In a post-Covid world order, India has emerged not only as an economic powerhouse but is also the only country that has exchanged physical blows with the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army (PLA). As such, while countries around the world may claim to be China hawks, India is the only nation that has kicked the Communist nation hard and led to the death of several PLA soldiers. In the past one year or so, China has grown extremely belligerent across the Indo Pacific. Annoyed by the global frustration being directed against it for mishandling the Covid-19 outbreak, China has gone on a mad spree of initiating conflicts with almost all countries it shares a border with – particularly with India.
China has been spying on Indian Naval bases in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) by deploying surveillance vessels in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands while its fishing vessels have also been fishing in protected waters of other nations. Now, India’s defense secretary has sent a stern message to the Communist nation of China and its mad regime. In a subtle hint at China, Indian defense secretary Ajay Kumar said that India will oppose attempts of aggression and will deter expansionist moves both on land and the sea.
Kumar, who was speaking at the Goa Maritime Conclave on ‘Maritime Security & Emerging Non-Traditional Threats’, said that free, open, and inclusive oceans are important for all nations to achieve high growth. He comprehensively spoke of China’s attempts at expanding its territory in the Indo Pacific, adding, “While we talk of non-traditional threats, we cannot ignore the impact of expansion at an unprecedented speed of conventional navies in the Pacific. We are also witnessing the enhancement of certain maritime presence in passages in our region that do not always seem innocent. The negative effects of such expansion are felt beyond the pacific. Though it is early to conclude, such expansion has triggered others to acquire traditional capabilities and thus to start a new genre of arms race.”
India’s Warning to China
India conveyed its willingness to work with all countries affected by growing Chinese belligerence. The defense secretary said, “India will work with all marine nations for peace in the region, standing for a rules-based world, India will continue to oppose the tenets of aggression on land and on the sea. The maritime domain is so vast and strategies are so diverse that going alone is not an option. India remains engaged in most of the important exercises and activities in the Indo-Pacific and the Western IOR for a long time.”
In a direct attack on China, which is known to have an illegal fishing mafia running all over the world, Kumar said, “I would like to make special reference to the illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing which undermines national and regional efforts to achieve the goals of long-term sustainability and responsibility. Moreover, IUU fishing greatly discriminates against those who act responsibly, honestly and in accordance with rules. IUU fishing, mostly from outside our region, is threatening marine biodiversity, food security for communities and the livelihoods of those involved in fishing.”
India Can Take China on Within South China Sea Too
If China thinks India is not a country it needs to worry about as far as the South China Sea conflict is concerned, Beijing will be well advised to reassess its view. Recent comments by the Indian defense secretary have made it clear that New Delhi will not hesitate to take on China in the South China Sea along with its ASEAN partners and global allies.
It must be remembered that right after the Galwan valley clash of last year, two Indian Navy warships set sail to join US Navy destroyers deployed in the South China Sea. The Indian Navy has also mobilised its assets along with the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), especially at the Strait of Malacca, which is a narrow chokepoint dividing the Indian and Pacific Oceans. India can confront China in the South China Sea just like the United States.
The Indian Navy can go a step further and create a blockade situation at the Strait of Malacca, which would immediately block Beijing’s oil supply lines and trade routes through the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Unlike India, China has a green water navy – which means Beijing commands naval influence only in a limited sphere – mostly in the South and East China Seas. The Indian Ocean Region is India’s backyard, while the larger Pacific Ocean has heavy American deployments.
China has a real headache to deal with now, as the Indian defense secretary has made it absolutely clear to Beijing that India will not hesitate when it comes to stepping up the heat in the South China Sea.