Andrew Campbell, for Future Directions International Research, Indian Ocean Research Programme
Background: The second of three Indian Navy Shivalik-class stealth frigates, the INS Satpura,was commissioned on 20 August 2011 in Mumbai. The Indian Defence Minister, A.K. Antony, has also announced that the Indian Government has signed a deal to procure 40 Hawk trainer aircraft for the Indian Air Force and 17 for the Indian Navy, from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. Both developments are part of a larger build up to combat piracy and check perceived growing Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean.
Comment: As India modernises, so too does its need to protect vital sea lines of communication in the Indian Ocean. Securing supplies of energy and resources is vital to the continued economic development of the world’s largest democracy. New Delhi therefore sees a need to increase its naval presence in the region. Piracy and the Mumbai terrorist attacks of 2008, have further added to the urgency of updating and expanding the Indian Navy.
The decision to source the Hawk aircraft domestically, and the fact that many of the components used to build the Satpura were manufactured locally, demonstrate India’s commitment to expand its arms production capability. The Shivalik frigates mark a departure from traditional Indian defence procurements, focussing on state of the art technology rather than sheer numerical advantage. This shift is part of a wider move by the Indian armed forces. A recently released review of their procurement procedures calls for increased high-tech development and indigenisation.
India’s posture is tied to a deep feeling of unease inNew Delhi, caused byChina’s increasing presence in the region. Recent expansionism has seenBeijingestablish, or assist in the establishment of, deep sea ports inSri Lanka,BangladeshandPakistan. Rightly or wrongly, this so-called “String of Pearls” is viewed by some as a threat toIndia.Chinahas also begun to court the littoral states of the Indian Ocean, such as Mauritius and the Maldives, using “yuan diplomacy” to gain access to ports.
Tension between China and India is most manifest in Arunachal Pradesh, a region along their shared border over which both states make territorial claims. India is now preparing to establish a Mountain Strike Corps in the region. The Corps, which will be composed of some 40,000 troops, supported by Sukhoi-30 fighter aircraft, is intended to act as a counterweight to Chinese forces stationed