US - INDIA GLOBAL REVIEW

23 US-INDIA GLOBAL REVIEW JULY-SEPTEMBER 2018 Command (USAFRICOM) Area of Responsibilities (AORs), beyond the usual purview of Pacific Command (USPACOM) whose AOR India lies within. For the U.S., this represents a strategic opportunity to compete against China’s growing influence by expanding its relationship with India in the CENTCOM and AFRICOM AORs. Nyshka Chandran reported on CNBC in February 2018 that “China and India are competing for regional supremacy in the Indian Ocean as they look estab- lish a stronger military and eco- nomic presence in bordering countries.” China’s move into the Indian Ocean, as part of its “String of Pearls” approach to expand its strategic reach, is well document- ed. The formal establishment of China’s first overseas military base in Djibouti serves as its first military marker on the global map. Recently, China has been in nego- tiations with Pakistan to expand its access to the port of Gwadar and open its second overseas naval base in Jiwani, Pakistan which is about 80 km from Gwadar. These two locations would provide China the means and proximity to mili- tarily influence two of the world’s eight strategic chokepoints, the Bab el-Mandeb straits along at the mouth of the Red Sea and the Strait of Hormuz. Additionally, China has been expanding its economic presence in the Seychelles, Maldives, and in Oman. While China expands its pres- ence, India has not remained idle. It has invested in the commercial port of Chabahar, Iran to give it greater access to Afghanistan, cir- cumventing Pakistan. However, questions arise on whether India can use the port to effectively compete against China and its One Belt and One Road (OBOR) strategy. In addition to the port in Iran, India is competing for access to the Seychelles, Maldives, and Oman. The recent tensions between China and India, after China deployed 11 warships to the Maldives in February illus- trates this growing rivalry. In the Seychelles, India is spending $46 million dollars in foreign aid to improve costal defense and airstrips; however, that has run into recent issues with the presi- dent of the Seychelles. While India doesn’t lack in its ambition to compete with China, it lacks a cohesive political and economic decisionmaking body like China to invest and outcompete, and lacks in its naval capabilities to effec- tively challenge the Chinese. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), China’s naval surface com- batants dwarfs India (83 Chinese combatants vs. 27 Indian Combatants; 57 Chinese attack submarines vs. 15 Indian attack submarines; and 4 Chinese ballis- tic submarines vs. 1 Indian in development). Of course, the naval disparity between the two nations is spread out across the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and China must overcome its “Malacca Straits Dilemma” to surge forces into the Indian Ocean. This growing competition between China and India present a strategic opportunity for the U.S. to offset China’s growing presence in the region. While the U.S. has generally viewed India as a strate- gic partner in the U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) AOR to offset China, it represents an opportunity to counter-balance China in the USCENTCOM and AFRICOM AOR as well. In con- certed effort by USCENTCOM, in partnership with PACOM, can find ways to enhance the Indian Navy’s force projection capabilities in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea to challenge China’s small, but growing, military presence in the region. U.S. Navy Central Command (USNAVCENT) can spearhead this effort on behalf of CENTCOM by encouraging India to more fully participate in the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) that focuses on Counter-Piracy operations. NAVCENT could con- sider future joint naval exercises focusing on combined naval oper- ations, Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), and carrier-based opera- tions. Such combined exercises can assist India in expanding its capabilities and capacity to exert greater influence, in concert with U.S. interests, in the region as a means to counter-balance China’s presence. Additionally, as Harry Halem recently noted, the U.S. While China expands its presence, India has not remained idle. It has invested in the commercial port of Chabahar, Iran to give it greater access to Afghanistan, circum- venting Pakistan. However, questions arise on whether India can use the port to effectively compete against China and its One Belt and One Road (OBOR) strategy.

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