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Could a maritime chain hub between US-Japan-Viet Nam-India to tackle China?

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The rise of China in the last few years has been a cause of concern and as China grew economically, it strengthened its claws in the realm of defense and has been expanding its paws into the territories of other countries which is a violation of a country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Chinese aggressiveness has become the bone of contention and this is a serious matter of concern for all the countries who are facing the China threat. China’s need to dominant certain trade routes; sea-lanes of navigation and communication jeopardizes the concept of a free and open navigable sea route which is unacceptable as no one country completely owns any sea-lanes and routes of trade and communication. Therefore, in order to protect the national interest and freedom of navigation of many countries, this article tries to build an argument on could there be a possibility for a formation of a maritime chain hub consisting of Guam, Okinawa, Cam Ranh Bay and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands which could tackle China’s maritime aggressiveness.

Guam, a former Spanish colony and now one of the 17 non-self-governing territories of the United States of America. Guam has been a military asset since the World War II as the U.S. moved its military aircraft.  Also, during the Viet Nam War, Guam was a major asset in the Pacific as it was a base used by the Americans. Presently, it serves as a major military base for America and has the U.S. Air Force and Navy installations and is also a major hub for the submarine communications cables between the western United States of America, Hawaii, Australia and Asia. There is a huge military presence in Guam and the United States of America moves its military assets and personnel to Okinawa, the Japanese island.  Guam as a naval base port plays a rather important part as it is home to the four nuclear-powered fast attack submarines and two submarine tenders. Also, Guam has the Andersen Air Force Base which hosts the Navy helicopter squadron and Air Force bombers and along with this has two-three kilometers runways and also caters as a storage facility for fueling purposes.

In June 2020, the U.S. Naval Base Guam has been designated as a ‘safe haven liberty port’ and the U.S 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge(LCC 19) and the USS Bunker Hill(CG 52) have been placed here and eventually, on 24 June 2020, the Nimitz Carrier Strike group which consists of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN68), Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59) and the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers USS Sterett (DDG 104) and the USS Ralph Johnson (DDG 114) all placed in the safe haven liberty port in Guam. This move to make Guam a safe heaven liberty port should be seen from the perspective of a potential logistical re-supply, possible repairs and a safe place where the sailors could rest and rejuvenate themselves amidst the global Coronavirus pandemic. One needs to understand that Guam needs to be militarized to ensure that North Korea doesn’t attempt any form of attack on Japan which is under the Security umbrella of the U.S. and also, Guam which is an American territory needs to protect itself from North Korea it is in a feasible striking distance and so, this military buildup in Guam by the United States of America is justified.

Japan’s Okinawa is strategically very important for the United States of America as it is a vital component in America’s grand strategy towards the region of East Asia.  Also, the geographical location of Okinawa has a greater meaning as Okinawa is placed between the Philippines, East China Sea and the South China Sea and also the neighbourhood consists of China, Taiwan, the Korean Peninsula and of course the mainland Japan which is a sure game-changer. Okinawa makes an important military outpost, protects the freedom of navigation and the American national cum security interests which inevitably help in the stability of this region. The bases at Okinawa are of geostrategic value as it deals with a fairly flexible range of positions to counter any potential threat and so, help keep interests of Japan safe especially with regard to the Senkaku Islands and the presence of America at Okinawa is a clear deterrent for China incase it tries to create any provocation. Also, South Korea is in an alliance with the United States of America and so, Okinawa also acts as a critical component in dealing with North Korea and in order to maintain peace in this region, the American marines plays a vital role as protectors. Also, for Taiwan, the presence of American forces at Okinawa helps Taiwan from China’s threats. Therefore, Okinawa plays the role of a major game-changer in the region of East Asia.

Viet Nam’s Cam Ranh Bay has always been a melting point of strategic interest since the 19th century as it was a hub of continuous positing of countries like France, Russia, Japan and the United States of America where their navies were stationed well as the Cam Ranh Bay acted as an excellent protected natural harbour along with being a refueling station. The geostrategic location of Cam Ranh Bay is near the South China Sea and this is therefore called the ‘Apple of the Eye of the East’ as it can help contain Chinese aggressiveness in the region. Also, the Japan-Guam-Australia Fiber-Optic Submarine Cable System Project is being developed with the help of Japan and the United States of America. Cam Ranh Bay if redeveloped could the most valuable asset that Viet Nam has.

India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands is as of today one of the most sort after strategic hub of islands as it is being developed into a maritime and startup hub and the recent inauguration of the submarine optic fiber cable between Chennai and these islands would change the face of digital connectivity. India has also proposed transhipment hub in the Andamans helping these group of islands become a major centre for blue economy and maritime cum startup hub. Also since 2019, the Indian Naval Air Station-INS Kohassa has been developing the island in full swing and this could well become a vital strategic outpost for India  and can easier watch and monitor the rival navies activities along with set an integrated surveillance network.

The question is how does Guam-Okinawa-Cam Ranh Bay-Andaman and Nicobar Islands form a strategic maritime chain hub?

First, Guam is an American territory, Okinawa, a Japanese territory, Cam Ranh Bay, a Vietnamese port and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, an Indian group of islands and so, all these countries are a part of the Quad and this Quad grouping is believed to tackle China’s aggressiveness.

Second, all these countries have excellent relations with another and aim for stronger strategic relations. Japan is in a Security Alliance with the United States of America and Japan is India’s all-weather friend. Due to Japan as a common friend between India and the U.S, they too have excellent strategic partnership with one another. Viet Nam and the United States have been developing relations and are working towards becoming strategic partner. Japan’s relations with Viet Nam has been a major part of their ASEAN relations and separately too, Japan has been working on strengthening stronger relations with Viet Nam and in fact, the first visit of Prime Minister Suga is to Viet Nam which highlights Viet Nam’s importance for Japan. India also has wonderful relations with Viet Nam and Viet Nam being the ASEAN Chair in the times of pandemic has played a vital role in medicine, rice and mask diplomacy and has created its niche as a vital and understanding partner in the ASEAN along with evolving as a regional and a global partner in the Indo-Pacific region.

Third, all these four countries are facing security concerns with China.  China has off late made several advances in the East China Sea, South China Sea and the Indian Ocean and all this has impacted the United States of America, Japan, India and Viet Nam as their geostrategic locations are of prime importance to these countries. China has been making aggressive claims in these waters is a violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the US, Japan, India and Viet Nam.

Fourth, Japan has been the pioneer of the Free and Open Indo-Pacific region aiming for a rules-based order so as to have the freedom of navigation and access to sea-lanes and routes to all the nations. After Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy at the 196thSession of the Diet in January 2018, this strategy was soon adopted by the United States of America and India. ASEAN too adopted this strategy which meant that Viet Nam too has accepted this strategy. Many believe that this Indo-Pacific Strategy is to tackle China’s aggressiveness.

Fifth, Japan’s initiative of the Expanded Partnership for Quality Infrastructure is aimed to promote infrastructure and development cooperation among the countries could also pave the way for port infrastructural development among thee US, India and Viet Nam.

Therefore, keeping in mind, the above-mentioned arguments could well pave the way for a possible formation of a maritime chain hub consisting of Guam, Okinawa, Cam Ranh Bay and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands which could tackle China’s maritime aggressiveness.

The views expressed are personal

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Defense

The world arms sales market

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New data from SIPRI’s Arms Industry Database, released last December, show that arms sales by the world’s twenty-five largest defence equipment and military services companies totalled 361 billion dollars in 2019. This is an 8.5% increase in real terms in arms sales compared to 2018. All this emerged from the studies by the Stockholm-based International Peace Research Institute founded in 1966.

In 2019 the top five arms companies were all based in the United States: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and General Dynamics. These five companies together recorded 166 billion dollars in annual sales. In total, twelve U.S. companies rank among the top 25 for 2019, accounting for 61% of total sales.

For the first time, a Middle East company appears in the top twenty-five. Edge, based in the United Arab Emirates, was established in 2019 from the merger of over twenty-five smaller companies. It ranks twenty-second and accounts for 1.3% of the total arms sales of the top twenty-five companies. This demonstrates that oil revenues in the Near and Middle East are also invested in businesses that produce jobs and money, and are not just accumulated for the personal expenses of the ruling elite. Edge is an example of how high domestic demand for military products and services, combined with the desire to become less dependent on foreign suppliers, is driving the growth of arms companies in the Near and Middle East.

Another newcomer to the top twenty-five list in 2019 was L3Harris Technologies (ranking tenth). It was created by the merger of two U.S. companies that were both in the top twenty-five in 2018, namely Harris Corporation and L3 Technologies.

The top twenty-five list also includes four Chinese companies. Three of them are in the top ten: Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC, ranking sixth), China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC, ranking eighth) and China North Industries Group Corporation (Norinco, ranking ninth).

The combined revenue of the four Chinese companies in the top 25 list, which also includes China South Industries Group Corporation (CSGC, ranking twenty-fourth), grew by 4.8% between 2018 and 2019. Chinese arms companies are benefiting from the People’s Liberation Army’s military modernisation programmes.

Conversely, the revenues of the two Russian companies in the top twenty-five, namely Almaz-Antey and United Shipbuilding, declined between 2018 and 2019, for a combined total amount of 634 million dollars. A third Russian company, United Aircraft, lost 1.3 billion dollars in sales and dropped off the top 25 list in 2019. Domestic competition and reduced government spending on modernising the Russian Navy were two of the main challenges for United Shipbuilding in 2019.

After the United States, the People’s Republic of China recorded the second largest share of 2019 arms sales by the top twenty-five companies, accounting for 16%.

The six Western European companies together account for 18%. The two Russian companies in the ranking account for 3.9%. Nineteen of the top twenty-five arms companies increased arms sales in 2019 compared to 2018. The largest absolute increase in arms sales revenue was recorded by Lockheed Martin: 5.1 billion dollars (11% in real terms). The largest percentage increase in annual arms sales (105%) was reported by French manufacturer Dassault Aviation Group. A strong increase in export deliveries of Rafale fighter aircraft pushed Dassault Aviation into the top 25 arms companies for the first time.

The Sipri report also examines the international presence of the 15 largest arms companies in 2019. These companies are present in a total of 49 countries, through majority-owned subsidiaries, joint ventures and research facilities. With a global presence in 24 countries each, Thales and Airbus are the two most internationalised companies, followed closely by Boeing (21 countries), Leonardo (21 countries) and Lockheed Martin (19 countries).

The United Kingdom, Australia, the United States, Canada and Germany host the largest number of these companies.

Outside the North American and Western European arms industries, the largest number of foreign corporate entities is hosted by Australia (38), Saudi Arabia (24), India (13), Singapore (11), United Arab Emirates (11) and Brazil (10).

There are many reasons why arms companies might want to establish themselves abroad, including better access to growing markets, collaborative arms programmes or policies in host countries that link arms purchases to technology transfers.

Of the 49 countries hosting foreign industries in the top 15 arms companies, seventeen countries are low- and middle-income ones. Southern countries seeking to restart their arms production programmes have welcomed foreign arms companies as a means for benefiting from technology transfers.

Chinese and Russian arms companies in the top 15 list have only a limited international presence. Sanctions against Russian companies and government limits on takeovers by Chinese companies seem to have played a role in limiting their global presence.

All these data were collected by the Sipri Arms Industry Database founded in 1989. At that time, it excluded data for companies in Eastern European socialist countries, including the Soviet Union. The updated version contains 2015 data, including data for companies in the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation. An archive of the first one hundred data sets for the period 2002-2018 is available on the Sipri website (www.sipri.org), while for the first twenty-five ones it has been updated with the latest available information.

Arms sales are defined as sales of military goods and services to military customers at national and international levels. Unless otherwise stated, all changes are expressed in real terms. Comparisons (e.g. between 2018 and 2019 or between 2015 and 2019) are based on the groups of companies listed in the respective year (i.e. the comparison is between different groups of companies).

For 2020-2021, Sipri is releasing its dataset on arms sales of the world’s largest companies along with the results of a mapping on the internationalisation of this industry. For this reason, a new dataset was created, including 400 subsidiaries, joint ventures and research facilities linked to the top fifteen arms companies in 2019. Data sources included corporate investment documents, information on company websites, public records and newspaper and magazine articles.

To be included in the mapping, an arms industry must have been active for the majority of its fiscal year, as well as be located in a country other than that in which its parent company is headquartered and also (i) produce military goods or provide military services to military customers; (ii) produce or provide services for dual-use goods to military customers.

This is the first of the key data handovers in view of the publication of the next Sipri Yearbook in mid-2021. Before that, Sipri will release its data on international arms transfers (details of all major international arms transfers in 2020), as well as its data on global military expenditure (comprehensive information on global, regional and national trends in military expenditure). We will inform readers of all this in due course.

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Aman-2021 Naval Exercise: Maritime Diplomacy

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Pakistan has hosted Aman-2021 biannual multi-national naval exercise(Feb.11-16) that has been the focal-point for Indian media particularly due to the significance of this naval drill . The prime disposition of this naval exercise was that, it was conducted in peace times, therefore no country can misperceive the exercise.

Secondly, the objectives of the Aman-2021 are quite clear that;

  • The exercise aims to contribute to regional stability
  • The exercise is a united resolve against the threats of terrorism, piracy and other related threats to maritime domain
  • This exercise is likely to enhance interoperability between the regional as well as extra-regional navies. It also will bridge the gap between regional and extra-regional naval forces to unite against a common threat

Pakistan navy has been remarkable in bringing 45 countries’ naval forces together .Some of the notables are the U.S., Russia, China and Turkey.

All major nations want their influence in the Indian Ocean Region(IOR) due to its strategic chokepoints and the Sea-Lines of Communications(SLOCS) that are vital maritime routes between ports, used for trade ,logistics and naval forces. Indian Ocean is one of the vital global trade arteries accounting for more than 80% of world’s oil shipments passing through this region. This region has world’s fastest growing economies and a home to 2.7 billion population. This region is lucrative market for multinational corporations but rise of Asian economies has got competition with European economies. The IOR is supra-rich in natural resources that is why during colonial times, colonial powers preferred to colonize countries in this region. This region’s natural resources are equivalent to combined with rest of the world. In short, this region is the most significant due to its political, economic, strategic and geological features. That is the primary reason, great powers wish to maintain their influence in the region.

Aman-21 exercise has provided participating countries with an opportunity to demonstrate naval strength. Russia, U.S., and China are largest navies in the world and they are collaborating under on a single platform(Aman-21).Russia’s participation with NATO members makes this naval exercise very special because the former has not done so since the 2011 ‘Bold Monarch’ naval exercise -off the coast of Spain.

All the participating navies are gathering under the slogan “togetherness for peace” and despite having differences between them, some of the countries are uniting to thwart threats to maritime security and stability. Some of the scholars are terming Pakistan navy’s maritime diplomacy as a huge success. As the number of participating countries grew immensely due to the message of peace that Pakistan navy is promoting. Though, the primary objective of the exercise is to counter threats of hybrid warfare, piracy, drug trafficking, arms trafficking, human smuggling, terrorism and climate change.

At the sidelines of the Aman-21, Pakistan navy organized 9th international Maritime Conference (IMC)2021 in Karachi. Advisor to Prime Minister on National Security, Dr.Moeed Yusuf stated “Pakistan’s blue economy has the potential of billions of dollars but it is earning around $200 million from ocean resources.

Pakistan navy aims to contribute more in regional peace and stability by transforming itself into a blue water force equipped with state of the art technology (surface, airborne, submerged, unmanned) to play a greater role in the IOR. Pakistan’s strategically located Gwadar port is in close proximity of the Strait of Hormuz, which is a vital area for world’s developed nations due to oil transit chokepoint and it connects Middle East with South and Central Asia.

India always sees Pakistan’s efforts for promoting regional peace with a greater doubt. India’s relations with Pakistan plummeted after Modi government revoked Article 370 and 35-A, altering Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomous status. Indian media did a lot of propaganda regarding Pakistan’s successful naval exercise. Even one of the Indian magazine The Week captioned “ Pakistan’s navy chief visits Russian warship. worry? “It also claimed that Pakistan’s navy chief Admiral Mohammad Amjad Khan Niazi visited the Admiral Grigorovich. The Admiral Grigorovish is a frigate that has the capability to carry missiles, torpedoes, anti-submarine, anti-air and anti-ship guns. Pakistan’s naval chief was given the tour of weapon system and communication equipment on board the ship. This naval exercise has been an opportunity for navies to demonstrate their professionalism and showcase their weaponry.

As the Aman-21 was concluded Iran and Russia started a two-day naval drill in the northern part of Indian Ocean. India also joined the naval exercise without any proper invitation and due to diminutive participation of Indian navy, it could not make that strategic impact that was thought by India. Now some of the Indian media outlets deny India’s participation in the Iran-Russia naval exercise. India’s efforts to neutralize the strategic impact of Aman-21,evaporated and Aman-21 naval exercised concluded with achieving desired objective of bringing 45 naval forces together under the slogan of “togetherness for peace”. Pakistan’s efforts for promoting regional peace and stability will bear more fruits after the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’s completion and regional connectivity for collective good.

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Indo-French Bonhomie is Destabilizing South Asia

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India is rapidly increasing its weapons capability in order to threaten and coerce Pakistan so that latter could submit to India’s hegemonic designs. Such hegemonic aspirations not only threaten South Asia’s regional equilibrium but also take entire region to the brink of nuclear brinkmanship. Some of the Western countries are eager to sell their weaponry to India and in particular, France has taken the weapons sale to an entire new level by selling nuclear-capable fighter jets to India. This is unprecedented from a Western country which is also signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime (NPT). Selling of such weapons to Modi regime is worrisome not just for South Asia but entire global peace and security.

One of the major contributors to Indian arms buildup is France, which has provided technologically advanced conventional and strategic weaponry to India. India largely depends on foreign assistance to acquire weapons and over the period of a decade, Indo-French defense cooperation has strengthened. It is because both countries have convergence of interests when it comes to strategic policy in the Indo-Pacific region. However, this convergence is destabilizing the South Asian region, and contributing to security challenges for Pakistan.

Indo-French strategic partnership mainly spans in the fields of defense, nuclear and space. In the first week of January 2021, India and France held their annual strategic dialogue, led by Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Diplomatic Advisor to French President Emmanuel Bonne. It is interesting to see that France is not only following Indian footprints in the Indo-Pacific region but it’s also been vocal about India’s entry into Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a global body which controls global nuclear commerce. France is also at forefront regarding India’s seat at high tables of UN Security Council.

This is ironic and disappointing in the sense as to how a member of civilized world community like France neglects Indian atrocities in the Indian illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIJO&K). Indian atrocities in occupied Kashmir are no more a secret. Entire world community condemned PM Modi’s illegal annexation of disputed territory. France reaction was awful to the core. Instead of mediatory role, France called Kashmir as India- Pakistan bilateral issue. France put a blind eye on number of UN Resolutions which clearly state Kashmir as a disputed territory. India has violated those resolutions, but irony lies in the fact that France wants India to be part of very prestigious body whose resolutions means nothing for it.

India’s relationship with France is not confined to one domain of defense; rather it includes energy cooperation, cyber security, space exploration and other areas of strategic convergence. Their strategic partnership also focuses on bilateral cooperation in combating terrorism. It is ironic to note their selective choosing of terrorism. France remains oblivious to India’s state sponsored terrorism in Pakistan and persecution of Kashmiri Muslims. France’s silence on such matters not only put a question mark on its global standing but also shows how countries like France lose moral grounds just for the sake of some economic incentives. This moral bankruptcy is unimaginable and condemnable.

South Asia is a fragile region. Massive arms import and weaponization of India has direct ramification for Pakistan’s security calculous. In order to match increasing conventional superiority with India, Pakistan may be compelled to participate in arms race fueled by countries like France. France’s defense industry and its strategic collaboration with Indian defense firms also pose a serious threat of technological reverse engineering. At the same time, there is no clear indication of end user agreement on French weapons in India. Whether there would be any end-user agreement is yet another question.

There’s no second thought that, France is actively fueling India – Pakistan arms race. India has been buying arms and ammunitions for decades and remains the world’s topmost importers for last many years. Indian imports of weapons from France have risen by 75%, making latter the third largest supplier of arms to India in last 5 years. France is exporting weapon systems to India, which are not only conventional but also have strategic implications. The application of such weapon systems also varies from air to land to sea. This clearly signifies that France is destabilizing the region.

The Indo-French Strategic Partnership is being deepened at the expense of regional balance of of power in South Asia. The already fragile strategic stability in South Asia is under assault from France’s massive arms transfer to a revisionist India. French sale of sophisticated military technology to India, at this scale, is further deteriorating the regional stability and eroding global norms and rules.  There must be an end to this frenzy which is being run in the name of “strategic partnership”. France needs to realize the severity of the situation created by its weapons sale to an aggressor before it gets too late.

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