Wednesday, May 18, 2022

BIGGER INDIAN NAVY TO COUNTER CHINA

In 1829, Sir Walter Raleigh, the British adventurer remarked “For whosoever commands the sea commands the trade, whosoever commands the trade of the world commands the riches of the world, and consequently the world itself”. In 1998, soon after taking over as the Defence Minister of India, George Fernandes called China as India’s No. 1 […]

In 1829, Sir Walter Raleigh, the British adventurer remarked “For whosoever commands the sea commands the trade, whosoever commands the trade of the world commands the riches of the world, and consequently the world itself”.

In 1998, soon after taking over as the Defence Minister of India, George Fernandes called China as India’s No. 1 threat. This remark created a political tsunami in India and overseas as till then Pakistan was seen as India’s biggest threat.

George Fernandes in 2003 retracted his remark before the visit of the Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to China the same year.

In hindsight the remark of George Fernandes had deep meaning and discerning after the Doklam standoff with China in 2017 and the Galwan Valley Clash in 2020.

The Peoples Republic of China (PRC) commonly known as China with its capital in Beijing and an area of 9.6 million square kilometres and a population of 140.21 crores (1.4 billion), spans 5 geographical time zones and has a common border with 14 countries, the second highest in the world after Russia.

Geographically China has a diverse landscape with the Gobi Desert and the Taklamakan Desert in its north to the Himalaya, Pamir, Tian Shan and the Karakoram Mountain ranges in its west. It has sub-tropical forests in its south and a 14,500-kilometre coastline in its east.

The Chinese coastline is bounded by the South China Sea, East China Sea, Bohai Sea and the Yellow Sea.

The Yangtze River and the Yellow River which are the third and the sixth largest rivers in the world respectively, run from the Tibetan Plateau in western China to eastern China. Other major rivers in China are Xi, Mekong, Brahmaputra and Amur.

With this kind of a geographical layout, it is but natural that eastern China would be the centre of gravity of the country. No wonder eastern China is home to about 90% of the Chinese population and has the most important cities like Beijing, Jinan, Shanghai and Shenzen located in its eastern part.

Hence, the eastern part of China is the most vulnerable and China is aware that an attack on its coastline would make things difficult as it would get cut off from the world. It is this belly that is the most critical for China.

To have an alternative access China launched the Belt and Road Initiative formerly known as One Belt One Road, which are land and rail routes through the landlocked Central Asia along the historically famous trade routes in its western part.

China has an armed forces that are 20.35 lakhs (2.35 million) strong, of which the Chinese Navy officially called as the People’s Liberation Army Navy, has 3 lakh (0.3 million) active personnel and 530 ships including 2 aircraft carriers and is the biggest Navy in the world.

The Indian Navy with 67,000 active personnel has 250 ships including the solitary aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, guards the 7516-kilometre coastline that India has conjoining with the Bay of Bengal in the east and the Arabian Sea in the west and including the two islands of Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep.

Rear Admiral Satyindra Singh, AVSM (Retd) in his book “Blueprint to Bluewater: The Indian Navy 1951-65” which was published in 1992, spoke of 4 aircraft carriers for the Indian Navy.

The last 3 decades have seen aggressive posturing by China in reference to India. The Doklam Standoff in 2017 and the Galwan Valley Clash in 2020 are the few prominent ones.

In 2019 itself India reported 660 LAC (Line of Actual Control) violations by China and 108 aerial violations by the Chinese Air Force.

With an inhospitable and a rugged terrain on its western borders, China clearly knows that it is virtually impossible for any foreign army to traverse 4845 kilometres from its western borders to reach Beijing or its eastern coast where the hub of all its economic activity remains centred.

Hence, the desire of China to dominate the Indo-Pacific region and to enjoy hegemony over the sea routes for business and to protect itself.

The time has now come for the Indian Navy to be equipped with 7 aircraft carriers to counter China. The rationale of having 7 aircraft carriers are one each for the east coast of Africa, Diego Garcia, Malacca Strait, Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. And having two aircraft carriers as reserves so as to be deployed when any one of the aircraft carriers undergo maintenance. The maintenance of any aircraft carrier is a time consuming and periodic process and we should at any point of time have 5 aircraft carriers in service.

These 7 aircraft carriers would give us total dominance in the waters and send a strong signal to China that in case of any misadventure by them on our northern and eastern borders, there would be a sure and a swift response on the Chinese coast.

The quote of Theodore Roosevelt “A good Navy is not a provocation to war. It is the surest guarantee of peace” holds valid even today, more than a century after it was said.

Photo-Social Media

About the Writer –

Lt Col JS Sodhi (Retd)

The writer who retired from the Corps of Engineers of the Indian Army is an alumnus of NDA, Khadakwasla and IIT Kanpur. He is a M.Tech in Structures has also done MBA and L.LB and is a prolific writer and a public speaker. He Tweets and Koos at @JassiSodhi24. The views expressed are personal.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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