In an incisive analysis titled ‘Britain & The German Navy’, written four years before the First World War, Alfred Thayer Mahan — the renowned naval historian — urged Britain to prepare for a challenge that seemed inevitable. He asked Britain to be “unemotional, businesslike (in) recognition of facts, in their due proportions…to be followed by well-weighed measures corresponding to the exigency of the discernible future…neither over-confident, nor over-fearful, above all not agitated. Of such steadfast attitude, timeliness of precaution is an essential element. Postponement of precaution is the sure road to panic in emergency.” 
Mahan ends this paragraph by quoting an unnamed “English naval worthy of two centuries ago (who) aptly said, ‘It is better to be afraid now than next summer when the French fleet will be in the Channel.’” 
Much has been said over several summers about China, its growing global imprint and increased footprint in Asia and Africa. If Mahan were alive, what would he have said, about China and the Chinese Navy’s involvement in the Indian Ocean? What would he say about the Indian Navy’s (IN) “timeliness of precaution” or its readiness for summers to come? This paper outlines the possible strategic setting and competing maritime strategies  of India and China along the Indo-Pacific expanse, spanning the next few decades. On the basis of this examination, what would it take for China — perhaps with increasingly friendly, or vulnerable partner nations in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) — to execute its strategies at the operational level in time of conflict? Some steps by China are already quite apparent. First, it has begun leveraging years of investment in improving its maritime geography through places and bases. Second, it is leveraging military reforms, ever more modern military hardware, joint military instruments and ongoing high-technology research and development (R&D). Third, it has begun to leverage the already considerable and steadily growing geopolitical and geoeconomic influence and investments in the IOR to be part of its maritime military-strategic and military operational effectiveness. Considered together, their contribution to the overall effectiveness of Chinese statecraft is already significant and growing steadily.
Correspondingly, therefore, what would be the effects of current maritime strategies of India and likely extrapolation into the future on the joint as well as maritime operational levels of warfare? In turn, this would impact on the strategic and operational levels for India to be a net security provider within some areas of the IOR. Two important considerations emerge: First, the shape and contours the Indian Navy’s force structuring should take to be future-ready and not merely “past-perfect” (the author’s term loosely meaning “more of the same, but slightly better”). Second, would India and its maritime strategies be able to similarly bend economic heft and geopolitical influence for maritime operational advantages?
The Indian and Chinese centennial
India and China will both observe their centennials in 2047 and 2049, respectively. In China’s case, much of the world is already aware of the upcoming landmark year and the determined way in which Chinese leadership has steered the ship of state towards great power, especially in the last three decades. India, meanwhile, is on the slower track, steering steadily, but with less vigour. Indeed, there are far fewer “Project 2047” watchers in the scholarly world as there are for “China 2049”. 
The strategic imperatives of China’s power and presence in the IOR
In the next two decades, China is certain to be even more deeply involved as a geopolitical and geoeconomic player in the entire IOR, as well as beyond the littoral into the African continent and deeper into West Asia. Neither the colonial period of competing empires, nor the American spread of influence during the Cold War provides much that is comparable. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its flagship, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), would be two major conduits for commerce and strategic influence. Never before has a synthesis of Mackinder Mahan and Spykman enabled any nation or empire to potentially straddle such a vast multi-continental expanse. This is not to say that the political and social dimensions of influence could be akin to what European empires had within their colonies. Neither would it be more biased towards the type of politico- military influence that the US had upon many regimes in the decades after World War II. Shah’s Iran, some other West Asian countries, Pakistan, and the Philippines are some examples. It may be said that eventually the Chinese would be in a position to call the shots and pull strings in several countries in the IOR. This would be an amalgam of some of the colonial as well as American influences that have been mentioned. There is, however, an important consequence for the world in general. It is that China’s ambitious grand strategy will inevitably have to be underwritten by military power. For India, for other democracies or indeed for nations within Asia-Indo-Pacific, to pretend or hope that it would not be so could be an egregious “postponement of precaution.”
China might want to safeguard the objectives of its grand strategy thus:
Leverage and limitations of naval presence
With this larger picture in view, it is possible to focus more closely on the maritime domain. However, some fallacies and incongruities in terminology that are increasingly encountered need to be pointed out.
Maritime geography and interests
The drivers for and the possible military-strategic and operational benefits of Chinese initiatives and steadfastness in altering maritime geography in their favour within the so-called “first and second island chains” in the East and South China Seas (ECS and SCS) are well known. Likewise, much has been written over the past decade about the Chinese “string of pearls”. It does not matter that this phrase is of western coinage. What should become more apparent is that China could, and in all probability would, leverage the spread of “places and bases” for operational advantages.  The overlapping benefits of its economic, political-diplomatic, military sales, military training influences along the Asia-Africa-Pacific expanse should be kept in mind.  More specifically, the following should be considered:
The dynamics of Vasuki and the Dragon 
In case Sino-Indian conventional deterrence is likely to collapse, what might be the contours of the maritime dimensions of the larger conflict? This would, among many factors, depend on whether it is a war of choice for China or for India; were the triggers sudden or contrived; time for preparation for one side and ability to cope with surprise for the other; utilisation of the strategic & operational factor of time towards leveraging factors of space and force. Other aspects to be kept in mind could be:
Examining Indian maritime-military tasking
Given the above analytical framework, the broad maritime tasking and re-tooling might need to be along these lines:
SOASW and SDASW would require resources in terms of SSNs and SSKs, maritime patrol aircraft, future space- based sensors and not the least, unmanned aerial and submersible vehicles. As these go about their tasks, UDA in peace would yield benefits in war that would be something adversaries would have to allow for.
CBG and surface operations: The IN is not badly off as far as aircraft carrier capability goes. By 2020 0r 2021, the IN will have one brand new aircraft carrier (INS Vikrant, currently building at Kochi) and another (INS Vikramaditya) that would be less than ten years in commission. Given adequate inkling of an impending conflict or in a war of choice involving India’s likely peer/near- peer adversaries, India should arrange to have them both available. Carriers would remain useful in asymmetric conditions, but challenges in near-peer environment cannot be dismissed. For strike warfare as part of power-projection, carriers have to necessarily operate in smaller geographical areas even if they might steam, say, nearly 600 miles in a single day within that polygon while vigorously generating combat sorties. An adversary should be expected to do his utmost, or almost utmost to damage or sink a carrier and major escorts using various means. In media debates that abound these days, simplistic calculations of the PLA’s “x” number of carriers with the IN’s mere “y” numbers overlook each country’s realities and requirements. For one, an enemy’s carriers can be countered by instruments other than carriers and their aircraft. Further, other instruments could become more adept at delivering ordnance on target which is the primary task that carrier’s aircraft undertake. China may use its carriers in more asymmetric circumstances as it becomes a global power just like the Americans do and just like the Indians could do until about 2045/2050 when Vikramaditya may need to be retired. In symmetric combat environments, all carrier-operating navies are bound to be more circumspect as indeed are the Americans with their 10 carriers and amphibious force LHA/ LPD ships. The Chinese may also be less constrained by budgets than India and the IN may be. Therefore, for ensuring overall effectiveness across the spectrum of conflict, the IN might need to think several things through to remain formidable and future-ready. Many, if not most, of its platforms would need to be effective within the operational and tactical environments that might exist in decades ahead. This thought process is not applicable only to aircraft carriers. Hard thinking may be necessary to examine the “anti-aircraft” environments that may affect even fifth/ sixth-generation fighters about 25 to 30 years from now. Or how would tanks be used in more intense “anti-tank” conditions? Admittedly, this is not an easy exercise and the comfort zones of “past-perfect” force structures have had their allure as history sometimes demonstrates. The Navy could, therefore, look dispassionately at opportunity costs and alternate solutions. Given the peer conflict environment, the IN needs to de-emphasise the “symbolic” value of the carrier and look at its likely future substance. Harsh Pant is right when he states, “The larger question the Indian Navy needs to ask is whether it should really prioritise aircraft carriers over its other requirements.”  In terms of frigates and destroyers, the IN perhaps ought to be considering truly long range SAM (perhaps with some BMD) and land attack capability and a much larger ordnance capacity for these. However, considering the growing difficulties of having any real effect in offensive ASW waged by surface ships, the IN’s inclinations for many corvettes and small ASW ships seems misplaced when extrapolated into the future. Notional money saved could have been spent on ASW helicopters and medium range ASW aircraft. This author has written elsewhere that for naval shipbuilding, “the guiding principle ought to be to build what we need, not merely what we can.”  Placing orders for specious reasons like keeping yards alive and working is not a strong argument for relatively sub-optimal platform choices. A final observation: Indian Armed Forces, especially the Indian Navy and Indian Air Force should not go on believing that the “next” major acquisition is going to be the “game-changer.” This over-stated phrase was last used for Vikramaditya  and may have figuratively applied to Viraat and Vikrant. Carriers can be important in many circumstances, but not game-changers. In many ways it is the game that is changing for them as it did for battleships decades ago. 
Power projection: Based on the earlier stated definition of power projection, SSBNs on deterrent patrols, and other more easily understood platforms and combinations for strike would be available to the IN as well as PLAN. In the case of China, while these may not be always deployed against the Chinese coast per sé, there could be scope for doing so against their places and bases elsewhere once escalatory dynamics of doing so in third nation’s geography are worked out. However, the major areas that power-projection from the sea needs rethinking, redoing and retooling is brought out next. First, the strike capabilities from SSKs and SSNs of sufficient precision and reasonable quantum need to be arranged. Second, joint strike capabilities with land-based long range cruise missiles and long-range manned and unmanned aircraft fielded jointly need creation and enforcement. This type of ordnance should have anti-ship versions as well. Third, the IN would need credible, permanent naval infantry/ marines for expeditionary warfare. These could be first to be deployed, or perhaps in coordination with airborne assault troops. It would be a pity if India continues to have the unsatisfactory arrangements of rotational and inevitably under-trained infantry battalions. The Navy need not “own” these marines, but they cannot really be “temporary” marines as is in vogue. Fourth, it is quite difficult to envisage these steps in the SCS/ ECS without places and bases, as well as friends.
Cyber offence and defence: A Navy that will be increasingly networked and hopefully more integrated should be able to leverage national cyber-offence and defence capabilities. China is bound to exert itself in cyber warfare and its impact on maritime operations could be significant. In the absence of a functional platform plus ordnance-linked global positioning system that is entirely Indian, Indian vulnerabilities would need to be regularly plugged.
Partnerships, alliances, and coalitions
Finally, nations would find it difficult to deter or engage in conflict with China without some form of partnerships. China has some credible partnerships, perhaps not as close and intertwined as with Pakistan or North Korea, but potentially effective from the Chinese point of view, nonetheless. The trajectory of such growth, however, seems positively in China’s favour. While India’s usage of places and bases in conflict is an operational detail, ensuring it happens requires astute strategic statecraft. Commentators and analysts have written quite a bit on exercises like Malabar, or possibly enlarged maritime exercises with navies of Australia and Japan. Fundamentally, though, one major point is missed. In the absence of clear political like-mindedness, policy match, apex resolution of security and intelligence sharing issues, these exercises are the tail that cannot wag the dog especially the absent political dog. Misplaced hope that somehow the US will be a lead player in this matter must be avoided. In Clausewitzian parlance, the “value of the object” for the US to actually involve themselves over Sino-Japanese disputes or in SCS or in the Himalayas for that matter may not be de facto high enough. Declarations of “100 year partnerships” or other pronouncements do not by themselves account for much, beyond rhetoric and diplomatic niceties. True coalitions need substance far more than symbolism. There is little doubt that it would be a coalition that could best deter China and perhaps modify its behaviour to some extent. Nonetheless, in the absence of a more formal partnership and mutual commitment it is as unlikely for instance, for India to jump to Japan’s aid over an assault by China on Senkaku or Japan to India’s if Tawang were to be attacked. Maritime and naval cooperation or diplomatic support are useful, but not sufficient to genuinely worry the other side unless an alliance by any other name exists. That is why a PLAN-Pak Navy relationship is of greater concern to India than a Malabar exercise to China, its loud protests notwithstanding.
This paper links some of the opportunities and positives as well as problems that India could face at the maritime operational levels in case of a conflict with China, and perhaps with Pakistan as a close partner of Beijing. The erstwhile leadership of the Indian Navy has done quite well to make it a fairly strong navy. The tasks ahead require some shifts in approach and execution to make the Navy more formidable and future-ready rather than merely “past perfect”. Moreover, all services and other agencies in India need to fully overcome narrow turf sensitivities, embrace true jointness, put in place real civil-military reforms towards effective future warfighting and, not the least, indigenise as fully and as deeply as circumstances permit.
An increasingly economically, diplomatically and militarily powerful China is bound to break and make rules in the decades to come. Power matters everywhere and in everything. This is acknowledged rather well in a naval axiom that if you rule the waves, you can waive the rules. A Pax Sinica is unlikely to usher in global peace any more than Pax Britannica or Pax Americana did in their own time. Therefore, if the Vasuki is to deter the Dragon or fight it to defeat it, then more could be done. To paraphrase Mahan’s words, it is better to think all this through without waiting for the next monsoon.
 Alfred Thayer Mahan, Britain & the Germany Navy, The Daily Mail, 4 July, 1910. This newspaper opinion piece has been reproduced in Mahan on Naval Strategy: Selections from the Writings of Rear Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan with an introduction by John B Hattendorf, (Naval institute Press, 2015),Ch XI.
Mahan, ibid. Mahan paraphrased what Admiral Arthur Herbert, Earl of Torrington said to the Earl of Nottingham ca 1689-90: “I own I am afraid now in winter when the danger may be remedied and you will be afraid in summer when it is past remedy.” Clarification offered via email by Prof John Hattendorf and RADM James Goldrick, RAN (Retd).
 This writer prefers to use strategies in the plural because rarely would any major nation with complex maritime interests make do with only one strategy. While strategy in the singular could be acceptable in a title for eg, ‘Ensuring Secure Seas: India’s Maritime Security Strategy’, there have to be several corresponding, over-lapping or inter-linked strategies at play in peace as well as in conflict.
 The term “Project 2049” is taken from the eponymous “Project 2049” Institute, a US think tank based out of Arlington,VA.
 Author’s use of this terminology is more related to the effective symmetry or asymmetry that obtains in the area and circumstances of a particular case. For instance, a US CBG centred around a carrier or two carriers offers considerable leverage, if required to be used in conflict off Syria, but lesser off North Korea and even lesser off China. Secondly, should “presence” transition to conflict, vulnerabilities in doing “Sea Control” cannot be ignored. Creating advantages of asymmetry in time and place is, of course, very desirable. Readers would agree with the adage that, “If you find yourself in a fair fight, you haven’t planned your mission properly!”
 For a recounting of the way in which a light carrier like Vikrant was used off the coast of East Pakistan in Dec 1971 after a Pakistan Navy submarine had been sunk and the Indian Air force had effectively established command of the air, see Sudarshan Shrikhande, Wings Over Water: The Rationale for Reinforcing Carrier Aviation for the Indian Navy (Naval Despatch, NHQ, Indian Navy, Vol 57, March 1998) pp 12-22. This was an abridged version of the dissertation submitted by the author for the MSc Defence & Strategic Studies degree from the Staff College/ Univ of Madras. For a comprehensive analysis of the USS Enterprise deployment in the closing stage of the 1971 war, see Raghavendra Mishra, Revisiting the USS Enterprise Incident (Journal of Defence Studies Vol 9, No 2, April–June 2015) pp. 49–80 http://idsa.in/jds/9_2_2015_Revisitingthe1971USSEnterpriseIncident.html, accessed 23 June 2015.
 Abhijit Singh, India needs a more robust presence in Asia (Lowy institute 1 Nov 2017) https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/india-s-mission-ready-naval-posture-must-extend-beyond-indian-ocean accessed 02 Nov 2017. In this very interesting article, the analyst has rightly pointed out some of the shortfalls of the IN as well as the difficulty in doing anything significant in the SCS as of now. However, the generally loose interpretation of ‘power projection’ as a term outside of conflict where the term ‘presence’ is adequate can lead to somewhat incorrect understanding of the implications in practice. Abhijit Singh points out some of the misconceptions of current naval thinking in terms of “outcome- oriented deployments.” See Note 11 below.
 John Byron, It’s War With Anastasia (USNI Proceedings, Annapolis, Feb 1992) p 55. Byron’s article of a scenario leading to a war of choice with a fictional country, Anastasia is an article this author frequently uses in war and staff colleges as a teaching guide that makes the connections between Policy and Strategy and thence to joint mil strategies and operations.
 MOD, India Press Release during the Naval Commanders’ conference in end- Oct 2017, “pib.nic.in/newsite/pmrelease.aspx?mincode33” accessed 03 Nov 2017. Recent discussions in the US have commented on the questionable benefits of too many deployments after the spate of accidents. While the two are not, or at least ought not be related, some deployments ordered by navies are, in a manner of speaking, “lets be seen to be something…” . James Goldrick, a retired RAN flag officer has also recently recommended that it was time that the RAN used its scarce resources better in the Pacific and Eastern IOR than in the Persian Gulf. See, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/adfs-naval-focus-must-shift-from-middle-east-to-western-pacific/news-story/12b36b9d670f9f7b1b16e018d7b80ce7. Naval planners in any country or of a coalition would also need to factor the difficulties posed by relevant aspects of international law in some choke points, international straits and archipelagic waters.
 The phrase “place” was perhaps first used by Admiral William Fargo in March 2004 in a Congressional testimony. Cited from Daniel J Kostecka, Places and Bases: The Chinese Navy’s emerging Support Network in the Indian Ocean (Naval War College Review, Winter 2011, Vol 64, No 1). The foresight of Chinese political and naval leadership in publicly articulating the need for their strategy to have places and bases is apparent in this analysis.
 Sudarshan Shrikhande, Beati Sunt Possidentes: Blessed are Those in Possession; A Leitmotif for Chinese (and Pakistani Statecraft, Apr 10, 2017, http://www.vifindia.org/article/2017/april/10/beati-sunt-possidentes-blessed-are-those-in-possession. More than anyone else in the post- colonial world, the Chinese seem to have understood the dictum, possession is nine- tenths of the law. After all, way back in 1963 the Pakistanis were smart enough to cede them the Shaksgam Valley to China. In many ways, today’s CPEC would not have been possible without this important step. That it impinges on India’s sovereignty and brings severe challenges to India’s statecraft as well as war-craft is, from the Chinese perspective, a problem they need not solve!
 Zorawar Daulet Singh, Foreign Policy and Sea Power: India’s Maritime Role Flux (Journal of Defence Studies, Vol. 11, No. 4, October-December 2017) pp. 21-49.
 George Kennan The Sources of Soviet Conduct (Digital History ID 629http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtID=3&psid=3629)
 Abhijit Singh, ibid.
 “How Much Trade Transits the South China Sea?,” ChinaPower Project (blog), August 2, 2017, https://chinapower.csis.org/much-trade-transits-south-china-sea/. accessed 10 Nov 2017.
 Zorawar Daulet Singh, ibid, quoting Admiral Arun Prakash.
 Vasuki is a gigantic sea-serpent from Indian mythology. This was earlier used by the author (Captain Sudarshan Shrikhande) in the title of an unpublished paper that was awarded the first prize in the Robert E Bateman International Essay Contest at the US Naval War College, Newport, RI in June 2003. The title was Vasuki and the Dragon: Shaping India’s Maritime Strategy as a Counterbalance to China.
 Two cases that come to mind are the explosion on the USS Maine in Havana Harbour in 1998 which provided a trigger for the Spanish American War and yielded the Americans great influence in the Caribbean, Latin America and of course a new colony, the Phillipines! Another instance, also American, was the Gulf of Tonkin incident which was used for escalating involvement in Vietnam in Aug 1964.
 Sea Lines of Communications are lines/routes along which a nation’s sea borne trade, naval and expeditionary forces move in conflict or tension. These could be conforming to or quite different from shipping lanes and routes that exist in normal circumstance
 Ashley Tellis, address at the Goa Maritime Conclave 01 Nov 2017 conducted by the (Indian) Naval War College. In an excellent, and unexpected shift, Prof Tellis candidly outlined the concerns the USN had with operating carriers against near- peer nations like China. He outlined that the shift of the methods by which ordnance fired from land, especially the ASBM would be countered, at least not initially by carriers at all, but by newer weapons, land-based aircraft etc. He felt that there was nothing in the ASBM that was not feasible in terms of science or engineering for the Chinese.
 For an excellent introduction to the complexities of SOASW and SDASW, Tom Stefaniack’s Strategic Antisubmarine Warfare and Naval Strategy (Lexington Books 1987).
 Current plans seem to be for merely six boats of the Scorpene class to be followed by the six of the 75 (I) type. Without AIP and with limited land-attack capability, the Scorpenes fill in a critical current gap may not quite be the futuristic boats the IN requires.
 This point is made well by James Goldrick in his paper, Mahan & Corbett: Concepts of Economic Warfare, Proceedings of the Chief of Army’s History Conference 2013 in Armies and Maritime Strategies (Big Sky, 2014) pp 17-28. A second fine reference for readers on the issue of Trade Warfare (or War of Supply) is Christopher J McMahon, Maritime Trade Warfare: A Strategy for the 21st Century (NWC Review, Summer 2017) pp 15-38. A third reference is older, but very relevant as well by Gabriel B. Collins and William S. Murray, No Oil for Lamps of China (NWC Review, Spring 2008) pp 79-95.
 Harsh V Pant, The Dragon in the Indian Ocean is shaping Local Geopolitics; does India have an Answer? (Swarajya Magazine June 05, 2017) https://swarajyamag.com/magazine/the-dragon-in-the-indian-ocean-is-shaping-local-geopolitics-does-india-have-a-counter, accessed 08 June 2017.
Sudarshan Shrikhande, Make in Japan to Made in Japan: Indigenisation Lessons from the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1880-1941, (Occasional Paper Aug 2016 Vivekananda international Foundation, New Delhi) p 33.
, TOI, 14 Nov 2013, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/INS-Vikramaditya-will-be-a-game-changer/articleshow/25724093.cms
The First World War provided ample indications of how vulnerable battleships and battle cruisers had become to relatively asymmetric threats like mines, submarines and torpedoes fired by torpedo boats, destroyers, or submarines. Inter-war years showed that aircraft would also be a threat especially with torpedoes and more accurate bombing. All this happened even as battleships themselves became more powerful, larger, faster and better armed as well as armoured. They progressively got better fire control, radar etc. Yet, their vulnerabilities were not adequately acknowledged by the so-called “battleship admirals.” The game had simply changed for the battle- wagons.
 James Goldrick, India’s Expeditionary Journey (USNI Proceedings Mar 2013, vol 139/3/1, 321) accessed on 11 Nov 2017. https://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2013-03/indias-expeditionary-journey. This essay is an excellent, balanced account of some of India’s expeditionary achievements as well as shortcomings.
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RAdm Sudarshan Shrikhande has commanded three ships headed naval intelligence and served other naval and joint flag assignments. He has participated in track 1.5 initiatives ...Read More +