India Looks for a Strategic Edge in Its Indian Ocean Contest With China

Nov 23, 2018 | 10:00 GMT

Tugboats maneuver the MSC Valeria as it arrives in Mundra, India, in June 2013.

Tugboats maneuver the MSC Valeria as it arrives at the Indian port of Mundra on June 4, 2013. Half of the world's container ship traffic passes through the Indian Ocean, where China is challenging India's dominance.



  • China's increased presence in the Indian Ocean is driving India into a race for dominance in the region.
  • India's broad security commitments prevent it from meeting its naval ambitions, forcing it to rely on other strategic measures to challenge China's penetration into the region.
  • By taking advantage of geographic choke points, building up its influence with states inside and outside the region, and seeking closer cooperation with the United States, India is positioning itself to better challenge China in the Indian Ocean.

Throughout most of India's history, its rulers have emphasized land forces over sea power. Their domains were faced with the persistent threat of invasion from the northwest as well as the specter of internal strife. But the European colonial invasions by sea provided a rude awakening, and in the immediate aftermath of independence, New Delhi focused on the need for a powerful navy. However, conflict with Pakistan, internal dissent and border clashes with China reinforced the need for powerful ground forces. And China isn't just testing India on the land; it is also pushing into the Indian Ocean. To meet this challenge, India is strengthening its navy while maximizing its strategic thinking....

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