic depth to Pakistan navy and some cause for worry to India. In 2008 the then Chief of Naval Staff, Indian Navy Admiral Sureesh Mehta said Gwadar could be used by Pakistan to “take control over the world energy jugular.” [II]


As per some estimates China’s maritime industries could contribute up to $1trillion by 2020. Chinese investments in Latin America and Africa are not only in energy sectors but span white goods, automobile parts and textiles amongst others, but the linkage with China is through the sea lanes. This coupled with inbound humungous requirements of oil from gulf and African countries has given rise to the Chinese fears about disruption of its imports and exports through choking of SLOCs due to state, non-state or natural factors. This has led to a rethink in the traditional maritime strategy of China, as per Ni Lexiong, “the ultimate drive to develop sea power is over sea trade”. The increase in sea trade implies its inherent protection by reducing vulnerabilities in the SLOCs of interest to China.

Oil tankers from Gulf transit about 6000 nm and those from the African coast transit about 10,000 nm before they discharge their energy cargo at Chinese ports. Both the tanker routes have to pass through Malacca Straits in addition to problem zones in their respective routes. If tankers can unload at Gwadar, they would have to travel only about 680 nm from the Gulf and about 3000 nm from African coast (Angola).

Pak-China pipe line from Gwadar to Kashghar in Xinjiang, is likely to run parallel to the Karakorum highway and cover a distance of about 1500 miles over tough mountainous terrain. China is seriously contemplating Pak-China energy corridor is evident from the following development projects[iii]:-

-Phase II of Gwadar port and International Airport at Gwadar by China Harbour Engineering Company.

-Petrochemical city (including oil refining capacity of 421,000 bpd) by Great United Petroleum Holdings Company Limited.

-Rail link up to Xinjiang by Dong Fang Electric Supply Corp.

-Upgrading of Karakoram high way.

-Construction of Kazakhstan-China and Turkmenistan – China pipe lines and their eventual augmentation by feed from Gwadar-Kashghar pipe line.

If this project at Gwadar fructifies on expected lines it is estimated that whereas it would account for about 8% of the 2020 Chinese oil import requirements,[iv] the impact on outbound trade from China to Africa and Latin America would be phenomenal.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, CPEC is a 3,000-kilometer corridor from Kashgar in western China to Gwadar in Pakistan on the Arabian sea. It slices through the Himalayas, disputed territories, plains, and deserts to reach the ancient fishing port of Gwadar. Huge Chinese funded infrastructure projects, including road and railway networks as well as power plants, are being built along the way. Originally valued at $46 billion, the corridor is estimated at $62 billion today. The main thrust of these is to strengthen CPEC between the Pakistani port of Gwadar and the Chinese Xinjiang region. This also forms a part of the Chinese one belt one road, OBOR and maritime silk route, MSR programmes. Chinese government and banks like, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd and China Development Bank will provide funds to Chinese companies investing in the projects. The likely Chinese companies are China Power International Development Ltd, Three Gorges Corp, ICBC Corporation, Zonergy Corporation, and Huaneng Group. The Chinese president has however, linked the investments to the safety and security of Chinese assets and workers since the projects involving railways, pipelines, and roads will cross through the insurgency infested areas of Baluchistan. China would have berthing and transit support facilities for its warships and submarines at Gwadar.

​Chabahar Port-Iran

India has committed ~ $85 million to construct container and multi-purpose terminals at Chabahar[v]. Chabahar enjoys excellent weather and has direct access to Indian Ocean. It lies to south of Baluchistan in the Sistan province. Chabahar has two ports Shahid-Beheshti and Shahid-Kalantary and because of its vicinity to Persian Gulf and Oman Sea it has been a trade centre historically. It had proved its usefulness during Iran-Iraq war, as Iran was able to carry out its trade through this port safely since it lay outside Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf.

A trilateral agreement was signed between Iran, India, and Afghanistan in 2003. India was to build a road, known as Route 606, connecting Delaram, the border city of Afghanistan to Zaranj the Capital of Nimruz province in Afghanistan. Iran was to build a highway from Chabahar up to Delaram. Border Roads Organization of India constructed the Delaram – Zaranj highway and it was completed in 2009. With easing sanctions on Iran, India has once again stepped in with a modest investment to construct container and multipurpose terminals; this would make Chabahar operational in future. It would also provide India with ease of trade with Central Asian Republics, Afghanistan and Iran. On 23 May 2016 during the visit of Mr Narendra Modi to Tehran, 12 agreements, including a deal to develop Iran’s Chabahar port were signed. India agreed to provide $500 million for the project, with a plan to invest an additional $16 billion in the Chabahar free trade zone.

As far as Afghanistan is concerned, its natural resources include, 2.2 billion tons of iron ore, 60 million tons of copper, and 1.4 million tons of rare earth elements such as cerium, neodymium, and lanthanum. It also has lodes of gold, silver, aluminium, zinc, lithium and mercury. The carbonite deposits in Helmand province itself are valued at $89 billion. The US, Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Central Asian Republics have shown interest in these deposits. Afghanistan being a land locked country is currently dependent upon Pakistani ports for its international trade. If Chabahar port starts operating it would provide an alternate, better, and safer port to Afghanistan. The Chabahar port project is very important for Afghanistan since it would enable shipping goods to Middle East and Europe as well as allow inflow of key goods to Afghanistan. Economically it would imply a significant boost to its trade and investment in much needed infrastructure.

Pakistan has also been eyeing the Chabahar port. In March this year, Pakistan and Iran discussed the possibility of better connectivity between Gwadar and Chabahar during talks between Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Iranian President Rouhani in Islamabad[vi].

The Japanese have evinced keen interest in taking part in the development of Chabahar. Iran’s cooperation with Japan and India, appears to be Iran’s priority for development of Chabahar. China is also keen to take part in infrastructure development at Chabahar.[vii] Subsequent to the visit of Xi Jinping to Iran there has been a talk for development of Jask Port, and industrial parks through funding by EXIM bank of China. Chinese investors are interested establishing a rail connection between Chabahar and Gwadar and/or supplying energy to Chinese contractors in Gwadar through Chabahar.[viii]

Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan had inked a trilateral agreement for the Anzob Tunnel project. Tehran provided $10 million grant for Tajikistan to complete the project. The tunnel, which is now operational, is providing safe and uninterrupted road access to Chabahar port from Tajikistan. Iran also extended $21 million credit to Tajikistan for developing its transportation and road sector.

As of April 2017, work is progressing satisfactorily at Chabahar.[ix]

Powerplay (w.r.t ports)

-India’s foray in to Chabahar is seen as a counter to China’s initiative at Gwadar and its linkages with CPEC. Transforming Chabahar into a major shipping port would be a win-win for all, i.e. Iran, Afghanistan and India. It will provide assured energy supplies, open trade for Central Asian Region and permit monitoring of SLOCS. It has opened up option for a sub-sea Oman-Iran-India oil pipeline. Further in case Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Iran oil pipe line fructifies, Central Asia would be connected to India. This would be a game changer for the region. The Central Asian countries can reduce their dependence upon Russia and export energy to Europe and other Asian countries. Russia could also utilize this route for export of its natural resources and finished products. It would provide a cognizable counter to influence of China in the region. India would keep promoting Chabahar as a strategic port on the Makaran coast as it addresses both the ease of trading as well as India’s security needs in the region.

-To China at Gwadar, Chabahar as and when it is fully developed would pose a significant challenge. It would provide a counter monitoring post to its activities and continue to sit astride the SLOCs threatening its energy security needs. The limited capacities of land pipelines to Xinjiang from Gwadar would still permit sizeable choking of oil flow through SLOCS to Chinese mainland by blockades along the route. Gwadar would be more beneficial to export goods from China to Africa and Middle East. Especially since China exports a large amount of armament to African countries and a land-sea route is far more economical then air freight to distant destinations. The focus of most researchers has been on energy imports by China through Gwadar, however, exports out of Gwadar would be far more profitable for China and provide an opening to a large land locked area of western China.

-The US shares India’s concerns over Gwadar and the long-term threat it could pose to the SLOCs in the Arabian Sea. The US has supported the Chabahar Agreement cautiously for the time being due to thawing of relations with Iran. Increasing awareness in the US of Pakistan’s destabilizing designs in Afghanistan and leaning towards China, as also its support to terror groups on its soil is tilting opinion in favour of India. US would like a greater role for India in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and therefore it realises the importance of land/sea route linkages required by India to assist Afghanistan.

-The development of both ports has provided impetus to the Baluch demand for independence. It has also enhanced the strategic importance of the Baluch land mass for Central Asian Countries, Gulf nations, Europe and African states. It is understood that Baluch would prefer US naval presence at Chabahar and Gwadar in case US supports the case for independence of Baluchistan[x]. Baluch are opposed to militarisation of Gwadar and Chabahar by China and Iran respectively. The Baluch stake their claim to both the ports since historically they are located on their land. India is progressing very cautiously at Chabahar since it supports demand for an independence of Baluchistan annexed by Pakistan in 1948.

The ports of Gwadar and Chabahar lie 1565 miles and 1486 miles NE of Djibouti respectively where China has established its first ever overseas military base.

Strategic Importance of Djibouti

“The western frontier of Djibouti is located in the narrowest part of the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait which connects the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. It is of great economic and strategic importance. All the European ships which enter the Red Sea from the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal and head toward East and South Asia, as well as Australia, pass through the 26-kilometer-wide bottle neck,”  

Andrei Kots

Djibouti currently hosts military bases of US, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, China and Saudi Arabia. It is understood that Russia too is going to join them in future. Further, it is noteworthy that Djibouti has declined to host an Iranian military base. The categorization of countries which constitute the Horn of Africa had been defined by Professor Mesfin Wolde-Mariam in 2004. Accordingly, Horn of Africa contains Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, Sudan, and South Sudan. Keeping the above in view it can be seen that the Horn of Africa has become the most militarized zone in the region. Dr. Alem Hailu of Howard University, has aptly stated that “The geopolitical importance of the Horn of Africa deriving from the region’s location at the crossroads of trade flows, cultural links and military strategic interests for nations of the world has turned it into a major theatre where governments, movements and political groups large and small have sought to intervene in the internal affairs of the area.”

The strategic significance of the Horn of Africa arises from Red Sea and oil. Red Sea is the shortest waterway between East and the west. The Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa are separated by Bab-el Mandeb strait which is a critical choke point for flow of Gulf Oil. It forms a strategic link between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Red Sea is connected with Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea through this strait. Gulf oil exports which are routed through Suez Canal and SUMED (Suez-Mediterranean) pipe line pass through Bab-el-Mandeb. Closure of this strait would lead to severe delays in re-routing the supplies over much larger distances via southern tip of Africa. Eritrea, Djibouti, and Somalia lie on one side of the strait and Yemen on the other side, approximately 3.8 million barrels of crude passes   through this strait daily. The area is piracy and militancy prone and poses a threat to oil shipping.

Djibouti Naval Base– China’s support facility for PLA Navy at Djibouti; about 8 km from the US military base Camp Lemonnier; is its most ambitious and first of its kind foray in having a military base outside of China. The facility would have ship and helicopter maintenance facilities, weapon stores, and support infrastructure for a small contingent of PLAN personnel. This development is of prime importance for India in view of Djibouti’s vicinity to Chinese presence at Gwadar.

The security of the Chinese base at Djibouti has been entrusted to the Western Theatre Command, WTC which has its headquarters at Chengdu in Sichuan province. It has the responsibility to look over India and Arabian Sea. It is the largest theatre command and has complex terrain including desert and high mountains, and long borders with India. In addition to the routine peacetime and wartime roles it has also been assigned a naval component to cater to the overseas base at Djibouti. The Tibet Military Command has been tasked for operations against India in the Arunachal Pradesh area, and training forces for high-altitude mountain warfare[xi] (The WTC headquarters includes a joint operations command centre also located in Chengdu). The WTC can deploy subordinate PLA Army, PLA Air Force and PLA Navy units, and if needed request additional forces from the CMC. China has replaced its Second Artillery Force by a new entity the PLA Rocket Force, which has been placed at par with the other three services. This fourth force would have both conventional and strategic missile components. The PLA Rocket Force would provide integral assets to each of the theatre commands. In addition, in a similar manner the PLA Strategic Support force would comprise the fifth arm of the Chinese military and will provide Intelligence, electronic warfare, cyber, and space operations support. It is understood that strategic missile assets including Naval components have been assigned to WTC for security of Djibouti.

In addition to the military base at Djibouti, Bagamoyo port of Tanzania will be operated by China Merchant Holdings, Lamu port in Kenya is being developed by the China Communications Construction Company, and China Roads and Bridges Company is going to construct a modern port in Kisumu, Kenya (Lake Victoria).

Related to the above is the ever-increasing export of Arms and Ammunition to African countries by China[xii]. Over the years China has established a weapon export relationship with several large and small African states like Egypt, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, the Republic of Congo, Ghana, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Djibouti, Burundi, Ebola, South Sudan, Algeria, Cameroon, and Sierra Leone, among others. It is well known that Armament and ammunition shipments through land and ship routes are far more economical and safer than through Air and it makes sense for Chinese to route the increasing Armament exports through Gwadar to Djibouti over the sea and then beyond utilising as many friendly ports as feasible in Africa and the Gulf.

Dragon Stretches

On 27 June 2017, the Chinese contingent had participated in the 40th National day Parade of Djibouti along with other nations. On 11 July 2017, two PLAN warships, mobile landing platform MLP 868 Donghaidao and the amphibious transport dock Type 071 Jinggangshan set sail from the port of Zhanjiang to Djibouti. The ships were ferrying Chinese soldiers[xiii] for manning the Chinese military base at Djibouti. As per the agreement, the Chinese can position up to 10,000 soldiers at the base[xiv].

In June, this year a window of opportunity opened up for China since Qatar withdrew itself as a mediator between Eritrea and Djibouti land ownership dispute at Dumeira. Both Eritrea and Djibouti had backed Saudi Arabia and its allies in boycotting Qatar and it left no option for Qatar but to recuse itself. A dispute had arisen between Eritrea and Djibouti over Dumeira mountains and islands after the exit of France and Italy from Djibouti and Eritrea respectively. In June 2008, Djibouti claimed that Eritrean forces had entered the territory of Djibouti and had entrenched themselves. Both sides agreed to withdraw to pre2008 positions and have Qatar mediate the dispute after UN intervention in 2009[xv].

On 23 July 2017, the Chinese Ambassador to African Union, Kuang Weilin let it be known that China would consider mediating between Djibouti and Eritrea to resolve the dispute[xvi]and if requested China would also send troops to the border between the two countries.

The Dragon has started stretching from Xinjiang-Gwadar to Djibouti and beyond in to Africa.

 

[I] Neighbours out to fail Gwadar Port, reports revealed in 2003. The News, 30 Jun 2007. https://www.thenews.com.pk/archive/print/651166-neighbours-out-to-fail-gwadar-port,-reports-revealed-in-2003

[II] Ghazali, A.S. India Alarmed as Chinese Built Gwadar Port of Pakistan Becomes Operational.Countercurrents.org, February 8, 2008. http://www.countercurrents.org/ghazali080208.htm (accessed 10 Jul 2017).

[iii] Kulshrestha, S. A Tale of Two Ports: Gwadar versus Chahbahar. World news report and Taza khabar news. 14 May 2015. https://worldnewsreport.in/a-tale-of-two-ports-gwadar-versus-chahbahar/ (accessed 10 Jul 2017). https://taazakhabarnews.com/a-tale-of-two-ports-gwadar-versus-chahbahar/ (accessed 10 Jul 2017).

[iv] Corey S. Johnston, Transnational Pipelines and Naval Expansion: Examining China’s Oil Insecurities in The Indian Ocean. Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA, June 2008. http://calhoun.nps.edu/bitstream/handle/10945/4124/08Jun_Johnston.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y (accessed 10 Jul 2017).

[v] Work at Chabahar Port in Iran progressing fast: Nitin Gadkari. Economic Times, 24 April 2017. http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/work-at-chabahar-port-in-iran-progressing-fast-nitin-gadkari/printarticle/58343356.cms (accessed 12 Jul 2017).

[vi]Chabahar port will boost India’s connectivity with Afghanistan, Central Asia. Bussiness-Standard,21 May 2016. http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ians/chabahar-port-will-boost-india-s-connectivity-with-afghanistan-central-asia-116052100485_1.html (accessed 16 Jul 2017).

[vii] India, China, Japan Vying for Investment in Chabahar. Financial Tribune, 21 Jun 2017. https://financialtribune.com/articles/economy-domestic-economy/66869/india-china-japan-vying-for-investment-in-chabahar (accessed 16 Jul 2017).

[viii] ibid.

[ix] xiv ibid.

[x] Husseinbor, M H. Chabahar and Gwadar Agreements and Rivalry among Competitors in Baluchistan Region. Journal for Iranian Studies, Year 1, issue 1- Dec. 2016.  https://arabiangcis.org/english/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2017/05/Chabahar-and-Gwadar-Agreements-and-Rivalry-among-Competitors-in-Baluchistan-Region.pdf (accessed 19 Jul 2017).

[xi] Jie, K. China raises Tibet Military Command’s power rank. Global Times, 13 May 2016. http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/982843.shtml (accessed 17 Jul 2017).

[xii] Kulshrestha, S. Jade Necklace: Naval Dimension of Chinese Engagement with Coastal Nations Across the Oceans. Indrastra Global,17 Dec 2016.

http://www.indrastra.com/2016/12/FEATURED-Jade-Necklace-Naval-Dimension-of-Chinese-Engagement-with-Coastal-Nations-Across-the-Oceans-002-12-2016-0032.html (accessed 17 Jul 2017).

[xiii] Lendon, B and George, S. China sends troops to Djibouti, establishes first overseas military base. CNN,13 July 2017. http://edition.cnn.com/2017/07/12/asia/china-djibouti-military-base/index.html (accessed 25 July 2017).

[xiv] China to open first overseas military base in Djibouti. Al Jazeera, 12 July 2017. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/07/china-open-overseas-military-base-djibouti-170712135241977.html (accessed 25 Jul 2017).

[xv] The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1862 dated 14 January 2009.

[xvi]Rahman. A, Shaban. A. Eritrea-Djibouti border dispute: China opts to intervene. Africa News, 23 July 2017. http://www.africanews.com/2017/07/23/eritrea-djibouti-border-dispute-china-opts-to-intervene/ (accessed 27 Jul 2017).

Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs)- Navy’s Armed Patrol

 

(Published SP’s Naval Forces, Dec 2016-Jan 2017. Vol 11 No. 6 )

“It is not surprising that some OPVs are multirole and heavily armed, lighter scantling and faster, whereas others are larger, heavier, therefore slower, and equipped for the purposes of survey [and] pollution control. I think in the past some of the vessels which now come under the banner of OPV would have previously been called something else, such as corvette, light frigate or fishery protection vessel, but due to the current fad they fall under the generic term of OPV.”

Mike Stamford, Abu Dhabi Ship Building (ADSB)

A modern navy operates various types of warships to meet its diverse roles from simple coastal patrols to power projection and war fighting. While the navy has aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, frigates, submarines, and missile boats for its offensive missions it also has different class of ships for patrol, presence and support roles.

The grant of 200 nm EEZ and the extension from three nm to 12 nm of the maritime boundary/territorial waters of a nation brought to fore requirement of naval ships that could fulfill the roles of extended coastal security as well as provide security cover to the EEZ. The other coastal roles that are needed for the naval craft include, pollution control, SAR, law enforcement, firefighting, towing etc. Larger naval ships cannot maneuver in the restricted and shallow coastal waters and would largely remain underutilized if deployed for EEZ patrols. This had given rise to the birth of Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) Class of ships. The OPVs however, are being built to sizes and roles specific to a nation; they may range in size from a large attack craft to nearly a frigate size ship. They are proving economic for smaller nations because of their low cost and flexible roles. They are mainly being used for, extended coastal patrols, EEZ protection, maritime presence, law enforcement at sea, HADR, and if needed, for Arctic or Antarctic ice patrols. The primary roles for the combat OPVs are AAW and ASuW. They can be classified as combat OPVs and specific capability OPVs. The combat OPVs are faster and could be equipped with ASW, AAW, or ASuW weapon systems. These OPVs can take part in combat and meet the survivability standards of naval warships.

Weapons on Combat OPVs

While some nations have equipped their OPVs with Exocet and similar missiles, the majority of the combat role OPVs carry three types of weapons namely; a large/medium caliber main gun, a small caliber auxiliary gun, and a machine gun. The machine gun is also carried by the onboard helicopter.

Main Gun.  A warship’s main gun can be a large caliber gun or a medium caliber gun. Many navies prefer medium caliber guns like the Oto Melara 76 mm, for their OPVs. The main gun’s maximum effective range is substantially higher than the auxiliary and the machine gun’s maximum effective ranges. Firing from long range is particularly important in conventional warfare, but not necessarily when fighting with terrorists. In littoral areas, there could be many merchant vessels, which could make it almost impossible to classify a ship at long distances. The only way to classify an unknown vessel from a long distance is with a helicopter. Therefore, even though the maximum effective range of the main gun ranges from 7000 meters to 10000 meters, the OPV would not be able to fire its main gun until the enemy boat is classified as hostile. The probability of hit is about 80% at 500 m.

Auxiliary Gun. The auxiliary gun for the OPV is a small caliber gun for example a 30 mm CIWS naval gun. The auxiliary gun’s presence is important especially when the OPV is not able use its main gun for some reason. If the hit probability of the auxiliary gun is high, it can be a game changer.

Machine Guns. A machinegun, normally a 12.7 mm, is operated by OPV personnel, and it has a relatively short effective range when compared to the ranges of the main and the auxiliary guns. Its main purpose is to warn other ships and to protect its own ship from small targets. The machine guns are very useful in crowded areas, since it is very difficult to classify a small boat from a long distance. It is also impossible to use missiles or long-range guns at shorter distances. Further, rules of engagement may not allow firing at hostile craft unless it approaches within a certain threatening range. In this case, the OPV can use its machine guns both for warning the approaching craft and for protecting itself. The probability of hit at 500 m is about 50%; it increases as the distance to target decreases.

Onboard Helicopter and its weapon. The high-speed capability of the helicopter makes it one of the most valuable assets of an OPV. It can perform search, detection, and reconnaissance operations in relatively short amounts of time, and with high accuracy. Technological advances also allow the helicopters to use cameras that help them to classify the targets. When the helicopter detects an unknown vessel, it moves towards that target for classification at its maximum speed, which ranges from 50 knots to 180 knots. The friendly craft have AIS devices, which allow classification of almost all of the vessels in the area. However, there are could be some vessels that cannot be classified via AIS these could be identified by the helicopter. The classification distance may depend on weather conditions, capability of the camera, or the training of the operators. A 12.7 mm machine gun is normally used on the helicopter.

Combat OPVs

Larger combat OPVs, for example the UAE Baynunah class OPVs are combatants to meet the requirements of combat patrols in Strait of Hormuz. The Baynunah class are fitted with weapon systems including the MBDA Exocet MM40 Block 3 surface-to-surface missile (SSM) and the Raytheon Evolved SeaSparrow Missile (ESSM) RIM-162 surface-to-air missile (SAM). They also have an Oto Melara 76 mm gun and two 27 mm cannons. They also carry an organic helicopter, mine-avoidance sonar system, MASS decoy system, 3-D radar and a full communications suite. These OPVs meet the AAW and ASuW requirements of the UAE for protection of its assets and merchant shipping in the region. With a displacement of ~ 640 tons, they can achieve speeds of up to 32 kt. The first of these OPVs was built in France by Constructions Mécaniques de Normandie, while the rest are being built in the UAE by Abu Dhabi Ship Building (ADSB).

BVT of UK (now BAE Systems Maritime – Naval Ships) has built combat OPVs, for Oman that, have a length of 98.5 m with a displacement of 2500 tons. They carry Exocet anti-ship missile and Mica vertical-launch close-area air-defense systems.

Dutch shipbuilder Schelde Naval Shipbuilding (DSNS) has built four OPVs for the Royal Netherlands Navy under Project Patrouilleschepen. These ships are 108 m long, displace 3750 tons and have a speed of up to 21.5 kt. They are to meet the requirement for patrol, surveillance and interdiction operations in the Netherlands EEZ. They carry a helicopter, a single 76 mm gun, a 20-30 mm gun and two machine guns.

Navantia of Spain has already constructed four Buque de Acción Maritima patrol ships for the Spanish Navy. These are built to a modular design for protection of maritime resources; maritime interdiction; port security; and counter-terrorism patrolling. These OPVs carry a helicopter and are armed with a single Oto Melara 76 mm gun and two 20 mm cannon, and fitted with the ‘Sistema de COMbate de los Buques de la Armada’ SCOMBA combat management system (CMS). Two more of the same OPVs are under construction.

Special Purpose OPVs

The specific capability OPVs are built to commercial standards and are equipped with lesser armament. They are rigged for specific role that they are designed for and may not be able to take part in battle at sea since they are bulkier and slower than the combat OPV. An area of developing role for OPVs are endurance and presence missions in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, which would necessitate changes in its design to meet operating conditions in broken ice. With the likely hood of opening up of Northwest Passage, it is expected that maritime trade from China and Japan would use this route for carting goods to Europe. Rolls Royce has been designing OPV type ships for meeting the Arctic/ Antarctic conditions. The Danish Arctic patrol ship, the Knud Rasmussen class is an example of such ships.

Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard had contracted BVT for building three presence OPVs for protection of oil and gas reserves, fishery protection, and for anti-drug operations however, the contract was cancelled and the OPVs were delivered to Brazil.

ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) of Germany has developed a series of 1,000-2,000 ton OPVs. These are: a 67 m fast OPV; an 81 m Guardian-class OPV displacing 1,800 tons; an 85 m, 1,900-ton Sentinel-class multimission OPV; and a larger 99 m version of the Sentinel OPV displacing 2,100 tons. They are built to commercial standards, the vessels are equipped with a helicopter and boat capability, have modest speed, sensors and weapons equipment.

BAE systems provides 90 m OPVs to Brazil, Thailand and UK.

India

As detailed in the website of IN, in its constabulary role, the IN is employed to enforce law of the land or to implement a regime established by an international mandate. The protection and promotion of India’s maritime security is one of the IN’s prime responsibilities. This encompasses a constabulary role, where it relates to threats that involve use of force at sea. The tasks that the IN has to undertake in the constabulary role ranges from Low Intensity Maritime Operations (LIMO) to maintaining good order at sea. It also includes coastal security, as part of India’s overall maritime security. With the establishment of the ICG in February 1978, law enforcement aspects of the constabulary role within the Maritime Zones of India (MZI) have been transferred to the ICG. Security in major harbors and ports are the purview of the port authorities, aided by customs and immigration agencies. Constabulary tasks beyond the MZI are vested with the Indian Navy. After the terrorist attacks on Mumbai on 26 November 2008, the overall responsibility for coastal security has been mandated to the Indian Navy, in close coordination with the ICG, State marine police and other central/state government and port authorities.

The Indian Coast Guard, ICG has been tasked to protect India’s maritime interests and enforce maritime law, with jurisdiction over the territorial waters of India, including its contiguous zone and exclusive economic zone. The ICG also operates Offshore Patrol Vessels. ICG deploys  Samar class Advanced Offshore Patrol Vessels having 2005 tons displacement, Vishwast class Offshore Patrol Vessels (1800 tons displacement) and Vikram class Offshore Patrol Vessels (displacement 1220 tons) . However, the number of OPVs appears insufficient to meet the requirement of patrolling and providing security to more than 7000 km of coastline and Island territories of Andaman-Nicobar and Lakshadweep.

The Indian Navy had started inducting the Offshore Patrol Vessels in the late eighties, but the numbers inducted appear to be far less than that required to effectively safeguard the maritime assets, sea lines of communications and tackle sea pirates.

Goa Shipyard Limited in India has been building a series of 105 m-long, 2,215 ton OPVs for the Indian Navy. They are fitted with a 76 mm naval gun and two 30 mm cannons, and are capable of operating a single Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Dhruv helicopter.

The Pipavav NOPV class are naval offshore patrol vessels being built by Pipavav Defence and Offshore Engineering Company Limited. In June 2016, it was reported that the shipyard, which has been acquired by Reliance Defence, is now accelerating work on the delayed order where the first ship was supposed to be delivered in early 2015. As per the revised schedule, the first ship will now be delivered in early 2017 and all ships will be ready for induction by the end of 2017. The ships are being constructed in two batches of two and three ships with a shorter delivery schedule for the second batch.

Significantly, the IN OPVs can also be modified to accommodate Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit, (TEU) payloads, hence they can be considered as low cost warships with bigger roles.

Conclusion

OPVs have carved out a place for themselves mainly due to enhancement of territorial waters and the declaration of EEZ. The smaller nations too have equipped themselves with OPVs because of their versatility and low costs. The cost of the OPVs depend upon the combat systems and sensors required by a country to be put on board. To keep the costs low the combat system should therefore, be mission specific and limited to the low-intensity capabilities. While OPVs are not equipped for full-fledged, combat they should be able to accomplish the constabulary tasks they are assigned to do. The OPV arena is set to expand with the likely hood of the opening of the North West Passage to Europe.

Plugging Gaps in Strategic MDA

(Published SP’s Naval Forces, Oct 2016-Nov 2016, Vol 11 No.5)

Plugging Gaps in Strategic MDA

 

Maritime Domain Awareness is “the effective understanding of anything associated with the global maritime environment that could impact the security, safety, economy or environment of U.S. This is accomplished through the integration of intelligence, surveillance, observation, and navigation systems into one common operating picture (COP) that is accessible throughout the U.S. Government.

National Security Presidential Directive 41, 2004

The oceans are complex mediums whose nature provides ample opportunity for an enemy to avoid detection—weather, sea states, and coastal land mass all present considerable challenges to modern sensors. Peacetime economic use of the seas complicates this problem enormously. The oceans are the world’s foremost (and most unregulated) highway, home to a vast and wide variety of international neutral shipping that possess no apparent threat. Determining the enemy in such a crowded and complex environment is difficult during conventional war, but during an asymmetric conflict such as the global war on terror (GWOT), it is a formidable task. Oceans demand a much higher level of awareness than that is normally required in a conventional naval conflict. This is recognised by the formal definition of MDA as articulated by the US government vide their definition of MDA quoted above

It is apparent that the goal of MDA is far more than simply looking for potential maritime enemies poised to attack India. The implications of “Anything associated” with the maritime environment that can influence the security, safety, economy, or environment” go far beyond a classic maritime threat. As per the US interpretation, these include smuggling of people or dangerous cargoes, piracy, proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), identification and protection of critical maritime infrastructure, oil spills, weather, and environmental concerns among other events.

Maritime events that could potentially affect India are not the only wide-ranging element of MDA it is also essential that threats be identified as they evolve. The global nature of MDA activities occurring overseas and in foreign ports is very much a part of MDA. MDA must therefore be exercised over all oceans worldwide, and potentially cover all maritime interests that ultimately effect India. Putting in place an effective MDA is a herculean task viewing the range of potential security challenges and enormous geographic area represented by the maritime domain. MDA’s core is applying the vessel tracking process to a layered defence model centred on the coastline of India, the ultimate goal of which is to detect potential threats as early and as far away from the Indian coastline as possible. As there is no single high value unit to protect, MDA “layers” are expanded to include an entire coastline with the overall goal of coordinated surveillance. Not all areas in these “layers” are considered equally, but rather additional attention is given to areas that are potential targets for the terrorist/enemy.

Gaps in Strategic MDA. MDA’s goal is to obtain a sense of global awareness that reaches beyond the confines of the tactical and regional levels. If MDA was simply a defensive strategy against a known military or terrorist threat, it could be obtained by forming defensive layers around India. However, as an informational/awareness system, its goals are far broader, seeking to understand all potential maritime threats to India, many of which could originate overseas in an inoffensive manner. Strategic MDA requires a broad perspective and capabilities at the highest levels of analysis, intelligence, and policy. The Government of India has put in place a formidable plan for MDA, and the individual systems are being setup prior to final integration and fusing of data. It is expected that the MDA would be fully functional in a year or so. However, a broader oceanic horizon needs to be factored in while acquiring futuristic technological capabilities. This should be inclusive of not only extensive and broader spatial operating arena, but also much wider and intensive foray in to the verticals below the surface to the sea bed and above up to periphery of the atmosphere. Unless implications of this nature are anticipated and factored in, technological forecasts themselves would trail behind the rapid advancing pace of technology and the synergies being achieved due to harmonization and adaptation inter and intra scientific fields. Therefore, it is imperative that holistic perspectives into the information consciousness arena include the oceanic domain awareness as well as it’s connect with India’s security and MDA.

The coast and Open Ocean are critical domains for the security of a nation with sea as boundaries, both at home and abroad. National-security operations in the ocean take place globally and often require continuous, near real time monitoring of environment using tools such as autonomous sensors, targeted observations, and adaptive modeling. These capabilities, combined with improved understanding of the ocean environment enabled by other ocean science research activities, will support accurate ocean-state assessments and allow future forces to conduct joint and combined operations in near shore and deep-ocean, anywhere and at anytime.

Thus, it can be surmised that currently the MDA focuses upon the maritime security scenario specific to naval operations; there is a need to look into the overarching oceanic environment. This would require sophisticated sensors and computational capabilities. There is therefore a requirement to fuse the tactical, and regional components with strategic knowledge based architecture.

This expansion will require advancing sensor and technology capability and/or development, particularly for autonomous & persistent observations. Data collected by the observing systems must be accessible through a comprehensive national data network, through either a single system or a distributed network. Developing this data network will require new methodologies that address gaps in data collection, sharing, and interoperability of technologies, and should permit integration of existing research into operational systems.

Technology Perspective

Asia-Pacific is a vast region and therefore data generation and collection is a humongous and costly task. The coverage and resolution provided by manned resources and satellites remains grossly deficient considering the large area, time needed, and multitude of tasking requirements. This gap can be plugged by utilizing the autonomous Aerial, surface and underwater systems. These could provide persistence, mobility, and real time data. The manned systems could thereafter be deployed more selectively.

 “…[t]he main advantage of using drones is precisely that they are unmanned. With the operators safely tucked in air-conditioned rooms far away, there’s no pilot at risk of being killed or maimed in a crash. No pilot to be taken captive by enemy forces. No pilot to cause a diplomatic crisis if shot down in a “friendly country” while bombing or spying without official permission” 

Medea Benjamin, 2013

In essence, the autonomous unmanned systems provide the advantages of large area coverage, prolonged deployment, low risk, much lower acquisition & operating costs, direct tasking and near real time data reporting. In case of surface and under water systems however the transit times are higher than the Aerial systems.

Aerial Systems. The Lockheed Martin High Altitude Airship (HAA™) is an un-tethered, unmanned lighter-than-air vehicle that is being designed to operate above the jet stream in a geostationary position to deliver persistent station keeping as a surveillance platform, telecommunications relay, or a weather observer. It will provide the military with, ever-present ISR, and rapid communications connectivity over the entire battle space. The airship is estimated to survey a 600-mile diameter area and millions of cubic miles of airspace.

Global Hawk is the long-range, high-altitude ISR UAV of the US Air Force manufactured by Northrop Grumman. It can fly for up to 32 hours at altitudes as high as 60,000 feet, with a range of 12,300 nautical miles, providing imaging and signals intelligence, as well as communications support, to troops around the world.

The US Navy will continue with Triton MQ-4C UAV of Northrop Grumman. It can stay aloft for over 24 hours at 17,000 m. It has speeds of up to 610 km/h. Its surveillance sensor is the AN/ZPY-3 Multi-Function Active Sensor (MFAS) X-band active electronically scanned array AESA radar with a 360-degree field-of-regard, capable of surveying 7,000,000 sq km of sea.

Sensors Packages. The ARGUS-IS, is a  DARPA project contracted to BAE Systems and is a type of  of wide-area persistent surveillance system. It is a camera system that utilizes hundreds of mobile phone cameras in a mosaic to video and auto-track every moving object within a 36 square mile area. ARGUS-IS provides military users an “eyes-on” persistent wide area surveillance capability. The system streams a million terabytes of HD video per day. The enormous amount of data can be stored  indefinitely and subjected to review as and when required. It is understood that ARGUS can be easily deployed on UAVs. The software utilized by ARGUS-IS is Persistics developed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories. It is a data compression program, which can compress the raw wide area video data from aircraft and UAVs by 1000 times and achieve a reduction of pre-processed images by a factor of ten

Autonomous Surface and Sub Surface Vehicles. ASV unmanned Marine Systems of UK manufacturer C-Enduro, which is a long endurance autonomous surface vehicle, used to safely and cost effectively collect data at sea. Built to operate in all marine environments, C-Enduro uses energy harvesting technology combined with a self-righting hull. It can house different sensor packages like, keel mounted sensors, CTD lowered by winch, meteorological sensors, Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler ADCP, Multi Beam Echo Sounder MBES, side-scan sonar, acoustic modem, ASW (towed array or dipping), and electronic warfare.

Thales, is involved in the Defence Science Technology Laboratory (DSTL research programme MAPLE (Maritime Autonomous Platform Exploitation). The MAPLE programme is developing the future architecture for Unmanned Systems Command and Control, by enabling multiple unmanned platforms, such as unmanned air vehicles (UAV), unmanned surface vehicles (USV), and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV), and their payloads to be innovatively commanded and controlled from a single control station.

Wave Gliders; due to their unique design; provide advantages of; indefinite, long range mission endurance; all weather operations; unlimited ocean area coverage; real time data acquisition; multiple sensor payloads; low acquisition & operating costs, and autonomous operation. The main manufacturer is Liquid Robotics. One of Liquid Robotics wave glider, the SHARC is designed to meet unique requirements of Defense and National Security applications. Over 200 Wave Gliders have been delivered internationally.

The principle of operation of Ocean Gliders involves small changes in buoyancy and wings to achieve forward motion. Control of pitch and role is done by adjusting ballast. It uses GPS as well as internal sensors for navigation. It can travel thousands of miles at depths of up to 1000m. There are three established manufacturers of sea gliders , namely iRobot who make Seaglider, Teledyne Webb manufacture Slocum Glider and Bluefin Robotics who make Spray Glider. ACSA, a French glider firm, has recently launched the SeaExplorer, a streamlined, wingless glider. A glider called Sea Wing, has been developed at the Shenyang Institute of Automation, in China, by Yuan Dongliang of the country’s Institute of Oceanography. It was tested last year and operated successfully in the western Pacific at depths of up to 800 meters. Japanese researchers, too, are building gliders. One is a small, low-cost version called ALEX that has independently movable wings and the other is a solar-powered device called SORA.

Data Analytics. The use of autonomous systems for  MDA is an imperative for India. However, it would also be important for military officials to make sense of the vast amount of data that is being generated. A simple full day UAV mission can provide upwards of 10 terabytes of data of which only about 5% is analyzed and the rest stored. Currently, analysts are restricted by the download speeds of data depending upon their locations. Untagged data leads to downloading of similar data from other sources by the analyst to firm up their conclusions. ISR data from different sources is stored in different locations with varying access levels, this leads to incomplete analysis. Single network domain providing access to data at multiple levels of security classification is not yet available. This is leading to a synergetic relationship with digital industry where in military no longer develops its own hardware and software denovo, but harnesses and modifies the ‘commercial of the  shelf’ (COTS) items. Some common technologies in the data analytics ecosystem are, Apache Hadoop, Apache Hive / Apache Pig, Apache Sqoop, In-memory Databases, NoSQL Databases and MPP Platforms. Some of the firms working in this space with the military are Palantir, Sap, Oracle, Teradata, and SYNTASA. Security of collected and processed data also would require adequate attention, this could be dovetailed with the cyber defense effort of the armed forces.

Major gaps in the Indian MDA infrastructure can thus be plugged by the use of autonomous systems along with the associated data analytics and data protection platforms.

Proactive Defense Infrastructure Planning of Indian Island Territories A Conceptual Case Study of Lakshadweep (Minicoy and Suheli Par Islands)

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

ANALYSIS | Proactive Defense Infrastructure Planning of Indian Island Territories

IndraStra Global  4/05/2016 03:28:00 PM  Featured , India , Indian Navy , Maritime ,Sea Lanes of Communications , South Asia

Proactive Defense Infrastructure Planning of Indian Island Territories

A Conceptual Case Study of Lakshadweep (Minicoy and Suheli Par Islands)

By Rear Admiral Dr S. Kulshrestha (Retd.), Indian Navy  and Rahul Guhathakurta, IndraStra Global

 

The strategy for coastal and offshore security has been articulated in the document “Ensuring Secure Seas: Indian Maritime Security Strategy” of the Indian Navy. The strategy envisages ‘to reduce, counter and eliminate the threat of armed attack by sub-conventional groups, and also influx of arms and infiltration by armed attackers from the sea, against coastal and offshore assets’.

The chapter “Strategy for Conflict’ covers the actions for coastal and offshore defense. Essentially the operations will be carried out by the Indian Navy in synergy with the Indian Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and other security agencies.

Defending India’s Coast, Offshore Assets, EEZ and Island Territories.

India has a formidable naval force with both blue water and littoral capabilities; it also has a credible Coast guard, which would work in unison with the Indian Navy in times of war. Further India has put in place a powerful template for marine domain awareness, intelligence and protection of the coastal and offshore areas, in the aftermath of the terrorist attack of 26 Nov 2008. Some of the measures include; setting up of Multi Agency Centres (MAC) for intelligence inputs and reports; registration of fishing vessels by states; placing in orbit Indian Regional Navigation Seven Satellite System and satellite GSAT 7 ; setting up of a coast wide radar chain; raising Marine Police force, Marine Commandos Rapid Reaction Force and a Sagar Prahari Bal (SPB);setting up layered patrolling; putting in place The National Command Control Communication and Intelligence network (NC3IN) etc.

Prominent Gaps in Coastal and Offshore Defence

Thus, the layered defence of Indian coast and its offshore areas consists of Indian Navy, the coast guard, the marine commando & Sagar Prahari Bal (SPB) and the marine police. All these are info-linked for maximum advance knowledge and in a way form a net worked coalition. However, there apparently is a gap as far as setting up the coastal and offshore area defences per se is concerned. It lacks the delay, denial, disruption, and demoralizing (D4) capability, which is essential in today’s environment. This capability should be acquired by leveraging the perceived threats presented by the submarine, mines, small craft and cruise missiles.

The defence plan should be an asymmetric and proactive approach to defence with defining it as a zone that comprises two segments of the defence environment:-

·                     Seaward- the area from the shore to the open ocean, which must be defended to thwart expeditionary forces at sea.

·                      Landward- from the shore to the area inland that can be supported and defended directly from the shore.

The existing gap in Indian defences can be obviated with very potent defence elements by including:-

·                     Comprehensive assessment of threats from expeditionary forces to ports/ harbors.

·                     Procurement of midget/ miniature submarines with torpedoes and mine laying capability along with arrays of underwater sensors for environment, intrusion information, navigation and communication.

·                     Procurement of UAVs/USVs with intelligent software for remote operations as swarms.

·                     Procurement of Unmanned Underwater Sensor and Weapon Carriers capable of transmitting integrated underwater picture to fixed or mobile stations, firing torpedoes and laying mines.

·                     Procurement and laying of cable controlled mine fields, other mine fields across various depths zones.

·                     Coastal extended reach anti ship cruise missile batteries.

·                     Coastal gun batteries with ability to carry out precision attack on surface ships at ranges greater than 50 km.

·                     All systems networked for an ironclad protection of the Indian Coast and offshore assets and territories.

·                     Development of weapons specific for use in coastal areas and

·                     Development of systems for collection of oceanographic information.

A robust Indian coastal and offshore defense plan and its implementation is an essential element of economic wellbeing of India, as it would ensure security of sea trade, shipping, fishing, marine resources, and offshore assets as well as security of the EEZ.

Rights of a Coastal State w.r.t. EEZ

Within its EEZ, a coastal state has sovereign rights for exploring, exploiting, conserving, and managing natural living and non-living resources of the waters superjacent to the seabed and its sub soil. Further, it can exploit and explore production of energy from water, winds, and currents. The EEZ remains an open zone with freedom of innocent passage for all. The EEZ legal regime is different from that governing territorial waters and high seas, and contains certain characteristics of both.

However, in a recent judgment regarding the Enrica Lexie (Italian marines) case, the Supreme Court of India has declared the region between the contiguous zone and the 200 nautical miles in to the sea as ‘High Seas’. The Supreme court has said that Article 97 of the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is not applicable as shooting was a criminal action and not a navigation accident.

China has been maintaining its right to regulate foreign military activities in its EEZ, as it feels that it has the right to prevent any activity that threatens its economic interests or security. It also asserts that its domestic laws have jurisdiction in its EEZ. The Chinese law requires foreign entities to obtain prior approval to carryout resource exploitation, fishing, and marine research. As far as military activities are concerned, it holds them as prejudicial to ‘peaceful purposes’ provision of the Laws of the Seas Convention. This interpretation has led to a number of minor standoffs between it and the United States of America.

India is also one of the countries, which mandate prior permission before any maintenance, or repairs are carried out to the submarine cables running on the floor of its EEZ.

With respect to military activities by foreign militaries in the EEZ, India along with Bangladesh, Brazil, Cape Verde, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Uruguay require obtaining of prior permission. North Korea has prohibited any such activity within 50 nm of its territory and Iran has completely prohibited the same.

As far as oceanographic surveying is considered, again some countries require prior permission, in fact, China registered protests against the activities of USNS Bowditch and India against HMS Scott and USNS Bowditch, which were gathering military data by undertaking oceanographic survey. Coupling the above with increased proliferation of submarines in the region, the instances of clandestine underwater and ASW surveys would only increase. There are bound to be incidents involving intruder submarines in future and states would therefore be monitoring activities in their EEZs diligently.

EEZ Security Components

Two essential components of effective EEZ security management comprise of surveillance and deterrence. Some of the drawbacks of EEZ surveillance systems in use today include; inability of patrol boats to carry out surveillance, since their missions are area denial, SAR or interdiction; UAV’s have much better sensor packages but need a large infrastructure for 24/7 surveillance; HF radars are affordable but need very large areas for installation; Microwave radars suffer from limited horizon; and patrol aircraft incur huge costs. Since radars have difficulty in automatically identifying unknown and devious small vessels and the electro optic systems are heavily weather dependent, there is requirement for add on sensors to carry out effective monitoring of EEZ. In fact, a complete EEZ surveillance system should be able to cater to all the facets of EEZ activity be it , terrorism, drug and human trafficking, piracy, smuggling, coastal security, Search and rescue, sea traffic control, pollution control, illegal fishing, illegal arms supply and exploitation of natural resources of solar, air, wave, minerals, oil and gas. For such an extensive requirement a cooperative, synergetic and system of systems approach between various agencies involved would be paramount.

The surveillance platforms would include the following:-

·                     Unmanned undersea vehicles, sonar arrays, patrol submarines, and other under water sensors.

·                     Remotely operated vehicles, unmanned surface vehicles, offshore platforms, sensors for activity monitoring, and patrol boats.

·                     Vessel Traffic Management System (VTMS), communication networks, control centers, pollution monitoring centers, surface and navigation radars, and electro-optic systems.

·                     Unmanned Ariel Vehicles, patrol aircraft, helicopters, aerostats, and sensors.

·                     Observation and communication satellites.

Coming to the deterrence capability in the EEZ, it has to be a non-military option during peacetime, which brings the discussion to deployment of Non Lethal Weapons (NLW) and the need to develop them for the EEZ environment. Conflicts in the EEZ are definitely going to be unconventional and it would be difficult to distinguish the adversary from the neutrals or friendly vessels. This may lead to conflicts where use of lethal weapons may not be permissible. Non-lethal weapons would provide tactical as well as strategic benefits to the EEZ protection force in the global commons. NLW would enable options for de-escalation of conflicts, avoid irretrievable consequences of using lethal options, and result in deterring activity without loss of lives and damage to material. NLWs have to be cost effective and easy to operate, as different varieties in varying numbers would be required. However to ensure a calibrated approach, across the spectrum of conflict, there is also a need for NLWs to be doctrinally integrated with the regular naval forces to enable them to tackle a developing situation in the EEZ.

Defense of Island Territories

The defence of the Island territories has to be structured as a mix of the Coastal and EEZ defence plans. The defence plan in case of the Islands should be an asymmetric and proactive approach to defence with defining it as a zone that comprises three segments of the defence environment:-

·                     Seaward- the area from the shore to the open ocean, which must be defended to thwart expeditionary forces at sea.

·                     Landward- from the shore to the area inland that can be supported and defended directly from the shore.

·                     From the Sea-  from the sea by warships and submarines in case, an incursion has already been made on an unprotected/ inadequately protected island. As well as drawing from offensive infrastructure at the islands in the vicinity.

The surveillance and defense components have to be drawn from the coastal and EEZ defense plans and augmented by use of warships and submarines at sea.

“Even if Chinese naval ships and submarines appear regularly in the Indian Ocean, so what?” he asked. “As the largest trading nation in the world, maritime security in the Indo-Pacific cannot be more important for China. The Chinese navy has to protect its overseas interests such as the safety of personnel and security of property and investment. Much of these are along the rim of the Indian Ocean.” – Zhou Bo, honorary fellow, Academy of Military Science, Beijing, Jul 2015

An Academic Case Study of Proactive Defense Infrastructure at Two Lakshadweep Islands (Minicoy and Suheli Par)

The Lakshadweep islands lie between 8° – 12 °3′ N latitude and 71°E – 74°E longitude about 225 to 450 km from the Coast of Kerala. There are 12 atolls, 3 reefs, and five submerged banks. In all, there are 36 Islands, with a total land area of 32 sq km; Lakshadweep islands have a lagoon area of 4200 sq km and 20,000 sq km of territorial waters. It provides a large swath of 4, 00,000 sq km of Exclusive Economic Zone.

Map 1: Proximity Analysis of Minicoy Island and Suheli Par with respect to SLOCs (Interactive map available at http://www.indrastra.com/2016/04/ANALYSIS-Proactive-Defense-Infrastructure-Planning-of-Indian-Island-Territories-Lakshadweep-Minicoy-Suheli-Par-002-04-2016-0015.html)

Minicoy

Minicoy is the southernmost island in the Lakshadweep. It lies between 8° 15’ to 8° 20’ N and 73° 01’ to 73° 05 E with an area of 4.4 sq km including the Viringli islet. Minicoy is separated from the rest of Lakshadweep by the nine-degree channel and from the Maldives by the 8° channel. It is an independent oceanic island that does not belong to either the Maldives or the Lakshadweep bank.

Map 2: Minicoy Island Naval Air Station: The Concept (Interactive map available at http://www.indrastra.com/2016/04/ANALYSIS-Proactive-Defense-Infrastructure-Planning-of-Indian-Island-Territories-Lakshadweep-Minicoy-Suheli-Par-002-04-2016-0015.html)

Suheli Par

It is located at 10°05′N 72°17′E / 10.083°N 72.283°E / 10.083; 72.283, 52 km to the SW of Kavaratti, 76 km to the south of Agatti, 139 km to the west of Kalpeni and 205 km to the NNW of Minicoy, with the broad Nine Degree Channel between them. There are two uninhabited islands, Valiyakara at the northern end with a lighthouse ARLHS LAK-015, and Cheriyakara on the southeastern side. These two islands have a long sandbank Suheli Pitti between them.

Map 3: Suheli Par Naval Air Station: The Concept (Interactive map available at http://www.indrastra.com/2016/04/ANALYSIS-Proactive-Defense-Infrastructure-Planning-of-Indian-Island-Territories-Lakshadweep-Minicoy-Suheli-Par-002-04-2016-0015.html)

As a purely academic exercise, a proactive defense infrastructure has been studied for placement on Minicoy and Suheli Par using GIS and other architectural tools available as open source. The primary study is based upon the following documents:

·                     Draft Approach Paper For The 12th Five Year Plan (2012‐2017), Earth System Science Organization Ministry of Earth Sciences

·                     Notification under section 3(1) and section 3(2)(v) of the environment (protection) act, 1986 and rule 5(3)(d) of the environment (protection) rules, 1986 declaring coastal stretches as coastal regulation zone (CRZ) and regulating activities in the CRZ. New Delhi, the 19th February 1991(as amended up to 3rd October 2001)

·                     Report of the Working Group on Improvement of Banking Services in the Union Territory of Lakshadweep by RBI, 12 May 2008

·                     Socioeconomic Dimensions And Action Plan For Conservation Of Coastal Resources Based On An Understanding Of Anthropogenic Threats. Minicoy Island – UT Of Lakshadweep Project Supervisor: Vineeta Hoon. Centre for Action Research on Environment Science & Society, Chennai. 2003.

·                     Report on Visit to Lakshadweep – a coral reef wetland included under National Wetland Conservation and Management Programme of the Ministry of Environment & Forests. 30th October – 1st November 2008

·                     Report on BSLLD (Urban) Pilot in Lakshdweep, 2014. Directorate of Planning and Statistics, Lakshadweep.

·                     CZMAs and Coastal Environments- Two Decades of Regulating Land Use Change on India’s Coastline. Center for Policy Research, 2015.

·                     Integrated Island Management Plan (IIMP) for Minicoy island.

·                     Lakshadweep Development Report

Criterion for selection of the island of Minicoy and Suheli par

Some of the criterion for selection of the islands of Minicoy and Suheli par are:

Minicoy and Suheli Par would synergistic-ally straddle the 9-degree channel, one of the most important SLOC not only for India, but also for the Indo-Pacific region and also for China. The security of the SLOC would be ensured pro-actively by developing the defense structure at both islands.

·                     Minicoy is inhabited and Suheli Par is not, thus providing two distinct classes of islands.

·                     Minicoy is geologically different from other islands in the Lakshadweep.

·                     Both have large lagoons.

·                     Both need to be developed for prosperity and connectivity of the region with main land.

·                     Both have poor connectivity with mainland.

·                     Both can provide security structures for EEZ and its regulation

·                     Main Features of Proactive Defense of Islands.

The main features of the conceptual structures include:

·                     Airstrips for use by tourists as well as defense.

·                     Small harbor facilities

·                     Submarine piers

·                     Mini/midget pens

·                     Staging facilities

·                     Coastal gun and missile batteries

·                     Mooring Buoys

·                     Off Shore ammunition storage

·                     Air defense capability

·                     Radar and underwater sensors

·                     Strategic Oil Storage Facility

·                     Command, Communications, and Control Center for Indian Navy

·                     Strategic Communication facility

·                     Storm Warning and Fisheries information center

·                     Ocean Surveillance stations and cabled Oceanic Information Observatories

·                     Floating sun power panels

·                     Offshore Desalination plants

·                     Facilities for Tourists

Linkages with MDA, ODA, and OICZ

It is important that any academic exercise for development of a proactive defense infrastructure of island territories consider concepts of Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA), Oceanic Domain Awareness (ODA), and Ocean Information Consciousness Zones (OICZ). MDA focuses upon the maritime security environment specific to naval operations; the ODA focuses upon the overarching oceanic environment. Both are technology intensive and require sophisticated sensors and computational capabilities.MDA has tactical, regional, and strategic components whereas the ODA is strategic knowledge based architecture. Both require elaborate data and information fusing interface with myriad of interconnected agencies. The MDA primarily needing vast inputs from commercial, intelligence and security agencies and the ODA from advanced research, academic and scientific communities. The ODA is conceptualized as a comprehensive 3D+ knowledge zone up to India’s EEZ, the OICZ on the other hand is a collaborative approach at sharing oceanic information, processing it as required and archiving it for use at a later date. ODA can be established by a country individually, but OICZ requires transfer / sharing of scientific knowledge and technology between nations. Benefits of ODA accrue to the nation whereas OICZ would empower the region. Both are strategic in nature.

The usage of “geo-spatial tools” behind the “Conceptual Proactive Defense Infrastructure Plan” for Minicoy and Suheli Par

In the field of geopolitical studies, spatial analysis driven by various geographic information system (GIS) technologies helps strategic experts in computing required and desired solutions. In this analysis of Minicoy Island and Suheli Par, Google My Map API is used to perform a variety of geo-spatial calculations by using a set of easy to use function calls in the data step. In layman’s term, a layer-by-layer computational analysis of geographic patterns to finding optimum routes, site selection, and advanced predictive modeling to substantiate this analysis has been carried out. These concepts are formulated by considering the land reclamation factors and available details of Integrated Island Management Plan of Government of India (GoI) for Lakshadweep Islands. However, there are certain limitations associated with this analysis with respect to bathymetric data, which has not been considered for evaluation purpose due to lack of availability of such data in open/public domain. Further, these interactive custom maps can be easily exported into KMZ format and can also be embedded seamlessly with other websites for further distribution.

Considering all the factors discussed hitherto the maps are embedded in this article, depicting the proactive defense infrastructure plan for Minicoy and Suheli Par have been developed.

Conclusion

India’s EEZ and island territories face threats of disruption of energy supplies, piracy, and acts of terrorism, in addition to the fact that other nations are keen to poach in to the fisheries and seabed wealth. The security of the EEZ and island territories is therefore a matter of India’s national interest and need exists for boosting the surveillance and augmenting security arrangements of EEZ’s and island territories. Even though, an ambitious plan for coastal security and maritime domain awareness has been put in place, it needs to be further strengthened and stitched together so that the security of EEZ and Island territories functions as a comprehensive entity with synergies across the various agencies involved.

The academic exercise undertaken above in respect of Minicoy and Suheli Par islands demonstrates that it is feasible to provide effective SLOC protection, achieve maritime dominance in a limited area of interest, provide support to second strike capability and utilize space and oceans for surveillance, intelligence, science, and communications purposes.

Time for a proactive approach to plan the defense of EEZ and island territories is now!

 

About The Authors:

 

Rear Admiral Dr S. Kulshrestha: The author RADM Dr. S. Kulshrestha (Retd.), INDIAN NAVY, holds expertise in quality assurance of naval armament and ammunition. He is an alumnus of the NDC and a PhD from JNU. He superannuated from the post of Dir General Naval Armament Inspection in 2011. He is unaffiliated and writes in defence journals on issues related to Armament technology and indigenisation.

 

Rahul Guhathakurta: He is the founder of IndraStra Global and a seasoned supply chain management professional with 8+ years experience in trade route optimization and planning through various GIS applications.

Cite this Article:

Kulshrestha, S, Guhathakurta, R “ANALYSIS | Proactive Defense Infrastructure Planning of Indian Island Territories – A Conceptual Case Study of Lakshadweep (Minicoy and Suheri Pal Islands)” IndraStra Global 002, no. 04 (2015): 0015. http://www.indrastra.com/2016/04/ANALYSIS-Proactive-Defense-Infrastructure-Planning-of-Indian-Island-Territories-Lakshadweep-Minicoy-Suheli-Par-002-04-2016-0015.html |ISSN 2381-3652|

 

Tonga and the Third Island Chain

( Published in IndraStra Global on 25 Feb 2016, ISSN 2381-3652 )

“The ongoing disputes in the East China Sea and the South China Sea mean that Japan’s top foreign policy priority must be to expand the country’s strategic horizons. Japan is a mature maritime democracy and choice of close partners should reflect that fact. I envisage a strategy whereby Australia, India, Japan, and the US State of Hawaii form a diamond to safeguard the maritime commons starting from the Indian Ocean Region to the Western Pacific. I am prepared to invest the greatest possible extent, Japan’s capabilities in the security diamond”

Shinzo Abe, 2013

Interestingly, John Foster Dulles of the US of A propounded the Island Chain Concept, comprising of three island chains, in 1951 for strategic containment of USSR and China. The key component of the First Island Chain was Taiwan (it was thereafter christened as one of the Unsinkable Aircraft Carriers); it extended from northern Philippines & Borneo, up to Kuril islands. The second line of defense was from Mariana Island to Islands of Japan. The Third Chain’s key component was Hawaii; it began at Aleutians and ended in Oceania. Now that the breakdown of USSR has taken place, the Chinese believe that this concept would be used to contain China.

General Liu Huaqing had articulated a three-tier program for modernizing the PLAN (commonly referred to as Chinese Navy),according to which the Chinese Navy is proceeding to fast pace its modernization efforts. The program essentially comprises of three time lines, namely:

Year 2020- Acquire capability to exert sea control up to the First Island Chain i.e. bracketing the South China Sea and the East China Sea.

Year 2020- The sea control capability would be extended to the Second Island Chain, which amounts to bracketing the Philippines Sea.

Year 2050- The capabilities would extend to operating Carrier battle groups globally.

The phenomenal economic growth followed by upgrading of military capabilities of PLA and the subsequent claims on islands in the South China Sea, probably led Mr. Shizo Abe, the prime minister of Japan, to articulate the “Asian Security Diamond” in 2013. It called upon India, Australia, and Hawaii (US) to form a strategic coalition for safeguarding the maritime commons comprising the Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific. The Japanese Prime minister has also approached France and United Kingdom to join this Asian Security Diamond keeping in view the significant strategic presence of these two countries in the IOR and the Western Pacific.

The Polynesian Link in the Third Island Chain

The third Island Chain as espoused by Dulles; from the Aleutians to Oceania with Hawaii as a key component; has started to assume relevance with an assertive China militarizing disputed islands. New Zealand –Tonga – Hawaii link within this chain; could play a significant role at least as far as Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) is concerned. Whereas, New Zealand and Hawaii may not need any benign assistance, Tonga, with its 177 islands spread over an area of ~700,000 sq km in southern Pacific Ocean, is a different story.

Currently, in the maritime arena, Tonga is grappling with security of its extensive coastline as well as policing of its EEZ of 676,401 sq km. Its remote location, over 2,330 km from New Zealand and over 5000 km from Hawaii make it a fertile region for transnational crime. Tonga has insufficient physical and electronic monitoring resources to remain updated about real time situation in its vast area and is severely constrained as far as MDA is concerned. Tonga with its outlying islands is susceptible to gun running, narcotics, human trafficking and other criminal activities. In addition, unauthorized exploitation of its fisheries and marine wealth in its coastal waters as well as in its EEZ has direct impact on its national economy and security. As regards applicability of MDA to Tonga it would be prudent to take a cue from the definition and scope of MDA, as has been articulated by the US government vide their document National Security Presidential Directive 41, 2004:-

Maritime Domain Awareness is “the effective understanding of anything associated with the global maritime environment that could impact the security, safety, economy or environment of U.S. This is accomplished through the integration of intelligence, surveillance, observation, and navigation systems into one common operating picture (COP) that is accessible throughout the U.S. Government.

Unlike traditional naval operations, it is apparent that the goal of MDA is far more than simply looking for potential maritime enemies poised to attack Tonga. The implications of “Anything associated” with the maritime environment that can affect the security, safety, economy, or environment go far beyond a classic maritime threat. As per the US interpretation, these include smuggling of people or dangerous cargoes, piracy, proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), identification and protection of critical maritime infrastructure, oil spills, weather, and environmental concerns among other events. What Tonga needs today is a robust MDA along with a rapid air & sea transportation capability.

An important factor that has to be considered while discussing the Third Island Chain is that Tonga is being aggressively wooed by China, even though there are only about 300 Chinese residents as per some estimates. 

India has been participating in bilateral and multilateral strategic dialogues in the region including those involving Japan, Australia, and the US and the Indian Navy has participated in various naval exercises. However, India has not joined any group, which directly aims at containment of China.

India maintains cordial relations with nations in the Pacific; however, Tonga and other smaller nations in the South Pacific Ocean aspire for more attention from India. India could assist Tonga, benignly, in setting up of its MDA infrastructure. This would not only enhance the potency of the Polynesian Island link in the Third Island Chain, but also strengthen Tonga’s maritime security.