With Pakistan arming itself with nuclear capable cruise missiles with stealth capabilities, a new dimension has been added to India’s maritime security challenges, says leading Indian defence expert retired Commodore C. Uday Bhaskar.
“Taking a leaf from China, Pakistan seems to be investing in cruise missiles,” he said, referring to Pakistan’s indigenously developed cruise missile Babur, which can carry both nuclear and conventional warheads.
“This has lowered the index of stability in the region,” Bhaskar said at an Asia-Pacific security seminar on India’s Maritime Security Challenges at the East-West Centre Tuesday.
But in dealing with issues ranging from low intensity conflict and piracy to major-power strategic contests, India’s key challenges were resource constraints, ship building capabilities, maritime infrastructure and the changing geo-political environment, he said.
The rapidly changing strategic environment in South Asia and emergence of an “extended global common” posed another challenge, said Bhaskar, currently a distinguished fellow with the Society for Policy Studies and a visiting fellow at the National Maritime Foundation in New Delhi.
Over the next decade, the US, China and India will form a critical strategic triangle and their individual relationships with the ASEAN, Iran and Pakistan will have significant regional and global implications, he said.
Given its distinctive geography and the recent shift of global maritime focus from the Atlantic-Pacific combine to the Indo-Pacific continuum, the importance of the Indian Ocean Region in India’s national security calculus has greatly increased in the post-Cold War/post 9-11 era, Bhaskar said.
Yet the Indian Navy mandated to address this wide spectrum security domain received about a sixth of an overall defence budget of less than $40 billion in fiscal 2012-13, he said.
He noted that within the Indian military matrix, the navy was referred to as the “Cinderella service”.
India’s ship building capabilities too were “not really flattering”, blighted as they were by time and cost overruns, Bhaskar said.
He listed the ability to build credibly fight capable ships as another key challenge.
The country’s maritime infrastructure too was “less than rudimentary”, he said. He added that that in terms of ports, India’s top port Mumbai was listed at the 30th spot in the world.
However, Bhaskar said there was a growing awareness at the national level that over the next two decades India’s future aspirations and anxieties will be increasingly shaped by its ability to address the challenges and opportunities of the maritime domain.