India as an Indo–Pacific Power Exploring New Horizons and Possibilities (Part 4)


India as an Indo–Pacific Power Exploring New Horizons and Possibilities (Part 4)

This paper highlights the objectives pursued by the Indian government through increasing interaction with Asian and Pacific countries and how the Act East policy is more proactive and action oriented. Power projection facilitated by political, economic and strategic means clearly manifest that India has reached the take off stage to project into the larger geo-political and strategic stage as challenging as the Indo-Pacific.

(Part 3)

India as an Indo–Pacific Power Exploring New Horizons and Possibilities

Dr. Pankaj Jha*

Of late, India’s Defence diplomacy has received considerable attention in seeking more stability and security, through change of attitudes and perceptions. It is ‘disarmament of the mind’ that characterizes defence diplomacy. The Defence diplomacy covers a broad range of activities, including:

+ Defence training courses and education programmes at both horizontal and vertical levels;
+ Opportunities for overseas students to attend courses at military training establishments;
+ Provisions to Loan Service Personnel, Short-term Training teams, and;
+ Civilian and military advisers to overseas governments for extended periods;
+ Visits by ships, aircraft and other military units;
+ Inward and outward visits by Ministers and by the military and civilian personnel at all levels;
+ Staff talks, conferences and seminars to improve mutual understanding;
+ Exchanges of civilian and military personnel; and
+ Joint exercises.

Defence cooperation is the sum of many defence-related actions, collectively aimed at furthering one’s national interests through active cooperation with friends and the building of consensus with foes. In peacetime, this could contribute to conflict transformation and to the removal of traditional hostilities through trust building. Defence cooperation has traditionally been used for the real politik purposes of strengthening allies against common enemies. The most visible component of defence cooperation in peace time is military-to-military with friendly foreign countries to secure support during the time of war41.In more recent times, the scope of defence cooperation has widened considerably, moving away from an insecurity-propelled-militaristic approach to a security motivated-cooperative approach. Increasingly, states, especially liberal democratic states, have used defence cooperation for a range of new purposes. These include strategic engagement with former or potential enemies encouraging multilateral regional cooperation, supporting the democratization of civil-military relations and building peacekeeping capabilities.

India can conduct amphibious operations away from its shores. It is not that Indian Navy has not conducted effective search and rescue mission in its neighbourhood including assistance and support in the aftermath of Tsunami but military operations is another aspect altogether. Even if India would try to launch out of theatre operations, the issue is which nations might support these operations given the fact that for some China is still a bigger geo-political actor and important partner. Also, sustaining operations for a long period of time needs careful planning and support. India is still brown water navy and therefore it has been able to engage far off nations such as Australia, Japan, Britain, France and Russia in frequent naval exercises but has not undertaken any joint military operations. Furthermore, India’s Defence expenditure over the years have shown minimal increase in terms of percentage of GDP and even in real expenditure the capital replacement costs and increasing revenue expenditure on maintaining forces have consumed sizeable percentage of actual defence budget.

Figure 1-India's Defence Expenditure (in US$ millions)
(2005-2015, at 2014 constant prices)

The third aspect which needs to be stressed is that India can sustain naval and air force bases outside of Indian Ocean. Official records and debate related to this aspect has suggested that India was not too keen on getting bases close to any country but this has now changed. However, with willing partner such as Vietnam, India has the incentive of making such moves given its embedded commercial and strategic interests. India, nevertheless, is wary of allowing China to get uncomfortably close to its sphere of influence. China is making subtle strategic inroads through incremental encroachment through aid and assistance enticements. India should chart out a comprehensive strategy under their respective narratives referring to India as ‘a rising and globally powerful actor’. India also is not too keen in getting involved in those theatres which are beyond its interest. However, in regions which are its primary and secondary areas of interests it would be willing to protect its assets through friendly access to bases and ports.

India has arrived at the international stage and it would not be wrong to say that it has a stakes in the peace and security in the Indo–Pacific region. It has strong strategic and commercial interests in the larger Indo–Pacific region spanning from the East China Sea to Indian Ocean. India’s role in the Indo-Pacific region is not only of a stabiliser but also of a nation having far reaching strategic and commercial interests. India is growing and it needs markets and secure sea lanes for maritime trade which can help in furthering its economic interest. India has been exploring energy and natural resources to sustain its economic growth. However, India has always adopted a policy of partnerships and development. The harmonious relationship does not mean that India can be a silent onlooker, it has stakes and it would protect its commercial and strategic interest all across the Indo –Pacific region. In the Indo –Pacific, for India, Vietnam would remain a friendly country and a welcoming port and vice versa.

* Director (Research), ICWA


1 Sushant Singh, India to participate in world’s largest maritime warfare exercise in US next year, The Indian Express, December 11, 2015 at (Accessed on July 21, 2016).
2 David Scott, India’s “Extended Neighbourhood “Concept: Power Projection for a Rising Power, India Review,vol.8(2),April-June 2009,pp.107-108
3 David Scott, The “Indo-Pacific”—New Regional Formulations and New Maritime Frameworks for US-India Strategic Convergence, Asia-Pacific Review, 19:2, p.85-86
4Ernst Haushofer, An English Translation and Analysis of Major Karl Ernst Haushofer’s Geopolitics of the Pacific Ocean, tr. Lewis Tambs and Ernst Brehm,(Lampeter: Edwin Mellor, 2002), p. 141.
5 Mohammad Ayoob, India and Southeast Asia: Indian Perceptions and Policies, Routledge ,London,1990
6 C. Rajamohan, Crossing The Rubicon - The Shaping Of India's New Foreign Policy, Penguin Books, Delhi,2003
7Sudhir Devare, India and Southeast Asia, ISEAS, Capital Publishing, New Delhi,2006
8 V.P. Dutt, India’s Foreign Policy since Independence, National Book Trust, New Delhi,2007
9 S D Muni , India’s Look East Policy: The Strategic Dimension, ISAS Working Paper No. 121, Singapore February 1,2011
10Kripa Sridharan, The ASEAN region in India as foreign policy,Dartmouth,Singapore,1996
11 GVC Naidu , Looking East: India and Southeast Asia at on 28.5.2011)
12 An extract from Sardar K M Panikkar’s Annual Day address to the Indian School of International Studies on 13 February 1961 at
13 Quoted in C Ravindranatha Reddy, India and Vietnam: Era of friendship and Cooperation 1947-1991,Emerald Publishers,Chennai,2009,p.36

14Scott, David(2006) 'India's “Grand Strategy” for the Indian Ocean: Mahanian Visions', Asia-Pacific Review, vol.13,no. 2,p.100.Also see Packer, Gerald(1947) 'Security problems in the Indian Ocean', Australian Journal of International Affairs, vol.1,no. 4 ,p.27 15Quoted in P. C. Sinha Handbook of ASEAN and Regional Cooperation: 12th Summit & Beyond, 2007, p.383
16 Quoted in Pankaj Jha , India and China in Southeast Asia-Competition or Cooperation, Manas Publications, Delhi,2013. Also see Ensuring Secure Seas: Indian Maritime Security Strategy, 2015,p.32
17 Ensuring Secure Seas: Indian Maritime Security Strategy, 2015,p.32
18Ibid, p.32
19 Annual Report 2014-15, Ministry of Defence, Government of India, p.2
20 Annual Report 2014-15, Ministry of Defence, Government of India, p.2
21 Ibid
22Annual Report 2014-15, Ministry of Defence, Government of India, p.2
23 U.S.-India Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region, January 25,2016 at on July 21,2016)
24 David Shambaugh and Michael Yahuda Eds. International Relations of Asia, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Lanham,2008, p.4
25Percy S. Mistry, Rethinking India's International Economic Diplomacy, Economic and Political Weekly Vol. 38, No. 28 (Jul. 12-18, 2003), pp. 2943-2950.Also see Economic Diplomacy at on 7.7.2013)
26 Theoretically Reassessing India’s Economic Diplomacy: From the ‘New’ to the ‘Neoliberal’
International Economic Order at (Accessed on 7.7.2013) Also see Economic Diplomacy at on 7.7.2013)

27 India's Economic Diplomacy at on 7.7.2013)

28India's Economic Diplomacy at on 7.7.2013)
29Economic diplomacy, Indian style at on 7.7.2013)
30 Pankaj Jha, Rahul Mishra and Shamshad Khan, India and The APEC: Building the case,
31 Annex A - The Beijing Roadmap for APEC’s Contribution to the Realization of the FTAAP at
32 Regional Economic Integration Agenda, at
33 Ibid
35 Ajai Shukla, For the armed forces, Budget brings no cheer, March 15,2015 at
36 Ibid
37 Ibid
38 Ibid
39 Ibid
40 Ministry of Defence Policy Paper No.1,Defence Diplomacy at on November 6,2010)

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