The recent surge in cooperation between India and Japan stems from the need to counter the assertiveness of China’s military might.
Along with increasing their airpower, the Chinese have expanded their navy since their coastal cities are now the real engines of growth.
To keep them out of the power and reach of the US Navy — especially in the context of a conflict over Taiwan or the Senkaku Islands — the Chinese are extending their navy outwards to the first and second chains of islands in the Pacific.
The Chinese Navy has a formidable fleet of 65 submarines with nine of them equipped with nuclear arsenals. It has a formidable surface fleet of 31 destroyers and 61 frigates and hundreds of missile boats and amphibious ships.
This is where India and Japan need to cooperate most urgently: 77% of Japan’s energy and 85% of its goods transit through the Indian Ocean. Hence the obvious need for the two navies to cooperate.
Japan has undertaken the biggest ship-building programme since World War 2. Today it has 26 submarines and has recently launched its 19,500 tonne DH 22 class Helicopter carrier.
It has made substantial investments in Ballistic Missile Defence including its Aegis class destroyers. The Indian Navy is also engaged in an energetic naval build up: we have leased a Russian Akula class nuclear submarine and the reactor of our indigenous nuclear submarine went critical recently. INS Vikramaditya is on its way to India and the hull of our indigenous aircraft carrier is ready.
Over the next decade the Indian Navy will add seven stealth frigates and six air independent propulsion submarines.
It will add another 30 ships and some 150 fighters, helicopters and Maritime Recce aircraft. The Indian Navy has made the most impressive strides in indigenisation and we are ‘building’ instead of buying a navy. However, our ship-building programme has been badly delayed. Today we are down to 13 submarines against China’s 65.
The problem today stems primarily from the growth differential between the Indian and the Chinese navies that is growing wider. This is where India and Japan need to cooperate and pool their resources to deter an intransigent China. Japan is likely to sell India its top of the line US-2 amphibious aircraft and this could be a good beginning.
GD Bakshi is Major General SM, VSM (retired)
The views expressed by the author are personal