India sheds its ‘landlocked mindset’

TIMES A-CHANGIN’: The Indian navy and army are looking East and pursuing strategic defence ties with regional allies

FOUR Indian Navy ships’ voyage last month through the strategic Malacca Straits, calling at Port Klang, Da Nang and Manila, though not extraordinary, points to a significant trend.

Slowly, India seems to be shedding what critics call its “landlocked mindset” and is surveying the vast expanse of water around it.

A country conducting maritime trade from times immemorial rarely flaunted its naval power. Its navy came into being, thanks to the British East India Company only four centuries ago.

Till Europeans came by the sea, invaders were from the mountains in its northwest.

Even today, India’s adversarial neighbours are along the Line of Control (Pakistan) and the McMahon Line (China). This has blinded Indians to the geographical reality that they are actually a maritime nation. That leaves them little scope to look at those who are not, in other directions.

Times are a-changing. Some 48 nations, many of them with thriving navies, are engaged or have shown interest in joint military exercises.

The Indian navy regularly deploys and operates across the world in different oceanic areas to update operational knowledge, test its reach and endurance.

…”To those who understand what sea power is all about, it came as no surprise that this task force, which operated for more than a month in the region, was finally received by the Chinese at the Shanghai naval base with full military ceremony.”

Those dynamics have changed and so have threat perceptions. The Indian air force has set up its first fighter air station in the southern peninsula at Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu, deploying Sukhois. This futuristic arrangement is to provide maritime security cover to all strategic and vital installations in the region.

India is also building strong maritime security bridges with countries like Japan and Vietnam in a bid to counter China’s “string of pearls” maritime construct in the Indian Ocean rim (IOC).

India views Japan as a “natural and indispensable partner” in the quest for stability and peace in Asia. Ensuring sea lanes remain open and free is vital for the region’s prosperity, given its dependence on oil imports from the Middle East.

Manmohan said: “We have also sought to assume our responsibility for stability in the IOR (Indian Ocean region). We are well positioned, therefore, to become a net provider of security in our immediate region and beyond.”

Full article: India sheds its ‘landlocked mindset’ (New Straits Times)

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