India’s Hegemonic Design for Indian Ocean Region

Whoever controls the Indian Ocean has India at his mercy. India cannot exist, without the Indian Ocean being free. The Indian Ocean, therefore, remains truly Indian.” (K M Pannikar, 1945)

Indian Ocean Region has become a hub of trade and economic activities over the decades because the major maritime trade route passes through it. The IOR provides an outlet to the Persian Gulf states to supply oil all around the world. The West completely depends on theoil of the Middle East which is supplied through the Indian Ocean Region. The IO con-nects Africa, Middle East and East Asia with the USA and Europe. Approximately 40% of offshore oil production of the world comes from the Indian Ocean. In the future, thedependence on the supply route will increase which is likely to upsurge hostilities in IOR. That is why this region is termed as one of the most dangerous regions. In the post-Cold War, terrorism, smuggling, piracy and political instability made this region volatile. The IOR is a waterway of commerce. India imports 70% oil through the Indian Ocean region. India’s 95% trade is carried through the Indian Ocean. Any interference in the IOR has a devastating political-economic impact on India. For that reason,the Indian Navy is keen on controlling IOR. It is ascribed as the hegemonic power due to its hegemonic strategies and dominating nature. India as a hegemon-ic power wants to regurgitate its maritime strategy to appear as the security provider of IOR. The IOR is now witnessing a strategic competition of regional and international powers to get a hold on it. Indian Navy is one of the fifth largest Navies of the world with 250 aircraft and 171 vessels. India developed two nuclear submarines namely Chakra and Ari-hant capable of launching nuclear-tipped missiles.

The nuclear submarine of India is a threat to IOR. India is ambitious to control the Indian Ocean and it is gaining access to the strategic location of Duqm and Chabahar ports. The Iranian port Chabahar will provide India access not only to Afghanistan but also to the Central Asian States, Russia and Europe bypassing Pakistan. The Duqum port provides ac-cess to the Red Sea. The hegemonic designs of India are aimed at isolating Pakistan and control the IOR. India’s decision to develop a port in Indonesia, a military base in Seychelles Island and agreements with France, Singapore and the USA is evident that it has ambitious strategies for IOR. The PM Modi visited the Maldives soon after assuming the second term. The BJP government is focusing on the BIMSTEC (a regional organization)to prioritize relations with members’ states such as the Bhutan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Nepal, Myanmar and Sri Lanka Indian Navy aims to include 200 ships fleet by 2027 as per Maritime Capability Perspective Plan (MCPP) to secure the interests of India in the IOR. The MCPP will bolster India’s influence on the region. The IOR has seen power competition during the Cold War era and currently, India is aspiring to acquire the status of the hegemonic power of IO. India’s strategic partnership with France and the USA provides access to Djibouti near the horn of Africa and Madagascar and Diego Garcia. India has 295 assets of the navy that includes 139 patrol aircraft, 14 frigates, 16 submarines, 22 corvettes and 11 destroyers. In 2016, India signed the Logistic Exchange Memorandum of Agreement with the USA to open up equal access to both states in each other facilities. India also deployed its ships in the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf to take maritime operations. Indian Navy is making use of its strength and capability against the neighboring states specifically Pakistan. Albeit, Pakistan is numerically less but always stands against Indian aggression. Operation Dwarka is evident in PN professionalism and dedication. On September 7, 1965, the PN attacked the Indian town Dwarka to destroy the radar station which was providing guidance to the Indian bombers. In the war of 1971, once again the PN proved its professionalism. The Pakistan Navy submarine Hangor get down the Indian INS Khurki killing 176 sailors and 18 officers on board. This was the largest wartime casualty by the Indian side. Once again Indian Navy carried out aggression against Pakistan in the post Pulwama incident. Pakistan Navy blocked the entry of Indian Scorpene Class submarine into Pakistani waters on March 4, 2019. Pakistan Navy didn’t attack the submarine. This is the second detection of the Indian Navy submarine by the PN. Earlier, in 2016, PN detected an Indian 209 class submarine in November 2016 following the Uri incident. The Indian Navy attempted underwater hostility against Pakistan but it was also detected by the PN Air Arm’s P3C Orion aircraft. The PN forced the Indian submarine to surface to reveal the identity. It shows the sinister ambitions of the Indian Navy in the IOR. By doing so, the Indian Navy desperately tried to gather intelligence information and sabotage the joint project of Pakistan and China CPEC and Gwadar. After the Pulwama attack, an Indian Navy vessel entered into Muscat and remained there for two weeks fearing the PN patrolling in the sea. Later on, it was rescued by the large aircraft carrier to rescue it back home port. This incident is a contradiction to the Indian Naval Chief claims that he made in 2018 with Re-public TV and Navy Day address that the Indian Navy is ahead of Pakistan Navy and PN is not a threat to India. Moreover, the Indian Navy is witnessing a number of incidents since 2013 that raise concerns over the professionalism of IN. In 2017, the rear hatch of the Indian Navy Arihant nuclear submarine was left open accidentally which lead to the salt water flooding in the submarine. Following the incident, the submarine remained nonoperational for 10 months. The same year another nuclear submarine of IN Chakra suffered damage to its sonar dome while entering into the Visakhapatnam harbor port. The security IOR requires skillful and professional navy that the Indian Navy doesn’t retain. In August 2013, INS Sindhurakshak incident 18 officers and sailors died. The incident happened due to age-related problems. The life service of the submarine is 30 years and most of the IN submarines are 3 decades old. In 2014, INS Betwa was hit while entering into the Mumbai port. In March 2019, an INS Sindhukesari caught fire. In the same year, another incident of firing took place in INS Vikramaditya killing one officer Lt Cdr DS Chauhan while it was on board. The former Chief of Indian Navy Admiral D K Joshi made political establishment and bureaucracy for the mishaps of the Navy. The Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar briefed parliament that in 2011 approximately 24 submarine accidents have been taken place in the Indian Navy. Indian defense analyst Ajai Shukla also pointed out the weakness of the Indian Navy in equipment procurement which is a hurdle in the modernization of the navy. Russia delayed the delivery of the INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier for four years and consequently, the Indian Navy has to rely on the aircraft carrier that is operational over the 60 years. The Indian Navy is relying on the aging war shipments. Out of 10 kilo-class Russian sub-marines, 3 out of service. Out of 10 Sindhughosh Kilo-class types of diesel submarine, only 8 are operational while one is exploded and one is in dire need of patch-up. The aging vessels and submarines put in danger the operation safety and national security. In the meantime, the incidents of INS are increasing. American Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment reported that IN submarine incidents are likely to grow until and unless India addresses the institutions and structural issues. Stephen Cohen and Sunil Dasgupta called Indian Navy as “arming without aiming”. Indian Navy cannot retain its control over IOR due to red tape of bureaucracy, political interference, mishaps of the submarine and aging Naval fleets. Therefore, it needs to work with the Pakistani Navy to secure the IOR.