India will protect its interests in disputed South China Sea

Navy Chief Admiral D K Joshi

Navy Chief Admiral D K Joshi

In the midst of the recent concern of China’s new boarding laws–which if looked at closely appear to be less threatening than all the media hype suggests–the Indian Navy Chief Admiral D K Joshi has commented on India’s view on the South China Sea at a recent press conference. An excerpt of his speech and a link to the video are included in the jump.

“Yes you are right. The modernization (of the Chinese Navy) is truly impressive… It is actually a major major cause of concern for us, which we continuously evaluate and work out our options and our strategies…

Not that we expect to be in those waters very very frequently, but when the requirement is there for situations where [the] country’s interests are involved, for example ONGC Videsh, we will be required to go there and we are prepared for that. Are we holding exercises for that nature [of intervention]…”

The video of the press conference can be viewed here.

China passport map

Naturally, the additional hype of this recent law comes in on top of China releasing pictures of the successful launch and recovery of the J-15 on its aircraft carrier in addition to a new passport whose map shows disputed territory as a part of China.

But in the most up to date count, India without additional support from other states may be able to do very little in the region. Consider the recent numbers:

The Indian navy today comprises less than 60,000 personnel operating 15 submarines and 21 principal surface combatants, as compared with China’s quarter-million strong force with 71 subs and 78 ships. Likewise, the Indian air force’s 127,000 personnel fly about 800 combat aircraft, while China’s air force is more than twice as strong by both measures (as reported in The Military Balance 2012 by the Institute for International and Strategic Studies, London, 2012).

Beyond order of battle, China’s navy and quality of its fabrication is at a much higher level than that of India’s which is not only reflected by international sales–India only this year sold its first naval vessel–but also by the performance of the sector as a whole. (A great example, compare India’s IAC and China’s renovation of the Liaoning).

So while India may want to protect its strategic interests, doing so, especially under recently espoused notions of strategic autonomy may be incredibly risky.

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