ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Joint Naval Exercises: Policing the Indian Ocean

The September 4-9 joint naval exercises on an unprecedented scale involving the US, Australia, Japan, India and Singapore, underway as we go to press, not far from the Indian coastline between Visakhapatnam and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal, have predictably been deemed by “embedded” Indian security/strategy analysts to be in “the national interest”. Such military games, these analysts of the establishment claim, are a necessary deterrence to the “Chinese threat”.

The September 4-9 joint naval exercises on an unprecedented scale involving the US, Australia, Japan, India and Singapore, underway as we go to press, not far from the Indian coastline between Visakhapatnam and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal, have predictably been deemed by “embedded” Indian security/strategy analysts to be in “the national interest”. Such military games, these analysts of the establishment claim, are a necessary deterrence to the “Chinese threat”. The China bogey, handy as it comes, lacks novelty; recall Atal Behari Vajpayee writing to Bill Clinton in the aftermath of the 1998 tests about India’s “large neighbour” and the then defence minister George Fernandes describing China as “Enemy No 1”. This time around, a former chief of the Indian navy cites China’s establishment of closer ties with a whole lot of countries “surrounding” India and specifically mentions Gwadar as “the first in a chain of ports that China is developing in our neighbourhood, and which could provide future facilities to its ships and missile-carrying nuclear submarines”.

All this is lapped up by the narrow “India shining” elite whose collective opinion, elicited via the SMS, counts in the big media as the “opinion of the nation”. Both, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress find it prudent to engage in realpolitik acceptable to these elite. The national common minimum programme notwithstanding, whoever expected the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance to defend multi lateralism and the doctrine of non-alignment? Our elite who proudly declare India a major power and a potential superpower are elated that the US seems to have chosen India to police the Indian Ocean sea-lanes from the Suez Canal to the Malacca Strait.

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