Reinforcing India’s Maritime Credentials: Need of the Hour
Chietigij Bajpaee

‘The future of India will undoubtedly be decided on the sea’.1 This was stated by KM Panikkar, one of India’s first post-colonial strategic thinkers almost 70 years ago.These words were prophetic considering that 95 per cent of India’s total external trade is now conducted by sea, with over 70 per cent of the country’s oil imports transiting the maritime domain and 70 per cent of Indian hydrocarbons also emanating from offshore blocks.2 India’s maritime interests are also reflected in the plethora of threats facing the country emanating from the maritime domain, as reflected in the devastation inflicted by the 2004 Asian tsunami on India’s eastern coast, the Indian Navy’s participation in anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean and the terrorist attacks on Mumbai in November 2008 in which the attackers infiltrated the city through the country’s porous, poorly demarcated and disputed maritime borders.

Complementing this has been the country’s growing maritime capabilities, as reflected in India having the world’s fifth-largest navy with ambitions for the development of a 160-plus-ship navy, comprising three aircraft carrier battle groups by 2022.3 This is complemented by India’s growing maritime infrastructure, including a tri-services Andaman and Nicobar (Southern) command at the mouth of the Strait of Malacca, a base for unmanned aerial vehicles on the Lakshadweep islands, and the construction of a naval base in Karwar, Karnataka on the country’s western coast, which supplements the existing Eastern Command headquartered in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh and the Western Command in Mumbai. Reflecting the country’s growing maritime interests and capabilities, the Indian government has expressed lofty ambitions to establish “a brand new multi-dimensional Navy” with “reach and sustainability” from the north of the Arabian Sea to the South China Sea.4

Case study: India’s South China Sea interests

Case in point of India’s maritime credentials is the Indian Navy’s growing presence in the South China Sea. While not as vocal as the United States that declared the South China Sea disputes a “national interest” in 2010, India has nonetheless injected itself into the maritime territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas by echoing the US position of calling for a peaceful resolution to the disputes and maintaining the freedom of navigation in the region. India has also pursued deepening relations with several claimant states, notably Vietnam and Japan, as well as participating in offshore oil and gas exploration in disputed waters. For instance, India and Japan held their first bilateral naval exercises in June 2012 while the Indian Navy has also gained permanent berthing rights at Vietnam’s Na Thrang port as well as providing training to Vietnam in underwater warfare to support the country’s growing submarine capabilities.5

However, India’s presence in the South China Sea also demonstrates the deficiencies of its maritime strategy. India continues to be regarded as a contested player in the region. In being labelled as an “extra-territorial power” India has been shunned by some countries from playing a prominent role in the South China Sea. Notably, China, which maintains a preference for a bilateral, non-internationalised approach in resolving maritime territorial disputes, has demonstrated its displeasure to the growing Indian presence in the region. This was evidenced by reports in July 2011 that an Indian Navy vessel, the INS Airavat received alleged radio contact from the Chinese Navy demanding that the vessel depart from disputed waters in the South China Sea after completing a port call in Vietnam.6 This was followed by the less belligerent but nonetheless provocative gesture of an Indian naval vessel, the INS Shivalik, receiving a People Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) escort while on its way from the Philippines to South Korea in June 2012.7 Beijing has also opposed Vietnam granting exploration rights in offshore blocks located in disputed waters to Indian company ONGC Videsh.8

In this context, there are calls by some in India that it should tone down its presence in the region based on rationale that the country’s limited maritime capabilities do not yet warrant its lofty maritime ambitions; that India, as a continental power should remain focussed on its continental concerns, namely its land border disputes with Pakistan, China and Bangladesh and the plethora of insurgencies plaguing the country’s heartland and hinterland; and claims that an expanding Indian naval presence in China’s backyard would only serve to further antagonise China with whom India already maintains precarious relations.

Reinforcing India’s maritime credentials

However, there are several flaws in these arguments. First, India’s long-standing focus on its land borders does not undermine the validity of its growing maritime orientation. Alfred Thayer Mahan, a theorist of naval power noted six conditions in assessing the strength of naval power in modern nation-states; geographical position, physical conformation, extent of territory, population, national characteristics and governmental institutions. Panikkar supplemented this with scientific achievement and industrial strength, which is reflected in the presence of adequate maritime training institutions, a merchant navy, shipbuilding industry, naval air arm, a naval ministry, and rekindling public interest in the navy. Panikkar noted that ‘if India desires to be a naval power it is not sufficient to create a navy, however efficient and well-manned. It must create a naval tradition in the public, a sustained tradition in oceanic problems and a conviction that India’s future greatness lies on the sea’.9

To be sure, India has yet to completely fulfil these conditions. The army continues to receive the bulk of India’s defence budget and continental concerns rooted in land border disputes and internal insurgencies continue to dominate India’s strategic concerns. Nonetheless, the country is undergoing a maritime renaissance as evidenced by the growing size of its navy and the Indian economy’s growing dependence on overseas trade. This is complemented by India’s maritime infrastructure, including the country’s 13 major ports and 187 minor and intermediate ports that are scattered across the 7,517 km Indian coastline, as well as more than two dozen shipyards and 14,500 km of navigable inland waterways.

Beyond its material accomplishments, India has also rediscovered its long-standing naval traditions. This is reflected in the renewed interest of naval expeditions of the Chola Dynasty, which included Rajendra I conducting a mission to Srivijaya (present-day Indonesia) to protect trade with China and Rajendrachola Deva I (Parmeshwara) who named the island of Singapore (Singapura) in the 10th century AD.10 In this context, India (and for that matter China’s) on-going naval transformations have redefined the long-standing “sea-power versus land power” debate by challenging the notion that a state’s status as a continental or maritime power is permanent or static as India and China transition from the former to the latter or more realistically acquire the characteristics of both.

India as a Southeast Asian power

Second, with respect to the claim that India is not a Southeast Asia power, while continental India does not share a contiguous maritime border with the South China Sea, its maritime strategic interests in the region are well established, including the fact that almost 55 per cent of India's trade passes through the Strait of Malacca.11 The Indian Navy has also been involved in several high-profile maritime operations in the region since its first deployment to the South China Sea in 2000, including humanitarian assistance/ disaster relief (HADR), joint naval exercises, port calls and transit. Notably, the Indian Navy’s prominent role in relief operations following the Asian tsunami of 2004 and the cyclone that struck Myanmar (Burma) in 2008 have earned it the reputation of being ‘on the verge of possessing Asia’s only viable expeditionary naval force12 Joint naval exercises have also become a catalyst for maritime confidence-building, including multilateral operations such as the biennial Milan (that includes Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore since 1995), and Search and Rescue Operations (SAREX) (with Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia since 1997), and bilateral exercises such as the Singapore India Maritime Bilateral Exercises (SIMBEX) since 1993.

Furthermore, despite the absence of forward bases, the Indian Navy has been able to make port calls in Singapore, Vietnam and other countries. This has been complemented by the expansion of the Andaman and Nicobar (Southern) command with the establishment of deep-water maritime facilities in Campbell Bay (INS Baaz) in July 2012, which India’s Chief of Naval Staff has referred to as India’s “window into East and Southeast Asia”.13 India’s strategic interests in the South China Sea also emanate from sea’s importance as a vital transit route given the Indian Navy’s growing presence in the Western Pacific, as evidenced by its joint naval exercises with Japan and South Korea and import of oil and gas from Sakhalin in the Russian Far East.14 Finally, while India has not yet become reliant on hydrocarbon resources from the South China Sea, this is likely to change given India’s burgeoning relations with Vietnam.15

Moreover, the divide between the Southeast Asian and South Asian sub-regions may be regarded as an artificial one. The emergence of the ‘Indo-Pacific’ as a new geopolitical frame of reference and the concept of India’s ‘extended neighbourhood’ allude to the growing interdependence between these sub-regions fuelled by the growing importance of ‘maritime Asia’.16 Indian strategic analyst, Raja Mohan, goes further by arguing that ‘the perception that South and East Asia are two very different geopolitical entities…is of recent origin’ given that ‘India was very much part of the early expression and popularization of Asian identity’ when ‘South and Southeast Asia were not always seen as separate geopolitical entities’.17

For instance, India played a prominent role under the leadership of the country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in the region-building process of post-Colonial Asia, as noted by such initiatives as the New Delhi-hosted Asian Relations Conference in 1947 and Bandung Conference of 1955, as well as laying the groundwork for defining the rules of regional interaction through the ‘Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence’. India’s presence in Southeast Asia can be traced to trading links stretching back two millennia to the Silk Road and Calicut emerging as a major trading port in South Asia while cultural and religious bonds date back to Emperor Asoka's spread of Buddhism beyond the sub-continent in the third century BC.

Furthermore, despite the reluctance of some countries, such as China to acknowledge India’s presence as a regional power, several countries have accepted India’s role as an increasingly important member of the regional architecture. Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew has noted for instance that “India would be a useful balance to China’s heft” given India’s role as a Asian power, which makes it a more acceptable counter-balance to China than a non-Asian power such as the United States.18 Aside from this, Indian membership in several regional initiatives – both established forums, such as the ASEAN Regional Forum, East Asian Summit, ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus, ASEAN + 6 and its more recent manifestation, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, and more ad hoc initiatives such as the trilateral mechanisms with South Korea and Japan established in 2012 and with Japan and the United States established in 2011 – have cemented India’s role as a player in the Southeast Asian strategic landscape. As Scot notes, ‘in geographical terms, India is located outside the South China Sea, but in geopolitical and geoeconomic terms India now increasingly operates inside the South China Sea’.19

Negotiating from a position of strength

Third, the view that an Indian presence in the South China Sea could serve to undermine the Sino-Indian relationship is also based on the fallacious assumption that tensions in the continental and maritime domain are disconnected. The fact that China has placed all of its maritime and continental territorial disputes (including the Diaoyu/ Senkaku islands in the East China Sea, the Paracel and Spratly Islands in the South China Seas, and Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh along the Sino-Indian border) under the single label of a “core interest” (hexin liyi) demonstrates that China itself does not accept the assumption of a continental/ maritime divide.

Moreover, India’s growing presence in China’s backyard in the East and South China Seas and improving relations with China’s traditional rivals, including Japan and Vietnam, offers New Delhi leverage in dealing with Beijing’s growing presence in India’s neighbourhood and “all weather friendship” with India’s historic rival, Pakistan. In fact, a stepped up Indian presence in the East Asian maritime domain may actually serve to raise the stakes for China to resolve bilateral tensions on mutually acceptable terms.

The Sino-Indian relationship has tended to be unbalanced with Indian strategic thinkers giving far more credence to China than the other way round. China has historically regarded India as a ‘mid-level priority ranking’ country with no great sense of strategic relevance.20 This trend is being exasperated by the balance of power tilting in China’s favour with its economy now being more than three times that of India, which has translated into the growing asymmetry of material capabilities in the bilateral relationship. This has granted Beijing greater confidence and leverage in pushing India to resolve the territorial dispute on its own terms.21 This contrasts with China’s earlier offers to resolve the territorial dispute with India on more amicable terms during a period of greater parity in China and India’s material capabilities; until the mid-1980s both countries’ GDP and per capita incomes were similar.22

The most recent evidence of China’s increasingly aggressive posturing on the territorial dispute was an incursion by Chinese troops 19km across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Daulat Beg Oldi sector of Eastern Ladakh in mid-April, during which the soldiers maintained a presence in the disputed territory for almost 20 days.23 This incident occurred days before the first overseas visit of China’s premier Lee Keqiang and in the aftermath of other incidents that have served to fuel bilateral tensions over the territorial dispute; These include China issuing stapled visas to Indian nationals from Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh and refusing to admit military and civilian government officials from both states; 24 China seeking to block an Asian Development Bank loan to India in 2009 as it included a package for Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims as ‘South Tibet’;25 Beijing stepping up infrastructure projects in Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan-administered Kashmir;26 and issuing new e-passports that show the disputed territories as part of China.27

In this context, New Delhi’s stepped up presence in China’s strategic backyard in East Asia will serve to bring India and China into more direct contact, prompting China to grant more weight to India in its strategic thinking. The fact that India’s improving relations with the United States over the last decade have served as a ‘wake-up’ call for China to accelerate the pace of rapprochement with India demonstrates that if India seeks to improve relations with China, it will need to do so from a position of strength.

Matching China’s maritime interests

Finally, India’s maritime presence in South China Sea has implications beyond accessing offshore energy resources and ensuring the safe passage of its vessels through the chokepoint of the Strait of Malacca. India’s interests in the maritime domain of East Asia are also linked to broader interests associated with maintaining the freedom of navigation and ensuring that the maritime ‘global commons’ are governed by the rule of law. India also needs to ensure adherence to the concept of ‘open regionalism’ that takes account of the views of extra-territorial, non-claimant stakeholders that have an interest in the peaceful resolution of maritime territorial disputes. In this context, India needs all parties, particularly China, to recognise that the era of seeking bilateral local solutions has passed. In doing so, present-day India’s position on the maritime domain echoes that of its previous role in the pre-colonial period. As Panikkar notes, ‘the period of Hindu supremacy in the Ocean was one of complete freedom of trade and navigation’.28

Additionally, China’s increasingly assertive position over territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas, including its ambiguous and expansive claims to the ‘nine-dash line’, offers a harbinger to China’s potential behaviour in the Indian Ocean. This is especially true if China elevates the protection of sea-lines of communication to a “core interest” (hexin liyi) on par with its sovereignty interests of resolving maritime and continental territorial disputes, reunification with Taiwan and developmental objectives. As a recent Washington Post article noted, China is developing a strategy of ‘using the seas as the stage on which to prove itself as Asia’s dominant power’.29 Whether or not this is the case, this perception has prompted some members of India’s ‘strategic elite’ to view China’s nascent naval presence in the Indian Ocean with suspicion, including the PLA Navy’s anti-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean. Reports in April that Chinese submarines were picked up by Indian sonar operating in the Indian Ocean demonstrates the potential for the Indian Ocean Region to emerge as a new theatre of competition between China and India.30 This strengthens the case for India to be engaged on the South China Sea to clearly articulate its commitment to maintaining the freedom of navigation and preventing a repeat of China’s South China Sea behaviour in the Indian Ocean. As Scott notes, ‘India may find that it is unable to block Chinese entry in the Indian Ocean, but can counter-pressure by going into China’s own maritime backyard of the South China Sea’.31

Envisioning an expanded Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean is no longer a matter of speculation. To be sure, the hype surrounding the launch of China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, in 2011 may have been exaggerated given its modest size, the country’s lack of carrier experience and the absence of a full carrier battle group to support its operations. Nonetheless, the fact that China is in the process of developing two more indigenously developed carriers, (with ambitions for 4-6 carriers, as well as nuclear-powered vessels) demonstrates China’s ambitions to project naval power beyond its immediate sub-region.32 Similarly, while some 36 countries maintain submarines in their navies, China and India are two of only six countries with a nuclear submarine capability, which points toward a growing interest in power projection beyond their littoral regions.

Apart from what is known about China’s naval modernization, a recent report by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission has noted that more often than not, the international community has underestimated the pace of China’s military modernization.33 This is illustrated with the examples of the Yuan-class diesel electric submarine that was launched in 2004, the development of the Dongfeng-21D anti-ship ballistic missile in 2010, and the test flight of the prototype of China’s fifth generation stealth fighter, the J-20 in 2011, all of which caught followers of China’s military modernization by surprise. This alludes to the possibility that the PLA Navy’s ability to project power into the Indian Ocean is likely to proceed faster than anticipated.

Finally, China’s expanding maritime security interests have also manifested in shifts to its maritime doctrine, including a move beyond “near-coast defense” towards “near-seas active defence” and increasingly into the realm of “far-sea operations”. 34 This has demonstrated China’s growing interest in projecting power beyond its traditional spheres of interest around the first and second “island chains”. 35 Surprisingly, despite China’s weakened position following the Second World War and its civil war, Panikkar was aware of China’s future naval ambitions, noting that ‘it is hardly to be imagined that China will in future neglect her naval interests’.36 Remarkably, taking note of China’s potential to operate naval bases from Hainan, Panikkar referred China’s thrust southwards as part of a ‘naval policy of a resurgent China’.37 This alludes to China’s present-day efforts to alleviate its so-called ‘Malacca Dilemma’ through projecting power into the South China Sea and Indian Ocean.

Reinventing the regional architecture

The changing nature of the maritime security domain in Asia comes amid the wider strategic development of renewed US engagement with the “Indo-Pacific region”. 38 However, the United States is as much ‘re-balancing’ within the region as it is ‘pivoting’ towards the region.39 The United States is experiencing an ‘East of Suez’ moment in its foreign policy, as its reduces its global military footprint amid the operational fatigue of two consecutive land wars and pressures of fiscal austerity. While the country has pledged to protect freedom of navigation, it has not been as forthright with respect to coming to the defence of its allies. As such, the “re-balance” or “pivot” towards Asia is as much about reiterating the US commitment to the region as it is about burden-sharing through getting its regional allies to adopt a more active position on regional security.

This demonstrates the growing complexity of the emerging regional security architecture in Asia as the US-led ‘hub and spokes’ bilateral alliance model is replaced by a ‘spokes-to-spokes’ multilateral security system.40 The most notable evidence of this has been Japan’s increasingly pro-active role in forging bilateral and multilateral regional security partnerships, such as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s proposal for a ‘security diamond’ comprising Japan, the United States, Australia and India, which would ‘safeguard the maritime commons stretching from the Indian Ocean to the western Pacific’.41 Like Japan, India also needs to step up its regional maritime role as the United States’ position as the region’s “sea-based balancer”, is gradually eroded.

This trend is exasperated by pressures on the current regional architecture, which is led by mid-ranking powers such as the states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). This was most visibly manifested by the inability of ASEAN to issue a joint communiqué at its ministerial meeting in July 2012 due to disagreement between member states over the issue of maritime territorial disputes with China. 42 Furthermore, regional norms of interaction with an emphasis on minimal institutionalisation and non-confrontation have had a limited role in restraining competitive naval developments.43 For instance, both the 2011 guidelines and 2002 declaration on the ‘Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea’ have failed to quell the war of words and sporadic skirmishes in the South China Sea amid the absence of a legally binding code of conduct.44

This demonstrates the need for a new regional architecture led by the region’s major powers. In this context, India’s National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon has proposed a ‘Maritime Concert’ in which the region’s major maritime powers would have collective responsibility to protect the maritime ‘global commons’. 45 The fact that China, India and Japan have been coordinating their anti-piracy patrols in the Indian Ocean within the framework of the Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (SHADE) mechanism demonstrates that such maritime cooperation is possible.


Panikkar’s recognition of the importance of the maritime domain to India’s strategic interests was insightful given that it came at a time when India was still a fledgling nation-state struggling with maintaining its cohesion in the aftermath of a bitter and bloody independence struggle, which included the horrors of partition, a stalemate over the status of Kashmir and incipient separatist movements, which all pointed towards continental rather than maritime threats to India’s national interests. Furthermore, despite Nehru’s economic path of socialism and self-sufficiency, Panikkar foresaw that India’s ‘prosperity is dependent almost exclusively on sea trade’.46

More generally, Panikkar’s reference to the growing strategic importance of the maritime domain predated the nations of Asia emerging as major trading powers with their economic growth contingent on seaborne trade. It also came before the rivalries between the independent nation-states of Asia increasingly shifted from the continental to maritime domain, as reflected in the contrast between the land wars that dominated Asia during the Cold War – the Korean War (1950-53), Sino-Indian War (1962), Vietnam War (1968-75), Sino-Russian border conflict (1969) and Sino-Vietnamese border conflict (1979)) – and the plethora of maritime territorial disputes that have flared up in the post-Cold War period – including the Diaoyu/ Senkaku islands between China (and Taiwan) and Japan; and China (and Taiwan’s) claim to the “nine-dash line” around the South China Sea, which conflicts with Vietnam’s claim to the Paracel Islands and the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei’s claim to portions of the Spratly Islands. This has been supplemented by more localised territorial disputes with a maritime component such the Northern Limit Line between North and South Korea; the Dokdo/ Takeshima islets between South Korea and Japan; the Southern Kuriles/ Northern Territories between Russia and Japan; the Suyan/ Leodo Reef between China and South Korea; the Reed/ Recto Bank and the Scarborough Shoal/ Huangyan Island between the Philippines and China; and the Natuna Islands between Indonesia and China. Panikkar’s views also foreshadowed the renewal of transnational security threats facing the maritime ‘global commons’ such as maritime piracy, which has plagued the Indian Ocean from the Horn of Africa and Strait of Malacca and the latent threat of maritime terrorism, as manifested in the sophisticated maritime capabilities of the Liberation Tigers of the Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Looking ahead, the US quest for energy independence fuelled by the shale gas revolution within the country and more general efficiency gains across OECD countries could serve to reduce the United States’ strategic interests in Asia, paving the way for a reduction of its naval presence in the region. In 2011 the United States imported 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil from the Middle East, accounting for 26% of its global imports, which is projected to fall to 100,000 million bpd or 3% of its oil imports by 2035.47 In this context the maritime domain is likely to emerge as an increasingly active theatre of inter-state rivalries amid concerns of a strategic void created by a more ‘hands-off’ approach by the United States in the region, as well as the growing interest of major regional powers to protect their burgeoning seaborne trade, access offshore energy resources, and project power amid ambitions of ‘Great Power’ status.

For India, its relevance in the East Asian strategic landscape will be determined by its behaviour in the Asian maritime domain. As such, an Indian naval presence in the South China Sea is not merely prudent but also pivotal for sustaining India’s ‘Look East’ policy. If India is a marginal player in the maritime domain, it will also be a marginal player in Asian regional architecture. Panikkar noted thus, ‘India’s future is closely bound up with the strength she is able to develop gradually as a naval power’ and issued words of warning that ‘without a well considered and effective naval policy, India’s position in the world will be weak.’48 It is wise that we heed these words of warning from India’s first strategic thinker.


  1. KM Panikkar, India and Indian Ocean: An Essay on the influence of Sea Power on Indian History, (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1951) p.15.
  2. Shashank Joshi, “China and India: Awkward Ascents,” Orbis, (Fall 2011), p.566.
  3. “Indian Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta Spells Out Vision 2022,” India Defence, August 10, 2008. Available at
  4. C. Raja Mohan, Samudra Manthan: Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Indo-Pacific, (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2012), p.59.
  5. Indrani Bagchi, “India looks east to Vietnam, Myanmar,” Times of India, October 8, 2011.
  6. Ben Bland and Girja Shivakumar, “China confronts Indian navy vessel,” Financial Times, August 31, 2011.
  7. Ananth Krishna, “In South China Sea a Surprise Chinese Escort for Indian Ships,” The Hindu, June 14, 2012; “The Indian Navy in the South China Sea: Beijing’s Unwelcome Escort,” Indian Express, June 14, 2012.
  8. The Hanoist, “Great Game in the South China Sea,” Asia Times, April 17, 2012; Greg Torode, “Russia’s gas deal set to irk Beijing,” South China Morning Post.
  9. Panikkar, 1951, p.99.
  10. Iskander Rehman, IDSA Issue Brief: An Ocean at the Intersection of two emerging maritime narratives, July 11, 2011; Walter C. Ladwig III “Delhi's Pacific Ambition: Naval Power, “Look East,” and India's Emerging Influence in the Asia-Pacific” Asian Security, 5:2, 2009.
  11. Scott, 2013, p.55.
  12. Walter C. Ladwig III, ‘Delhi's Pacific Ambition: Naval Power, “Look East,” and India's Emerging Influence in the Asia-Pacific’, Asian Security, 5:2, (2009), pp.87-113.
  13. Nirmal Verma, CNS address on the occasion of commissioning of INS Baaz, July 31, 2012,
  14. Walter Ladwig, “Delhi’s Pacific Ambition: Naval Power, ‘Look East,’ and India’s Emerging Influence in the Asia Pacific,” Asian Security Vol. 5, No. 2 (June 2009), pp. 87–113.
  15. In a joint exploration and export and production sharing agreement concluded between India’s ONGC Videsh and PetroVietnam in 2006, India gained access to blocks 127 and 128 in the Phu Kahn basin. It subsequently relinquished it interests in block 127 in 2010 based on uneconomic returns though it began exploration activities in block 128 in September 2011. The same year a consortium of Indian companies and PetroVietnam obtained approval to purchase British Petroleum’s stake in the Nam Con Son basin. China has challenged India’s exploration activities in the disputed waters, as demonstrated by China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) offering tenders for 19 offshore blocks, including block 128 where India has a stake, in May 2012. – Scott, 2013, pp.62-3.
  16. C. Raja Mohan, 2012, p.212.
  17. C. Raja Mohan, 2012, p.91.
  18. Lee Kuan Yew, “Lee Kuan Yew Reflects,” Time, December 12, 2005, http://www.time. com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1137705,00.html.
  19. David Scott, “India’s Role in the South China Sea: Geopolitics and Geoeconomics in Play,” India Review, Vol. 12, No. 2, 2013, p.51.
  20. This position has gradually eroded as a result of ‘disruptive technologies’ (such as ballistic missiles and cyber warfare) that have reduced the strategic “space” between both states – Andrew Scobell, ‘“Cult of Defence” and “Great Power dreams”: The influence of strategic culture on China’s relationship with India,” in Michael Chambers, (ed.), South Asia in 2020: Future Strategic Balances and Alliances (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, Army War College), p.347.
  21. The Line of Actual Control (LAC) distinguishing the Indian and Chinese sides of the border remains undemarcated with no mutual agreement on the exact alignments of the border. India claims 38,000 square km of territory in Aksai Chin that is held by China, as well as 5,180 square km of territory in the Shaksgam Valley that Pakistan handed over to China in 1963. Meanwhile, China claims 90,000 km of Arunachal Pradesh. Bilateral discussions under the special representatives’ framework since 2003 have made little progress in resolving the territorial dispute. For a detailed background of the 1962 Sino-Indian border war see: Srinath Raghavan, “The Disputed India–China Boundary 1948–1960” and “China, 1961-62,” in War and Peace in Modern India, (London: Palgrave Macmillan: 2010).
  22. China has made several offers to resolve the border dispute through a territorial swap. For instance, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai made such an offer during his 1960 visit to India. In 1979, Deng Xiaoping made a similar offer for a “package solution” to India during Indian Foreign Minister Vajpayee’s visit to Beijing. On both occasions India’s reluctance to equate the two sectors led to a lack of progress. A third opportunity emerged in April 2005 with the conclusion of the “Political Parameters and Guiding Principles” Agreement. – Zorawar Daulat Singh, “Understanding the standoff in Ladakh,” The Tribune, April 26, 2013; Mohan Guruswamy, “India-China war delayed by technology,” Asia Times, May 7, 2013.
  23. Rahul Singh, “China ends Ladakh standoff, troops pull back,” Hindustan Times, May 5, 2013.
  24. Indrani Bagchi “China denies via to top general in charge of J&K,” Times of India, August 27, 2010; Altar Hussain, “Stapled paper visa stops Arunachal shooter from flying to China,” Economic Times, April 17, 2010; “Row over China Kashmir visa move,” BBC News, Oct. 1, 2009.
  25. Pranab Dhal Samanta, “India-China face-off worsens over ADB loan for Arunachal, Bank doesn’t help,” Indian Express, May 15, 2009.
  26. “India objects to Chinese activities in POK,” Times of India, October 14, 2009.
  27. Shubhajut Roy, “India, China in passport, map row again,” November 24, 2012, The Indian Express.
  28. Panikkar, 1951, p.35.
  29. Chico Harlan, “In Asia’s waters, an assertive China means long-lasting disputes,” The Washington Post, June 7, 2013.
  30. Zorawar Daulet Singh, “China strategy: Mackinder versus Mahan,” The Tribune, April 26, 2013.
  31. Scott, 2013, p.54.
  32. Minnie Chan, “Navy on course for nuclear carriers,” South China Morning Post, February 23, 2013; Geoffrey Till, 2012, p.138; Xu Tianran, “Carrier conducts second trial,” Global Times, November 30, 2011.
  33. Amy Chang, Indigenous Weapons Development in China’s Military Modernization, US-China Economic and Security Review Commission Staff Research Report, April 5, 2012.
  34. Nan Li, “The Evolution of China’s Naval Strategy and Capabilities: From “Near Coast” and “Near Seas” to “Far Seas”” Asian Security, Vol. 5 no. 2 2009, pp. 144-169.
  35. The first island-chain refers to a line through the Kurile Islands, Japan, the Ryukyu Islands, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Indonesia. The second island-chain extends to Guam and Indonesia, including the Bonins, Marianas and the Carolines encompassing an area of 1,800 nautical miles from China’s coast. At present Chinese naval vessels must pass through one of the 16 straits and channels to transcend the first island-chain, of which 11 are under Japanese control - Aki Nakai, Occasional Papers on Asia: China’s Naval Modernisation: Reflections on a Symposium, Boston University Center for the Study of Asia, February 2011, p.8.
  36. Panikkar, 1951, p.85.
  37. Panikkar, 1951, p.86.
  38. Hillary Clinton, “America’s Pacific Century,” Foreign Policy, November 2011.
  39. Christian Le Miere, “Rebalancing the burden in East Asia,” Survival, Vol. 5, No. 2, April-May 2013, p. 32.
  40. Le Miere, April-May 2013, p. 34.
  41. Le Miere, April-May 2013, p. 35-37; Shinzo Abe, “Asia’s Democratic Security Diamond,” December 27, 2012, available at
  42. Amitav Acharya, “The end of ASEAN centrality?” Asia Times, 8 August 2012,, accessed 9 August 2012.
  43. This includes ASEAN’s Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC), also known as the ‘ASEAN Way’, which has become a perquisite to gain membership to ASEAN-led regional initiatives, such as the East Asia Summit. The TAC centres around six principles; 1) Mutual respect for the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of all nations, 2) settlements of differences and disputes by peaceful means, 3) the right of every state to lead its national existence free from external interference, subversion and coercion, 4) non-interference in the internal affairs of one another, and 6) the renunciation of the threat and use of force – Thayer, in Telis, Tanner and Keough, p.314; Gillian Goh, “The ASEAN Way: Non-intervention and ASEAN’s role in conflict management.” Stanford Journal of East Asian Affairs, Vol. 1, No. 1, Spring 2003.
  44. Greg Torode, “China, ASEAN agree on guidelines over claims,” South China Morning Post, July 21, 2011; Ian Storey, “ASEAN and the South China Sea: Movement in Lieu of Progress,” China Brief, Volume: 12 Issue: 9, April 26, 2012.
  45. Shiv Shankar Menon, ‘The Evolving Balance of Power in Asia,’ Paper presented to IISS Global Strategic Review: The New Geopolitics, 13 September 2009.
  46. Panikkar, 1951, p.86.
  47. Toh Han Shih, “Beijing ‘to increase reliance on Middle East oil’” South China Morning Post, June 10, 2013.
  48. Panikkar, 1951, p.92.

Published Date: 21st June 2013, Image Source:

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