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China’s Naval Modernization: The Dragon Going Global?

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In 1890, American Naval officer and historian Alfred Mahan published his magnum opus ‘The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660–1783’. The book revolutionized the way Naval power was perceived in the in the strategic thinking in the contemporary America. Mahan theorized that ‘Naval power’ would be the key to dominate the future global order. He pointed out that it is a vast navy that allowed the British to forge a global empire spanning six continents and outflank its rivals like Germany and Russia. Mahan’s ideas were later integrated in US Naval strategy that made the country a global superpower after the Second World War. Now more than a century later, the China is pursuing a similar strategy, taking lessons directly from Mahan’s playbook.

The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) was established after the founding of the People’s Republic to guard its interests in the Oceans. At the beginning, the Navy was a secondary force limited to guarding its coastal waters while the Army was seen as an urgent strategic priority. However, with the growing economic might, Beijing is concentrating on building a world class navy capable of projecting firepower in Indo-pacific and beyond. China’s ‘Defense white paper’ of 2015 echoed a similar perspective. It noted that, “the traditional mentality that land outweighs the sea must be abandoned.” China is already realizing the goal of creating a ‘Blue water’ navy to match the US military power. But such moves have created a sense of ‘security dilemma’ among its neighbours and is slowly changing the geopolitical balance that had characterized the Asia-pacific post-Second World War.

With a new leadership of Xi Jinping, China is shredding off its old military posture of ‘hiding capabilities’. Beijing now has adopted ‘open confrontation’ as an instrument of realpolitik. The rapid development of naval power is the ultimate sign of Beijing’s changing strategy and ambitions. According to western analysts, China now has the world’s largest navy in terms of raw calculations. Since 2014, Chinese navy has added more vessels to its inventory than the entire British Navy in terms of tonnage. Chinese Navy now possess over 400 ships compared to 288 of the US navy. According to US naval war college, Chinese navy could incorporate up to 530 vessels by 2030 further increasing the gap between the two powers.

While technologically, US is still ahead of China, Beijing is closing the gap gradually. It is betting on emerging technologies such as Artificial intelligence, hypersonic weapons and cyber capabilities to challenge American military might. China now has two functional aircraft carriers, Liaoning and Shandong. Two other carriers are in construction which would have modern features like Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS). Beijing is also building strategic weapons to secure its homeland from a potential US invasion or blockade. The DF-26 ‘carrier killer missile’ currently under deployment, is designed to fend off the US navy from the ‘first island chain’. These missiles are capable of sinking US carriers within a 2000 nautical miles radius from Chinese coast.

China has adapted its naval strategy into a two-fold dimension. The defence of coastal and territorial sea would gradually fall under the purview of Coast guard and national maritime militia while the navy will be relieved from these responsibilities to focus on China’s increasing presence in the high seas along the first and second island chains. The Navy would also acquire new expeditionary capabilities to equip itself for hybrid and amphibious warfare. In this regard, Beijing has planned to increase the strength of its marine corps from 20,000 personnel to 1,00,000 personnel to match its American counterpart.

Overseas naval deployment is another critical aspect of Chinese naval strategy. China’s Defense white paper of 2019 has called on the leadership to establish a ‘global navy’ capable of “deploying ships for various missions anywhere on the high seas.”  China has already established its military base in Djibouti at the entrance of the bab-el-manbeb. It has invested in Pakistani port of Gwadar under its Belt and Road scheme which according to many analysts would become a new base for Chinese navy in near future. Beijing has also pledged to invest $400 billion dollars in Iran in a bid to gain access to the strategic Strait of Hormuz. Chinese navy is increasingly deploying its assets in Indian Ocean to counter Indo-American coalition. China’s visible presence in Indian Ocean is a testimony of Beijing’s effort to become a ‘two-ocean power’. Besides, it has also increased cooperation with Russia in the northern pacific to boost its presence in the Arctic Circle.

As China is going global riding on the Belt and Road initiative, it is only a matter of time before Chinese Navy asserts its power in a forceful manner along the so called ‘maritime silk road’. The signs of a new Cold-war are increasingly visible, as the world oceans are bracing for an upcoming geopolitical storm.

Rubiat Saimum is a researcher at the Bangladesh Institute of Maritime Research and Development (BIMRAD). He has completed graduation and post-graduation in International relations from the University of Dhaka. He is interested in political economy, Political geography and maritime security issues. He can be reached at rubiat[at]bimradbd.org

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Why India needs a national security strategy

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One of the critical aspects for India is to identify the strategic landscape which might be comprising of terrestrial, marine, space, cyber, and psychological aspects. Furthermore, the developments in artificial intelligence, biotech, machine learning, and data mining needs comprehensive plan of action which can help India in meeting future challenges. For country as large as India and with such a large population, it is important that the larger strategy community in India must look for building scenarios so as to plan for a longer time horizon and understanding processes. Only then  the necessary  manpower and required resources are met within desired time period. It is important to create an ecosystem which can build scenarios and work on meeting those scenarios in future.

India has worked on its strategic partnerships, comprising now of more than 33 countries, as critical strategic partners but it is important that India must also identify select strategic partners which can help  it in developing itself as  a formidable superpower. In such a context it is important that India must start drafting a comprehensive national security strategy which can help in long term capability planning and thereby allocation of both financial and material resources.The ongoing tensions which China on the border and increased tensions with Pakistan on the issue of terrorism and Kashmir issue , showcases that India needs to work on marginalising those antagonistic powers so that it can meander its policy and strategic objectives in a better way.

The larger national security strategy requires a concrete and comprehensive approach related to domestic, external, economic, and ecological challenges. The ecosystem which is required for comprehensive security of a nation also requires developing acumen with regard to disruptive technologies. India has been scouting for partners for developing its capacities in quantum computing , under sea gliders, subsurface radars and sensors. While much has been debated with regard to China’s ‘String of pearls’ but there has been laggard approach in developing the counter strategy ( such as double fish hook strategy proposed by the author ); even though many Indian strategic thinkers state they that they do not subscribe to China’s ‘string of pearls’ strategy.

While much debate has started within India with regard to  security and growth for all in the region with an acronym of SAGAR but in terms of subscription India’s Indo Pacific Ocean Initiative  has slowly found more subscribers with countries such as Australia, Indonesia expressing their interest in such an initiative. India has also entered into logistics support agreement as well as white shipping agreement with the number of countries in its periphery but in order to capitalise on that it needs to workout a larger strategy which can integrate its coastal priorities, maritime security, and aspirations for becoming a major regional power in maritime domain.

Much has been written with regard to the Five Eyes Project which is primarily an intelligence network comprising of US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. India has been looking for joining this network but given the priorities of  participating nations,  it is unlikely that any Asian nations would be able to join it. Therefore, it is important that India should start its own Asian Five Eyes  project which should comprise of technologically sound and capable countries/ economies  such as Japan, Israel, Taiwan, and Korea joining this grouping.

In order to address emerging maritime security challenges, India will have to revisit the plan of action which was proposed by Sardar KM panikkar who clearly stated that for maritime security  India must create a steel arc from Socotra islands in Yemen to the northern tip of Indonesia.India’s military modernisation need to accelerate the acquisition process.This requires focus on  project based acquisitions , and it should seriously look into life cycle costs and long term capability plan with a joint man ship  among the three armed forces.

India was expected to come out with its national cyber security strategy in 2020 but till date it has not seen the light of the day which shows non seriousness on the part of the larger establishment in addressing the cyber threats which leads to data pilferage and attacks on critical installations within India. Even if India comes out with the national cyber security strategy it needs to be re evaluated and assessed every 2 years. With the privatisation of space sector , it is important that the better regulatory mechanisms and larger plan of action should be  worked out. Even with the modern warfare  there is focus  on developing sophisticated and complex systems such as light helicopters and light battlefield tanks.

Within India there is need for more R&D allocation in the gross domestic product of India if it wants to be a technologically sufficient country. It  is one of the countries which has the meagre allocation of R&D in both civil and military sectors. One of the reasons is the reliance on technology transfer and licensed production. India also needs to work on integrated information networks in the military domain and sophisticated encryption for military communications.

With more stress on blue economy,   the marine sphere is going to get more intense particularly in terms of exploration of resources and with the possibility of rare earths likely to be found on ocean surface, the tensions are going to be get more complicated. The role of underwater systems ,both for military and civilian purposes, is going to get more profound and therefore developing counter tech   is critical.

India needs to work on developing its own psychological warfare because at times this creates challenges among the armed forces and the general public which starts believing in a certain narrative. For India, which is a large populated country , human security particularly in areas such as bio and agro is going to get more complicated in near future. In terms of defence manufacturing India has still been dependent on a number of countries for sourcing its raw materials and importing critical components. This needs to be reduced through Make in India initiative and developing the tech ecosystem which is the most important requirement for India.

The initiatives which has been undertaken at the level of Quad countries which includes Indo Pacific Maritime Domain Awareness Initiative needs to be studied further and India need to workout its role so that it can gain some insights and develop its own capacities . For India, a comprehensive national security strategy also requires building a workforce and a group of academics and strategic planners which can give birth to new ideas and develop the required discourse and direction  for the future of the country.

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The Challenges of Hybrid Warfare in Pakistan

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Hybrid warfare refers to the use of a mixture of conventional and unconventional military tactics and techniques in order to achieve strategic objectives. This type of warfare has become increasingly prevalent in recent years and has been utilized by numerous actors, including state and non-state actors.

Russians are considered to be the inventors of Hybrid war; the Russia-Ukraine hybrid war refers to a conflict between Russia and Ukraine that has been ongoing since 2014. The conflict began when Russian-backed separatists in the eastern regions of Ukraine, such as Donetsk and Luhansk, declared independence from Ukraine and formed the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” and “Luhansk People’s Republic.” In response, the Ukrainian government launched a military operation to regain control of the region, leading to a conflict that has claimed over 13,000 lives.

Russia has been accused of providing military support to the separatists, including weapons, supplies, and manpower. The Russian military has also been accused of direct involvement in the conflict, including the use of Russian soldiers fighting in Ukrainian territory. Additionally, the conflict has been characterized by a sophisticated information warfare campaign that includes disinformation, propaganda, and cyberattacks.

The impact of the hybrid war in Ukraine has been significant, both for the country and for the wider region. The conflict has resulted in a large number of casualties and displacement, as well as significant economic and infrastructure damage. Moreover, the conflict has strained relations between Russia and the West, and has raised concerns about the security and stability of the region as a whole.

However, in the context of Pakistan, hybrid warfare has been a persistent issue due to the country’s strategic location and the presence of numerous internal and external security threats. The country has faced a range of unconventional challenges, including terrorism, sectarian violence, and insurgency, which have significantly impacted its stability and security. For instance, the assault on the Chinese consulate in Karachi in November 2018, Ali Raza Abidi’s murder in December, armed resistance to the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in some areas of Balochistan, and the terrorist attack on the FC training facility in Loralai in January 2019 are all characterized as manifestations of hybrid warfare inside the nation.

Major contributors to the security situation in Pakistan:

One of the major contributor to the security situation in Pakistan is the state’s use of hybrid warfare tactics in its foreign policy. This has been particularly evident in the context of its relationship with India, where Pakistan has been accused of supporting militant groups that carry out cross-border attacks and same goes for India as the EU Dis info Lab, an independent non-profit organization based in Brussels, Belgium, that specializes in research and analysis of disinformation campaigns, primarily in the context of the European Union (EU), published a number of reports detailing disinformation campaigns aimed at various countries, including India.

In 2019, the EU Dis info Lab published a report, according to its investigative study titled “The Indian Chronicles,” India used 750+ websites located in 119 different nations to de-legitimize and isolate Pakistan internationally. The network was found to have links to the Russian government and was reportedly aimed at influencing public opinion on a number of sensitive issues, including the Indian elections, the situation in Kashmir, and tensions between India and Pakistan. The ultimate aim of all this is to keep Pakistan economically and politically unstable and to place Pakistan on the grey list of FATF, therefore, all this has further escalated tensions between the two countries and contributed to jeopardize the overall security situation in the South Asian region.

Adding to this, another major contributor to the security situation in Pakistan is the rise of extremist and militant groups, such as the Taliban and Al Qaeda, which have been able to gain a foothold in the country due to the lack of effective governance and the presence of ungoverned spaces. These groups have carried out a series of devastating attacks, resulting in loss of life and property, and causing widespread instability and insecurity.

For instance, the conflict in the North-West region of Pakistan dates back to the 1980s, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. The US and its allies provided support to the Afghan resistance fighters, many of whom were trained in Pakistan. After the Soviet withdrawal, these fighters turned their attention towards the Pakistani state, leading to an insurgency in the North-West region. Over the years, various groups have emerged, some with links to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, others with more local agendas.

In response to this threat, the Pakistani military has conducted a number of operations in the North-West region, including Operation Zarb-e-Azab and Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad. These operations have had some success in reducing the threat from the insurgency, but the conflict remains ongoing. In addition to military operations, the Pakistani government has also employed various other tactics to counter the insurgency, including information operations, psychological operations, and development projects aimed at improving the lives of the local population.

While the conflict in the North-West region is the most notable example of hybrid warfare in Pakistan, there are also other examples of hybrid warfare in the country. For example, India has been accused of sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan, and there have been a number of high-profile terrorist attacks in the country that have been linked to India, even when we look into the course of history we get to know that the propagation of Mujib’s six-point plan, as well as the training and assistance provided to the Mukti Bahini’s violent separatist struggle, were all coordinated by India during the crisis in East Pakistan in 1971. In a similar line, the fact that India is still using proxies in the area to wage a Low-Intensity Conflict (LIC) against Pakistan may be used to examine the present scope of hybrid warfare against that country. Furthermore, there have been allegations of foreign intelligence agencies, such as the CIA, operating in Pakistan and using hybrid warfare tactics.

Along with this, Sectarianism also has been a major contributor to hybrid warfare in Pakistan, as the country has a long history of sectarian tensions between its majority Sunni and minority Shia populations. These tensions have often been exploited by external actors to advance their own interests, which has contributed to instability and conflict in the country.

One example of this is the rise of Sunni extremist groups, such as the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which have targeted Shia communities in Pakistan and have been responsible for a number of high-profile terrorist attacks. These groups are often seen as being supported by external actors, such as Saudi Arabia, which has a long-standing interest in promoting Sunni Islam in the region.

In addition, Iran has also been accused of supporting Shia militant groups in Pakistan, which has further fueled sectarian tensions and contributed to hybrid warfare in the country.

The ongoing sectarian conflict in Pakistan has also created a conducive environment for extremist groups to operate, and has weakened the state’s ability to effectively respond to security challenges. This has had a major impact on the stability and security of the country, and has hindered its progress and development.

Causes of hybrid warfare in Pakistan:

The causes of hybrid warfare in Pakistan are complex and multi-faceted, and can be traced back to a number of different factors. Some of the key causes of hybrid warfare in Pakistan include:

  1. Political instability: Political instability in Pakistan has contributed to the rise of hybrid warfare in the country. The country has a long history of political instability, which has created conditions that are conducive to the development of insurgency and other forms of hybrid warfare.
  • Geopolitical factors: Pakistan’s location in a volatile region, with hostile neighboring countries, has made it susceptible to hybrid warfare. The conflict in Afghanistan, and India’s role in the region, has also contributed to the rise of hybrid warfare in Pakistan.
  • Religious extremism: Religious extremism has been a significant factor in the rise of hybrid warfare in Pakistan. The country has a history of religious extremism, with various militant groups using religion as a means of achieving their objectives.
  • Economic factors: Poverty, unemployment, and economic inequality have contributed to the rise of hybrid warfare in Pakistan. In many cases, individuals who are unable to find employment and who are living in poverty are more likely to join militant groups, which can lead to the development of hybrid warfare.

Strategies to Overcome its Implications:

Therefore, to get rid of hybrid warfare in Pakistan, a multi-faceted approach is needed that addresses the root causes of the conflict and provides stability, security, and prosperity to the people of the country. Some of the key steps that could be taken include:

  1. Addressing the root causes of conflict: The root causes of the conflict and security issues in Pakistan, such as poverty, inequality, and political marginalization, need to be addressed to ensure long-term stability and security. This could involve economic and social reforms, such as poverty reduction initiatives, job creation programs, and measures to promote political representation and inclusion.
  • Strengthening institutions: The institutions in Pakistan, such as the government, military, and police, need to be strengthened to effectively respond to the challenges posed by hybrid warfare. This could involve reforms to improve transparency, accountability, and efficiency, as well as increased investment in capacity-building and training programs.
  • Improving governance: Effective governance is critical to addressing the root causes of conflict and ensuring stability and security. This could involve reforms to improve the delivery of public services, reduce corruption, and promote transparency and accountability.
  • Building resilience: Building resilience to hybrid warfare requires investing in human capital, such as education and healthcare, and in the development of infrastructure and economic systems. This can help reduce the risk of conflict and improve the capacity of communities to cope with shocks and stressors.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, Pakistan has been facing various forms of hybrid warfare for decades, from internal conflict to cross-border aggression from neighboring countries. The implications of hybrid warfare in Pakistan are significant, both for the country itself and for the region as a whole, and the conflict in the North-West region remains a major challenge to the stability and security of the country. To effectively counter hybrid warfare in Pakistan, a comprehensive and multi-faceted approach is needed, including military operations, information operations, psychological operations, and development projects aimed at improving the lives of the local population.

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Why the Indo-Pacific turned out the US center of strategic gravity?

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As a dominant power, the US keeps grave concerns about its hegemonic position at all times. Because the decline of France hegemony by Britain in the 18th century constantly reminds the US that its domination could be collapsed too. So, in this fear, the US after being the single most dominant nation follows the conscious policy and keeps Germany and Russia at the top of the list of threats to its hegemonic position. And accordingly, the US steers its diplomatic strategies where Europe is ascertained as the US center of strategic gravity in terms of averting the challenges of Russia and Germany. To deter their series of threats, for example, the United States, as an observer, formally introduced the largest regional organization in Europe, the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), in 1973, and by doing so, the United States influenced all European states and the Soviet Union’s first former members to join NATO. By all means, it can be argued that US diplomacy keeps its eyes on Europe at all times. But it was till the late 20th century. A question to ask, therefore, what happened then?

After then, the US twirled its strategic cap from Europe to Asia, and Indo-Pacific turned out the US center of strategic gravity. But why it happened? There are many factors, but I enroll some credible dynamics that influenced the US to turn its strategic eyes from Europe to Asia in terms of sustaining its hegemonic position.

The Rise of China

Since the 21st century, China has brought rapid change in its technological, political, military, and economic sectors. With aiming to prolong military power, for instance, China fixed up a record-breaking expenditure for the Department of Defense (DOD) by $230 billion in the last budget which was the second largest in the world behind the US. Along with this, China also surpassed its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs); whereas it was 20 stockpiles in 2002, at present the number ramped up to around 400. And it is estimated that China’s warheads will rise to 1,500 within the 2035 timeline. Moreover, China has now leapfrogged into a top position in terms of technologies; 5G communications, artificial intelligence (AI), quantum science, robotics, and space. Apart from these, China currently took place the second-largest GDP at 18 trillion in the world. And politically, China comprehended its strategic relations with ASEAN countries and it is playing a strategic role in the world system as a so-called ‘benign power’ and extending its alliances gradually.

Such the rise of china is beseeming as a threat that will decline the US hegemony in the future. According to Organsky’s power transition theory, the single most dominant power is dethroned by the second largest power, which has a faster-growing economy, greater political capability, and sufficient military muscle in comparison to the matured power. According to this logic, China, as the second largest power in terms of political capability and economy, can shatter the US hegemony at any time. So, to resist the “China rise as threat” with a strong hand, the US makes the Indo-Pacific the pivot area of its geopolitical strategies.

9/11 Terrorist Attack

On September 11, 2001, the 19 militants affiliated with the Afghani Islamic extremist group Taliban-Al Qaeda staged jointly a terrorist attack on the American Pentagon (known as the World Trade Center) and dispatched more than 3,000 people. From this fact, the US defined terrorism as a great threat to its hegemony because it has already asserted that can destroy its dominant position at any time. For Statista, 37,001 terrorist attacks were cracked out in south Asia from 2007 to 2021 manifesting that the blaze of terrorism has been spread out mostly over this area. In this context, the Indo-Pacific region is identified as the counterterrorism pivot. As a result, the US kept its strategies towards Indo-Pacific to encounter terrorism.

Offensive Intention of North Korea

In 1950, North Korea wielded an offensive invasion against South Korea which was a pro-western country. On account of this, the US, as a friend to take revenge in place of South Korea, gave economic sanctions on North Korea under the Trading with the Enemy Act (TWEA) that was exercised till 2008. Consequently, the US-North Korea bilateral relations have gone out as more antagonistic.

But before 2009, North Korea did not carry out any potential challenge against the US threats for interest. For the first time in 2013, Kim Jong-un after being the supreme leader of North Korea launched a robust attack on US interests by conducting a ballistic missile test on Japan which was a great alliance of the US. Following that, in 2016 and 2017, North Korea again tested ballistic missiles nearby South Korea and the US that ghostly set ablaze the US hegemony. At that time, the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) reported that in terms of warhead stockpiles, North Korea has ramped up from short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) to intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that could challenge us at any time.

And that’s happened so in 2022, North Korea carried out an unprecedented 63 ballistic missile tests nearby the US and its alliance’s territory. So, the US policy along with UN resolutions evoked North Korea to curtail its ballistic missiles. But Kim Jong-un directly refused their denuclearization voice and even motivated his country to continue the development of nuclear power. Therefore, undoubtedly such behavior of Kim Jong-un determines an offensive intention that can carry out a strong attack on US hegemony believed by the US intelligence community. For this reason, the US kept its strategic eyes on North Korea under the Indo-Pacific umbrella.

Geographical Proximity regarding Alliances

To sustain the hegemonic position in the international system, the single most dominant nation has to provide economic assistance, political support, and security to its alliances. In this context, the US has played the parental responsibilities (PR) for its alliances since it became a hegemon in the 20th century. At present, we can see that Asia-based US alliances are facing more threats than the other alliances of the world. Such as; India, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea which are US-friendly states are constantly confronting the security threats of China and North Korea. China, driven by expansionist ideology, constantly seeks to the way of how to control Ladakh, Sikkim (India), and Doclam territory (Bhutan) by military forces. Not only that, but China by following the One-China principle also assaults Taiwan’s sovereignty since 1992. On the other hand, North Korea escalates its aggressive intention in Northern Limit Line (NLL), a maritime border between South and North Korea, and ups tensions in the South’s city of Sokcho. Even more, North Korea’s series of military actions, namely its consecutive launches of ballistic missiles, threaten the peace, security, and stability of Japan.

Therefore, as a hegemon, it is the US’s responsibility to encounter those rising threats that challenge its hegemonic position through the geographical proximity of its alliances. In this regard, the US triggered its strategic gun toward Asia where its alliances faced more threats than others.

In all these views, it is asserted as a conclusion that the Sino-US competition is continuously making the Indo-Pacific region very complicated that will be prolonged so far in the future. But, in this region, it is required for underdeveloped or developing countries like Bangladesh to remain vigilant about the Sino-US geopolitical game and must avoid being the KABAB MEIN HADDI of their politics.

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