India is a country of continental size with land borders shared with a large number of countries, 1197 islands and a coastline of 7516 kilometres with a vast Exclusive Economic Zone. The geo-political scenario is fast changing and is likely to continue to do so in the coming decades. Given its size, geographical location, trade links and the EEZ, India’s security environment extends from the Persian Gulf to the straits of Malacca across the Indian Ocean, including the Central Asian region in the North West, China in the North East and South East Asia.
Although the USA remains the only super power today, the world is witnessing the emergence of various centres of power, with India emerging as one of the leading global players. Each centre of power is attempting to achieve a ‘balance of interest’ as opposed to the erstwhile ‘balance of power’. Greater reliance is being placed on democracy as a factor contributing to conflict prevention and increasing emphasis on bilateral or multi-lateral groupings as a means to deter aggression against weak nations.
As part of the Southern Asian Region, India has considerable interests in the areas stretching from West Asia through Central Asia and South Asia to South East Asia. The Indian Ocean region is of great importance to India and it assumes strategic significance due to the high volume of Indian and international trade transiting through the Indian Ocean. Existing and emerging regional groupings give rise to competitiveness with the attendant possibility of increasing instability due to inter and intra-regional conflicts. The region also includes a number of nuclear weapon or nuclear-capable states. In addition, this region is witnessing an unprecedented proliferation in small arms and narcotics trafficking which, in turn, threaten the stability of states and societies. Trans-border migration on economic grounds also raises serious security concerns.
India is a member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the Association for South East Asian Nations Regional Forum (ARF) and the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC). By virtue of her size and strategic location in the Indian Ocean region, India is expected to play her rightful role to ensure peace and stability in it.
The security challenges facing India are varied and complex. India has two unsettled borders. The country has experienced four major conventional border wars besides an undeclared war fought in Kargil in 1999. She is engaged in an externally abetted proxy war for the last several years in Jammu and Kashmir and has been combating terrorism perpetuated by militant and terrorist groups sponsored by a foreign State. At the same time, a number of insurgencies, spurred by tribal and ethnic aspirations in addition to left wing ideologies are being tackled in various parts of the country. A number of nuclear weapon states are in India’s neighborhood.
The Indian Army has to maintain a high level of readiness for war in varied terrain conditions and should have the capability to operate in the complete spectrum of conflict. The Indian Army Doctrine outlines a framework for a better understanding of the approach to warfare and provides the foundation for its practical application. In the Indian context, a war against either of the two adversaries will start in the mountains and thereafter may spillover to the plains, deserts or the Indian Ocean. In the plains and deserts of the Western Sector, large number of habitats have come up. These will not permit large scale manoeuvres by the mechanised forces.
Funds scarcity or shortfall is a challenge faced by all armies of the world and hence there is a need for improved operating cultures and optimization of resources. The winning armies of the future will not necessarily be the ones that have greater combat power but ones that can visualize and comprehend battles more clearly. There will invariably be technological gaps between the systems that India possess and those developed up to that point in time. Notwithstanding this gap India has to continuously utilize all available resources imaginatively and effectively.
Unlike the other major oceans of the world, the Indian Ocean is bounded by landmasses. Flow of shipping into the Indian Ocean is impeded by many sensitive choke points. Indian Ocean can be accessed from the West only via the Cape of Good Hope; from the North via the Straits of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf; from the East via the Straits of Malacca, the Sunda and Lombok-Straits and the Ombai-Wetar-Straits. It is well known that oil is a critical factor in influencing the geo-political strategies of a nation, and any disturbance in its supply could have serious security ramifications. Considering the fact that India, China and Japan are relying on oil shipments to push forward their economies, it is natural that these countries are sensitive to the security of the sea-lanes of communication (SLOCs) and choke points of the region.
There are basically two opinions about how to deal with China's military pressure. One emphasizes clinging to a defensive position on the land while taking advantages of India's superiority in navy and on the Indian Ocean to potentially threaten China's energy-importing and trade passages. Proponents for this strategy call for boosting the development of naval and air forces. The other opinion reiterates the importance of land forces, believing India should strengthen military building and infrastructure construction in the China-India border area so that it's capable of a strong counterattack in the event of armed conflict. Supporters of this opinion include the land forces as well as the Ministry of Home Affairs which exerts certain controls over border management.
In the new century, India's defense budget has favored the air and marine forces, which causes a soaring demand for increasing the ground force at the frontier. After the "tent confrontation" between the Indian and Chinese militaries in May 2013, the Indian Ministry of Finance was reported to have agreed to appropriate around 650 billion Indian rupees ($9.94 billion) for the creation of a mountain strike corps.
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