While much have spoken about clashes in Galwan and how China managed to build up larges forces across LOC and Pangong Tso Lake ,Behind the scenes there is another game been played at Sea, Away from watchful eyes of media,experts and ofcourse public – There lies a possibility,Offering a solution (aka stalemate) to current standoff, Provided India plays its cards well.
When comes to Army and Airforce, Both India and China matches in capability.
While Army has numbers and height advantages to deal with adversary across LAC, Surprisingly indian Airforce can also matches Chinese PLAAF that not only has 800+ more aircraft than IAF but also boost & deployed advanced Air Defense Systems like S400 in theater .This is mostly attributed to locations of chinese air fields, which are in high altitudes means its foremost fighter aircraft like J20 cannot takeoff with higher payloads( Thin air impacting fighter thrust)
Below video by Shiv explains PLAAF potential in great details.
So when Army and Airforce cancels out , You guess it right, Sea plays a key differentiator.
To what extend does Indian Ocean region (IOR) lying 4000 kms from current conflict zone can be a factor and a deterrent in a game played by 2 nuclear powered nations with some of biggest armies in world.
Well to answer this question first we need to take a step back and understand what india ocean region (IOR) consist of and how are we placed currently there.
Power dynamics within IOR,China with buying small nations to create string of pearl in Indian backyard
Its is truely indian backyard with coastline of 7516 kms and indian ocean region itself spanning a whopping 28360k square miles , All the way upto Australia.
China’s fast-expanding strategic footprint in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Beijing is shoring up its presence in the area. It has set up its first overseas military base in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa in August 2017, and also uses Karachi as a regular naval facility.
Its obvious from map that Chinese in recent decade managed to raise military bases in form of ports in small nation around India.Chinese took control under grab of CPEC or loans defaults while paying hugh bribes to local politicians, Srilanka’s PM Rajapaksa is a classic example. Key installations been ofcouse Gwadhar in Pakistan, Kyaukpyu in myanmar. Not to forget, during conflict role of Srilanka’s port hambanthota cannot be understated.
China along with Pakistan can deploy Aircraft carriers, destroyers and frigates in Arabian sea and Bay of Bengal simultaneously to overwhelm Indian defenses
HOWEVER, THE BIGGEST THREAT IN IOR COMES FROM NUCLEAR POWERED SUBMARINES THAT CHINESE OPERATE IN THIS REGION AND THEY CAN BE DEPLOYED FOR MONTHS WITHOUT DETECTION AND CAN PLAY A DEVASTATING ROLE IN POWER STRUGGLE.
The only solution that exist to nullify any leverages that combined China and Pakistan’s navy offer is to seize the initiative and preempt building up any large forces of warships and submarines in our backyard. But how?
Proactive Navy deploy in large numbers at key “Choke points”
What are the routes Chinese submarines routinely uses to enter IOR? If we look at map closely , Its mostly from Strait of Malacca , Also referred as East Choke Point , Shortest possible link to South China sea (SCS) where China dominates over Philippines, indonesia and ofcourse Vietnam (google 9 dash line )
Choke Point is narrow passage between Malaysia and Indonatia
Strait of Malacca is only 2.8 km wide at its narrowest point and Proximity to South China Sea means, In any event of conflict , This will remain a focal point.
India has existing treaty with Malaysia to use its military bases close to Strait of Malacca.
Notice the position of Andaman right at the opening of Choke point, No doubt why Indian navy has the biggest (and most secret) base there.In some ways we are lucky to have control of this strategic island so far away from our mainland.
ANDAMAN AND NICOBAR ISLANDS DOMINATES INDIAN OCEAN REGION
Another route as option for Chinese would be very long, Around Indonesia and pass by Australia.Its least feasible option not only due to delayed deployment in event of conflict but also losing element of surprise,Here’s why
India has recently signed an agreement with Australia to use Cocos island military base for stationing and refueling antisubmarine warfare aircraft’s like US P8I Poseidon along with mid air refueling tankers like ll78 which basically extends range of our lethal fighter jets SU30 to most part of IOR.
The Force Multipliers
To counter IOR threat India has amassed some of the sophisticated & technologically advanced platforms available globally. Crown prince has been the US submarine hunter aka P8I Poseidon, Wikipedia summaries this platform very well.
The P-8 is being operated in the anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare (ASUW), and shipping interdiction roles. It is armed with torpedoes, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and other weapons, and is able to drop and monitor sonobuoys, as well as operate in conjunction with other assets, including the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton maritime surveillance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
Furthermore , India has recently place its premier fighter jet Su30 in Tamilnadu Thanjavur. IAF commissioned the 222 squadron, also known as ‘Tigersharks’
In what considered as biggest achievement, The squadron has six Su-30s fighter jets are specially modified & Integrated 2.5 tonne air-launched version supersonic BrahMos cruise missile.
Brahmos is the fastest supersonic cruise missile in the world.
To give an idea about strategic importance of this weapon ,Last year Feb Pak PM Imran khan announced in parliament that India has warned of missile , He was referring to Brahmos and who know what role it played in steadfast & safe return of “Nandu” in record 48 hours.
Conclusion – The End Game !
Given India -China conflict on cards and inevitable , Each side will try to score a quick & lethal first blow before UN Security council and other nations comes with a diplomatic outreach.
As both Airforce and Army matching brick by brick ,Beijing realized it could not impose a bigger penalty on India in northern frontier and keen to take fight on our backyards using sea option , Defending IOR and maintaining stalemate gives New Delhi a chance not only to give a bloody nose to our expansionist and bully neighbor in Himalayas, But also leveraging current global anti china sentiments over COVID19 & Further exposing Chinese evil designs in Hongkong, Taiwan, South and East china sea.
ITS A GREAT TIME FOR INDIA TO JUNK ONE CHINA POLICY ONCE FOR ALL.
Last year Feb has given us great insights on how controlling escaltion matrix and building a narrative is important in Next generation of information warfare,Also term as 4G hybrid warfare.
Lastly, I would like to end with what game theory teaches us- Pareto Optimal
An outcome of a game is Pareto optimal if there is no other outcome that makes every player at least as well off and at least one player strictly better off. That is to say, a Pareto optimal outcome cannot be improved upon without hurting at least one player.
The depth of Indian oceans decides India stay on which side of Pareto optimal , Better off or Least off.