India is emerging as a regional economic powerhouse and the evolving geopolitical circumstances are ensuing the Indian Navy towards the path of their hegemonic blue water naval status the region of the Arabian Sea and Indo-Pacific can attract their ambitions due to geopolitically contested proximity. No doubt about the outreach of the Indian Navy which stretches into the vast Indian Ocean making India geographically poised between South Asia (in the west) and the Asia Pacific in its east. The main competitor in the Indian Ocean can be China via its influence through the flagship Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and specifically the Maritime Silk route under implementation. Pakistan is also trying to stand firm on its Arabian Sea maritime borders and defend its territorial integrity.
The Extraterritorial designs in the maritime domain are exemplified as India maintains 4 naval commands and “2” aircraft carriers one was recently commissioned in September (INS Vikrant) gives us a glimpse of their desires. The material capabilities of the Indian Navy are undoubtedly rising. Indian Defence Ministry puts out the figures of one hundred and fifty Indian naval vessels under operation and fifty more under construction, the active naval personnel of the Indian Navy stands at nearly 70,000 and almost an equal amount of reserve personnel are in their capacity. Another aircraft carrier is planned named INS Vishal. Several nuclear and conventional submarines are either ordered from Russia or are being indigenously constructed in India.
The respective naval commands are as followed Western command headquartered at Mumbai eyes the strategic Arabian sea and western Indian Ocean region contested with Pakistan, the southwestern command in Kerala (Kochi) sees of Indian ocean near Africa, the eastern command at Visakhapatnam and the Andaman and Nicobar island command adds up to the strategic outreach into the eastern maritime front line of India reaching into the Asia Pacific region.
ARABIAN SEA AND PAKISTAN’S CASE:
The situation in the Arabian sea involves the geostrategic interests of multiple states. Predominantly Pakistan holds a fair share of the Arabian Sea and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Pakistan is guarded by Pakistan Navy. Pakistan Navy is neither a blue water navy nor does it have such hegemonic extraterritorial designs as the Indian Navy. But as the Indian Navy is increasing its firepower Pakistan Navy is also augmenting its naval fleet under its limited resources and undergoing modernization to protect the geostrategic interests of Pakistan and to deter any possible incursions by neighboring India. Currently Pakistan Navy operates effectively as a green water navy tackling threats such as human trafficking, drug smuggling, pirates, and neighboring Indian naval aggression toward Internationally recognized Pakistani maritime territory.
The modernization of the Pakistan Navy comprises inducting new frigates, and corvettes, upgradation of its existing submarines and offshore petrol Vessels (OPV) Two Type 054 frigates have been commissioned by the Pakistan navy and 2 are to be delivered to Pakistan. Four MILGEM class corvettes are also to be included in the fleet that is being built in Turkey and Pakistan, all are expected to be handed over to the Pakistan Navy by 2025, and 3 have joined the fleet. The additions would enable Pakistan to address the traditional security threats of Pakistan.
Meanwhile, the Indian economic and political interests in the Middle East, Africa, and west Asia are linked directly or indirectly by the trade and movement through the Arabian Sea. Indian navy makes its presence felt in the region as the port of Duqm in Oman is licensed to the Indian Navy, India is also investing millions of dollars of money developing the port of Chabahar in Southeast Iran.
The development of its Gwadar port under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has led to India being threatened by the magnitude of economic growth that Gwadar would trigger for Pakistan in the future.
Along the horn of Africa Indian navy also maintains its bases and patrol vicinities in Madagascar, Mauritius, and Mozambique respectively. This gives the Indian navy the strategic points to safeguard their geopolitical and geo-economic interests and it adds up to their outlying strength. There is no real threat posed by smaller south Asian minnows of the Maldives and Sri Lanka who are already importing naval vessels from India and are reliant on them in the maritime domain. Diego Garcia island offers the Indian Navy another offshore outpost to penetrate deep into the Indian Ocean. The United States of America, Japan, and Australia are often engaged in bilateral and multi-lateral naval exercises under their security alliance of QUAD.
The influence of India is ever-increasing in the region, especially the Indian Ocean region. Indian blue water navy can strain the environment for Pakistan in the Arabian sea as the geopolitical and geo-economic interests of Pakistan and India are overlapping. It is anticipated that the Indian naval fleet increase would trigger an imbalance of power between Pakistan and India.