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After Galwan, India should turn its focus to Malacca, says expert

Country should try to regain historical maritime influence in the region: Commodore Thomas

Published: 03rd September 2020 05:43 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd September 2020 05:43 AM   |  A+A-

Citizens burn posters of Chinese President Xi Jinping after twenty Indian army personnel were martyred during a clash with Chinese troops in Ladakh's Galwan valley, during the ongoing COVID-19 nationwide lockdown, in Bengaluru. (Photo | PTI)

Citizens burn posters of Chinese President Xi Jinping after twenty Indian army personnel were martyred during a clash with Chinese troops in Ladakh's Galwan valley, during the ongoing COVID-19 nationw

Express News Service

CHENNAI: After the Galwan standoff with China, India now needs to assess its options to regain its maritime influence in the east of Malacca, notwithstanding Beijing’s protest, says a recent  paper published in the Journal of Defence of Studies. The paper titled ‘Leveraging India’s Maritime Diplomacy’, authored by Commodore Roby Thomas, says a  significant  portion  of   China’s  energy  requirements  and  trade  passing  close  to  the Indian  Peninsula and onwards through the Malacca Strait, has been a concern for China.

“It’s therefore not without reason that Beijing has always been keen to offset this disadvantage, by developing relations of convenience with Indian Ocean littorals in India’s sphere of influence,” states the report. Stating that India’s  engagement  with  the   countries  in  Southeast  Asia  underwent  a  strategic shift towards  the end of the 20th century when India initiated the ‘Look East’ policy  in 1991, later upgraded to the ‘Act East’ policy in 2014, the report  said India now should try to regain historical maritime influence which  include maritime  cooperation in  those areas and sectors where India  can easily ramp-up the existing level of activities.      

“India  could  also seek to deepen both  its submarine and anti-submarine cooperation with  Indonesia  and   Australia  by  increasing  the  complexity  of  these  two  components   in  the  existing  bilateral  maritime  exercises  with  both   countries,  as  well  as  looking  to  institute  a  trilateral   maritime  exercise  between  the  three  nations,” states Commodore  Roby Thomas in the paper published in the July-September 2020 volume of  the journal.

“It  is  also  reasonable  that  India  joins  the   Malacca Strait Patrol (MSP) as a partner navy with the existing  countries of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore. This would be  logical due  the  close  proximity  of  the  southern  tip  of  Andaman   and  Nicobar  Islands  to  the  Malacca  Strait,  making  India  a   Malacca  funnel  state,  and also because of its ongoing operational  engagements with the MSP partner navies,” the paper states. 

The paper also states that the  events at the Line of Actual Control in the union territory of  Ladakh   in  May  2020  have  definitely  marked  an  inflection  point  in   India’s strategic worldview. This would need appropriate reflection in  strategic literature, which would justify a review of the areas of  strategic influence, with India’s primary areas of interest expanding  eastwards to encompass the South China Sea. 

“This sentiment has been  echoed by some American analysts who have reasoned  that  the   Chinese-induced  crisis  in  the  Himalayas  would  have  finally  encouraged India to tilt in favour of an alliance to check Chinese  expansionism.  This  would  justify  India  aligning  with  Washington’s   Indo-Pacific  strategy,  while  playing  a  ‘pre-eminent  role’  in   this  largely  maritime  construct,” states Commodore Roby Thomas in  his paper.



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