The Centre for Land Warfare Studies conducted a seminar on “India’s Security Concerns in Indian Ocean Region and Need to Build Threat cum Capability Based Multi Role Force” on 28 May 2010 at the CLAWS Campus. Select officers from the armed forces and eminent experts on the subject participated in the seminar. Major General PJS Sandhu, Deputy Director, USI chaired the seminar. Col Narender Kumar, Senior Fellow, CLAWS presented his paper on the subject. The discussants were, Commodore Sujeet Samaddar, NM (Retired), Wing Commander Manish Girdhar, VM Senior Fellow CLAWS and Commander B Mishra, Naval Headquarters.
Welcome Address: Major Gen Dhruv Katoch, SM, VSM (Retd), Additional Director, CLAWS
The Additional Director welcomed the participants to the seminar. In his welcome address he stated that India is a responsible regional power and therefore, there is a huge responsibility on India to maintain stability in the region. This can be done by building capability to intervene for just cause without territorial aspiration and infringement to sovereignty of the regional countries. He stated that Indian Ocean Region has assumed great significance to India and India’s growth and security is dependent on India’s capability to protect national and regional interests.
Col Narender Kumar
Col Narender Kumar began the presentation by highlighting the importance of identification of area of strategic influence of India. It was former Prime Minister of India, Mr AB Vajpayee who described the area of strategic influence of India, and no discussion on Indian Ocean region can begin without understanding this vital aspect. Mr AB Vajpayee had said:
“As we grow in international stature, our defence strategies should naturally reflect our political, economic and security concerns, extending well beyond the geographical confines of South Asia”. “Our security environment ranges from the Persian Gulf to the Straits of Malacca across the Indian Ocean, includes Central Asia and Afghanistan in the North West, China in the North East and South East Asia. Our strategic thinking has also to extend to these horizons”.
There is “dominant power vacuum” in the Indian Ocean Region which makes it an ‘arc of instability’. US continue to remain the unchallenged super power. However, in the distant future the space is likely to be encroached upon by China which is fast emerging as a super power. Encroachment of space in Indian Ocean by China will be at the cost of India, which at the moment is the only littoral regional power. India can discharge its regional obligation only if there is an effort to build capability to project power within the sphere of influence.
Indian Ocean cannot be considered as a single entity from strategic point of view. Security implications of three separate parts of Indian Ocean to India are as under:-
• Arabian Sea. India’s energy Security and economic opportunities lie in this region, both in West Asia and African continent. There are security challenges to coastal India and SLOCS from traditional adversary Pakistan and non state actors. Nexus between Pakistan and non state actors have the potential to destabilise the region. There is a case for building partnership with regional and extra regional powers to protect national interests.
• Central Indian Ocean Region. This is the sphere of influence of India and suitable for projection of power. Entire area is vital for comprehensive national security including SLOCs and coastal area. India needs to build partnership with regional allies to prevent encroachment of space for non littoral states and extra regional powers. Peace and stability both on the high seas and island countries is vital for economic growth of India.
• Bay of Bengal and Malacca Strait. India’s strategic strength lies in this region, which has the potential to create vulnerability to China. Security of SLOCs and island territory is a concern but India is well poised to take care of this aspect. This is also an area of cooperation with ASEAN and Asia Pacific countries.
India needs to make a policy decision to build capability to protect its vital national interests in the IOR. Intervention operations to protect vital national interests and regional stability is more than justified reasons for building capability. In fact India has intervened in the past for reorganizing the states and in the littoral region at the request of the host nations. Therefore, it is high time that India does publically state intervention as a tool of state policy. However, care must be taken that intervention is undertaken for just cause with no territorial aspiration and without infringement to sovereignty of the regional country. This leaves us to the fact that India should intervene as a part of cooperative security for the peace and stability of the region.
The capabilities which are required must meet the peace time obligations and war time necessity. The overall force structure for both conventional operations and sub conventional operations should be based on rapid reaction rapid response force, which should be able to transform from combat role to humanitarian assistance at a short notice. Considering the prevailing environment and scenarios in next the two decades, it is evident that India needs a multirole force. However it will take time hence the ideal option is to create an interim force by 2018 which should be based on air assault division and by 2025 India must possess the capability up to a corps size to project power by sea as well as air.
No force can function effectively under an adhoc command and control organization. Even the joint command structure has its own disadvantage. What is ideal is undivided command and control organization which should train and employ forces during peace and war. The observation made by Robert Greene in his book ‘36 Strategies of War’ regarding command and control is apt and warrants mention, he says, “Divided leadership is dangerous because people in group often think and act in ways that are illogical and ineffective. Because different egos kill creativity”.
It is imperative to locate the multi role force in such a manner so that reaction time for employment anywhere in northern Indian Ocean region is reduced, this can be done by locating the forces close to air and sea ports based on their role on Eastern and Western sea boards. This will allow the force to mobilise earliest and time for manoeuvre will be reduced considerably. Intervention operations are complex and needs special operation skills since forces are inserted by sea, air and land as well. Coordination and interoperability between three wings of services require deep understanding of operational philosophy. Therefore there is a need for joint training mechanism to evolve training methodology. This can best be coordinated by a nodal agency which should issue training directive and conduct joint training to achieve minimum training standard required for operational effectiveness.
Commodore Sujeet Samaddar, NM (Retd)
Commodore Sujeet Samaddar highlighted the following additional point:-
• India is a responsible regional country and building capability for projection of power should not destabilise the regional balance. This should be in consonance with the policy of government of India.
• It is imperative that acceptance of necessity for such force is vital before considering creation of a force for projection of power beyond the national boundaries. Justification of such a proposal is mandatory or else such proposal meets a dead end.
• Risk assessment is essential when such a force is being contemplated because it has implications for the regional countries and stability of the region. It must contain impact versus probability aspect before arriving at a conclusion.
• There is a need to take into consideration UN Charters on intervention operations while contemplating employment of such a force.
• There is a need to lay down the overall force level, simultaneous lift capability is required and maximum force to be inserted during war and operations other than war. This is essential to build sea lift capability and other ancillary requirements to make this force combat worthy.
• India must consider such a force to be employed during conventional role even for opening the campaign as well as in support of land operations to break the stalemate or to bring an early end to the military campaign.
Wg Cdr Manish Girdhar, VM
Wing Commander Manish Girdhar in his presentation highlighted the need to consider the fact whether India needs to create a new force or should reconstitute existing resources to meet the operational requirements. The force which is created for projection of power must be to safe guard national interests first and regional interests later. The force structure model should enhance the regional power status of India for operations during peace time as well as during war time. Power projection operations are complex, it needs joint training, joint planning, and joint logistics support. Effectiveness of the force is in its capability to respond to a crisis in a rapid response manner.
Commander Bandhul Mishra
Commander Bandhul Mishra highlighted the need for laying down the aim and objective to be achieved by this force in the Indian context. Creation of an intervention force at this juncture may lead to some apprehension in the minds of regional allies which needs to be dispelled before the force is put in place. The force must have the capability of situational awareness at regional and international level. Impact of policy of intervention in international environment needs to be carefully through. Matching capability of surveillance and sea control and sea denial needs to be catered for. This may be over and above the forces required for undertaking other maritime operations during peace and war.
Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal, Director CLAWS
India needs a crisis management force for peace and war time scenarios. It must have rapid reaction and response capability for conventional as well as sub conventional operations. India is a responsible regional power and actions of India must not be seen by its regional as well as extended neighbours as hostile and hegemonic. India has intervened in the past and the policy for intervention must not be shunned because it may create vulnerability to traditional adversaries. Rather, India should build confidence among the regional countries by working out multilateral mechanism for cooperative security. It is true that classical amphibious force is synonymous with opposed assault against hostile state and non sate actors. Therefore, a classical amphibious force based on Marine Corps may not be justified. India needs a multirole force which can be projected by air, sea and even land as and when required. India needs minimum two air assault divisions by 2025 along with ancillary support. Sealift and airlift capability of minimum one brigade each instead of one battalion group which is present capability. This force should have permanent command and control organisation under HQ IDS.
Concluding Remarks by Chairperson
Maj Gen PJS Sandhu stated that the start point of such a capability should be part of grand strategy. This must be based on the necessity to safeguard the strategic national interest of India first and regional countries later. Military and political objective and politico – military – diplomatic synergy is essential for such a power projection capability. National interests are synonymous with strategic boundaries of India. Intervention to protect those strategic interests is legitimate and a just cause. Rapid reaction capability is what India needs to protect its interests in the unstable regional environment. This force should be consisting of elements of three services and preferably it should be placed under one of the strike corps to provide undivided command and control organisation.
(Report Compiled by Col Narender Kumar, Senior Fellow, CLAWS)