Category Archives: Naval warfare

Cupping the Pacific — China’s Rising Influence

(Published March 27, 2018  IndraStra Global http://www.indrastra.com/2018/03/Cupping-Pacific-China-s-Rising-Influence-003-04-2018-0055.html#more)

Cupping the Pacific — China’s Rising Influence

China’s Rising Influence in the Pacific through Sale of Arms

There is one aspect of the recent revolution in Hawaii which seems to have been kept out of sight, and that is the relation of the islands, not merely to our own and to European countries, but to China. How vitally important that may become in the future is evident from the great number of Chinese, relatively to the whole population, now settled in the islands…….China, however, may burst her barriers eastward as well as westward, toward the Pacific as well as toward the European Continent.

                        Alfred Thayer Mahan, Captain, United States Navy. New York, Jan. 30, 1893

 

Arms sales are always for enhancement of self-interest of the seller country, they are primarily for furtherance of own strategic and commercial interests. The strategic reasons include, widening of areas of influence vis-a-vis a perceived adversary, projection of power in the desired region, quid pro quo proposition in times of hostilities through utilisation of recipient’s military facilities and resources or for gaining political upper hand in international bodies. Arms sales are invariably never without a hidden agenda on the part of the seller. The sales are justified under the garb of strengthening self defence capabilities of the recipient or providing support against an adversary. The commercial interests include furtherance of own defence manufacturing capabilities, enhancement of the profits accrued to its own defence industries or as a quid pro quo for other products of interest from the recipient.

This article takes in to account only the certified arms sales as recorded by SIPIRI and does not detail political, social, educational or other soft-influence approaches in the Pacific region by China. The article considers towering influence of the United States in the Pacific region since the second world war as a given and hence the arms sales by the US are not discussed vis-à-vis China. Further, an attempt has been made to indicate to the rising Chinese influence in view of its sales of arms in the region so as to spur some timely corrective measures to ensure cooperative and collective freedom of the Pacific commons. The countries considered in the article comprise SE Asia and South America.

American Approach to the Pacific Ocean

The American approach to the Pacific is largely an implementation of the thoughts of Mahan detailed in his book ‘The Interest of America in Sea Power, Present and Future’[1]. He had held forth on the importance of the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) for the Pacific, stating that they should be under the American control. He foresaw that the commercial shipping from Japan and China would pass near to the Hawaii island group and thus provide America a strong position in the Pacific to safeguard its maritime interests. He had said that Hawaii forms the centre of a circle of about 2100 nm radius in the Pacific, the periphery of which touches the archipelago system of Australia- New Zealand as well as the American west coast. The power which will hold Hawaii island group, in his opinion, would over see the Pacific. It is for the simple reason that in case of hostilities the supply lines would stretch back to over 3000-4000 nm each way making such an assault against America unstainable. The United States had structured its maritime thrust in to the Pacific along a virtual ‘arrow head’ from its west coast to Hawaii on to Guam and thereafter to Taiwan. Further, the concept of Island chains was constructed utilising island groups in the north-west pacific[2] during the cold war, to contain the spread of communism by Soviet Union and China. Some distances which describe the US ~6940 nm arrowhead across the Pacific up till Taiwan are: San Francisco – Hawaii (Honolulu) ~2095nm; Hawaii (Honolulu) – Guam ~3333nm; Guam – Taiwan ~512 nm. With Hawaii and Guam as entrenched US naval bases and the fact that a warship can sail 600 nm per day at 25kts the arrowhead is well established logistically to sustain prolonged operations from the west coast of the US. The allies would also provide unstinted support in times of inevitable hostilities in the region.

Chinese Perception of the Pacific

Chinese view their seaboard frontier as seas of denied opportunities, seas where their access is perpetually under watch by inimical powers. The Chinese threat perception encompasses Japan in the north and Malacca in the south. The access to the SLOCS from the Gulf is overlooked by India right up to Malacca straits, thereafter by nations which have been under the western influence. Indian island Chain of Laccadives sits astride the important 9-degree channel SLOC and the Indian island chain of Andamans looks over the entry to Malacca straits. It may be interesting to note that Singapore and Malaysian port of Penang lie just ~1176 nm and ~807 nm from Port Blair in Andamans.

The construct of the island chains is viewed as an attempt by the Western Powers to inhibit its naval expansion to within the First Island Chain. Once China has started looking seaward it finds layers of obstruction lined up in the Pacific to dissuade it from becoming a modern Naval power. The Chinese aim in the Pacific appears to be; to overcome or pierce the island chains at their weak points by strengthening its onshore long-range missile capabilities and its naval might. Japan and Guam are considered the strongest components of the first and second Island Chains. Taiwan and Philippines are relegated to a weak component status. However, it is held that Taiwan needs to be in the Chinese fold for a strong grip on the seas.

The US-Japan-Australia-India ‘quad’ (with France in support), if and when it takes concrete shape, would definitely be taken as an attempt to thwart Chinese ambitions of attaining global power status in its envisaged multipolar world. The positioning of road/rail mobile Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles (ASBM) DF-21 D and DF-26 C in the recent past is to put a serious deterrent in place to thwart any intimidating attempt by the US Navy. It is claimed that the DF 21 D (CSS-5 Mod 5) has a range of ~1,500 km and is armed with a Manoeuvrable Re-entry Vehicle (MaRV). DF 21 D has the ability to attack large ships like the aircraft carriers. DF-26, has a claimed range of 3,000-4,000 km enough to strike Guam. It is estimated that China has command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) capabilities required for targeting ships at sea. However, ASBMs also require over-the-horizon (OTH) targeting support that can integrate target information from multiple sources. Once fully deployed the Chinese ASBM system-of-systems would be the world’s first system[3] capable of targeting a moving carrier group with long-range ballistic missiles fired from land-based mobile launchers and would pose a grave threat to the US forces and bases in the region.

China appears to be forging along a strategic trajectory in the Pacific in that it is developing its Navy to blue water capabilities, upgrading its land based ballistic missiles to target mobile assets of the adversary with conventional and nuclear warheads at great ranges, and courting countries in and across the Pacific through Arms sales to build up sympathetic logistic linkages to counter US influence. It is opined that China would keep building up its military might and its cross-Pacific network through sale of arms and/or dole of economic benefits to nations till such time that Taiwan comes firmly in its fold thereafter it could plan for making a bold move in the Pacific to challenge the US power.

Arms sales by China

Chinese arms and weapons are in demand as China has started supplying modern equipment which can meet the economic requirements of middle and lower tier countries. The arms are cheap, reasonably reliable and are supplied with access to easy term loans from Chinese banks. Chinese unmanned aerial vehicles and cruise missiles are considered nearly as good as those offered for export by western countries. This has made China a leading arms supplier across the globe. It is understood that the guiding tenets of China’s arms export include, non-interference in internal matters of the country like its political or human rights record; perceived strengthening of the recipient’s self-defence capabilities; and bringing about regional arms balance. China also offers transfer of technology which makes countries gain a degree of self-reliance and allows development of their own defence industry. Whether the loans offered push the recipients into a debt trap or force it to part with its resources or make it pliable to extract military gains for China is yet to be seen. The fact that the importing country becomes politically indebted to China cannot be denied, even when a country is hedging or diversifying its sources of arms import, as it would definitely adopt a more benign stance where China is concerned.

The major countries where China seeks influence in the Pacific are those in SE Asia, Oceania and countries in South America.

Arms Transfer to SE Asian Countries by China

China has arms trade with seven of Southeast Asia’s countries namely Indonesia, Myanmar Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos and Timor-Leste.

Some of the major Arms transfers to SE Asian countries by China during the period 2010-2017 as per SIPIRI Arms trade register are:

Indonesia- Surface to Air Missiles (SAM), Anti-Ship Missiles (ASM), Naval Guns, Close-in weapon system (CIWS), Anti-Aircraft Guns (AA Guns), Multi-Rocket Launchers (MRL), various Radars, Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAV), Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV).

Myanmar- Frigates, various Radars, ASM, Trainer/combat aircraft, Naval Guns, Main Battle Tanks (MBT), MRL, UAV, UCAV, SAM, Transport aircraft, Fifth generation aircraft J-17, Armoured Fire Support Vehicle (AFSV), Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC).

Malaysia- Offshore patrol vessels (OPV)

Thailand- Self-propelled MRL, ASM, Arty Locating Radar, SAM, Tank, Submarines, Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV), Anti-ship and Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) torpedoes.

Cambodia- Helicopters, Transport aircraft

Laos- Transport and light aircraft

Timor-Leste- Patrol aircraft

As far as Philippines is concerned, China has recently donated 3000 Assault rifles for tackling the drug mafia.

Interests in Oceania

 ‘China is not just filling a political vacuum created by Western neglect…. [i]t is incorporating the Pacific islands into its broader quest to become a major Asia-pacific power with a long-term goal to replace the US as the preeminent power in the Pacific Ocean’.

John Henderson and Benjamin Reilly, 2003[4]

Among the Pacific rim countries, Chinese relations with Australia and New Zealand have been very good traditionally, however, there has been a turbulence with respect to Australia in the recent past. Its relations with Tonga have raised eyebrows in the neighbourhood since it has a population of only 300-400 Chinese people and offers practically no economic benefits apart from its vast unexplored EEZ and fishery resources.

A word about maritime Tonga would not be out of place here. Tonga has a settlement history of over 3000 years based upon the discovery of Lapita pottery fragments on the islands. Lapita people are now supposed to be the ancestors of the Polynesian people. The Lapita people were considered to be proficient sailors and expert navigators.  The Polynesian people succeeding Lapita settlers were great sailors and sea warriors. Tongans also continued the seafarers’ legacy and excelled in building large bi-hulled, 20-30-meter-long, Kalia sailing crafts. The structure of the Kalia was unique in that it had one larger and one smaller hull. Stability could be achieved with the smaller hull rising with the ocean swell and the larger hull dipping in the swell.  They were joined by a platform forming a sort of bridge. The Tongans have been crisscrossing the pacific islands regularly over the past three millennia.  In fact, it is said that no Fiji boat ventured to and from Tonga without Tongan sailors on board. The Tongans procured stone tooling from Fiji, Society islands and Samoa. Tonga had also became a trading hub during the past millennia. Tongan waters have been a witness to one of the most filmed mutinies at sea amidst its Ha’apai island group, namely “the Mutiny on the Bounty”.

Tonga, today, sits astride the SLOC from Asia to South America & Australia/New Zealand to the US and has underground sea cables running through its EEZ. It also has rights to a number of satellite launch sites[5]. The area has a large number of air strips and ports.

Apart from the economic aid, humanitarian assistance and education programs, Chinese ships make frequent goodwill visits to the islands.  China had also gifted a turbo prop aircraft to Tonga, which had ruffled feathers in New Zealand. Recently the King Tupou VI of Tonga visited China where he stated that “Tonga agrees with China on its vision to build a new type of international relations and stands ready to work with China to build a community with a shared future for mankind.”[6]

Keeping the above in view, it does not appear that Chinese largesse towards these islands is a display of its charitable and humane side. It is Tonga’s strategic location on the third island chain that could be the more likely reason for the Chinese strategic foray in to the region.

Arms transfers to South American countries by China

It is noteworthy that China has not only made arms sales to SE Asian countries and is making friendly overtures in Oceania but that it has also made deep inroads through arms sales in South America. Significantly, it has sold arms to Venezuela, Peru, Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Trinidad & Tobago.

Some of the major Arms transfers to South American countries by China during the period 2010-2017 as per SIPIRI Arms trade register are:

Venezuela- Radars, Trainer/combat aircraft, Short Range Air-to-Air Missiles (SRAAM), Transport aircraft, self-propelled MRL/Mortar, infantry fighting vehicles (IFV), Armoured Protected Vehicles (APV), Armoured personnel carriers (APC), light tanks, ASM

Peru- SAM, 122 mm MRL

Argentina- APCs

Ecuador- Air Search Radars

Bolivia- Trainer/ combat aircraft, helicopters, APV

Trinidad and Tobago- OPVs

Strategically China has thus ‘cupped’ the Pacific by securing not only its south eastern shores and Oceania but also the western shores of South America.

San Francisco System

A Japanese peace treaty was signed on 6 September 1951 between 49 allied countries and Japan which also contained elements of regional security. A separate security treaty was signed between the US and Japan on that day which made Japan’s economy, military, and diplomacy dependent upon the US. There were a slew of bilateral agreements and treaties thereafter which resulted in a loose and flexible collective security & cooperation structure in the region. The result was a hub and spoke structure with Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, and Australia as spokes and the US as the hub. Historian John W Dower coined the term San Francisco System (SFS) to describe this informal arrangement under the security umbrella of the United States. The SFS continues to this day in the absence of any other formal security structure covering the Pacific region.

Conclusion

China has been working on the strategy of casting a strategic net across the seas with its arms sales which raises security concerns for nations directly or indirectly dependent upon sea trade. It has almost put in place a multi-polar power structure which would be difficult to dislodge. The string of pearls in the IOR, has grown in to a studded ‘Jade Necklace Across the Oceans’[7] with its pendant as the cupped Pacific.

The Chinese arms sales should not be wished away as insignificant since the market share of the US remains undented, it should instead be assessed in terms of collapsing geo-strategic and geo- political space of the US and its future ramifications.

The option available today in the Pacific is striving for freedom of the Ocean commons and loosening the trade & economic web spun by China through strengthening the spokes in the San Francisco System. It may be worthwhile to look for additional spokes in the nearly 70-year-old system especially in the third island chain. Island nations with rich maritime heritage like Tonga offer a good strategic foot hold and geostrategic advantage in the Pacific. For example, Tonga is ~3182 nm from US base at Guam, ~2752 nm from Hawaii, and ~1959 nm from Sydney. It has a large swath of uninhabited islands which can be utilised for security infrastructure. With the available sensor technologies innovative and cost effective ISR stations can be created which in turn would help in the development of the South Pacific Nations and wean them away from the influence of China.

Picture1

A new node in these islands nations offers the US the flexibility of using the existing sea ports and airstrips as well as an alternate manoeuvring and staging Area. In turn it could accrue scarce strategic space and strengthen the third island chain.

Time to act is slipping away!

[1] Mahan A. T. The Interest of America in Sea Power, Present and Future. http://www.archive.org/stream/theinterestofame15749gut/15749.txt (Accessed 10 Mar 2018)

[2] On 4 January 1954, US State Department Advisor John Foster Dulles propounded the Island Chain Concept, comprising of three island chains. 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 defence was from Mariana Island to Islands of Japan. The Third Chain’s key component was Hawaii; it began at Aleutians and ended in Oceania.

[3] Andrew S. Erickson. Chinese Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile Development and Counter-intervention Efforts

Testimony before Hearing on China’s Advanced Weapons. Panel I: China’s Hypersonic and Manoeuvrable Re-Entry Vehicle Programs U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Washington, DC.23 February 2017. https://www.uscc.gov/sites/default/files/Erickson_Testimony.pdf (Accessed 18 Mar 2018)

[4] John Henderson. Benjamin Reilly. Dragon in paradise: China’s rising star in Oceania. The National Interest; Summer 2003. https://crawford.anu.edu.au/pdf/staff/ben_reilly/breilly1.pdf (Accessed 18 Mar 2018)

[5] What Does China Want with Tonga? Featuring Gordon Chang & Cleo Paskal’, online video, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5vTeUJbN3M, (accessed 15 March 2018).

[6] China, Tonga agree to promote strategic partnership. Xinhua. 24 Mar 2018.

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2018-03/02/c_137009307.htm (accessed 17 March 2018).

[7] Kulshrestha, Sanatan. “FEATURED | Jade Necklace: Naval Dimension of Chinese Engagement with Coastal Nations Across the Oceans”. IndraStra Global 02, no. 12 (2016) 0032. 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 19 Mar 2018)

Evolution and Role of Naval UAVs

(Published in special edition of Economic Times, India on 04 Dec 2017)

Earliest mention of a drone/unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in the Naval context is found in 1917, when the US Navy commissioned the design of an ‘aerial torpedo’ for use against German U-boats. A contract was awarded to the Curtiss Aeroplane Company, and the airplane was named the Speed-Scout. It was designed to be launched from naval ships carrying a 1,000-lb. payload and to be stabilized by an autopilot. It suffered several failures before it achieved its first successful flight on 06 March 1918, making it the first flight of an UAV. On 15 April 1923, the Naval Research Laboratory’s (NRL) specially equipped F5L seaplane was controlled by radio signals up to a range of 10 miles from the transmitter. The NRL also reported that radio control of take-off and landing of aircraft was possible. Project Fox, equipped with a television camera, was developed by The Naval Aircraft Factory in 1941. It was controlled by TG-2 aircraft and successfully carried out torpedo attack on a destroyer in 1942.

McDonnell Aircraft developed a radio-controlled target drone TD2D-1 in 1942 for anti-aircraft and aerial gunnery practice of U.S. Navy. TD2D was gyro-stabilized, radio-controlled and could be recovered by parachute. The Ryan Firebee was a 23-feet long target drone, which could fly at over 700 miles per hour on a pre-programmed flight path. It could be recovered mid-air by a C-130 Hercules with a capture net, or parachute into the sea for recovery. A modified Firebee with cameras called a ‘Lightning Bug’ could fly over a target area and take aerial pictures, it carried out over 3,000 reconnaissance missions in Vietnam. The drones have been tested on carriers, and have flown in combat, the TDR-1s launched from the USS Sable in 1943, and the Firebees took off from the USS Ranger from 1969 to 1970.

The Gyrodyne model QH-50D was a remotely controlled UAV which was built and delivered to the U.S. Navy as the Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter (DASH). The QH-50D was a rotary-winged, anti-submarine weapon carrier designed primarily to deliver two MK44 acoustic homing torpedoes or a Mk 17 Nuclear depth charge using the W-44 warhead and also had a provision for a ‘classified weapon’.

The maritime UAV serves in national security, paramilitary and wartime missions. It expands the user’s horizons by providing Over The Horizon Targeting (OTHT). In addition, it increases the scanning area, time over target and the mission flexibility. It also serves in real time battle damage assessment. During peacetime, it prevents the penetration of any sea borne hostile intruder, protects the country’s rights and interests in the Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ) and supports in Search and Rescue operations. In war-time it assists in achieving naval superiority, helps in destruction of enemy naval forces, defends the coast lines, and supports ground operations (littoral warfare). The role of the Maritime UAV system is to provide unmanned, long endurance aerial reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition. In addition, the UAV can create a comprehensive, real time, naval tactical picture for the ship’s commander and naval HQs.

A typical Maritime UAV System consists of at least three aircraft, with ground control system (GCS), Launch & Retrieval Station (LRS), Ground Data Terminal (GDT), Launch & Retrieval Data Terminal (LRDT), and mission oriented Payloads. A typical Payload consists of a Maritime Patrol Radar (MPR) with multi-mode functions, an Electro-Optical sensor with day/night capabilities, and an optional ELINT package. The payload package provides the necessary data for detection, classification, and identification of surface vessels at sea. Having a line of sight data link package provides a system range of 250 km and an air data relay extends the patrolling distance to 350 km.

The launching of UAVs from warships presents less of a challenge than recovery. UAVs can be launched through a variety of catapult options, including rocket-assisted take-off (RATO) as used by the US Navy for embarked Pioneer UAV operations. The IN operates the Lakshya unmanned aerial target system that uses boosters to launch without any ground run. Recovery of UAVs is more problematic than their launch. Vertical landing UAVs can be recovered using manual remote piloting to a conventional vertical landing, or by automatic landing systems such as the US UAV common automatic recovery system (UCARS). Fixed wing UAVs are presently recovered by more extreme methods, such as by flying it into a recovery net, by stopping the motor and ditching it into the water by parachute for a manual recovery, or by mid-air recovery using a manned helicopter or aircraft.

The IN currently operates the Heron and the Searcher MK II UAVs manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries. These are capable of beaming real time live pictures of maritime targets to Commands ashore, thus enhancing the joint defence capability by synergizing capabilities of the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and local authorities. The Ministry of Defense (MoD) has initiated a request to the US for procuring 22 multi-mission Guardian UAVs for the Indian Navy. A RFI has also been issued for 50 ‘Naval Ship-Borne Unmanned Aerial Vehicles’ (NSUAS) for Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR), monitoring of Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC), Exclusive Economic Zone safety, anti-piracy, and anti-terrorism functions along with Search and Rescue (S&R) roles. The MoD, is also considering procurement of Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAVs for use by the three defense services.

For the near future, the US Navy is progressing ahead with procurement of The Broad Area Maritime Surveillance UAS (BAMS UAS), the Vertical Take-off and Landing UAV (VTUAV) Fire Scout MQ-8B unmanned helicopter, and The Small Tactical UAS (STUAS), RQ-21 Blackjack. The indigenous AURA and Rustom (& its variants) are being developed by DRDO for the Indian Armed Forces.

The question that the Indian Navy faces today is, whether it is ready to go for development of fully autonomous unmanned systems, which would be cable of engaging a target and inflicting lethal damage on their own? Is the Indian Navy willing to develop technologies that empower the vehicle with embedded artificial intelligence to make the final decision to launch weapons at the target independent of any human intervention? If yes, then there is a need for the Indian Navy to look in to:

– technologies and software formulations which would permit an unmanned vehicle to launch itself, proceed to learn acoustic/magnetic/electromagnetic signatures, and identify the target on its own.

– technologies, which are more environmental friendly, for e.g. the use of green plastics of the poly hexahydrotriazines or PHTs category, and green electrical power including its storage for long endurance operations.

– a resilient architecture that can act as a redundant pathway to atmospheric communications through electromagnetic domains including digital communications utilizing fibre domain.

– Distributed manufacturing to enable efficient use of resources, with less wasted capacity in centralized factories, and develop 3D printing of circuit boards and other integrated electronic components.

– cognitive testing aspects of software for unmanned vehicles today to fruitfully operate autonomous vehicles of tomorrow.

– exploring technologies for developing new types of weapons for use in the autonomous vehicles.

– focusing on the technology developments in the commercial sector, especially in the software, and the artificial intelligence sectors. As it appears, the only option is to synergize with the commercial sector to ensure that UAVs become a force multiplier in the next decade.

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.

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).

74. Weaponised Unmanned Vehicles in the Indian Navy: Technology Outlook

(Published IndraStra Global   May 22, 2016 )

In the Navy unmanned vehicles constitute four types of vehicles which operate in aerial, surface-land, surface-sea and underwater environments. Even though more glamorous terms like ‘autonomous vehicles’ are used to describe them, in reality, all these vehicles fall in the category of remotely controlled/piloted robotic vehicles. However, it is also true that in most of these categories, higher and higher degree of autonomous functioning can be built-in with the available technology.

The question that arises before the Indian Navy is whether it is ready to go for development of autonomous unmanned systems, which would be cable of engaging a target and inflicting lethal damage on their own? Is the Indian Navy willing to develop technologies that empower the vehicle with embedded artificial intelligence to make the final decision to launch weapons at the target independent of any human intervention?

It may be worthwhile to look at some innovative technologies, which are going to have a profound effect upon weaponised unmanned vehicles of tomorrow.

Cutting-Edge Artificial Intelligence (AI):

Whereas artificial intelligence would enable an unmanned vehicle to perceive and respond to its changing environment, the cutting edge AI would enable the unmanned vehicle to learn automatically by assimilating large volumes of environmental and tactical information. There is a need for the Indian Navy to look in to technologies and software formulations which  would permit an unmanned vehicle, for example, to launch itself, proceed to learn acoustic, magnetic or electromagnetic signatures and identify the target on its own (as distinct from current weapons like mines, torpedoes and missiles which have a tested and tried inbuilt code). The need to pursue technologies that would enable it to go a step further by taking a decision to launch its weapons could be looked at  in future.

Profound/ Deep Learning in respect of Unmanned Vehicles:

There is a definite need to look into Profound or / Deep learning technological issues since for most of the areas of their operations, unmanned vehicles would be required to accumulate vast amounts of data/ intelligence inputs from the surroundings, process it and upload it to systems for decision making by humans. Fundamentally, advanced algorithms need to be developed for unmanned vehicles through which the vehicle on its own can differentiate changes from the normal that need to be highlighted for predicting a future course of events by the analysts. Since Unmanned underwater vehicles would operational for periods extending over months at a time,one area of importance could be to make the vehicle unlearn (specific areas it has self-written the codes for), since it occupies memory space or it may no longer remain relevant.

Green Technologies for Unmanned Vehicles:

As the Unmanned systems race to achieve higher and higher levels of autonomous operations, there is a need to look into technologies, which would make unmanned vehicles more environmental friendly, like the use of green plastics of the poly hexahydrotriazines or PHTs category, which provide the same strength but are biodegradable. Similar advances need to be explored for providing the unmanned vehicles with green electrical power and its storage for long endurance operations.  Neuromorphic Technology.  Neuromorphic chips are designed to process information by mimicking human brain’s architecture resulting in massive computing and processing power. These combine data storage and data processing components in same interconnected modules thus providing power as well as energy efficiency.

Communications Pathways:

Satellites are not the only pathway for reliable communications, be it for data, voice, or command & control. There is a requirement for a resilient architecture that can act as a redundant pathway to atmospheric communications (including underwater) through electromagnetic domains including digital communications utilizing fiber domain. Fiber carries far larger bandwidth than what can be carried through the satellite systems. Multiple pathways would provide greater safety and protection to the cyber networks. Technologies need to be developed, to make the network physically resilient to deal with High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP), and to make the network react by itself to tampering by external actors.

Additive Manufacturing Technology:

Distributed manufacturing enables efficient use of resources, with less wasted capacity in centralized factories. It also reduces the amount of capital required to build the first prototypes and products. Further, it limits the overall environmental impact of manufacturing since digital information is transferred over the internet with local sourcing of raw materials. However, Additive manufacturing poses a potentially disruptive challenge to conventional processes and supply chains. Its nascent applications in aerospace sectors need to be developed for the unmanned systems across the Naval unmanned requirement. There is a need to examine and develop 3D printing of circuit boards and other integrated electronic components. Currently, Nano scale component integration into 3D printing is a formidable challenge for this technology. Taking a step further, adaptive-additive technologies (4D printing) would be ushering in products that would be responsive to the natural environment (like temperature and humidity) around them.

Test and evaluations of Unmanned Systems:

Test and evaluation of collaborative (Humans and robotic) systems is a big technological leap that needs to be addressed at the earliest. As of now, there is no software, which can test a collaborative system both physically, and intellectually, once an unmanned system has been tasked to learn on its own, it should have the capability to convey the extent of its learning as it progresses in its knowledge acquisition process. Navy needs to delve into cognitive testing aspects of software for unmanned vehicles today to fruitfully operate autonomous vehicles of tomorrow.

Disruptive Unmanned Warfare:

Autonomous vehicles have ushered in a paradigm shift from the few big, expensive, and lethal weapons to large numbers of small, cheap, and smart unmanned systems capable of swarming the adversary. The unmanned vehicles today can carry significant amounts of weapons utilizing new designs of weapons with nano materials. The Navy needs to explore technologies for developing new types of weapons for use in the autonomous vehicles.

Finally, the Indian Navy has to focus in the coming years on the technology developments in the commercial sector which have outpaced the developments in the military; especially in the software; and the artificial intelligence sector. It has to seek ways and means to synergize the commercial sector developments such that it can become a force multiplier ushering in the next RMA.

 

Hybrid warfare-The Naval Dimension

(Published IndraStra Global 01 Jan 2017, http://www.indrastra.com/2017/01/FEATURED-Hybrid-Warfare-Naval-Dimension-003-01-2017-0002.html)

 It is so damn complex. If you ever think you have the solution to this, you’re wrong, and you’re dangerous. You have to keep listening and thinking and being critical and self-critical.

Colonel H.R. McMaster, 2006

In his monograph, Strategic Implications of Hybrid War: A Theory of Victory[1],Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Lasica posits that hybrid force actors attempt to combine internal tactical success and information effects regarding enemy mistakes through the deliberate exploitation of the cognitive and moral domains. In this manner, he describes hybrid warfare simultaneously as a strategy and a tactic because of the blending of conventional, unconventional, criminal, cyber and terrorist means & methods. A hybrid force is thus able to compress the levels of war and thereby accelerate tempo at both the strategic and tactical levels in a method faster than a more conventional actor is able to do. In this theoretical model, the hybrid actor will always gain a perceived strategic advantage over the conventional actor regardless of tactical results. David Sadowski and Jeff Becker, in their article “Beyond the “Hybrid Threat: Asserting the Essential Unity of Warfare,[2]” assert, that the idea of simply seeing hybrid warfare as a combination of threat categories or capabilities fails to appreciate the complexity of the hybrid approach to warfare. Rather, they argue that the essential aspect of hybrid warfare is the underlying unity of cognitive and material approaches in generating effects. Such a unity of cognitive and material domains allows for flexibility in a strategic context in which social “rules” can be redefined in an iterative process to the hybrid’s advantage in terms of legality and military norms.

Majors Mculloh and  Johnson in their monograph ‘Hybrid warfare’[3] have said that hybrid war may be best summarized as a form of warfare in which one of the combatants bases its optimized force structure on the combination of all available resources—both conventional and unconventional—in a unique cultural context to produce specific, synergistic effects against a conventionally-based opponent.

 Don’t ever forget what you’re built to do. We are built to solve military problems with violence.

– A Former Brigade Commander in Op Iraqi Freedom

Therefore, it will not be wrong to say that Hybrid warfare in naval context is a violent conflict utilizing a complex and adaptive organization of regular and irregular forces, means, and behavior across a predominantly maritime domain among others to achieve a synergistic effect, which seeks to exhaust a superior military force.

Alternatively, put simply, it is naval irregular warfare plus cyber war and any other component that emerges in future. CIA has succinctly brought out the contrasting dimensions of Modern versus Irregular warfare in the following table:

Contrasting Dimensions of War[4]
Modern Irregular
Organized Informal
Advanced technology At-hand technology
Logistics-dependent Logistics-independent
National direction Local direction
Coherent doctrine Ad hoc doctrine
Decisive battle Raids and skirmishes
Soldier Warrior
Allies Accomplices
Segregation Integration

Littoral areas and cities in vicinity of the coast could be important sites of future conflict, and both have characteristics that make them more complex than the high seas, and hinterland. Adversaries will increasingly exploit these complex environments to degrade technological advantages of regular forces. Given the close proximity of many cities to the coast as well as abundance of unmanned coastal areas, maritime hybrid is a distinct possibility requiring active involvement of the Navy and the Coast guard. In case of a maritime hybrid war the normal components of the Navy would continue to play an important part in the littorals and in open seas for interdiction of adversary’s irregular assets like floating armories and mercenary flotillas.

Maritime forces are often utilized primarily in support of ground operations, but it is seen that; in environments with a maritime component; maritime operations tend to have a noticeable comparative advantage over land-based operations in terms of mobility, freedom of maneuver, and the ability to impose a smaller or less visible footprint on land. The maritime forces could easily choke supplies through the sea route to reach adversary, protect own maritime trade and fishing in the area, provide logistic and fire support to forces on land from the sea, close escape routes and so on. One important point is that vital external maritime support can be conveniently obtained from friendly nations at sea for ISR, communications and fighting cyber war. The supporting ships could be operating as close as just 12 miles off the coast or hundreds of mile in open seas without violating any regulations.

Now it would be appropriate to look at a few of the salient features of 26 Nov 2008 Mumbai attack as relevant to subject at hand. The Mumbai attack has been analyzed in great depth by various agencies (for e.g. Rand’s ‘Characterizing and Exploring the Implications of Maritime Irregular Warfare’[5] and ‘The Lessons of Mumbai[6]’) and individuals, therefore an attempt is being made here to highlight the main findings of some of these studies. In addition to the meticulous planning, reconnaissance, likely pre-positioning of weapons & ammunition, the major innovation on the part of the terrorists was the real-time exploitation of the international media. Each of the terrorists carried a BlackBerry smart phone to monitor CNN and BBC Internet coverage of the attack in real time. They then immediately adjusted their tactics to increase the amount of media coverage that the attacks would receive. It is believed that the major efforts made by the terrorists to kill U.S. and British civilians were part of the plan to garner more international press coverage.

The case of the LeT attacks in Mumbai illustrates the advantages that could accrue to an adversary from a maritime approach to a target. A maritime approach allows operatives to avoid border crossings and airport security, it offers opportunities to hijack a local vessel so that attackers can blend in with the normal local coastal traffic, and offers terrorist teams extra time for pre-attack planning as well as extra time for rest just before the attack commences. Finally, a maritime insertion allows terrorists to select very precise landing sites and infiltration routes.

The case of the LeT attacks in Mumbai also illustrates the disadvantages that can accrue to a terrorist enemy from a maritime approach to a target. First, once a full blown, large-scale assault has started, it can be very difficult to extricate the operatives. Second, the transport of large explosives aboard fishing vessels and trawlers is risky; thus, maritime terrorist strikes might be limited to relying on small arms to do their damage. Third, some kind of reconnaissance cell would have to be sent to the target city well in advance of the attack, providing an opportunity for a skilled intelligence agency to mount surveillance on the reconnaissance cell and break up the plot before the assault team could embark. Moreover, a maritime approach does not allow the terrorist team to disperse until it lands ashore. Even if the operatives approach in two or three different small boats, the interception of just one of the boats could drastically reduce the team’s numbers and effectiveness.

The fact remains that despite low technological instrumentation, a non state/state sponsored actor coming from open sea, could carry out effective surveillance & reconnaissance regarding the characteristics of targets at land/sea that could be attacked in future. Maritime Hybrid War may graduate to pose bigger economic threat than a military one. Furthermore, these economic costs could be imposed with relatively minor investments from the adversary.

What is worrisome is that now the Hybrid threat can emerge from anywhere in the vast oceans; be it floating armories, mercenary flotillas, or innocuous vessels carrying legitimate cargo with an embedded cyber war-waging cell. The maritime hybrid threat has to be interdicted using Naval and marine assets preferably before it reaches the shores and synergizes with other elements into a full-scale hybrid war. Even though the Indian Government has strived to put in place a very robust MDA there are intelligence gaps, which remain among the various agencies involved which could lead to slipping in of threatening elements physically or otherwise.

“The categories of warfare are blurring and do not fit into neat, tidy boxes. We can expect to see more tools and tactics of destruction — from the sophisticated to the simple — being employed simultaneously in hybrid and more complex forms of warfare.”

Professor Colin Gray

Cyber War

A word about the maritime dimension of cyber war would be proper at this stage. In recent years, there has been considerable discussion of the phenomenon of cyber warfare, its methods, and its ramifications. In essence there are three objectives that can be achieved by cyber-offensive activities: espionage (infiltrating the target’s information storage systems and stealing information), denial of service attacks (preventing Internet usage), and sabotage (infiltrating systems reliant on Internet connections and causing functional damage via malevolent programs). The media largely focuses on the use of computer programs as weapons in the cyber domain, but an attack on Internet infrastructure especially the submarine optical fiber cables is no less an option for terrorists, and often more devastating and effective. In fact, thousands of miles of more than 200 international submarine cable systems carry an estimated 99% of all the world’s trans-oceanic internet and data traffic. Widespread disruption to undersea communications networks could sabotage in excess of $10 trillion in daily international financial transactions, as stated by Michael Sechrist in a 2012 paper ‘New Threats, Old Technology Vulnerabilities in Undersea Communications Cable Network Management Systems[7]’ published by the Harvard Kennedy School. It is pertinent to note that satellites carry just about 5% of global communication traffic.

Even partial damage has extensive consequences because of the resultant jamming of traffic on the limited remaining connection. It is true that the diplomatic and military effects of having Internet communication with world at-large cut off would not be significant, but the direct and indirect economic consequences could be extremely expensive to our economy, especially with the transfer of much data to online cloud services that are actually placed abroad.

What bigger Hybrid threat can be posed at sea than the cutting off the subsea internet cables at time, place, and depths of one’s choosing or cutting off undersea facilities like VLF communication nodes and hydrophones? Would it not be an example of extreme denial of service weapon? Incidentally, such capabilities do exist with some nations today.

Two other aspects of hybrid war, which merit immediate attention of the maritime forces, are onslaught of sensors and swarm warfare.

Sensors

One very important aspect of the Hybrid warfare is transparency in every field because f utilization of various types of sensors. This ubiquitous sensing revolution promises enhanced awareness of physical, social, and cyber environments by combining three technological trends: the proliferation of ever cheaper and more capable sensors into virtually every device and context; large data aggregation and ready access to it using vast cloud-based archives; and cross-spectral data fusion & sense-making algorithms running on increasingly powerful processors. All of these trends are accelerating, at exponential rates. For instance, as brought by Capt John Litherland, USN (ret), in his paper ‘Fighting in the Open: The Impact of Ubiquitous Sensors on the Future Maritime Battle space’[8]:

-The worldwide total number of sensors has increased tremendously and will pass the one trillion mark, or more than 100 sensors for every person on earth.

– Mass production of electronics has led to significant enhancements in Sensing capabilities. Every smart phone today has a complete inertial, electronic and satellite navigation system comprising just a minor component of its price. Incidentally, a smart phone today hosts of many  of the sensors such as, accelerometer, temperature, gravity, gyroscope, light, linear acceleration, magnetic field, orientation, pressure, proximity, relative humidity, rotation vector and temperature[9].

-The worldwide digital data generation rate now exceeds one ZB (1021 bytes) per year and global storage exceeds 10 ZB.

-The ability to fuse and make sense of unstructured data from disparate sensors and incommensurable formats is being addressed by use of advances in processing capability and data handling algorithms.

-The advent of sensors has however, made the battle space transparent. Today, the warfare has to adapt to this transparency and let go traditional concepts of concealment and camouflage. Stealth technologies are unable to cope up with concealing signatures of the multitude of sensors being used across various domains, be it in the air, on the surface or under water. Navies today can no longer spring a surprise on the adversary because it is not feasible to operate blind in a battlefield littered with multi-spectral sensors, dispersed spatially, and operating in broadband.

The Indian Navy (IN) has to prepare for this aspect of hybrid warfare. The Indian Navy could utilize some of the concepts out lined by Litherland in his paper quoted above[10] :

– Dispersal – IN forces must disperse over as much of the maritime battle space as possible.

– Deception – IN must strategize on targeting the adversary’s sensor complex across multiple spectra with noise, false targets, and cyber attacks.

– Range – IN must gainfully implement Net Work Centric warfare to bestow ‘crippling effects’ at large distances when dispersed.

– Speed – together with range, the speed at which kinetic and non-kinetic effects can be imposed on the adversary will also be a critical factor in Naval war.

Unless the Indian Navy starts preparing now to fight in the Age of Sensors, it risks becoming vulnerable in the event of a hybrid war.

Swarms

Seminal work has been done on Swarm warfare by Prof. John Arquilla  and David Ronfeldt in their various writings (Swarming and Future of Conflict[11], Countering and exploiting Swarms[12], etc.) the present section derives from their thought processes. Swarm warfare has become the dominant doctrinal concept of certain navies like the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy, which has about fifty missile and torpedo boats, along with other light coastal craft, all of which train to employ ‘ESBA’ i.e. like a swarm of bees tactics. The IRGC Navy also has several bases on small islands in the Persian Gulf, from which they can “swarm by fire” with the Chinese missiles in their inventory. China’s PLA Navy regularly practices swarm tactics with its missile, torpedo, and gunboats.

For the Indian Navy, comprised as it is of a number of high-value vessels, swarms pose a considerable and rising threat. Swarm attacks are likely not only from small boats, but also from aircraft, submarines, and drones. At present, the author is unaware of any fitting response by the Indian Navy focused on the use of counter-swarms of drones, and robots. The Indian Navy should also consider responses; as suggested by Prof  Prof. John Arquilla[13];  by designing swarms of much smaller craft like large numbers of jet-ski-sized drones or autonomous weapons whose goal would be to seek out and destroy incoming swarms with rockets, or by ramming and self-detonating. Small and swift Weapons could pose a far superior swarming threat to hybrid adversaries. IN could also think of small undersea swarming systems which are already on the design board to meet demands of clearing minefields, engaging enemy submarines, and carrying out ISR missions. Similarly, small aerial swarm weapon systems could prove exceptionally useful in dealing with air defense of carrier strike groups.

Conclusion

So ‘ere’s to you fuzzy-wuzzy, at your ‘ome in the Soudan; You’re a pore benighted ‘eathen, but a first class fightin’ man. 

Rudyard Kipling

Starting with the fundamental definition of Hybrid war in maritime context as “Naval irregular warfare plus cyber war and any other component that emerges in future”, the implications of cyber, sensors, and swarm warfare have been discussed in this article. However, new types of hybrid threats would keep surfacing and the IN has to be ready for them when called upon to counter them.

Hybrid war, being inherently nebulous and dynamic in nature, calls for constantly adapting naval doctrines and technologies to meet the emerging maritime hybrid threats.

(Based upon a talk ‘Maritime and Air Dimensions of Hybrid War’ delivered by the author during ‘National Seminar: Hybrid Warfare’ on 02 Nov 2016 under aegis of Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi)

[1] https://www.scribd.com/document/40211290/Strategic-Implications-of-Hybrid-War-a-Theory-of-Victory

[2] smallwarsjournal.com/blog/journal/docs-temp/344-sadowski-etal.pdf

[3] http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA591803

[4]https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/96unclass/iregular.htm

[5] http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG1127.html

[6] https://www.rand.org/pubs/occasional_papers/2009/RAND_OP249.pdf

[7] http://ecir.mit.edu/images/stories/sechrist-dp-2012-03-march-5-2012-final.pdf

[8] http://www.secnav.navy.mil/innovation/HTML_Pages/2015/07/FightingInTheOpen.htm

[9] https://www.quora.com/how-many-different-sensors-are-available-inside-a-smartphone

[10]http://www.secnav.navy.mil/innovation/HTML_Pages/2015/07/FightingInTheOpen.htm

[11] http://www.rand.org/pubs/documented_briefings/DB311.html

[12]http://www.secnav.navy.mil/innovation/HTML_Pages/2015/04/CounteringAndExploitingSwarms.htm

[13] ibid

Jade Necklace: Naval Dimension of Chinese Engagement with Coastal Nations Across the Oceans

(Published IndraStra Global, 17 Dec 2017; for complete interactive experience visit 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 )

“Be extremely subtle even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.”  

 Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Over a period, Chinese analysts have zeroed upon various countries/islands, which they consider inimical by being under the influence of the United States of America due to trade, military or common political goals. These include; countries/islands in Central Asian Region, Mongolia, India, and Diego Garcia in the outer periphery; Hawaii, Singapore, & Vietnam in the next closer circle; followed by Guam, Australia and New Zealand due to vicinity of second island chain; and Philippines (now tilting in favor of China), ROK & Japan within or around the first island chain. The aim of this article is to provide a naval perspective into the Chinese maritime engagements with nations having seacoasts.

Western Pacific Stand-Off Defenses-Carrier Killer DF-21 D and Guam Killer DF-26

In 2010, The US DoD acknowledged that the Dong-Feng 21D (DF-21D) Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile with a range of 1450 km had attained an initial operating capability. This missile can target a moving aircraft carrier from land-based mobile launchers and has maneuverable re-entry vehicles (MaRVs) with a terminal guidance system. It is understood that this missile is capable of destroying an aircraft carrier with a single hit. The emergence of DF-21D has led the US Navy to rework the ‘carrier support’ warfare approach with respect to China and recommence building of its ballistic missile defense destroyers.

In 2015, China displayed The Dong-Feng 26 (DF-26). It is an intermediate-range ballistic missile produced by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). The DF-26 has a range of 3,000–4,000 km, and is said to have nuclear, conventional, and anti-ship strike variants. It is capable of targeting  American military installations at Guam therefore, it has earned the tag of the “Guam Express” or “Guam Killer”. Guam provides the US a strategic base to target the Asian continent with B-52s, F-35s, and F-22s. It also provides basic operational turnaround facilities for carriers and submarines.

Security Concerns-East China Sea

“China’s long-term goal is to build a real ‘blue’ water navy with global reach” – Song Zhongping, Military Commentator

China has built a pier for warships near a military base site close to the disputed Senkaku Island [2] in the East China Sea. A new 70 to 80-meter long pier for warships has been constructed on one of the islands in the Nanji island chain. It lies close to Wenzhou and is nearer to China than the nearest base of Japan. It is understood that a Coast Guard base is being constructed at Wenzhou, which would lend effective support to vessels for monitoring the Senkaku islands.

Security Concerns-South China Sea and Indian Ocean Region

The naval strategy of countries with large coastlines and hostile maritime neighbors invariably factors in submarines and anti-submarine warfare. A modern submarine is a potent multi-role asset that can carry out ISR, special ops, offensive missions, sea denial, and SLOC protection among others. In case it carries strategic weapons, it acts as an important leg of the nuclear triad. Undersea warfare by deploying submarines and/or other unmanned underwater systems is considered crucial in anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) environments. Considering the offensive capability a submarine bestows upon the nation operating it, there is some merit in also examining the likely basing /sale by China of conventional submarines and its associated high technology in the IOR.

South China Sea (SCS) – In early 2016, Satellite photographs had revealed that China had deployed two batteries of eight HQ-9 surface-to-air missile launchers as well as a radar system, on Woody Island.[3] HQ-9 is a new generation medium-to-long-range, active radar homing, track via missile SAM. Infrastructure for aircraft, runways, and missiles is visible on Subi reef, Fiery Cross reef, and Mischief reef as well. China has continued building a network of artificial islands and turning them into mini military bases.

Submarine Operations: It is understood that complete control of SCS is considered essential by China to provide its expanded submarine fleet unrestricted and unobserved access to the Pacific Ocean from their base in Yulin, Hainan. The underwater channels and straits in SCS facilitate clandestine movement of the submarines through the first and second island chains. It is also understood that China State Shipbuilding is likely to construct the “underwater great wall” a sonar surveillance system with ship and submarine sensors for effective monitoring of foreign vessels in the SCS.

Indian Ocean Region

Djibouti Naval Base – China’s support facility for PLA Navy at Djibouti about 8 km from the US military base is it’s 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 [5]. This development is of prime importance for India in view of Djibouti’s vicinity to Gwadar as well as the fact that it has been placed under the Western Theatre Command [6] at Chengdu, which would have integral naval assets as well as assets from the PLA Rocket Force  (which controls strategic assets) of China.

Pakistan – In August this year, it was reported that Pakistan is likely to acquire eight attack submarines [8] from China. They are probably export versions of Type 039 and Type 039A/041 (with Air Independent Propulsion). Primary weapons for these submarines are the 533 mm Yu-4 torpedoes, it is also possible that they can fire the Yu-6 wire-guided torpedoes. The torpedo tubes are capable of firing the YJ-8 anti-ship cruise missile, AScM, with a range of 80 km. The submarine can carry a mix of torpedoes, missiles, and mines. The Type 041’s weapon package includes the YU-6 wire-guided torpedoes, mines, and the YJ-8 AScM. It could in the future field the supersonic YJ-18 missile.

Bangladesh –  First of the two Chinese submarines [9] was delivered to Bangladesh on 14 November 2016. The Type 035G diesel-electric submarines, carry torpedoes and mines and are capable of attacking enemy ships and submarines.

Thailand – The Royal Thai Navy is likely to finalize [10] the purchase of three Chinese submarines after dithering over it for some time.

Malaysia – The Royal Malaysian Navy, RMN is planning to buy up to ten littoral mission ships [11] (patrol craft) from China. It is also likely that Malaysia may consider Chinese submarines as a replacement for its HDW submarines in future. It is expanding the RMN Kota Kinabalu submarine base with workshops and air defense systems [12].

Berthing Facilities for PLA Navy in IOR

Myanmar– Construction of two deep-water ports at Kyaukphyu by a consortium headed by CITIC group of China [13] would provide China access to the Bay of Bengal and hence to the IOR. The government has earmarked 1708 hectares for the Kyaukphyu SEZ, with two deep-sea ports, industrial zone, and a housing project.

Sri Lanka – Sri Lanka is trying to breathe life into the Hambantota port and infrastructure project by handing over controlling interests to a Chinese consortium [14].

Maldives – There are indications that Maldives may let the China build a seaport at Gaadhoo Island [15 in the southern atoll. The location of the island is significant as it sits at the entrance to the one-and-a-half degree SLOC channel.

Pakistan – Gwadar port was inaugurated in November 2016 [16] with 250 containers carrying Chinese goods shipped on Chinese ships to the Middle East and African countries.

Tanzanian and Kenyan Ports – Bagamoyo port of Tanzania will be operated by China Merchant Holdings. Lamu port in Kenya is being developed by the China Communications Construction Company [17], and China Roads and Bridges Company is going to construct a modern port in Kisumu [18], Kenya (Lake Victoria).

Access to IOR of Chinese Mechanized Forces

Maj. Gen Bakshi, a strategic analyst has brought out the following two important facets of CPEC in his recent article [19].

The alignment of the CPEC corridor includes two major loops that come close to the Indian borders in Punjab and Rajasthan where major tank battles had been fought during the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak wars. These loops in the CPEC grant a military bias to the otherwise proclaimed trade route.

The Chinese army in its thrust on rapid modernization has mechanized its formations to wheel/track based formations that make them very agile. It also allows them to bring their tremendous firepower to Indo-Pak borders through CPEC in the case of any conflict.

Needless to assert that the same firepower can be transshipped rapidly to Gulf, Europe and African coast if required.

Security Concerns-Elsewhere

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The following table accessed from SIPRI highlights the types of weapon systems exported by China during 2014 and 2015.

TIV of arms exports from China (Weapon Systems)-2014-2015
Generated: 10 December 2016
Figures are SIPRI Trend Indicator Values (TIVs) expressed in US$ m. at constant (1990) prices.
Figures may not add up due to the conventions of rounding.
A ‘0’ indicates that the value of deliveries is less than US$0.5m
For more information, see http://www.sipri.org/databases/armstransfers/background
Source: SIPRI Arms Transfers Database
2014 2015        Total           
Aircraft 215 409 624
Air defence systems 52 64 116
Armoured vehicles 302 384 686
Artillery 94 27 121
Engines 1 1
Missiles 197 206 403
Sensors 30 10 40
Ships 470 865 1335
Total 1360 1966 3326

The following table accessed from SIPRI provides arms export by China during 2014 and 2015.

TIV of arms exports from China to nations-2014-2015
Generated: 10 December 2016
Figures are SIPRI Trend Indicator Values (TIVs) expressed in US$ m at constant (1990) prices.
Figures may not add up due to the conventions of rounding.
A ‘0’ indicates that the value of deliveries is less than US$ 0.5 m
For more information, see http://www.sipri.org/databases/armstransfers/background
Source: SIPRI Arms Transfers Database
   2014 2015                     Total
Algeria 68 254 322
Angola 1 1
Bangladesh 245 474 719
Bolivia 20 20
Cameroon 74 74
Djibouti 8 7 14
Egypt 1 1
Ethiopia 2 2
Ghana 13 13
Indonesia 39 33 72
Iran 9 9 19
Iraq 17 17
Jordan 1 1
Kenya 7 10 16
Myanmar 267 288 554
Nigeria 57 58 115
Pakistan 394 565 959
Peru 13 13
Saudi Arabia 8 8
Seychelles 10 10
South Sudan 12 12
Sudan 32 27 59
Syria 5 5
Tanzania 26 20 46
Thailand 8 8
Trinidad and Tobago 16 16
Venezuela 77 147 223
Zambia 8 8
Total 1360 1966 3326

-It is interesting to note from the above table that 24 countries out of the 28 countries to which China has exported Arms and Ammunition have a maritime border!

-Further, the only four land locked countries that receive arms and ammunition from China have contiguous boundaries with Coastal nations, which in turn are beneficiaries of Chinese arms export. (Bolivia-Peru; Ethiopia-Kenya & Djibouti; South Sudan-Kenya; Zambia-Tanzania)

-it can be seen that the list covers nations in Asia, Gulf, both coasts of Africa, and Latin America. This intern implies ease of berthing facilities for Chinese Naval vessels in ports of these nations.

Gateway to Europe 

“The cooperation at Piraeus port is not just an economic collaboration but has strategic characteristics. Greece, via the Piraeus port, can indeed become China’s gateway into Europe to the benefit of China and Greece,”  Pitsiorlas, Chairman of the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund privatization agency.

Greece – The ancient Greek port of Piraeus and one of the largest in Europe, located in the Mediterranean basin has been acquired by COSCO Shipping of China after purchasing 51 percent stake in the port [20]. COSCO Shipping is scheduled to construct a second container terminal for Chinese exports to Europe. The sale another Greek port Thessaloniki; which is being eyed by Chinese companies; is currently put on hold.

Turkey – In September 2015, Chinese state-owned shipping, and logistics company COSCO Pacific, along with China Merchants Holdings International and CIC Capital, had acquired a majority stake in one of the largest container terminals of Turkey, namely Kumport at Ambarli coast of Istanbul [21].

Thus, China has established a critical foothold in Europe by acquiring the Piraeus port as well as the Turkish container terminal in Kumport as part of its strategic One Belt One Road strategic initiative.

Chinese Foray into, Antarctica, and the Arctic (Bering Sea)  

“China’s rapid Antarctic…expansion reflects Beijing’s desire to become a maritime, and polar, great power” – Prof Anne-Marie Brady, Antarctic specialist

China is setting up its first Air Squadron [23] in Antarctica to support its ongoing scientific explorations. China is also a signatory to the Antarctic Treaty that bans the military activity in the region, but there are many dual capability missions, which can aid military research and operations in face of contingencies.

In September 2015, in a first of its kind mission five PLAN ships sailed in the Bering Sea off Alaska [24], interestingly, the PLAN ships were in the area during the visit of President Barack Obama to Alaska. With global warming likely to open the Northern Sea Route sooner than later, China is keen to utilize this opportunity as the route cuts down the distance and passage time to Europe. However, since Canada claims sovereignty over the said waterways, this could pose “the biggest direct challenge to Canadian sovereignty in the Northwest Passage,” [25] according to Professor Rob Huebert, of University of Calgary.

Global Outlook of PLAN – Chinese Navy has undertaken modernization of its Naval fleet to meet its Global Navy focus as part of its geopolitical strategy. As analyzed in a Wikistrat report, “Chinese Navy ships have transited the Red Sea and Suez Canal, the Mediterranean, the Cape of Good Hope, the Bosporus, the Panama Canal, the Strait of Magellan, the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, and have made port calls all along both the east and west coasts of Africa, Bulgaria, Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Australia. Chinese warships have sailed into American territorial waters near the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska in the Bering Sea” [26].

Conclusion 

“So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong, and strike at what is weak.” -Sun Tzu, The Art of War

A global strategic net has been cast by China by creating fundamental structures for sea trade and commerce. China has been carrying out calibrated development of its maritime capability in mercantile shipping, fishing, undersea exploration & exploitation, and the Navy. It is likely that by 2025 the world would have to come to terms with the global maritime status of China as also the blue water capability of PLAN. The attendant security issues and concerns would follow.

It is no longer a string of pearls in the IOR, it is a studded ‘Jade Necklace Across the Oceans’ that stares at the developed world in defiance today.

Options: 

  • Preclude confrontation given the precarious global economic situation and nuclear deterrence
  • Preclude submission given the dispositions of the existing and emerging power centers
  • Preclude peaceful co-existence, as it is utopian under the existing circumstances where national interests have prevented even an internationally acceptable definition of terrorism
  • Could include rapid building up of a robust coalition to create two distinct power centers, provided the United States is able to synergize its economic might with those of the like-minded nations and tamper the perception that it is a global hegemon.

Time to act is now!

 “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”  – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

  Publication Details:

Kulshrestha, Sanatan. “FEATURED | Jade Necklace: Naval Dimension of Chinese Engagement with Coastal Nations Across the Oceans” IndraStra Global 02, no. 12 (2016) 0032 | 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 | ISSN 2381-3652|

Endnotes:

[1]http://origin.www.uscc.gov/sites/default/files/Research/Staff%20Report_China’s%20Expanding%20Ability%20to%20Conduct%20Conventional%20Missile%20Strikes%20on%20Guam.pdf

[2] https://sputniknews.com/world/201608201044449726-china-pier-for-warships/  

[3] http://www.news.com.au/world/ongoing-escalations-in-the-south-and-east-china-seas-has-some-analysts-daring-to-wonder-who-would-win-a-war/news-story/20da5034d2b32ff31d35242cee26b656  

[4] http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/1993754/south-china-sea-air-strips-main-role-defend-hainan   

[5] http://www.wsj.com/articles/china-builds-first-overseas-military-outpost-1471622690   

[6] http://english.chinamil.com.cn/view/2016-02/02/content_7160686.htm   

[7]http://english.chinamil.com.cn/news-channels/china-military-news/2016-01/01/content_6839967.htm   

[8] http://www.ndtv.com/world-news/pak-to-acquire-8-attack-submarines-from-china-for-4-billion-report-1452729   

[9]http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/Bangladesh-buys-two-submarines-from-China/articleshow/55415904.cms   

[10] http://thediplomat.com/2016/07/is-thailand-now-serious-about-submarines-from-china/

[11] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-malaysia-china-defence-idUSKCN12S0WA   

[12]http://thediplomat.com/2015/01/malaysia-eyes-submarine-base-expansion-near-south-china-sea/

[13] http://www.wsj.com/articles/china-moves-to-revive-its-sway-in-myanmar-1456697644   

[14] http://www.forbes.com/sites/wadeshepard/2016/10/28/sold-sri-lankas-hambantota-port-and-the-worlds-emptiest-airport-go-to-the-chinese/#1d473d1716d8    

[15]http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/China-may-build-port-in-southern-Maldives/articleshow/51771171.cms 

[16]http://www.newindianexpress.com/world/2016/nov/13/pakistans-strategic-gwadar-port-opens-china-pakistan-economic-corridor-1538139.html   

[17] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-36458946  

[18]http://www.businessdailyafrica.com/Chinese-firm-to-build-Sh14bn-Kisumu-port/1248928-3130106-4m9purz/index.html

   [19] http://www.newindianexpress.com/magazine/voices/2016/nov/26/india-needs-to-seek-alliance-partners-who-are-prepared-to-contain-the-chinese-aggression-1542281–1.html   

[20] https://www.rt.com/business/355523-cosco-stake-greek-port/   

[21]http://www.invest.gov.tr/en-US/infocenter/news/Pages/280915-cosco-pacific-buys-turkish-kumport.aspx   

[22] https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/considering-chinas-strategic-interests-in-antarctica/   

[23] http://thediplomat.com/2016/02/china-to-establish-antarctic-air-squadron-in-2016/

[24] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-china-military-idUSKCN0R22DN20150902   

[25] http://time.com/4302882/china-arctic-shipping-northwest-passage/

[26]http://wikistrat.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Wikistrat-The-Chinese-Navy.pdf