Geopolitics

Expanding Chinese Naval Power
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 06 Aug , 2015

After American withdrawal from Philippines a void was created in South-China sea region which gave opportunity to China to seize it and slowly increase and strengthen its naval presence. China is world’s second largest importer of oil and oil constitutes 70% mainstay of Chinese industries, home produced coal accounts for other 30%. Chinese oil passes through Africa and Gulf region and their sea line of communication extends from Chinese mainland to Port of Sudan.

Close to homeland in South-China sea region it is making territorial claims on islands of Japan, Vietnam etc which clearly shows its expansionist tendencies and policies.

Chinese naval vessels heavily patrol South-China Sea. The choke points along this long sea route are Strait of Mended, Strait of Malacca, Strait of Hermuz and Lambok Strait. Chinese ambitious Geo political strategically plans are gaining access and controlling ports and air fields, modernize and increase People’s Liberation Army and Navy [PLAN], increase number of partners and strengthen diplomatic and bilateral ties with them, increase naval presence in South- China sea and Indian ocean. There is demand and speculation of a second Aircraft carrier to be inducted in PLAN.

Presently China is the potential superpower and is vying with America for supremacy. Close to homeland in South-China sea region it is making territorial claims on islands of Japan, Vietnam etc which clearly shows its expansionist tendencies and policies. The war with Vietnam in 1979 was direct result of this policy. In this article we will discuss growing Chinese naval power and potentiality in South-China Sea and Indian Ocean only.

Present Chinese Bases and Plans

Hainan Island; this is the first Chinese base. There is a large underwater submarine bay which shows their intentions and purpose, large scale facilities exists for control and dominance of South China Sea. Nearby Woody Island has air strip. Sansha city in Paracel Island has divisional level Chinese troops.  There is military presence in Spartly Island though quantum is not known. Jin class submarine base exists in Hainan Island which is 1200 nautical miles from Mallaca strait. They have access tunnel which controls three choking points i.e. Bab el Mandab, Strait of Hormuz and Strait of Mallaca.

Having seen Chinese presence under their string of pearls theory one can visualize their domination of Indian Ocean. Chinese aim it seems is to dominate Indian navy and confine it to within its territorial limits.

Mynamar; they don’t have naval base in Myanmar but infrastructures in Coco islands exists. There were murmurs of their military presence but Indian government vehemently denied it in parliament. However, Chinese have Kyaukpyu Island on east coast of Myanmar also for maritime activities at present, future developments are to be closely watched.

Bangladesh and Srilanka; China has got a container port at Chittagong in Bangladesh but no military presence as of now. This port is upto now used only for routine activities. With present regime which is quite friendly with India chances of a military base seem remote.

Let us know discuss Hambantota port at the southern tip of Sri Lanka. Ex-president Mahinda Rajpakse is known for his anti India and pro Chinese stance. His tenure saw spurt of Chinese activities. Present President M Srisena has undone lot of anti Indian actions. Hambantota is basically a container port for China but due to its proximity, strategic location, increasing influence of Chinese and visit of a nuclear submarine to Colombo port there is need for closely watching Sri Lankan attitude and actions.  Diplomatic ties have to be strengthened with Sri Lanka.

Gwadar Port in Pakistan; this port is controlled by Chinese port authority. Located strategically at western tip of Baluchistan opening into Arabian Sea. It was with Oman and in 1958 Pakistan bought it from Oman. Gwadar port is connected to Karrakoram high way and provided China an easy access to Indian Ocean.  Due to its proximity and location this is most dangerous for Indian navy.

Marao Island in Maldives; India tried its level best to prevent Chinese from acquiring island from Maldives but Pakistan negotiated on behalf of China and played Islamic  card to annex the deal. Marao is largest of 1192 coral island. Chinese have made their intentions clear of converting it to a large naval base. Chinese plan to deploy nuclear submarines, sea launched Dong Feng-44 missiles and ship launched ballistic missiles. Once established it will be the biggest danger to Indian navy and mainland.

India should immediately embark on a policy of modernization and expansion of its navy.

Seychelles; Consists of 115 islands with approx population of 90000 located in archipelago of Indian Ocean. Chinese high level military delegation visited Seychelles and during talks Seychelles requested for Chinese military base. It is likely to be converted to a low level base basically   to fight rampant sea piracy.

In addition to above China has resupply facilities at ports of Djibuti, Oman and Yemen. Having seen Chinese presence under their string of pearls theory one can visualize their domination of Indian Ocean. Chinese aim it seems is to dominate Indian navy and confine it to within its territorial limits. Though Chinese claim that naval bases and facilities are basically for maritime security but the writing is on the wall.

Comparison of naval powers of India and China shows numerical and qualitative superiority of Chinese in naval power. Against one nuclear powered submarine of India, China has got 9. Against 12 submarines of India, China has got 63 submarines. Even in warships it is an unequal match. Even if we embark on modernization and expansion India alone will never be able to match Chinese naval power.

Indian Suggested Actions

It is high time that India should come out of its slumber and give up its ostrich like stance. The following actions are suggested;

Since we alone cannot match Chinese naval power, we should have regional defense pacts with America, Russia, Japan, Australia, Israel and Vietnam.

  • India should immediately embark on a policy of modernization and expansion of its navy. I believe talks with Japan are underway for producing submarines. We should try and acquire modern warships from France, Germany, Russia and Spain.
  • Since we alone cannot match Chinese naval power, we should have regional defense pacts with America, Russia, Japan, Australia, Israel and Vietnam.
  • We should have frequent joint naval exercises with America, Japan and Australia.
  • On diplomatic front India should adopt friendly approach with all neighborly countries. There has been remarkable progress lately on this. PM Narendra Modi’s visits had been fruitful. The perceptible changes in Sri Lanka’s approach is result of his May visit this year.
  • Adequate attention has to be paid on research and development of submarines and warships. If they are produced indigenously all the more better.
  • Though India is producing Dhanush, a sub sonic cruise missile and BraMhos is world’s fastest missile there is need for research and development of ship launched missiles and anti submarine weapons.

We have to keep in mind that China is a super power with a flourishing economy and India is no match for China but we cannot be complacent when it comes to national security. We should visualize and plan ahead rather than taking post corrective actions. China considers India as a hostile nation and this fact has to be kept in mind while formulating defense and foreign policies.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

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2 thoughts on “Expanding Chinese Naval Power

  1. Imaginary plans and imaginary Chinese bases. No country is a fool to offer Chinese navy facilities, knowing fully well that India will completely dislike it, Pakistan is an exception. In a war like mode, Chinese surface fleet has no chance of reaching Gawadar without being confronted by India first.

    Chinese cannot deploy everything they got into the Indian Ocean. They have to watch their backside at home. Above surface fleet in Indian Ocean is vulnerable to Indian shore based facilities and India is very well prepared for undersea threats with new American made P-8i with their very lethal missiles. One or two vessels sunk and Chinese would be running back with their tail in between their legs. Any naval fleet which travels 3,000 miles and picks up a fight with Indian ships, shore based defences or could be blown out of the sea with lethal survaillance planes is a sure looser.

    So, Lt. Col Chandra, look at the overall picture and enemy capability first and then spread the world which the Chinese newspaper Global Times wants you believe.

  2. A very well written summing up of the situation The powers to be in the Indian Defence set up need to open up their eyes and years and act not just surmise to contain the impending menace Approach to USA Japan Australia with constructive and fruitful cooperation should show results of action taken and plans to meet the situation even by entering into pacts or treaties to protect our motherland A timely and cogent reminder

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