India’s Naval Diplomacy


The Indian quest for maintaining its regional hegemonic status in the nuclearized subcontinent led New Delhi to acquire advanced weapon systems against its territorially adjoining nations. The Indian decision-makers have recognized the role of strong Armed Forces as an essential element of New Delhi’s strategic thinking, which is persistently focusing on expanding Indian borders in its home region’s territorial and maritime affairs. The persuasion of strategic interests in the territorial and maritime affairs of South Asia has propelled the Indian leaders under different political administrations to emphasize upon the advancement of its Armed Forces against neighbouring nations, Pakistan and China. The South Asian regional politics, under the shadow of India’s offensive policies have been studied by authors from various parts of the world. Leading academic circles of the international strategic community emphasized mainly the prevailing trends of weapon modernization in the Indian Armed Forces. In the debates on the Indian weapon modernization mechanisms and their integration with the Indian Armed Forces, the literature on the Indian Navy presents interesting information based on New Delhi’s ambitions for influencing its surrounding regions. The book under review is a continuation of global debates on the Indian naval capabilities, which reflect New Delhi’s policy of building its strategic capabilities against the states in its domestic region. P.V. Rao, the writer of the book, has tried to present a descriptive analysis of India’s emerging naval capabilities consisting of different bilateral and multilateral maritime collaborations. Rao is a renowned Indian scholar having intellectual properties concerning the strategic attributes of Indian maritime capabilities and their significance in the broader Indian Ocean Region. He has presented his intellectual insight in his different scholarly writings, such as India and the Indian Ocean: In the Twilight of the Millennium (2003) and India and ASEAN: Partners at Summit (2008)In India’s Naval Diplomacy, he has attempted to maintain an exceptional account of Indian naval development and its expanding influence on regional and extra-regional affairs. He mainly seeks to develop a comprehensive account of various descriptive arguments regarding the role of the Indian Navy in meeting the maritime-specific strategic aspirations of New Delhi and their importance for achieving major foreign policy goals.

The book is a brief account of ten chapters, including the first introductory and last concluding chapters. After introducing the book’s main theme in the first chapter, the subsequent chapters explore different extents of growing Indian naval capabilities and their association with the politics of the broader Indian Ocean Region. The first chapter starts the debate with the main concept of maritime policies and their connection to the mainstream foreign policy framework of the states, parallel to highlighting the major developments in the history of the Indian Navy. The historical discussion provides the evolutionary stages of Indian naval capabilities and their increasing connection with the outside world. The second chapter initiates the debate on the doctrinal aspects of New Delhi’s naval power while explaining the nature of various Indian maritime strategies against the regional security challenges. It is basically an overview of India’s Act East policy and India’s Monroe Doctrine and the transformation of both concepts into different practical measures suggested by Indian leading strategic community’s intellectuals. The planning of bilateral and multilateral exercises with the foreign navies in the surrounding waters is part of a broader maritime engagement policy with neighbouring nations, according to the third chapter of the book. The third chapter examines in detail the spread of Indian multilateral naval initiatives in the broader Indian Ocean Region, where the multiplying tendencies of potential maritime challenges are an undeniable reality for New Delhi. The fourth and fifth chapters speak about the potential avenues of India’s increasing multilateral diplomacy with the states of diverse regions, whereas the sixth and seventh chapters are about New Delhi’s quadrilateral maritime alliances, as per the fundamentals of Indian maritime-specific strategic interest. The diplomatic cover has led the Indian naval expansion toward the states of the Gulf and African regions, which have given New Delhi sufficient space in the global power politics of maritime states. In this way, all chapters of the book are an effort of the writer to cover different aspects of Indian naval development through cultivating an international network of bilateral and multilateral collaborative engagements.

The core argument of the book concerning New Delhi’s aim of stretching its muscles over the maritime affairs of its home regions primarily emphasize the Indian global mission for proving it a potential maritime state. The mainstream strategic community from New Delhi is determined to keep the dynamic role of the Indian Navy in the Indian Ocean Region under the conception of the Blue Water Navy (p. 63). The formulation of a Blue Water Navy is the strategic objective of Indian leaders, which is a response to China’s increasing influence in the Pacific region generally and against Beijing’s growing economic collaboration with Islamabad particularly. The recent trends of India-China competition in the maritime domain in the form of Beijing’s greater plans of creating a worldwide network of economic ports have been treated in the book as a serious challenge for New Delhi (p. 137). The writer says in his analysis that an appropriate application of weapon modernization trend in the navy has enabled New Delhi to acquire nuclear triad capabilities against the territorially adjoining nuclear states, China and Pakistan. On the one hand, the acquisition of triad capabilities has improved the role of the Indian navy in the conventional defensive framework of New Delhi, while on the other hand, it hampers the scope of peace and stability in the nuclearized subcontinent, which is a missing part of the book. The central theme of the book purely revolves around the conceptual understanding of naval diplomacy and its increasing role in the maritime affairs of the South Asian region without rationally calculating its impact on the regional strategic equilibrium of the nuclearized subcontinent. The central part of the analysis is generally deficient in assessing the worse impact of New Delhi’s naval diplomacy in the South Asian regional nuclear order, where the question of strategic stability has become a serious challenge.

The book explains the maritime-specific strategic attributes of New Delhi and the Indian ambition of keeping its naval muscles improved and functional. The association of the writer with the Indian strategic community legitimated the fact that the core theme of the book reflects the current position and future plans of the Indian navy in the maritime-specific power politics of the world. It could be treated as an appropriate study to comprehend New Delhi’s plans for projecting its maritime interests in the Indian Ocean Region. It is an appropriate reading for people having interest in international power politics in the maritime domain. The writer’s analysis is an appreciable contribution to the existing literature concerning the South Asian strategic competition between India and Pakistan, which is in a phase of transformation from territorial to the maritime domain.


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