India and Washington have discussed working together to track submarines, an idea which wouldn’t even be under discussion if it weren’t for China’s recent muscle flexing. Reuters:
New Delhi, shedding its decades-old reluctance to be drawn into America’s embrace, agreed last month to open up its military bases to the United States in exchange for access to weapons technology to help it narrow the gap with China.
The two sides also said their navies will hold talks on anti submarine warfare (ASW), an area of sensitive military technology and closely held tactics that only allies share.
“These types of basic engagements will be the building blocks for an enduring Navy-to-Navy relationship that we hope will grow over time into a shared ASW capability,” one U.S. official familiar with India-U.S. military cooperation said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Indian naval officials say Chinese submarines have been sighted on an average four times every three months. Some are seen near India’s Andamans and Nicobar islands that lie near the Malacca Straits, the entry to the South China Sea through which more than 80 percent of China’s fuel supplies pass.
The United States has been trying very hard lately to get India to collaborate on naval defense. Earlier this year, word was that New Delhi was open to the idea of joint military patrols with the U.S. Navy. Indian officials didn’t quite deny that conversations about the possibility had taken place, but they quashed any hopes of such a collaboration.
India already participates in war games with the United States, and a source tells Reuters that the upcoming exercises will include anti-submarine maneuvers involving sophisticated Indian and American P-8 aircraft. But New Delhi’s longtime policy has been not to join multilateral patrols—even sharing information with Washington would be a substantive change in the nature of Indian foreign policy.
Traditionally hesitant to pick sides in Asia’s game of thrones, India has lately seemed to be leaning towards Washington and other powers looking to push back against Beijing. New Delhi agreed to help Vietnam spy on China earlier this year, and it held joint exercises with Australia last fall. Those efforts are clearly focused on limiting China’s power to the East and South—India has trade interests in the South China Sea and doesn’t like that Beijing is building a seaport in Sri Lanka.
And of course there’s another reason India is showing unusual eagerness to work with others and confront Beijing: China’s overtures to Pakistan. India’s longtime enemy plays a big role in Xi Jinping’s new Silk Road plans, with a major Chinese-built and managed port in the works in the Pakistani city of Gwadar. Rumor has it that India is funding Baluchi insurgents in Pakistan—the same group which has repeatedly attacked Pakistani forces guarding Chinese construction workers.
Whether India has been supporting the Baluchis or not, one thing is undeniably true: the best way to make New Delhi angry is to help Pakistan. That’s what China has been doing lately, and New Delhi clearly doesn’t like it.