Chinese Submarines Prompt Indian Fleet Rebuild BY MAREX


India is speeding up a navy modernisation programme and leaning on its neighbours to curb Chinese submarine activity in the Indian Ocean, as nations in the region become increasingly jittery over Beijing’s growing undersea prowess.

Just months after a stand-off along the disputed border dividing India and China in the Himalayas, Chinese submarines have shown up in Sri Lanka, the island nation off India’s southern coast. China has also strengthened ties with the Maldives, the Indian Ocean archipelago.

China’s moves reflect its determination to beef up its presence in the Indian Ocean, through which four-fifths of its oil imports pass, and coincides with escalating tension in the disputed South China Sea, where Beijing’s naval superiority has rattled its neighbours. “We should be worried the way we have run down our submarine fleet. But with China bearing down on us, the way it is on the Himalayas, the South China Sea and now the Indian Ocean, we should be even more worried,” said Arun Prakash, former chief of the Indian navy.

“Fortunately, there are signs this government has woken up to the crisis,” he said. “But it will take time to rebuild. We should hope that we don’t get into a face-off with the Chinese, that our diplomacy and alliances will keep things in check.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has ordered an accelerated tendering process to build six conventional diesel-electric submarines at an estimated cost of 500 billion rupees ($8.1 billion), in addition to six similar submarines that French firm DCNS is assembling in Mumbai port to replace a nearly 30-year-old fleet hit by a run of accidents.

The country’s first indigenously built nuclear submarine – loaded with nuclear-tipped missiles and headed for sea trials this month – joins the fleet in late 2016. In the meantime, India is in talks with Russia to lease a second nuclear-propelled submarine, navy officials told Reuters.

The government has already turned to industrial group Larsen & Toubro Ltd, which built the hull for the first submarine, to manufacture two more nuclear submarines, sources with knowledge of the matter said.

Elsewhere in the region, Australia is planning to buy up to 12 stealth submarines from Japan, while Vietnam plans to acquire as many as four additional Kilo-class submarines to add to its current fleet of two. Taiwan is seeking U.S. technology to build up its own submarine fleet.

Japan, locked in a dispute with China over islands claimed by both nations, is increasing its fleet of diesel-electric attack submarines to 22 from 16 over the next decade or so.


India’s navy currently has only 13 ageing diesel-electric submarines, only half of which are operational at any given time due to refits. Last year, one of its submarines sank after explosions and a fire while it was docked in Mumbai.China is estimated to have 60 conventional submarines and 10 nuclear-powered submarines, including three armed with nuclear weapons.

Ma Jiali, an expert at the China Reform Forum’s Centre for Strategic Studies which is affiliated with the Central Party School, said Beijing’s top concern in the Indian Ocean was safeguarding the passage of its commodities, especially oil. “There are many voices in India who believe the Indian Ocean belongs solely to India, and no other country belongs there. That line of thought is common – but of course it shouldn’t be viewed like that. Our (China’s) view is that there should be dialogue and discussion between China and India.” With India building its navy to about 150 ships, including two aircraft carriers, and China holding around 800 in its naval fleet, the two are more likely than not to run into each other, naval officials and experts say.

David Brewster, a strategic affairs visiting fellow at the Australian National University, said India will do everything it can to recover its dominant position in the Indian Ocean. It may seek naval cooperation with Japan and Australia, and expand a military base on the Andaman Islands which lie about 140 km (87 miles) from the Malacca Straits, he said. “India sees the presence of any Chinese naval vessel as an intrusion. There is a big ramp-up in their presence, which is clearly intended to send a message to India,” said Brewster.

India has engaged in intense diplomacy with Sri Lanka about the Chinese submarine presence, reminding it that New Delhi must be informed of such port calls under a maritime pact they signed this year along with the Maldives. India has also muscled into an $8 billion deep water port that Bangladesh wants to develop in Sonadia in the Bay of Bengal, with the Adani Group submitting a proposal in October. China Harbour Engineering Company, an early bidder, was the front-runner.

“If China continues down this path and continues with this level of presence in the Indian Ocean then the Indians will feel they need to respond,” said Brewster. (C) Reuters 2014.

India Reinforces Maritime Domain Awareness, by marex

Indian Navy

By Dr Vijay Sakhuja

Six years ago, in November 2008, a group of Pakistan-based terrorists landed at unsecured waterfronts in Mumbai , the financial capital of India, and attacked public places such as hotels, restaurants, and a railway station. Although the Indian security forces were quick to respond, the attack, popularly referred to as 26/11, exposed three significant gaps in India’s maritime security apparatus: a. the porous nature of India’s coastline; b. the poor surveillance of the maritime domain; and c. the lack of inter-agency coordination.

Post the 26/11 attacks, the Indian government undertook a number of proactive measures to restructure coastal security and push the defensive perimeter further away from the coast into the seas. The focus was on building national maritime domain awareness (NMDA) grid via a number of organisational, operational and technological changes. The Indian Navy has now set up the National Command Control Communication Intelligence (NC3I) network that hosts the Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC).

It connects 41 radar stations (20 Indian Navy and 31 Coast Guard) located along the coast and on the island territories, and helps collate, fuse and disseminate critical intelligence and information about ‘unusual or suspicious movements and activities at sea’. There are plans for additional coastal radar stations to cover gap/shadow zones in the second phase; these are currently addressed through deployment of ships and aircraft of the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard. he IMAC receives vital operational data from multiple sources such as the Automatic Identification System (AIS) and the long-range identification and tracking (LRIT), a satellite-based, real-time reporting mechanism for reporting the position of ships. This information is further supplemented by shore based electro-optical systems and high definition radars. Significantly, maritime domain awareness is also received through satellite data.

There are 74 AIS receivers along the Indian coast and these are capable of tracking 30,000 to 40,000 merchant ships transiting through the Indian Ocean. The AIS is mandatory for all merchant ships above 300 tons DWT and it helps monitoring agencies to keep track of shipping and detect suspicious ships. However the AIS a vulnerable to ‘data manipulation’. According to a recent study, the international shipping manipulates AIS data for a number of reasons, and the trends are quite disturbing. In the last two years, there has been 30 per cent increase in the number of ships reporting false identities. Nearly 40 per cent of the ships do not report their next port of call to prevent the commodity operators and to preclude speculation. Interestingly, there is growing tendency among merchant ships to shut down AIS, and ‘go dark’ and spoofing (generating false transmissions) is perhaps the most dangerous. It can potentially mislead the security forces who have to respond to such targets and on finding none, leads to loss and wastage of precious time and human effort which adversely affects operational efficiency of the maritime security forces. At another level, small fishing boats can complicate maritime domain awareness; however, it is fair to say that they can also be the ‘eyes and ears’ of the security agencies. Indian authorities have undertaken a number of steps, including compulsory identity cards for fishermen; registration of over 200,000 fishing boats and tracking them through central database; security awareness programs, etc. Furthermore, Marine Police Training Institutes have been established. They are coordinated by the apex National Committee for Strengthening Maritime and Coastal Security (NCSMCS) that is headed by the Cabinet Secretary. The Indian government has also drawn plans to reinforce the NMDA via multilateral cooperation. It is in talks with at least 24 countries for exchanging information on shipping to ensure that the seas are safe and secure for global commerce. India has placed maritime security high on the agenda through active participation in the Indian Ocean Rim association (IORA), the Indian Ocean Naval symposium (IONS), the East Asia Summit (EAS), the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM) Plus. Additionally, it is in talks with other countries to institutionalize intelligence exchange among the respective security agencies.

The Indian Navy and the Coast Guard have been at the helm and have developed a sophisticated strategy that involves joint exercises, hot lines, exchange of intelligence and training with a number of navies. It will be useful to explore if the NC3I is suitably linked to the Singapore-based Information Fusion Centre (IFC) established at Changi Command and Control Centre (CC2C), which has received much acclaim as an effective MDA hub. It is fair to argue that weak legislations can compromise maritime security. In this connection, it is important to point out that the Coastal Security Bill drafted in 2013 is yet to be tabled in the Indian Parliament. Unfortunately, the draft Piracy Bill placed before the law makers in 2012 lapsed due to priority given to other issues.

Source:; This article has been republished with permission.

Dr Vijay Sakhuja is the Director, National Maritime Foundation, New Delhi. The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Maritime Foundation. He can be reached at

This article is courtesy Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS), New Delhi and originally appeared at

Hijacked Tanker Found off Thailand, by marex


On November 27 at or about 1030 hours (local time), the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) reported to the ReCAAP ISC that the hijacked tanker Srikandi 515 has been identified and located at approximately 9 nm off Narathiwat province, Thailand by the RTN and Thai Marine Police. The Thai authorities also apprehended eight perpetrators onboard Srikandi 515.

The ship was also reportedly repainted and renamed from “Srikandi 515” to “Chong Li 2”. The palm oil cargo onboard the vessel was apparently left intact. The vessel was subsequently escorted back to Songkhla, Thailand for further investigation.

On October 9, the Indonesia-registered product tanker, Srikandi 515 was boarded by suspected pirates in Sampit waters, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Srikandi 515 was en route to Gresik, East Java, Indonesia from Sampit, laden with 3,100 tons of palm oil. The perpetrators reportedly blindfolded and tied the crew; took control of the vessel and sailed in a north-westerly direction.

On October 22, the assailants forced the crew of Srikandi 515 onto a life raft and abandoned them in the middle of the sea. The next day, the crew was found and rescued by Vietnamese fishermen, who brought them to Chendering, Malaysia. It was later reported that the crew was transferred to the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on October 35.

The ReCAAP ISC commends the RTN and Thai Marine Police for the successful apprehension of the perpetrators as well as the recovery of the vessel and cargo. Investigation of the incident is currently ongoing and the ReCAAP ISC is working closely with the ReCAAP Focal Point (Thailand) to establish what had transpired onboard Srikandi 515 between 9 Oct 14 and 27 Nov 14.