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The Indian Ocean: Centre Stage for the 21st Century

Edward Campbell

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Here, reproduced in two part sunder the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act, from the March April 2009 edition of Foreign Affairs, is a thought provoking article by Robert Kaplan:


Part1 of 2

Center Stage for the 21st Century
Power Plays in the Indian Ocean

March/April 2009

Robert D. Kaplan

ROBERT D. KAPLAN, a National Correspondent for The Atlantic and a Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, in Washington, D.C., is writing a book on the Indian Ocean. He recently was the Class of 1960 Distinguished Visiting Professor in National Security at the U.S. Naval Academy.

For better or worse, phrases such "the Cold War" and "the clash of civilizations" matter. In a similar way, so do maps. The right map can stimulate foresight by providing a spatial view of critical trends in world politics. Understanding the map of Europe was essential to understanding the twentieth century. Although recent technological advances and economic integration have encouraged global thinking, some places continue to count more than others. And in some of those, such as Iraq and Pakistan, two countries with inherently artificial contours, politics is still at the mercy of geography.

So in what quarter of the earth today can one best glimpse the future? Because of their own geographic circumstances, Americans, in particular, continue to concentrate on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. World War II and the Cold War shaped this outlook: Nazi Germany, imperial Japan, the Soviet Union, and communist China were all oriented toward one of these two oceans. The bias is even embedded in mapping conventions: Mercator projections tend to place the Western Hemisphere in the middle of the map, splitting the Indian Ocean at its far edges. And yet, as the pirate activity off the coast of Somalia and the terrorist carnage in Mumbai last fall suggest, the Indian Ocean -- the world's third-largest body of water -- already forms center stage for the challenges of the twenty-first century.

The greater Indian Ocean region encompasses the entire arc of Islam, from the Sahara Desert to the Indonesian archipelago. Although the Arabs and the Persians are known to Westerners primarily as desert peoples, they have also been great seafarers. In the Middle Ages, they sailed from Arabia to China; proselytizing along the way, they spread their faith through sea-based commerce. Today, the western reaches of the Indian Ocean include the tinderboxes of Somalia, Yemen, Iran, and Pakistan -- constituting a network of dynamic trade as well as a network of global terrorism, piracy, and drug smuggling. Hundreds of millions of Muslims -- the legacy of those medieval conversions -- live along the Indian Ocean's eastern edges, in India and Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia.


The Indian Ocean is dominated by two immense bays, the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, near the top of which are two of the least stable countries in the world: Pakistan and Myanmar (also known as Burma). State collapse or regime change in Pakistan would affect its neighbors by empowering Baluchi and Sindhi separatists seeking closer links to India and Iran. Likewise, the collapse of the junta in Myanmar -- where competition over energy and natural resources between China and India looms -- would threaten economies nearby and require a massive seaborne humanitarian intervention. On the other hand, the advent of a more liberal regime in Myanmar would undermine China's dominant position there, boost Indian influence, and quicken regional economic integration.

In other words, more than just a geographic feature, the Indian Ocean is also an idea. It combines the centrality of Islam with global energy politics and the rise of India and China to reveal a multilayered, multipolar world. The dramatic economic growth of India and China has been duly noted, but the equally dramatic military ramifications of this development have not. India's and China's great-power aspirations, as well as their quests for energy security, have compelled the two countries "to redirect their gazes from land to the seas," according to James Holmes and Toshi Yoshihara, associate professors of strategy at the U.S. Naval War College. And the very fact that they are focusing on their sea power indicates how much more self-confident they feel on land. And so a map of the Indian Ocean exposes the contours of power politics in the twenty-first century.

Yet this is still an environment in which the United States will have to keep the peace and help guard the global commons -- interdicting terrorists, pirates, and smugglers; providing humanitarian assistance; managing the competition between India and China. It will have to do so not, as in Afghanistan and Iraq, as a land-based, in-your-face meddler, leaning on far-flung army divisions at risk of getting caught up in sectarian conflict, but as a sea-based balancer lurking just over the horizon. Sea power has always been less threatening than land power: as the cliché goes, navies make port visits, and armies invade. Ships take a long time to get to a war zone, allowing diplomacy to work its magic. And as the U.S. response to the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean showed, with most sailors and marines returning to their ships each night, navies can exert great influence on shore while leaving a small footprint. The more the United States becomes a maritime hegemon, as opposed to a land-based one, the less threatening it will seem to others.

Moreover, precisely because India and China are emphasizing their sea power, the job of managing their peaceful rise will fall on the U.S. Navy to a significant extent. There will surely be tensions between the three navies, especially as the gaps in their relative strength begin to close. But even if the comparative size of the U.S. Navy decreases in the decades ahead, the United States will remain the one great power from outside the Indian Ocean region with a major presence there -- a unique position that will give it the leverage to act as a broker between India and China in their own backyard. To understand this dynamic, one must look at the region from a maritime perspective.


Thanks to the predictability of the monsoon winds, the countries on the Indian Ocean were connected well before the age of steam power. Trade in frankincense, spices, precious stones, and textiles brought together the peoples flung along its long shoreline during the Middle Ages. Throughout history, sea routes have mattered more than land routes, writes the historian Felipe Fernández-Armesto, because they carry more goods more economically. "Whoever is lord of Malacca has his hand on the throat of Venice," went one saying during the late fifteenth century, alluding to the city's extensive commerce with Asia; if the world were an egg, Hormuz would be its yolk, went another. Even today, in the jet and information age, 90 percent of global commerce and about 65 percent of all oil travel by sea. Globalization has been made possible by the cheap and easy shipping of containers on tankers, and the Indian Ocean accounts for fully half the world's container traffic. Moreover, 70 percent of the total traffic of petroleum products passes through the Indian Ocean, on its way from the Middle East to the Pacific. As these goods travel that route, they pass through the world's principal oil shipping lanes, including the Gulfs of Aden and Oman -- as well as some of world commerce's main chokepoints: Bab el Mandeb and the Straits of Hormuz and Malacca. Forty percent of world trade passes through the Strait of Malacca; 40 percent of all traded crude oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz.

Already the world's preeminent energy and trade interstate seaway, the Indian Ocean will matter even more in the future. Global energy needs are expected to rise by 45 percent between 2006 and 2030, and almost half of the growth in demand will come from India and China. China's demand for crude oil doubled between 1995 and 2005 and will double again in the coming 15 years or so; by 2020, China is expected to import 7.3 million barrels of crude per day -- half of Saudi Arabia's planned output. More than 85 percent of the oil and oil products bound for China cross the Indian Ocean and pass through the Strait of Malacca.

India -- soon to become the world's fourth-largest energy consumer, after the United States, China, and Japan -- is dependent on oil for roughly 33 percent of its energy needs, 65 percent of which it imports. And 90 percent of its oil imports could soon come from the Persian Gulf. India must satisfy a population that will, by 2030, be the largest of any country in the world. Its coal imports from far-off Mozambique are set to increase substantially, adding to the coal that India already imports from other Indian Ocean countries, such as South Africa, Indonesia, and Australia. In the future, India-bound ships will also be carrying increasingly large quantities of liquefied natural gas (LNG) across the seas from southern Africa, even as it continues importing LNG from Qatar, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

As the whole Indian Ocean seaboard, including Africa's eastern shores, becomes a vast web of energy trade, India is seeking to increase its influence from the Plateau of Iran to the Gulf of Thailand -- an expansion west and east meant to span the zone of influence of the Raj's viceroys. India's trade with the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf and Iran, with which India has long enjoyed close economic and cultural ties, is booming. Approximately 3.5 million Indians work in the six Arab states of the Gulf Cooperation Council and send home $4 billion in remittances annually. As India's economy continues to grow, so will its trade with Iran and, once the country recovers, Iraq. Iran, like Afghanistan, has become a strategic rear base for India against Pakistan, and it is poised to become an important energy partner. In 2005, India and Iran signed a multibillion-dollar deal under which Iran will supply India with 7.5 million tons of LNG annually for 25 years, beginning in 2009. There has been talk of building a gas pipeline from Iran to India through Pakistan, a project that would join the Middle East and South Asia at the hip (and in the process could go a long way toward stabilizing Indian-Pakistani relations). In another sign that Indian-Iranian relations are growing more intimate, India has been helping Iran develop the port of Chah Bahar, on the Gulf of Oman, which will also serve as a forward base for the Iranian navy.

India has also been expanding its military and economic ties with Myanmar, to the east. Democratic India does not have the luxury of spurning Myanmar's junta because Myanmar is rich in natural resources -- oil, natural gas, coal, zinc, copper, uranium, timber, and hydropower -- resources in which the Chinese are also heavily invested. India hopes that a network of east-west roads and energy pipelines will eventually allow it to be connected to Iran, Pakistan, and Myanmar.

India is enlarging its navy in the same spirit. With its 155 warships, the Indian navy is already one of the world's largest, and it expects to add three nuclear-powered submarines and three aircraft carriers to its arsenal by 2015. One major impetus for the buildup was the humiliating inability of its navy to evacuate Indian citizens from Iraq and Kuwait during the 1990–91 Persian Gulf War. Another is what Mohan Malik, a scholar at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, in Hawaii, has called India's "Hormuz dilemma," its dependence on imports passing through the strait, close to the shores of Pakistan's Makran coast, where the Chinese are helping the Pakistanis develop deep-water ports.

Indeed, as India extends its influence east and west, on land and at sea, it is bumping into China, which, also concerned about protecting its interests throughout the region, is expanding its reach southward. Chinese President Hu Jintao has bemoaned China's "Malacca dilemma." The Chinese government hopes to eventually be able to partly bypass that strait by transporting oil and other energy products via roads and pipelines from ports on the Indian Ocean into the heart of China. One reason that Beijing wants desperately to integrate Taiwan into its dominion is so that it can redirect its naval energies away from the Taiwan Strait and toward the Indian Ocean.

The Chinese government has already adopted a "string of pearls" strategy for the Indian Ocean, which consists of setting up a series of ports in friendly countries along the ocean's northern seaboard. It is building a large naval base and listening post in Gwadar, Pakistan, (from which it may already be monitoring ship traffic through the Strait of Hormuz); a port in Pasni, Pakistan, 75 miles east of Gwadar, which is to be joined to the Gwadar facility by a new highway; a fueling station on the southern coast of Sri Lanka; and a container facility with extensive naval and commercial access in Chittagong, Bangladesh. Beijing operates surveillance facilities on islands deep in the Bay of Bengal. In Myanmar, whose junta gets billions of dollars in military assistance from Beijing, the Chinese are constructing (or upgrading) commercial and naval bases and building roads, waterways, and pipelines in order to link the Bay of Bengal to the southern Chinese province of Yunnan. Some of these facilities are closer to cities in central and western China than those cities are to Beijing and Shanghai, and so building road and rail links from these facilities into China will help spur the economies of China's landlocked provinces. The Chinese government is also envisioning a canal across the Isthmus of Kra, in Thailand, to link the Indian Ocean to China's Pacific coast -- a project on the scale of the Panama Canal and one that could further tip Asia's balance of power in China's favor by giving China's burgeoning navy and commercial maritime fleet easy access to a vast oceanic continuum stretching all the way from East Africa to Japan and the Korean Peninsula.

All of these activities are unnerving the Indian government. With China building deep-water ports to its west and east and a preponderance of Chinese arms sales going to Indian Ocean states, India fears being encircled by China unless it expands its own sphere of influence. The two countries' overlapping commercial and political interests are fostering competition, and even more so in the naval realm than on land. Zhao Nanqi, former director of the General Logistics Department of the People's Liberation Army, proclaimed in 1993, "We can no longer accept the Indian Ocean as an ocean only of the Indians." India has responded to China's building of a naval base in Gwadar by further developing one of its own, that in Karwar, India, south of Goa. Meanwhile, Zhang Ming, a Chinese naval analyst, has warned that the 244 islands that form India's Andaman and Nicobar archipelago could be used like a "metal chain" to block the western entrance to the Strait of Malacca, on which China so desperately depends. "India is perhaps China's most realistic strategic adversary," Zhang has written. "Once India commands the Indian Ocean, it will not be satisfied with its position and will continuously seek to extend its influence, and its eastward strategy will have a particular impact on China." These may sound like the words of a professional worrier from China's own theory class, but these worries are revealing: Beijing already considers New Delhi to be a major sea power.

As the competition between India and China suggests, the Indian Ocean is where global struggles will play out in the twenty-first century. The old borders of the Cold War map are crumbling fast, and Asia is becoming a more integrated unit, from the Middle East to the Pacific. South Asia has been an indivisible part of the greater Islamic Middle East since the Middle Ages: it was the Muslim Ghaznavids of eastern Afghanistan who launched raids on India's northwestern coast in the early eleventh century; Indian civilization itself is a fusion of the indigenous Hindu culture and the cultural imprint left by these invasions. Although it took the seaborne terrorist attacks in Mumbai last November for most Westerners to locate India inside the greater Middle East, the Indian Ocean's entire coast has always constituted one vast interconnected expanse.

What is different now is the extent of these connections. On a maritime-centric map of southern Eurasia, artificial land divisions disappear; even landlocked Central Asia is related to the Indian Ocean. Natural gas from Turkmenistan may one day flow through Afghanistan, for example, en route to Pakistani and Indian cities and ports, one of several possible energy links between Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Both the Chinese port in Gwadar, Pakistan, and the Indian port in Chah Bahar, Iran, may eventually be connected to oil- and natural-gas-rich Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and other former Soviet republics. S. Frederick Starr, a Central Asia expert at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, said at a conference in Washington last year that access to the Indian Ocean "will help define Central Asian politics in the future." Others have called ports in India and Pakistan "evacuation points" for Caspian Sea oil. The destinies of countries even 1,200 miles from the Indian Ocean are connected with it.

End of Part 1

Part 2 of 2

Center Stage for the 21st Century
Power Plays in the Indian Ocean

Robert D. Kaplan


The United States faces three related geopolitical challenges in Asia: the strategic nightmare of the greater Middle East, the struggle for influence over the southern tier of the former Soviet Union, and the growing presence of India and China in the Indian Ocean. The last seems to be the most benign of the three. China is not an enemy of the United States, like Iran, but a legitimate peer competitor, and India is a budding ally. And the rise of the Indian navy, soon to be the third largest in the world after those of the United States and China, will function as an antidote to Chinese military expansion.

The task of the U.S. Navy will therefore be to quietly leverage the sea power of its closest allies -- India in the Indian Ocean and Japan in the western Pacific -- to set limits on China's expansion. But it will have to do so at the same time as it seizes every opportunity to incorporate China's navy into international alliances; a U.S.-Chinese understanding at sea is crucial for the stabilization of world politics in the twenty-first century. After all, the Indian Ocean is a seaway for both energy and hashish and is in drastic need of policing. To manage it effectively, U.S. military planners will have to invoke challenges such as terrorism, piracy, and smuggling to bring together India, China, and other states in joint sea patrols. The goal of the United States must be to forge a global maritime system that can minimize the risks of interstate conflict while lessening the burden of policing for the U.S. Navy.

Keeping the peace in the Indian Ocean will be even more crucial once the seas and the coasts from the Gulf of Aden to the Sea of Japan are connected. Shipping options between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean will increase substantially in the future. The port operator Dubai Ports World is conducting a feasibility study on constructing a land bridge near the canal that the Chinese hope will be dug across the Isthmus of Kra, with ports on either side of the isthmus connected by rails and highways. The Malaysian government is interested in a pipeline network that would link up ports in the Bay of Bengal with those in the South China Sea. To be sure, as sea power grows in importance, the crowded hub around Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia will form the maritime heart of Asia: in the coming decades, it will be as strategically significant as the Fulda Gap, a possible invasion route for Soviet tanks into West Germany during the Cold War. The protective oversight of the U.S. Navy there will be especially important. As the only truly substantial blue-water force without territorial ambitions on the Asian mainland, the U.S. Navy may in the future be able to work with individual Asian countries, such as India and China, better than they can with one another. Rather than ensure its dominance, the U.S. Navy simply needs to make itself continually useful.

It has already begun to make the necessary shifts. Owing to the debilitating U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, headlines in recent years have been dominated by discussions about land forces and counterinsurgency. But with 75 percent of the earth's population living within 200 miles of the sea, the world's military future may well be dominated by naval (and air) forces operating over vast regions. And to a greater extent than the other armed services, navies exist to protect economic interests and the system in which these interests operate. Aware of how much the international economy depends on sea traffic, U.S. admirals are thinking beyond the fighting and winning of wars to responsibilities such as policing a global trading arrangement. They are also attuned to the effects that a U.S. military strike against Iran would have on maritime commerce and the price of oil. With such concerns in mind, the U.S. Navy has for decades been helping to secure vital chokepoints in the Indian Ocean, often operating from a base on the British atoll of Diego Garcia, a thousand miles south of India and close to major sea-lanes. And in October 2007, it implied that it was seeking a sustained forward presence in the Indian Ocean and the western Pacific but no longer in the Atlantic -- a momentous shift in overall U.S. maritime strategy. The document Marine Corps Vision and Strategy 2025 also concluded that the Indian Ocean and its adjacent waters will be a central theater of global conflict and competition this century.

Yet as the challenges for the United States on the high seas multiply, it is unclear how much longer U.S. naval dominance will last. At the end of the Cold War, the U.S. Navy boasted about 600 warships; it is now down to 279. That number might rise to 313 in the coming years with the addition of the new "littoral combat ships," but it could also drop to the low 200s given cost overruns of 34 percent and the slow pace of shipbuilding. Although the revolution in precision-guided weapons means that existing ships pack better firepower than those of the Cold War fleet did, since a ship cannot be in two places at once, the fewer the vessels, the riskier every decision to deploy them. There comes a point at which insufficient quantity hurts quality.

Meanwhile, by sometime in the next decade, China's navy will have more warships than the United States'. China is producing and acquiring submarines five times as fast as is the United States. In addition to submarines, the Chinese have wisely focused on buying naval mines, ballistic missiles that can hit moving targets at sea, and technology that blocks signals from GPS satellites, on which the U.S. Navy depends. (They also have plans to acquire at least one aircraft carrier; not having one hindered their attempts to help with the tsunami relief effort in 2004–5.) The goal of the Chinese is "sea denial," or dissuading U.S. carrier strike groups from closing in on the Asian mainland wherever and whenever Washington would like. The Chinese are also more aggressive than U.S. military planners. Whereas the prospect of ethnic warfare has scared away U.S. admirals from considering a base in Sri Lanka, which is strategically located at the confluence of the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, the Chinese are constructing a refueling station for their warships there.

There is nothing illegitimate about the rise of China's navy. As the country's economic interests expand dramatically, so must China expand its military, and particularly its navy, to guard these interests. The United Kingdom did just that in the nineteenth century, and so did the United States when it emerged as a great power between the American Civil War and World War I. In 1890, the American military theorist Alfred Thayer Mahan published The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660–1783, which argued that the power to protect merchant fleets had been the determining factor in world history. Both Chinese and Indian naval strategists read him avidly nowadays. China's quest for a major presence in the Indian Ocean was also evinced in 2005 by the beginning of an extensive commemoration of Zheng He, the Ming dynasty explorer and admiral who plied the seas between China and Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Persian Gulf, and the Horn of Africa in the early decades of the fifteenth century -- a celebration that signals China's belief that these seas have always been part of its zone of influence.

Just as at the end of the nineteenth century the British Royal Navy began to reduce its presence worldwide by leveraging the growing sea power of its naval allies (Japan and the United States), at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the United States is beginning an elegant decline by leveraging the growing sea power of allies such as India and Japan to balance against China. What better way to scale back than to give more responsibilities to like-minded states, especially allies that, unlike those in Europe, still cherish military power?

India, for one, is more than willing to help. "India has never waited for American permission to balance [against] China," the Indian strategist C. Raja Mohan wrote in 2006, adding that India has been balancing against China since the day the Chinese invaded Tibet. Threatened by China's rise, India has expanded its naval presence from as far west as the Mozambique Channel to as far east as the South China Sea. It has been establishing naval staging posts and listening stations on the island nations of Madagascar, Mauritius, and the Seychelles, as well as military relationships with them, precisely in order to counter China's own very active military cooperation with these states. With a Chinese-Pakistani alliance taking shape, most visibly in the construction of the Gwadar port, near the Strait of Hormuz, and an Indian naval buildup on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, near the Strait of Malacca, the Indian-Chinese rivalry is taking on the dimensions of a maritime Great Game. This is a reason for the United States to quietly encourage India to balance against China, even as the United States seeks greater cooperation with China. During the Cold War, the Pacific and Indian oceans were veritable U.S. lakes. But such hegemony will not last, and the United States must seek to replace it with a subtle balance-of-power arrangement.


So how exactly does the United States play the role of a constructive, distant, and slowly declining hegemon and keep peace on the high seas in what Fareed Zakaria, the editor of Newsweek International, has called "the post-American world"? Several years ago, Admiral Michael Mullen, then the chief of naval operations (and now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), said the answer was a "thousand-ship navy . . . comprised of all freedom-loving nations -- standing watch over the seas, standing watch with each other." The term "thousand-ship navy" has since been dropped for sounding too domineering, but the idea behind it remains: rather than going it alone, the U.S. Navy should be a coalition builder supreme, working with any navy that agrees to patrol the seas and share information with it.

Already, Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150), a naval force based in Djibouti and comprising roughly 15 vessels from the United States, four European countries, Canada, and Pakistan, conducts antipiracy patrols around the troubled Gulf of Aden. In 2008, about a hundred ships were attacked by pirates in the region, and over 35 vessels, with billions of dollars worth of cargo, were seized. (As of the end of 2008, more than a dozen, including oil tankers, cargo vessels, and other ships, along with over 300 crew members, were still being held.) Ransom demands routinely exceed $1 million per ship, and in the recent case of one Saudi oil tanker, pirates demanded $25 million. Last fall, after the capture of a Ukrainian vessel carrying tanks and other military equipment, warships from the United States, Kenya, and Malaysia steamed toward the Gulf of Aden to assist CTF-150, followed by two Chinese warships a few weeks later. The force, which is to be beefed up and rechristened CTF-151, is likely to become a permanent fixture: piracy is the maritime ripple effect of land-based anarchy, and for as long as Somalia is in the throes of chaos, pirates operating at the behest of warlords will infest the waters far down Africa's eastern coast.

The task-force model could also be applied to the Strait of Malacca and other waters surrounding the Indonesian archipelago. With help from the U.S. Navy, the navies and coast guards of Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia have already combined forces to reduce piracy in that area in recent years. And with the U.S. Navy functioning as both a mediator and an enforcer of standard procedures, coalitions of this kind could bring together rival countries, such as India and Pakistan or India and China, under a single umbrella: these states' governments would have no difficulty justifying to their publics participating in task forces aimed at transnational threats over which they have no disagreements. Piracy has the potential to unite rival states along the Indian Ocean coastline.

Packed with states with weak governments and tottering infrastructure, the shores of the Indian Ocean make it necessary for the United States and other countries to transform their militaries. This area represents an unconventional world, a world in which the U.S. military, for one, will have to respond, expeditionary style, to a range of crises: not just piracy but also terrorist attacks, ethnic conflicts, cyclones, and floods. For even as the United States' armed forces, and particularly its navy, are in relative decline, they remain the most powerful conventional military on earth, and they will be expected to lead such emergency responses. With population growth in climatically and seismically fragile zones today placing more human beings in danger's way than at almost any other time in history, one deployment will quickly follow another.

It is the variety and recurrence of these challenges that make the map of the Indian Ocean in the twenty-first century vastly different from the map of the North Atlantic in the twentieth century. The latter illustrated both a singular threat and a singular concept: the Soviet Union. And it gave the United States a simple focus: to defend Western Europe against the Red Army and keep the Soviet navy bottled up near the polar icecap. Because the threat was straightforward, and the United States' power was paramount, the U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization arguably became history's most successful alliance.

One might envision a "NATO of the seas" for the Indian Ocean, composed of South Africa, Oman, Pakistan, India, Singapore, and Australia, with Pakistan and India bickering inside the alliance much as Greece and Turkey have inside NATO. But that idea fails to capture what the Indian Ocean is all about. Owing to the peripatetic movements of medieval Arab and Persian sailors and the legacies of Portuguese, Dutch, and British imperialists, the Indian Ocean forms a historical and cultural unit. Yet in strategic terms, it, like the world at large today, has no single focal point. The Gulf of Aden, the Persian Gulf, the Bay of Bengal -- all these areas are burdened by different threats with different players. Just as today NATO is a looser alliance, less singularly focused than it was during the Cold War, any coalition centered on the Indian Ocean should be adapted to the times. Given the ocean's size -- it stretches across seven time zones and almost half of the world's latitudes -- and the comparative slowness at which ships move, it would be a challenge for any one multinational navy to get to a crisis zone in time. The United States was able to lead the relief effort off the coast of Indonesia after the 2004 tsunami only because the carrier strike group the USS Abraham Lincoln happened to be in the vicinity and not in the Korean Peninsula, where it was headed.

A better approach would be to rely on multiple regional and ideological alliances in different parts of the Indian Ocean. Some such efforts have already begun. The navies of Thailand, Singapore, and Indonesia have banded together to deter piracy in the Strait of Malacca; those of the United States, India, Singapore, and Australia have exercised together off India's southwestern coast -- an implicit rebuke to China's designs in the region. According to Vice Admiral John Morgan, former deputy chief of U.S. naval operations, the Indian Ocean strategic system should be like the New York City taxi system: driven by market forces and with no central dispatcher. Coalitions will naturally form in areas where shipping lanes need to be protected, much as taxis gather in the theater district before and after performances. For one Australian commodore, the model should be a network of artificial sea bases supplied by the U.S. Navy, which would allow for different permutations of alliances: frigates and destroyers from various states could "plug and play" into these sea bases as necessary and spread out from East Africa to the Indonesian archipelago.

Like a microcosm of the world at large, the greater Indian Ocean region is developing into an area of both ferociously guarded sovereignty (with fast-growing economies and militaries) and astonishing interdependence (with its pipelines and land and sea routes). And for the first time since the Portuguese onslaught in the region in the early sixteenth century, the West's power there is in decline, however subtly and relatively. The Indians and the Chinese will enter into a dynamic great-power rivalry in these waters, with their shared economic interests as major trading partners locking them in an uncomfortable embrace. The United States, meanwhile, will serve as a stabilizing power in this newly complex area. Indispensability, rather than dominance, must be its goal.

Copyright © 2002-2009 by the Council on Foreign Relations, Inc.
All rights reserved.

End of article. My comments follow, below.

Like it or not, Kaplan’s analysis deserves a fair reading and an open discussion.

I agree, very broadly, with his regional analysis:

• The Indian Ocean is a region of great and increasing importance;

• It is bordered by some of the world’s most unstable and dangerous states; and

• Free access to and through it is vital to two emerging great powers: China and India.

I also agree with his somewhat more provocative contention that the USA is a ”slowly declining hegemon” – see, also his recent article in The Atlantic – which means that its capacity to manage the Indian Ocean situation, on its own, is limited.

As I have said elsewhere, I support multinational efforts – even a “NATO of the seas”, so long as NATO/Brussels is not too deeply involved – to try to prevent the escalation of regional difficulties into full scale, destructive wars.

We, as Canadians, need to consider out vital interests and, more broadly, those of the US led West.

First: Don’t bet against America. It may well be a slowly declining hegemon but the operative word is slowly. For the duration of any useful planning period the USA remains the world’s greatest of great powers: the undisputed military hyper-power. China will challenge it, but, initially – and for as long as I and some of you will be alive – only in the “soft power” domains. (See: here.)

Second: Our primary vital interest is in preventing the escalation of conflicts into wars because they disrupt trade and commerce and we are, and need be, above all, a trading nation;

Third: We, and our friends and allies, have no valid reasons to pick a fight with China. It doesn’t want a fight and it does not threaten any of our vital interests. The reunification of China/Taiwan is not one of our vital interests. Assuming, as I do, that it will be done “correctly” (some sort of one country/two systems formula) it does not even threaten our financial/trade interests;

Fourth: We have a long tradition, going all the way back to the Nehru/St Laurent-Pearson days, of close relations with India. It is, it is fair to say, the “world’s greatest democracy” and we have an interest in preserving, defending and promoting democracy in the world. India is not our enemy; it should be our friend and ally; and

Fifth: We want and need to continue to (maintain and) raise our stature in the world by playing an active, constructive and highly visible role in global security.

All that means that, in addition to continuing on in Afghanistan even after the combat mission in Kandahar ends in 2011 and to strengthening our Arctic sovereignty, we must play a bigger role in The Indian Ocean and in the Afro-Asian trouble-spots (home of the “bottom billion” about which I go on and on and on until you are all near to terminal boredom).

Kaplan offers one view of part of the way ahead.

We can begin by encouraging the USA, Australia, Singapore and others to join in a “regional” security effort.

What I got out of this is we need to get into the warship building/selling business.
It sounds like a growing market.....
E.R. Campbell said:
We can begin by encouraging the USA, Australia, Singapore and others to join in a “regional” security effort.

I am a little surprised that Malaysia did not make your immediate list at the top of your mind, considering that it has raised its standard of living in the last two decades and can be considered a 2nd-string Asian Economic Tiger after the original four, and its armed forces have had a modernization process that has paralleled its growing prosperity. It is also a fellow Commonwealth member nation and one of the more moderate Muslim states. IIRC, the Royal Malaysian Navy recently participated in Exercise Bersama Lima 08 alongside the RN, as well as forces from Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.

Maybe Canada should also think of joining the FPDA, considering the increased forays of Canadian warships into the Indian Ocean, not only to support the Coalition in the Persian Gulf but also in the recent anti-piracy efforts off Somalia?
While the shift in relative power is noted, I think one of the best descriptions I saw (and I wish I could find the source again...) is the contest between China and America is a contest between a Dragon and a Whale; each is supreme in its own element, but can't really get at the other.

China's ability to project forces in the Indian Ocean will always be limited by geography: the sea approaches are both narrow and guarded by nations which are neutral towards Chinese interests at best. India's interest in dominating the Indian Ocean is certainly a huge obstacle for Chinese interests, and even the United States still has control of access to "unsinkable aircraft carriers" in the form of bases throughout the region, and allies like Australia and Japan.

I also suspect that the United States has the unique ability to change the game with innovative technologies, ranging from fairly straightforward developments like adopting high speed hull forms for surface combatants to really freaky things like using metamaterials to render ships and equipment "invisible" to various forms of detection and really advanced forms of information technology like "Wolfram Alpha" to integrate and use vast databases of information.

While this is obviously not going to happen overnight (and may not happen using the ideas I postulated), this still shifts the ground the opposition is playing on, just as the quantitative advances of the 1980's undercut the vast numeric superiority of the former USSR on land.
Mr. Thucydides,

Do you think that Canada would have an interest in joining the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) as a means to get its foot in the door for forming alliances for use in this region as the article recommended? The FPDA's current signatories include the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore. While the original arrangement's aim included the defence of Malaysia and Singapore, all its members/signatories are also the more prosperous Commonwealth member nations and thus it seems to me that Canada would fit right in since these other nations share common interests with Canada on other issues.  And you are of course well aware of the defence capabilities of these other nations.

Perhaps the arrangement could have its mandate expanded to include antipiracy operations as just one justification for Canada to join. Or even the protection of the British territory/outpost at Diego Garcia.
CougarDaddy said:
I am a little surprised that Malaysia did not make your immediate list at the top of your mind, considering that it has raised its standard of living in the last two decades and can be considered a 2nd-string Asian Economic Tiger after the original four, and its armed forces have had a modernization process that has paralleled its growing prosperity. It is also a fellow Commonwealth member nation and one of the more moderate Muslim states. IIRC, the Royal Malaysian Navy recently participated in Exercise Bersama Lima 08 alongside the RN, as well as forces from Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.

Maybe Canada should also think of joining the FPDA, considering the increased forays of Canadian warships into the Indian Ocean, not only to support the Coalition in the Persian Gulf but also in the recent anti-piracy efforts off Somalia?

Malaysia is an oddball, while it keeps ties with the west, including having various military training exercises with Aussie, US & British troops, it does not see itself first as a Commonwealth country, but more aligned with the Islamic world. Basically the country has followed the personal whims of Dr. M , who while no longer the head of the country still exert considerable influence on the direction his country takes. The internals stresses of Malaysia also play a part in it’s external actions. There is a pressure to become more aligned with Islamic countries, but at the same time they realize the non-Islamic population is the true driver of the economy, the Malays do not trust the  Malaysian Chinese and visa versa. The one thing you can bet on is that Malaysia will do it’s on thing, with maintaining the economy as a priority. The number of ethnic Malays is growing and they are used to a high degree of government handouts and preferential treatment. The government fears unrest if unemployment goes to high and things could get ugly as there are enough AQ & company types lounging around the place to stir up the pot. Presently Malaysia is worth more as a R&R place for AQ and other radicals than as front in global Jihad. Malaysia feels the economic pinch from countries like Vietnam and Burma, that can undercut it’s manufacturing.

CougarDaddy said:
Mr. Thucydides,

Do you think that Canada would have an interest in joining the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) as a means to get its foot in the door for forming alliances for use in this region as the article recommended? The FPDA's current signatories include the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore. While the original arrangement's aim included the defence of Malaysia and Singapore, all its members/signatories are also the more prosperous Commonwealth member nations and thus it seems to me that Canada would fit right in since these other nations share common interests with Canada on other issues.  And you are of course well aware of the defence capabilities of these other nations.

Perhaps the arrangement could have its mandate expanded to include antipiracy operations as just one justification for Canada to join. Or even the protection of the British territory/outpost at Diego Garcia.

If I were in Prime Minister Harper's position I would indeed wish to foster stronger links to the FDPA for most of the reasons you listed. As well, this is part of the larger "Anglosphere" of nations related by common history, language, values and institutions, so we would find a great deal of common interests and goals which would make operating with that group much easier and more productive. Joining with the FDPA could be considered a nice foot in the door move.

The other reason is outlined here, and you can read the complete thread for more details (yes, I am referencing myself. How often can you say that and get away with it? ;D)
Caution: Necrothread resurrected ...

I pay a lot of attention to Danny Quah, Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), I think he is one of the more astute big league public intellectuals and in this short (15+ minute) video he follows on from the idea of this thread ~ that the East is the economic centre stage for the 21st century.

If you cannot manage to sit through 15 minutes of thought provoking talk, just listen, please, to the last two minutes and, especially, to his utilitarian final sentences.

The point is that we must ask the right question, which is not, as Prof Quah explains, "is the East "mature" enough to play a leading role in world affairs?" The right question is how do we, East and West, together manage the world so as to provide "the greatest happiness* [good] for the greatest number" as Joseph Priestly put it in the period around 1765-1780.

* The use of the word happiness by Priestly and by the authors of the US Declaration of Independence (life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness) doesn't suggest that happy = a night with several of FHM's 100 sexciest women, it meant, to the men and women of the Enlightenment, living a productively successful life, making the most of your lifel or, in the words of a 20th century US Army advertisement: "be all you can be."
I had also thought about posting this in the India Superthread, but since this seems to be more about how India's endemic corruption and inefficiencies are driving business and investment out of India and into the Indian Ocean region to avoid punative taxation and being strangled by regulation, this seems to be the best place to put it:


As growth slows and reforms falter, economic activity is shifting out of India

  Major trade and finance hubs into India are based in Dubai, Mauritius, Singapore and Sri Lanka.


More than 40% of long-haul journeys from India go via a non-Indian hub, often in the Gulf. Indian airports no longer make grown men cry (Delhi’s is first rate), but few foreign airlines want to make them their base. Indian planes are usually serviced in Dubai, Malaysia and Singapore, reflecting a history of penal taxes in India and high customs duties on imported spare parts.

Indians go to Dubai to avoid taxes at home and because they trust its certification and inspection regime. Dubai’s ports, air links and immigration rules also make it a better logistical base than India.


About 5,000km (3,000 miles) south of Dubai lies Mauritius, an island so beautiful that Mark Twain said God had modelled heaven on it. About half its people are descended from labourers brought from India when Britain ruled both places. It is the main conduit for foreign investment into India with 30-40% of the stock of foreign capital sitting in funds domiciled in the island. A 1982 tax treaty allows investors using Mauritius to pay tax at the island’s rate (which, in practice, is zero), not the Indian rate. Foreigners also like the stability of Mauritius’s rules and its army of book-keepers and administrators. Many investors also use “P-Notes”—a kind of derivative with banks that gives them exposure to Indian shares without having the hassle of directly owning them.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has testy relations with India, but Colombo is a vital port. About 30% of containers bound for India go via intermediate hubs fed by small vessels, either because big shipping lines do not want to deal with India’s customs regime or because their ships are too big for the country’s ports. About half of this trans-shipment business happens in Colombo. Its importance could increase now that a big extension to the port there has just opened. The project was funded by a Chinese firm probably too polite to admit that its investment is partly based on the idea that India’s ports will never be world-class.


The largest hub for Indian trade is probably Singapore. It is the centre for investment banking, which thrives offshore, owing to the tight regulation of India’s banks and debt markets. Reflecting this, the global exposure to India of Citigroup and Standard Chartered, the two foreign banks busiest in India, is 1.9 times the size of their regulated Indian bank subsidiaries.

Fund managers running money in India are often based in Singapore.

Manufacturing, Industry and mining drifting offshore

The biggest worry is that heavy industry is getting itchy feet. Coal India, a state-owned mining monopoly sitting on some of the world’s biggest reserves, plans to spend billions of dollars buying mines abroad—red tape and political squabbles mean it is too difficult to expand production at home.

Some fear manufacturing is drifting offshore
India's first nuclear sub fired up its reactor on 10 Aug.Her name is the Arihant.Today the Indian Navy launched their new carrier the Vikrant.Its all about sending a message to the neighbors.



India recently passed a major milestone in the development of its blue-water navy: The country’s first nuclear-powered submarine successfully activated its reactor yesterday. As The Hindu reports, the sub—named the Arihant—is the first of four, all of which of the subs will carry K-15 missiles which can be launched from underwater and carry a nuclear warhead and hit targets up to 700 kilometers away.

The Arihant makes India the second power in the region with nuclear submarines, joining China. It’s also the latest in a flurry of naval building throughout Asia: Japan recently launched its largest ship since WWII, China appears to be working on a second full-sized aircraft carrier and Australia and Japan are considering an agreement to share submarine technology of their own. India’s new nuclear submarine fleet has been under development for 25 years and seems to be aimed at least as much towards providing second-strike deterrence towards Pakistan as towards China. Nonetheless, the subs are sure to make waves in a region in the grips of a serious naval arms race.

New Carrier:

E.R. Campbell said:

But consider, also, the issue of the Kra Isthmus Canal across Thailand which China is considering building at a cost of $(US)25 Billion or more and which could do real serious damage to Singapore's position as East Asia's favourite entrepôt.


This article, which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from The Diplomat, could have gone in one of several threads but I think it fits best, here:


Can India Blockade China?

By  Shashank Joshi

August 12, 2013

The Indian Navy has had a big week. The reactor in its first indigenous nuclear submarine, the Arihant, went critical on Saturday, and its first indigenous aircraft carrier, the Vikrant, was formally unveiled today. It's long been assumed that one of the primary tasks of the rapidly-modernizing service and its expanding fleet is to apply pressure to China's Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOCs) in the event of conflict.

The Economist suggested a few months ago that "India’s naval advantage might allow it, for example, to impede oil traffic heading for China through the Malacca Strait." David Scott's recent article in the Journal of Strategic Studies, argues that: "In the case of the Malacca Strait … India [has] the ability to block (China’s so-called ‘Malacca Dilemma’) easy Chinese access to the Indian Ocean." Ajai Shukla, a well-informed defense journalist, writes that "analysts agree that the Indian Navy … can shut down the Indian Ocean shipping lanes whenever it chooses," and quotes a retired fleet commander as saying that "a couple of submarines and a fighter squadron at Car Nicobar could easily enforce a declared blockade." India's first official naval doctrine, in 2004, itself boasted that "control of the choke points could be used as a bargaining chip in the international power game."

Raja Menon, a retired Rear Admiral and prominent advocate of seapower in Indian strategic debates, built on these assumptions in a recent op-ed in the Hindu, criticizing the government's decision to invest substantially in raising a new Indian Army strike corps intended for the Chinese border:

    Most of all, we appear not to have assessed the Chinese weakness and strengths. Their strength is the huge logistic network that they have built up in Tibet. By creating a one axis strike corps, we have played into
    their strengths. The Chinese weakness lies in the Indian Ocean, a fact that even Beijing will readily concede. The clash between their political system and economic prosperity requires resources and, increasingly,
    the Chinese resource pool is Africa, which generates massive sea lines of communication (SLOC) through the Indian Ocean. Today, they are merely SLOCs; tomorrow they will be the Chinese Jugular. Beijing’s
    paranoia about the Indian Ocean is therefore understandable but the threat according to its strategic commentators comes only from the U.S. Sixty thousand crore [around $10bn] spent on strengthening the Indian
    Navy’s SLOC interdiction capability would have given us a stranglehold on the Chinese routes through the Indian Ocean. The Himalayan border, the entire border, could have been held hostage by our strength in
    the Indian Ocean with an investment of Rs.60,000 crore.

Menon’s take is a familiar one. But what is interesting is the scale of pushback against this argument. Zorawar Daulet Singh countered in the Hindu:

    While conceptually intuitive, the linkage requires equivalence: Beijing must value the integrity of its SLOCs enough to change its calculus on the mountains. Naval blockades are also complicated operations. The time
    horizon for success to the point that China would find its resource security threatened would be significantly longer than a swift and limited, continental operation whether pursued for punitive reasons or to change
    the Line of Actual Control. China’s growing, strategic petroleum reserve, though intended to offset market disruptions, will also be an asset in such a scenario. Further, China’s pursuit of new Eurasian lines of
    communication, both with growing energy linkages with Russia and connectivity through Central Asia, indicate a potential, declining dependence on Indian Ocean SLOCs at least for some strategic resources. Plainly
    put, a core interest cannot be secured by peripheral, horizontal escalation.

Bharat Karnad made some similar points in the New Indian Express:

    [A]s empirical evidence shows, a maritime strategy can overcome only island nations (such as Japan in World War II) but by itself can at most seriously discomfit, not stifle, major land powers enjoying interior lines
    of communications [...]

    In a “limited war” launched by PLA, sinking a few Chinese warships found east of the Malacca Strait, or sinking or capturing Chinese merchantmen on the high seas is surely not enough recompense for loss of
    valuable territory in Arunachal Pradesh and elsewhere along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), and from which the Chinese forces are unlikely to withdraw as they did in 1962. So, the status quo ante will not be
    restored on land as it will be on the seas.

Karnad also doubts that India’s navy “of 50-odd capital ships by 2030” will be enough to impose a complete blockade on China, and raises the important issue that blockades take much longer to achieve their aim than ground operations:

    Indeed, the Chinese could well achieve their limited war aims before many Chinese naval ships and merchant marine can be found and sunk, and the Chinese economy impacted. [...] Thirdly, unlike India, China has
    built up strategic reserves of oil and minerals; these will last longer than the limited war will endure and before India’s maritime counter can have effect.

Nitin Gokhale concurs, adding:

    SLOCs are not an exclusive preserve of either India or China and the international community is therefore bound to intervene to keep the passage free to enable trade and commerce to function normally. A
    selective blockade of China-centric sea traffic is realistically difficult to implement even if on paper the prospect looks alluring.

This debate is interesting for a few reasons.

First, it represents a quieter echo of a U.S. debate over the feasibility of blockading China. Despite growing interaction between the U.S. and Indian navies, and India’s growing interest in broader Asia-focused debates over China, India still views this question firmly in unilateral terms. The scenarios discussed are usually bilateral disputes between China and India, and envision India acting unilaterally in imposing the hypothetical blockade.

Second, Indian assessments of the country's maritime strength will be important factors in shaping Indian crisis behavior, particularly as the border dispute flares up once more. Whether or not India believes it possesses this degree of naval leverage might affect whether it feels able to escalate a future crisis on the border.

What's particularly important about this round of the debate is that the specific question of distinguishing Chinese shipping from other international shipping is getting some attention – a practical question that usually is ignored in discussions of the Indian Navy's coercive missions, resulting in the ease of a "blockade" being overstated.

Third, the debate has implications for interservice resource allocation, with the Navy recently losing out to its rival services. In the 2013-2014 defense budget, the Navy's share of total defense spending fell by the most, and the Navy comprises the smallest share of the budget (18 percent – versus 28 percent for the Indian Air Force and 49 percent for the Indian Army).

Moreover, a recent report by India's Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) found that the Indian Navy only has "61, 44 and 20 percent respectively of the frigates, destroyers and corvettes that it has projected as its minimum requirement." The debate over whether China is more vulnerable on land or sea has a bearing on how India's resources are spent in the future and whether those shortfalls in boat (and especially submarine) numbers are rectified over the longer-term.

Fourth, and finally, the debate over how to respond to China is valuable because, in being sparked by the decision to raise a mountain corps, it has been couched as a trade-off, and therefore brings the question of priorities to the forefront.

Tradeoffs and priorities lie at the heart of strategy, and it is beneficial for India – a country long criticized for a lack of strategic thinking - that it should be forced to think about the question of military modernization as a series of choices across all dimensions of power, including land, sea, and air, rather than a series of decisions to be made in isolation from one another.

India was able to throw money at the problem in its period of plenty, but it now faces growth rates much lower than those of the 2000s with little prospect of a swift return to the boom days. The debate between navalists, contintentalists, and others is an important bellwether of how India’s military maturation might progress. 

Shashank Joshi is a Research Fellow of the Royal United Services Institute.

Now, once again, please, consider that "crazy" Chinese proposal to spend $(US) 25 Billion ~ probably a whole lot more ~ on the Kra Canal project ... it seems to make strategic sense. The Indians can still block both ends but then they have to block the Kra Isthmus and the Malacca Straits and the sundry routes around Indonesia.
This argues for an alliance between India and Indonesia, does it not, to provide the potential to interdict the Chinese SLOC. What it really calls for is for them all to get along, but human nature being what it is, that may not be in the cards.
India and Indonesia my not be a very good fit; nor, in my opinion, are China and Indonesia; but India and Philippines or, equally China and Philippines make sense.

The Chinese have two things the Philippines needs: money and markets.

Their dispute over islands is an obstacle but it is one that can be overcome.

India, also, presents a potential market for the emerging Philippines economy but India is so bloody protectionist that it is a horror for (even relatively) free traders.
E.R. Campbell said:
China and Philippines make sense.

The Chinese have two things the Philippines needs: money and markets.

Manila may adhere to its own "one-China policy" and may recognize Beijing over Taipei, but it's not that simple.

The Philippine government, because of its weakness militarily, has resorted to diplomacy to handle most of its territorial disagreements with Beijing, while at the same time they have jumped on to the "China threat" bandwagon by exploring better defence links with the United States, Australia and Japan. The Philippine Coast Guard is funded from Japanese aid funds; Prime Minister Abe actually made a recent visit to Manila.

Aside from the powerful Filipino-Chinese diaspora who control a sizable chunk of the country's larger companies, such as Philippine Airlines owned by Henry Sy, most average Filipinos on the street cannot tolerate the bully that China has been portrayed to be by the media there. Especially with regard to the resource-rich Spratley Islands which Manila claims, but only partially occupies.

Here's one article that reflects China's perception in the Philippines:

MANILA, Philippines - China's image in the Philippines is largely negative due to the tension over the West Philippines Sea with two in five Filipinos saying the Asian giant has become the country's foe.
A global survey by Pew Research Center released on Thursday finds that in 2013, 39 percent of the population consider the Asian  giant as an "enemy," while 35 percent think China is "neither."

Only 22 percent of Filipinos see China as a "partner."

Among the countries that have standing territorial disputes with China, it is also the Filipinos who say the sea row with China is a "big problem" in the country.
Philippine Star link

However, the Philippines does not border the Indian Ocean, so this is getting off-topic, even if this tangent did focus on China.
E.R. Campbell said:
India and Indonesia my not be a very good fit; nor, in my opinion, are China and Indonesia; but India and Philippines or, equally China and Philippines make sense.

Speaking of Indonesia, it seems the Russians are trying to take advantage of the growing market for warships and submarines among the nations of Southeast and South Asia.

Here's an article below, translated directly from Bahasa, which announced that the Russians are offering 10 used submarines to the Indonesian Navy:

[size=14pt]Russia offers 10 unit of used subs to Indonesia as a grant[/size]

Jakarta - Russia offers ten units of submarines to Indonesia. Still, can not necessarily be accepted because the government still must spend some money on a maintenance costs.

Besides, the government is still considering the life span of these strategic weapon system

"There is an offer of another 10 ships over from Russia," said Secretary of Defense (defense minister) Yusgiantoro Purnomo at Merdeka Palace complex, Jakarta, Saturday (17/8).

He said the Russian submarine that on offer are the used one. the offers is based on the ground of the closeness of the two countries

Beritsatu.com link
An interesting graphic, from the Wall Street Journal, on defence spending: the Asia Pacific region still accounts for only 25% of global defence spending but it, the strategic focus of that spending has, I believe, shifted away from the Middle East and West Asia and towards East and South East Asia, making the Indian Ocean "centre stage."

E.R. Campbell said:
India and Indonesia my not be a very good fit; nor, in my opinion, are China and Indonesia; but India and Philippines or, equally China and Philippines make sense.

The Chinese have two things the Philippines needs: money and markets.

Their dispute over islands is an obstacle but it is one that can be overcome.

India, also, presents a potential market for the emerging Philippines economy but India is so bloody protectionist that it is a horror for (even relatively) free traders.

I agree Indonesia will have major issues with how India treats its Muslims, unless the threat from China becomes to great. Indonesia also wants to remain independent. they might be willing to make some agreements with India, which has been traditional not been aligned and nationalist like Indonesia. But they may just as easily make an agreement with China as well.

India and Philippines makes for some interesting thoughts