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'Indian Ocean is China's Achilles Heel': Colonel Saji Abraham

\'\'David ne Goliath ko kaise maara?\'\' The way Colonel Saji Abraham asks it you know it\'s a purely rhetorical question.

Published: 18th December 2015 02:33 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th December 2015 02:44 AM   |  A+A-

Colonel

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: ''David ne Goliath ko kaise maara?'' The way Colonel Saji Abraham asks it you know it's a purely rhetorical question.

Plucky David is India, and looming China, Goliath. ''Every strong person has a weak point,'' he continues. China's weak point - the proverbial Achilles heel, he says - is the Indian Ocean and its handful of maritime choke points. But the Chinese are evolving as a strong nation and India should be cautious when taking policy decisions concerning the bigger neighbour, he warns. China, India and the Indian Ocean are the overriding themes of Saji's new book 'China's Role in Indian Ocean: Its Implications on India's National Security.' The book, which has a foreword by former Navy Chief Admiral Arun Prakash, had a fresh launch at Saji's alma mater, Sainik School Kazhakootam, the other day.

Published by Vij Books, the book targets the student community, says the Army officer-author, who is now on deputation to the Indian Navy in Goa. ''We, especially in Kerala, who live so near the Indian Ocean, should be aware of what's happening,'' says Saji, who belongs to Kumbalampoyka in Pathanamthitta and the 1981 batch of Sainik School.

On the north and the north-east borders with China, Indian land and air forces are at a disadvantage, ''sitting on one edge of the Tibetan plateau,'' says Saji.  ''There, all our airfields are on the lower side, theirs on the upper. Where we have an advantage is in the Indian Ocean, if we can dominate this area,'' he says.

The Indian Ocean region is China's lifeline with energy-rich West Asia. Multiple choke points like the Malacca and Sunda straits put China at a definite disadvantage here.

Besides, the Indian Ocean of our times is quite a happening place. Seventy per cent of the world's oil reserves is transported through it. Ninety per cent of trade is conducted through the oceans and of this, 70 per cent is through the Indian Ocean. ''The Indian Ocean is going to be the ocean of the 21st century,'' he adds, alluding to China's plans for a modern-day maritime Silk Route through its vastness.

Any debate on China and the Indian Ocean is incomplete without the 'String of Pearls,' the network China is purportedly building in Indian Ocean rim countries. Saji is of the opinion that the 'pearls' shouldn't worry India too much. Reason; the vast distance China must cover and the better diplomatic ties India has with countries like Myanmar, Sri Lanka or Maldives. He advises a two-pronged strategy; building relations with the rim countries on the one hand and strengthening India's presence in the Indian Ocean on the other.

Saji drew his inspiration for 'China's Role in Indian Ocean' from his experiences in serving on India's borders with Pakistan and China, the Tawang sector in Arunachal Pradesh particularly. ''I asked myself, in 1962 the main Chinese forces came through the Tawang Sector. If we want to counter China, can we do it today?''

'China's Role in Indian Ocean' had had a simultaneous launch in New Delhi, Tezpur and Wellington on August 28. But Saji wanted a separate one at the Sainik School, and that too at a function commemorating his classmate the late M P Anil Kumar.

The latter was an Air Force pilot who became an inspirational figure for hundreds after he met with an accident which left him paralysed. Having spent his subsequent life at the Army's paraplegic rehab centre in Pune, Anil Kumar died on May 20, 2014. On Saturday, Lieutenant General Sarat Chand, Commander-designate, South Western Army Command, inaugurated 'Turning Point,' a memorial to Anil Kumar at the school.

Sarat Chand, himself  an old boy of the school, also released Saji's book. Saji is married to Mariamma Iype. The couple has two sons, Maneesh and Sajeesh.



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