Check against delivery

Text of speech of Mr. Shivshankar Menon

Samudra Manthan: Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Indo-Pacific
(Book Release, 4 March 2013) I must confess to being somewhat surprised when Raja asked me to speak at the release of “Samudra Manthan; Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Indo-Pacific”. I have disagreed publicly with two major elements of the subtitle of the book. Speaking in public at the National Maritime Foundation in September 2009 when I was a free man and in several conversations with Raja when we discussed this topic, I have made it clear that in my opinion talk of Sino-Indian maritime rivalry is overdone and that it is not inevitable. It is also my personal view that the Indo-Pacific is not one geopolitical unit although security is indeed linked across the seas and oceans that encircle the Asian landmass. In geopolitical terms, and in terms of the naval capabilities of the different navies other than the US that operate between Suez and Hawaii, this space still consists of three distinct areas: the Indian Ocean, the western Pacific, and the seas near China, (namely, the South China Sea, the East Sea and the Sea of Japan). This becomes clearer when you actually look at the behaviour of the navies that operate in this space. So I attributed Raja’s suggestion that I speak today to his democratic broadmindedness and friendship. But then I read his book. I realized that this is not a polemical work which argues for the inevitability of Sino-Indian maritime rivalry. This is a nuanced, multi-layered and academic book, examining a topic that will be of increasing significance in the years to come. Raja has written an important work which focuses our mind on India’s maritime imperatives, and to a certain extent, reclaims the maritime heritage which we lost during recent land-lubber centuries. It is also a useful reminder of the accelerated growth of naval forces in the waters around Asia in the last
1

and of the changing patterns of cooperation and influence both at sea and in the littoral beside these seas. These are natural consequences of the development of India and China. as they are for China. 2. It is hard to see how disrupting these SLOCs will directly advance either country’s interest vis a vis the other in other areas where they might have differences. as in anti-piracy operations off the Somali coast and the Gulf of Aden.Check against delivery two decades. the Near Seas. 5. The book raises several significant issues. What is missing in the Indian Ocean. One is what it says about possible Sino-Indian maritime rivalry. Both have happened simultaneously and without apparent friction. This is equally true of the USA. mitigating competition and avoiding conflict. All three countries also declare that this is so for the seas near China. though multiple actors and territorial claims and disputes add complexity on this score. the third party to the Samudra Manthan of Raja’s title. and the western Pacific is an overarching security architecture or paradigm within which new naval actors and states can conduct their activities and cooperate. Let me explain why I do not consider such rivalry inevitable: 1.) Last year India and China decided to initiate a dialogue on maritime security and 2 . My congratulations to him on bringing out what promises to be a seminal work with long lasting academic effect. 3. 4. These SLOCs are vital to India’s trade and energy flows. and of their increasing dependence on the world as their economies globalize. but today I would like to speak to just two of them. not just by China and India but by other countries as well. There have also been instances of cooperation between the Indian and Chinese navies. Over the last decade an Indian presence in the waters east of Malacca and a Chinese presence west of Malacca have become the new norm. Both India and China have a common interest in keeping the sea lines of communication through the Indian and Pacific Oceans open. (This is true not just of India and China but of all the naval powers that operate in the oceans east of Suez.

• Working with regional cooperative mechanisms like RECAAP. In the Pacific there is already a predominant single provider of security with settled alliance and basing arrangements. China. the seas near China. (which focuses on regional navies). the ASEAN Maritime Forum and others. The reason I cavil about calling the Indo-Pacific one space is because if we do. Konkan and Varuna) and multilaterally (MILAN). inclusive. What the Indian Navy thinks should be the Indian response has been made clear in the Maritime Doctrine of 2004 and the Maritime Strategy of 2007. • Carrying out naval cooperation including exercises. as should the multiple regional forums discussing this issue like ARF. open. including the USA. and trilaterally with Sri Lanka and the Maldives. training. Japan. balanced and flexible security architecture that is desirable for the Asia-Pacific region. ADDM-plus.Check against delivery cooperation. India is working to build capability and cooperation with other countries in the Indian Ocean region by: • Promoting a regional cooperative architecture through IONS. scientific exchanges as well as maritime security cooperation). cultural ties. China and the US are dialogue partners of IOR-ARC. and along with friendly navies. and cooperation bilaterally (Malabar. We in India have made known our view of the rule-based. and through IOR-ARC. The larger issue is what India should do about maritime developments in the Indo-Pacific. This could offer a way forward. EAS and so on. cooperating to defend the Indian interests that I mentioned before. a region where maritime security is a growing imperative. and the western Pacific. • Holding bilateral dialogues on maritime security with major stakeholders. (which takes a more comprehensive approach to regional maritime security and recognises the importance of economic cooperation. SHADE (for anti-piracy). there is a danger of prescribing one medicine for the different security ailments that afflict the Indian Ocean. as Raja and others now call this oceanic space. with contingencies in the Indian Ocean. In effect the Indian navy is building capacity to deal directly. The situation in the 3 .

or about what their present and future force configurations mean in terms of what states will and can do. and are building different capacities for the three geographies of the Indian Ocean. but the nature of capacities that are being built indicate the contingencies that these powers expect. particularly about the actual behaviour in this arena of the many naval powers involved and the purposes that they have sought to further. and discussions and bilateral arrangements with our maritime partners in the Indian Ocean Region attest. And in the Indian Ocean we see the beginnings of cooperative solutions to the very different issues that arise here. Thank you. 4 . the Near Seas. as the book itself makes clear.Check against delivery Near Seas is very different. it is early days yet and many alternative futures are still possible in this oceanic space that will be an ever more significant determinant of India’s future. as the experience of anti-piracy. we owe Raja a large debt of gratitude. and gives some imperfect indication of their intentions. For drawing our attention to this development. and for triggering off rigorous thinking on this issue. I realise that this is asking a lot of Raja. and the western Pacific. as the very status of island territories and the seas are disputed. Finally. I hope the book reaches a broad audience and is widely read. Such an analysis would also show that the same powers behave differently. The book left me wanting more. the emergence of IONS and IOR-ARC.