The Obama regime is expected to reiterate the need for a maritime quad-lateral alliance in the Asia-Pacific region to India during US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s visit to India in April. USA has been vigorously campaigning for a ‘maritime quad-lateral’ in the strategic Asia-Pacific region to maintain peace and stability in the region. USA deems India as the missing ingredient in checking the expanding Chinese presence in the Asia-Pacific region.
Successive US diplomatic and military delegations to India have called upon the country to take a rigid in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea. Obama had addressed India as a power that had risen and not a rising power and had called upon India to increase its commitments in the region.
Top US Navy Commander addresses India as guiding light in the region!!!
Admiral B. Harris Harry, the Commanding Officer of the Pacific Command of the US Navy, had laurels of appreciation for India during the just concluded Raisina dialogue. The Admiral addressing India was quoted saying “India, indeed, is a beacon on a hill, building a future on the power of ideas and not on castles of sand that threaten the rules-based architecture that has served us all so very well,”
It is his Pacific Command that is in-charge of maintaining the security in the Asia-Pacific region. His command in the past had called upon India to join the US Navy to hold joint patrols in the Indian Ocean and SCS.
Admiral Harris, talking about the joint patrols and the maritime quad-lateral agreements said “Exercising together will lead to operating together. By being ambitious, India, Japan, Australia and the United States and so many like-minded nations can aspire to patrol together anywhere international law allows.”
USA through successive diplomatic and military delegations has clearly beamed the strategic importance of India’s role in countering the Chinese.
‘Maritime Quad-Lateral in the Epicentre of USA’s ‘Asian Pivot’ Doctrine’
The maritime agreement in discussion is a legendry security framework that aims to increase the maritime co-operation amongst the regional powers of the Asia-Pacific region. This agreement is placed in the epicentre of USA’s ‘Asian Pivot’ doctrine that was drafted to check the onslaught of the Chinese. The maritime quad-lateral agreement will bring India, Japan and Australia which have a credible naval presence in the disputed waters aboard a single maritime platform.
The need for a ‘maritime quad-lateral’ being propelled by the activities of an over adventurous dragon!!!
USA deems this maritime agreement as a crucial force in drastically curtailing the growing Chinese presence along the strategic and resource rich waters of the Asia-Pacific region. Each of the country coming on-board the maritime platform has their share of concern when it comes to the dragon’s adventures.
Australia and Japan have been left vulnerable following the unwarranted activities of the PLAN along the Pacific and South China Sea region. China has built several artificial Islands along the region and has stationed its forces on these manmade structures. These illegal Islands have boosted the reach of the PLAN into the resource rich waters. PLAN can now effectively blockade the sole shipping lanes of Japan and Australia.
India rightly considers IOR as its backyard. A large part of China’s shipping lanes pass through the Indian Ocean and are hence critically strategic to the Chinese. Overtime, PLAN has drastically increased the activities in the IOR. PLAN has deployed its submarines and surface combatants close to the Indian waters raising alarms in the South Block.
The Chinese in the course have defied international maritime laws and norms. All the nations which have a claim over the waters in the Asia-Pacific region are worried about the sizeable naval build-up of the Chinese in the region. The ‘maritime quad-lateral’ if formed will undoubtedly help in checking the activities of the Chinese.
Asia-Pacific Region a key global economic driver
The shipping lanes along which the Chinese have ramped up their naval presence are of key strategic importance to the stability and growth of the Asia-Pacific region. These shipping lanes are a major economy driver in the region and are an integral part of the global trading business.
Almost 90% of the shipping traffic between the West and the East passes through the strategic Malacca Straits. Traditionally this convergent point was overseen by the Indian Navy. The Chinese however have now drastically ramped up their presence in the region. A naval blockade imposed by the Chinese could literally choke Japan, Australia and Malaysia off their essential supplies. This is one such choke point along the international shipping highway and there are numerous other points that the Chinese are converging on.
The West also significantly depends on these sea highways for a constant supply of essential commodities. The significance of these shipping lanes to the West can be ascertained by realizing the amount spent on the upkeep of the US Navy’s 7th fleet which is in-charge of these strategic waters.
Escalating Tensions in the Asia-Pacific region!!!
China over the decade with its ever expanding naval force has significantly militarised the waters around the Asia-Pacific region. China has stationed several Surface combatants, missile batteries and fighter aircraft on the disputed Islands. China’s aggressive military actions have fuelled tensions in the region.
China’s traditional maritime enemy – Japan has been proactively working towards diminishing the outreach of the Chinese in its waters. Japan in its conquest against the Chinese has been backed by its staunch ally USA. Japan and USA have held joint naval exercises along the South China Sea. Apart from these timed exercises both the countries have also dispatched military assets to counter the Chinese. Japanese forces have interdicted Chinese aircraft over the SCS and streamed clear warning messages to the Chinese.
USA is a lead security provider in the region. In a daring message to the Chinese, USA has held several ‘freedom of navigation’ missions by sailing close to the artificial Chinese Islands in the South China Sea. US aircraft have several times over flown these manmade structures clearly defying the outcry of the Chinese.
Australia sits in the duct of the South China Sea, Pacific and the Indian Oceans. Any actions in these strategic waters will directly upset the far flung Australian interests. The country has off-late taken an open stand against the Chinese incursions in the South China Sea. Australia is actively pursuing the idea of holding joint exercises with US, Japan and India. The country had worked closely with the India to seal a spot in the annual ‘Malabar Naval exercises’.
India which controls strategic choke points along the Indian Ocean is another country that has dearly suffered by the Chinese activities. China under it’s ‘String of Pearls’ is working towards encircling India by acquiring land masses across the IOR. China has concentrated its $150 billion defence budget on ramping up its naval might.
China has drawn up significant strategic port acquisition plans with various nations in the IOR. The deployment of submarines and vessels into the waters of the Indian Ocean has been a major strain for India. The communist country has entered into an agreement with the Pakistani government and various African governments for developing port cities which will in the future serve as naval bases. These bases threaten to encircle India and raise questions about its naval dominance in the region.
Indi had launched the ‘Look East Policy’ to counter China’s influence in the region. The Eastern Command of the Indian Navy has received significant boost over the years. India has drastically boosted its naval might along the Eastern front. The NDA-government has augmented the ‘Look East’ policy with its ‘Act East’ policy. India has drawn up strategic partnerships with countries in distress with China.
Countering the Chinese by the ‘Maritime Quad-Lateral’
The Chinese threat in the region is a key concern to not only the regional powers but also to the small maritime nations like Vietnam, Philippine and Malaysia. USA and India have been key security providers in the region. India is a power that has risen to take upon these challenges and deter the unwarranted Chinese activities.
India, USA, Japan and Australia are working towards the common goal of weeding out the Chinese. Even though each of the nations is rigorously working towards this goal success has been minimal. There has been a strong need for a common platform to counter a common enemy. Such a common and interoperable platform is promised by the ‘Maritime Quad-Lateral’ agreement.
This maritime agreement will eventually see all the naval nations coming on-board a common vessel to form a credible maritime coalition force. The nations will further be ratifying a maritime security framework that will address each of their key concerns. The agreement apart from encouraging joint patrols will help the nations mount joint naval exercises that will drastically boost the interoperability levels. The joint exercises and patrols will also help the nations build mutual trust, maritime knowledge and confidence.
The ‘maritime quad-lateral’ as and when formed will enable free flow of international trade along the international waters. The maritime coalition of security partners like US and India will help build military presence in the region which in turn will boost the confidence of dependent nations. This will enable both the nations to effectively increase their global security commitments.
Precursor to this agreement is the Quad-Lateral Security Dialogues (QSD) held between US, Japan, India and Australia. A direct result of these dialogues was ‘Exercise Malabar’ – an annual tri-lateral naval warfare game held between USA, India and Japan. The QSD has served as a significant platform to ramp-up the diplomatic and military arrangements between the participating nations. China views these QSDs and ‘joint naval exercises’ as an effort to set-up “Axis Power Ideology” in the contested Asia-Pacific region. However, QSD’s and naval exercises have been held to maintain the maritime freedom in the region.
The need of a maritime agreement in India’s perspective
The ‘maritime quad-lateral’ is undoubtedly the need of the hour in a hotly challenged Asia-Pacific region. This is the ultimate tool in helping India and US realize their internal and external power balance policies.
The spreading Chinese influence along IOR basin is a key concern to Indian policy makers. China has entered into agreements with various nations in the IOR region to set-up staging bases. China has very recently begun construction on a logistics base in Djibouti. The upcoming Gwadar port is another key security concern to India. These bases can help China effectively encircle India.
China’s promise of not interfering in India’s interests has remained only on papers. The Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) of India have repeatedly reported Chinese vessels operating in its area of responsibility. India’s ‘Look East’ policy has failed to make a dent on the adventurous Chinese.
The maritime security agreement however promises to augment India’s ‘Look East’ policy. This can perhaps change India’s strategic value in the Eastern hemisphere. The agreement if signed will provide India a platform to operate with the navies from around the world. Apart from increasing the military presence and outreach in the region, this agreement will also enable the nations to closely work during HADR missions. These missions are crucial in the natural calamity prone region.
India signing the agreement will provide teeth to its ‘Look East’ policy. India overtime will grasp a strong control over the Asia-Pacific region. The agreement undoubtedly is the ultimate tool in augmenting the internal and external power balance policies of both India and USA.