LEMOA — A most serious strategic mistake, and Consequences

India has signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) with the United States, with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Defence Secretary Ashton Carter doing the formalities in Washington. It is, perhaps, the most serious strategic mistake made by the country in its nearly seven decades of independent existence.

The text of the accord has not been made public and is unlikely to be at the request of the Narendra Modi government lest public scrutiny raise a political storm at home, providing ready ammunition to the opposition parties. The two countries, courtesy LEMOA, will use each other’s naval and air bases and facilities, it is said. But because the Indian Navy and and the Indian Air Force rarely stretch their reach beyond the Indian Ocean region in the one case and the western border with Pakistan in the other case, it is mostly the US military that will be reaping the benefits. Indian basing will permit deployed American forces to pull longer, more sustained naval and air operations in the extended region to realize US policy goals.

As repeatedly warned in my writings since Manmohan Singh first signed the deal with George W Bush in July 2005 and in my recent book, ‘Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)’, there WILL be a heavy foreign and military cost for this loss of strategic autonomy. India’s stepping firmly into a treaty ally role of the US in all but name will mean several things:

1) Russia will necessarily begin distancing itself from India; the military supply relationship will become more attenuated. There will be no incentive for Moscow to treat India and the Indian armed forces as other than a cash-cow. The warmth will be gone but, as likely, so will valued Russian platforms like the Akula-II SSN, which will be withdrawn. Depending upon just how intimate the Indo-US embrace is, it’d be foolish for Moscow to risk Indians handling cutting edge weapons platforms such as the Akula when there’s every likelihood US naval personnel will be able to go over the boat with a fine tooth comb. As it is, Russians have always derated the most advanced Russian equipment before transferring/selling them to India by about 33%. This has been standard Russian practice to minimize the risk of technology theft not so much by Indians as by India’s “friends”.

2) Indian foreign and military policy will have to reorient itself to US policy likes and dislikes. This will strain traditional friendships with Russia and, in the region, Iran, Washington’s current bogey No. 1. So the development of the Chahbahar option as an alternative Indian land route to Central Asia through Afghanistan and to Europe (through Russia’s Northern Distribution Network) will suffer. As will India’s understanding with Tehran about using Chahbahar as naval base and the northeastern Iranian bases for staging IAF attack sorties to augment the Ainee air basing. India’s geostrategic imperatives will thus hit a brick wall. India’s fine balancing act in the Muslim world between the sunnis led by the Saudis and the shia by Tehran will fall down, as the US will insist that New Delhi put its weight on the sunni side of the scale, which will roil domestic politics and internal security.

3) With the special relationship with Russia receding, Moscow will have no compunction not to join up in the China-Pakistan nexus to form a formidable strategic triad as counterweight to the India-US tandem and, in the tactical sense, to cultivate Islamabad and the Pakistan military as its outpost of influence in South Asia and by way if retaining at least negative leverage with India. We can now expect that the Pakistan Air Force will begin to access superior versions of the Su-30, etc., and depending on the run of the play, even SSNs for Pak Navy on lease.

4) The treaty ally status that India had scrupulously avoided all this time — even after signing the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation with the Soviet Union in Aug 1971, Indira Gandhi resisted President Leonid Brezhnev’s efforts in subsequent years to make this treaty the cornerstone of a Soviet Union-led pan-Asia collective security system — far from preventing, will make it easier for Washington to access India’s sensitive strategic programmes (Agni missile, SSBN, nuclear weapons cell at BARC, etc) and seek to undermine them by offering the usual inducements they offer to most Indians they want to co-opt — green cards, subsidy for children’s education the form of “scholarships”, positions in the US industry, thinktanks, and similar setups, as a means of increasing India’s strategic reliance on the US. Already completely penetrated at the highest levels, MEA and other ministries of the Indian government will soon act as extensions or camp offices of their principal counterpart Departments in Washington.

This is a mere stating of the time tested and proven US modus operandi that has worked elsewhere in the world.

5) But to reiterate the most problematic issue brought up in my earlier posts: LEMOA has within it an embryo the seed of enormous social disruption that the govt has simply not paid heed to — as it has not done to the strategic fallout of getting too close to the US: American military personnel posted in Indian facilities and bases, or on R&R, as is their wont, be socializing all over the place, As has happened elsewhere in Asia — in the Philippines, Okinawa, etc, a whole economy to service the military personnel will spring up, with an unending supply of “booze, drugs, and broads”, the latter procured from the countryside, as happened when the US military was in Vietnam, scarring an entire society for a generation and more. There will be lots children fathered by these often unruly high-spirited American soldiers and a host of attendant problems that the Indian govt and society are unprepared to deal with. The young US officer cadre types will frequent slick watering holes in big cities, take to squiring upper middle class women and leaving them in the same desperate straits as the women servicing the American troops at the lower social end. And there’ll be a surge in the drug traffic that will soon involve ever larger circles of impressionable Indian youth. If you think “udta Punjab” is bad, think “udta Hindustan”. This has been the inevitable pattern wherever there’s US military presence.

How will RSS react? What will RSS make of the social earthquake with massive corrupting of social values and family norms that’s going to come? And to think, one of its own — Pracharak Narendra bhai — triggered this social turmoil with his mindless policy!! Can there be a starker irony?

6) The social interaction between firangi troops and Indian women has all the makings of severe soceital disruption, of course. But it will also bring in its train some very harsh legal problems. For instance, under what jurisdiction will fall the illegal behaviour of US troops? Would American personnel be subjected to Indian laws, if so with what effect on the larger bilateral relations? Because the one thing Washington has always done is sought a different legal dispensation for its citizens. This is a sovereignty issue.

7) The above law & order sovereignty issues will be compounded by the far more significant sovereignty problems seeded by US military personnel guarding sensitive US military stores on portions of Indian air and naval bases sequestered for American use, hence, under nominal US jurisdiction. How’s this acceptable, and how does this mesh with the notion of absolute Indian sovereignty. Did anybody in MEA, in the entire Indian govt, consider such issues before falling behind the PMO’s mindless acceptance of LEMOA, with CISMOA and BECA to soon follow???

8) Whatever the level of intimacy, Washington will NOT tolerate resumption of Indian N-testing, so India will remain stuck between and betwixt, thermonukes-wise. Except now, any slightest move towards testing will be known to the US govt, which will move into snuff it out.

9) And finally the loss of diplomatic and foreign policy leverage is inherent in the situation of loss of autonomy. Balancing power is still the prime motivation of international relations. Power is fungible and always in flux. But balancing as between the various power nodes is what consequential countries do. With LEMOA, India has lost that latitude of foreign policy movement while gaining very little in return. India will still not be able to lay its hands on remotely advanced technology — it can have all the F-16s (and similar obsolete armaments) it wants, even produce them here — to give “Make in India” a regressive twist.

Balancing China, or dealing effectively with this country, India’s main rival in Asia, does not require India to surrender it sovereignty to, or side institutionally with the US. Maximum leverage is derived from maintaining equidistance. This is as an old foreign policy axiom, as old as Suntze and Chanakya, or as relevant as Britain’s ‘continental strategy’ from Marlborough’s time of preventing a dominant power to arise in Europe. All this maneuvring space is now lost to India.

Welcome to the 21st Century AMERINDIA — more American, less Indian. What of an independent-minded, independently acting, India? Forget it.

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China narrows the South China Sea: Is arming Southeast Asia with strategic impact weapons the answer?

This piece was published in ‘Policy Forum’, Australian National University, Canberra, 26 August 2016 at http://www.policyforum.net/china-narrows-south-china-sea/

Bharat Karnad analyses China’s strategy in the South China Sea, and proposes a regional military solution, leveraging the power of supersonic cruise missiles, to bring about a durable peace.
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China has gone some ways to obtaining by force a mere closum (closed sea) in the waters off Southeast Asia without meeting any real resistance to date. The 11 July verdict of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague may have crimped Beijing’s plans but it has not weakened its resolve.

In this context “closed sea” refers to narrowing the marine trade route by creating mid-sea impediments that channelise sea-borne traffic, then controlling and commanding these sea lanes to serve China’s larger purpose of asserting its dominance in the region. But why should the “narrowing” of the South China Sea be a security concern? Firstly, more than a third of annual global trade, valued at over US $5 trillion, passes through the South China Sea. But also, as the naval historian Milan N. Vego predicts, “most naval actions in the future will most likely take place in relative proximity to the shores of the world’s continental landmass, in areas known as ‘littoral waters’, and part of a war in the littorals would take place in the waters of the enclosed and semi-enclosed seas, the popularly called ‘narrow seas’ ”.

China has never made any bones about recovering territory whether on land or at sea even when its claims are based on “historical fiction”. Controlling the South China Sea is central to its “three island chain” strategy. The first island chain encompasses almost all the islands within its ‘nine-dash’ claim line. Having a stranglehold over it, Beijing hopes, will help the PLA Navy consolidate its presence in the second island chain stretching from Papua New Guinea to Japan and into the western Pacific. This then acts as a prelude to extending Chinese military reach and influence to the third island chain, Guam and the Hawaiian islands.

More immediately, however, China is concerned with protecting the waterway that carries the bulk of its seaborne trade. With the Subic Bay naval base located only 120 miles west of the Huangyan Islands (aka Scarborough Shoal), which China forcibly occupied leading Manila in 2013 to approach the Hague Court, Beijing apparently fears that the 2012 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement permitting the US armed forces to stage out of five principal bases and facilities in the Philippines, will imperil its trade and, importantly, by preventing its domination of the South China Sea, nullify its grand plans for maritime supremacy in Asia.

Ever proactive and, perhaps, anticipating a negative judgement, China created a series of fortified island outposts and “artificial islands” for military use. Cement was poured on coral reefs and on extended rocky protuberances with little regard for environmental damage, and the ground leveled on existing islands in its possession at a furious pace until Beijing had a number of nearly self-sufficient military platforms.

Equipped with lighthouses, helipads that can also serve as airstrips, and solar arrays to generate electricity, China placed not only high-frequency surveillance radars on these islands to monitor surface and air traffic in the extended area, but also guns and HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles. By June, the PLA revealed that as part of its A2/AD (anti-access/area denial) strategy, it had deployed from the mainland its DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile systems and H-6K bombers to patrol the contested area. All this happened before the court issued its decree.

The Tribunal rejected outright China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea and its equally ambitious notions of exclusive economic zones, declaring unambiguously that it had no jurisdiction whatsoever on resources found within this maritime sphere.

However, each of the artificial islands or “land reclamations” on the seven features in the Spratly Islands group are nevertheless endowed, the Court ruled, with an exclusion zone bounded by a 12 nautical mile territorial sea. These newly constructed military facilities have thus been accorded legitimacy. Beijing has followed up by erecting reinforced hangars for combat aircraft, such as the JH-7A for maritime strikes, on Fiery Cross, Mischief, and Subi Reefs. It will enable Chinese naval aviation to mount longer, more frequent and dissuasive sorties by fighter-bomber aircraft.

Now consider the grouping of the Chinese bases on “reclaimed” land. Besides the Cuarteron Reef near Malaysia, which hosts a high-powered 300km-range radar to watch over the Malacca Strait opening to the South China Sea, most of the other built-up bases are bunched at the near centre-point of the nine dash claim line curving short of and around the southern Vietnamese, south-central Kalimantan (Indonesia), Sarawak and Sabah (Malaysia) coasts, Brunei, and the southern Philippine islands.
This virtual mid-South China Sea grouping of the island-facilities to house naval and air assets has divided the South China Sea into two narrower seas on either side of the claim line for maritime traffic to negotiate. This will enable China to better police the two channels from the central verge, as it were.

Establishing an instantly available military force, and removing to an extent logistic constraints for first contact operations has, moreover, afforded Beijing an unrivalled capacity to influence politics in the countries on the littoral and offshore. It allows China to dictate terms to its maritime neighbors on numerous issues, tilt conflict or dispute resolution to its advantage, influence trading nations using the now bifurcated oceanic highway, and with the threat of applying the tourniquet to one or both sets of sea lanes, indirectly command a good part of global trade and, generally, dictate the nature of maritime interaction.

And what of the US in all this? While Washington’s rhetoric concerns an armed US presence to ensure a peacefully rising China and a stable Asia, in practical terms the US seeks to avoid conflict. The USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group and the flotilla of three missile destroyers (Spruance, Stethem, and Momsen) were pulling freedom of navigation patrols (FONOPs) in the South China Sea to “show resolve” around the time the verdict was issued. The US warships, however, took great care when “stalking” these Chinese land reclamations to not violate the territorial sea surrounding them.

Such caution was in line with the White House’s admonishment of confrontation-minded US military leaders. On 29 March, General Joe Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described Chinese activity in the South China Sea as “destabilising” and as posing a danger to commercial trade in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. A few weeks later, the head of the US Pacific Command, Admiral Harry Harris, talked of the need to aggressively counter China’s “great wall of sand”.

Rattled by the fighting words, National Security Adviser Susan Rice gagged them. The Obama Administration, however, justified silencing Messrs Dunford and Harris in terms of preserving “maximum political maneuvering space” for itself in talks with the Chinese leadership. Obama’s circumspect policy is despite strong bipartisan support for an assertive course of action.
Admiral John Richardson, the US Chief of Naval Operations, defined this policy of peaceful outreach to Beijing saying, “Cooperation would be great, competition is fine. Conflict is the thing that we really want to avoid.”

An American policy that strains to eliminate the possibility of tension or friction in relations with China is a troubling development for the majority of Asian states. Since the Cold War era Asian nations have been reassured by the US military presence, seeing it as guarantor of their security. An erosion of confidence in America’s will to use force to protect its friends could have far-reaching consequences.
The problem of a weak military commitment is evident beyond the South China Sea. Interested in buttressing his “Prague legacy” Obama is reportedly considering a nuclear ‘No First Use’ policy that Asian allies are desperately lobbying against. This, together with the Republican Party presidential candidate Donald J. Trump urging Japan and South Korea to acquire nuclear weapons for self-protection because the US can no longer afford to provide security to them, have the makings of a full-blown security crisis.

More on this: How superpowers set the rules of engagement in the South China Sea | Gavin Briggs
But it is precisely Washington’s disinclination to forcefully contest strategic spaces that China will exploit both to show up the US as an unreliable ally and intimidate Asian states into becoming more amenable. China lost no time after the 11 July verdict, for instance, in conducting a live-fire naval drill and imposing an air defense identification zone in order to test the US response. Washington did not run the gauntlet.

The US unwillingness to stand up to China may convince Asian states to do something themselves, as Beijing has indicated it will ignore the Hague ruling.

But what can Asian states do if the US sits this crisis out? Merely resolving not to be “bullied” will not help. Continuing with the frequent sailings of warships by the periphery powers – the US, India, Japan, and Australia – even if these are not prosecuted as FONOPs, as well as surveillance flights by P-3s out of the Clark AFB in the Philippines and the northern Australian coast, will not hugely discomfit the Chinese military as it has already become familiar with this kind of activity.

A more potent solution that will “reverse China’s strategic gains” is to counter-narrow the same waters for China, meaning, to potentially restrict the freedom of movement of PLA Navy ships and the merchant marine in a like manner to what China has already done. This can be achieved by arming ASEAN members who show the stomach for a fight with China, such as Vietnam, with strategic impact armaments.

India, for one, has finally appreciated the strategic gains from arming Vietnam with the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile. New Delhi has agreed to export it to Hanoi, which is likely to deploy it onboard its corvettes affording Vietnam a mobile offensive capability. The air-launched and submarine-fired Brahmos variants that may follow will give Vietnam enormous operational flexibility and will compel China to alter its plans for the use of force, principally because of the unbearable “exchange ratio” that Beijing faces with the Brahmos. Pitting a cruise missile costing US$10 million against a missile destroyer costing, say, US$600 million-US$800 million will inhibit Chinese fleet commanders from casually courting risk and combatant ship captains from undertaking provocative missions.

In this scenario, China will discover that the artificial island bases it has created can stockpile only so much fuel and war materiel, and the relatively long distance from the mainland to the disputed area can become a military liability when it comes to sustaining naval or air action. After all, the distance between the nearest Philippine island and Scarborough Shoal is one-fifth the distance from the Shoal to the Chinese coast.

Further, Vietnam’s success in keeping at bay both the secret Chinese “fourth fleet”, supposedly meant for Indian Ocean forays (which serves India’s security interests), and the powerful South Sea Fleet co-located at the Sanya naval base on Hainan Island will have a domino effect. In fact, anticipating the deterrence potential of the Brahmos, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia have already shown interest in it.

With the disputant states and other countries on the Southeast Asian littoral bristling with one shot-one ship kill weapons, which they will now procure from wherever they can as a cost-effective solution, the South China Sea will be effectively narrowed and rendered equally dangerous for the Chinese navy and merchantmen. It will make for a military equilibrium and durable peace in the region, lengthen the fuse for the US, India, Australia, and Japan, and increase their policy options.

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Another Scorpene document; CNS Lanba’s call: Indian Navy and national security or the French Scorpene

The only upside of the leak of 22,400 highly-classified documents relating to the Indian Scorpene is that it is now no secret that this submarine in the Indian fleet is a naval and national security liability. That this vast trove of secret material went missing in 2011 suggests that anybody who wanted access has had it — especially Pakistan and Chinese intel agencies — for the last FIVE years. In other words, had the documents not been leaked to ‘The Australian’, the Indian Navy and govt would have gone serenely about their business, assuming that the supposedly super-stealth qualities of this French item would surprise an adversary or two in war!

It is certain that the Pakistan and Chinese navies are by now fully in the know of the minutest aspects of this boat’s on-board weapons, sensors, combat management system, etc, and that this boat is an open book and, unbeknownst to GOI/MOD/Indian Navy, has been for the past many years. Will IN risk taking this platform to sea? It will be blown out of the water at the first instance of hostile action. And yet GOI and Indian Navy seem to believe the crock put out by the French company DCNS and the French govt that this material out in the market may be “sensitive but [is] neither critical nor confidential”. Come again?! In fact, the navy maintains, per some news stories, that as the documents have redacted parts, the secrets are hence not out! This is laughable stuff. It appears the navy is, in fact, guileless and gullible. If it is, God save India!

And, what’s the guarantee this is all the documents that have been leaked? Is the Modi regime going to believe Paris and risk it all, or rely on common sense of which there’s always been a deficit in Delhi?

The BJP dispensation is not doing the one set of things that are imperative: Immediately TERMINATE the Scorpene contract, STOP production of this submarine at the Mazgaon Dockyard Ltd, Mumbai, and START the process of recovering the monies paid out so far to DCNS in the cumulative $24 billion deal.

To make it amply clear India means business, Delhi should recall its ambassador, ask Paris to withdraw its envoy, and if satisfaction is not forthcoming especially on financial restitution, the promise of more serious actions to follow.

But all this will depend on the Indian Navy’s assessment of the situation. The one quality everybody acknowledges about the present CNS Admiral Sunil Lanba is that he is a stickler for propriety and has a spotless record on corruption, which last attribute is not what many of his predecessors in the post could boast of. There are economically huge interests at play here. If Lanba’s report minimizes the real and irreparable damage done to the prospects of the Scorpene in Indian service, then his name will go down in infamy, and national security will take a dive. If, on the other hand, he concludes with every justification that the country and the navy cannot afford to have a completely compromised Scorpene in their service and that this submersible is, for all intents and purposes, useless and unusable as a fighting platform. And that, whatever the consequences for the country’s sea denial capability, India should therefore proceed to return the Kalavari to France and ask DCNS to pack up and get the hell out, he will have done the duty by India that he is sworn to do. In that case the Modi govt, however much it may wish to do otherwise with potentially another scam in the offing relating to the PM’s offer to buy 36 Rafale combat aircraft off the shelf, will have no alternative than to cancel the Scorpene contract and ask DCNS/French govt to return forthwith all the monies forked over so far — as much as $7-$10 billion. It is Lanba’s call.

Below are reproduced two new Scorpene stories from ‘The Australian’ and another secret document among the 22,400 documents the newspaper has in its possession. These will no doubt be dribbled out over a long period of time (to increase newspaper sales and subscriptions and keep alive the international interest).
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THE AUSTRALIAN, Aug 25, 2016
Defence warns French submarine builder DCNS on data security
By Cameron Stewart

The Defence Department has warned the French company in the middle of the global
submarine leaks scandal that it will demand the same level of information security on the
new submarine project as Australia enjoys with its closest ally, the US.

The warning was issued privately to French shipbuilder DCNS by a senior Defence
official hours after The Australian broke the story on Wednesday that 22,400 secret
DCNS document about India’s new submarine fleet had been leaked.

Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne ordered that the warning be issued, showing
that the Turnbull government was deeply concerned by the ramifications of the DCNS
leak on Australia’s $50 billion submarines project, even though it said publicly that it
had no relevance to Australia.

Australia’s information security is most stringent with the US because of the importance
of joint facilities such as Pine Gap and their joint membership of the powerful Five Eyes
intelligence alliance.

DCNS is expected to announce today that it will set up a new security committee in
Australia to help safeguard against leaks of classified data for the project.
The Paris-based company, which will design 12 subs for Australia, has been heavily
criticised in India’s media for the leaks which many Indian experts believe haveromised the country’s new fleet of six Scorpene subs.

DCNS Australia head Sean Costello said the new security committee would “govern the
measures which DCNS develops to deliver the Australian government’s stringent
security requirements for the Future Submarine Program”.

The leaks scandal has grown into a firestorm in India and France where it has been frontpage
news, as both governments seek to grapple with the damage it has done to India’s

page news, as both governments seek to grapple with the damage it has done to India’s
national security and to DCNS’s global reputation. The 22,400 pages of leaked secret documents, marked “Restricted Scorpene India” – reveal the highly sensitive combat and stealth capabilities of India’s Scorpene subs, including the frequencies at which they gather intelligence, their range, endurance, diving depths, the noise they radiate at different speeds as well as their magnetic and infra-red
signatures.

Secret subs document: System and operating data

Two former high-ranking Pakistani generals have told The Australian that the Pakistani
and Chinese spy agencies would be doing all they could to get their hands on leaked
documents which reveal the capabilities of India’s new submarine fleet — that is if they
don’t already have the documents. Former Pakistan army chief Jehangir Karamat said
Australia should be “concerned” about using the same French firm to manufacture its
subs. In France, where a formal government investigation is underway, DCNS said the
leak might have been a case of “economic warfare” against the company.

“Competition is getting tougher and tougher, and all means can be used in this context,”
a DCNS spokeswoman said.

“There is India, Australia and other prospects, and other countries could raise legitimate
questions over DCNS. It’s part of the tools in economic warfare.”
Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has asked his navy to submit an interim report
on the leak in the next few days as the New Delhi government tries to work out how
badly the leak might affect the security of its new fleet.

“We have to be very careful in making our assessments,” Mr Parrikar said.
“All aspects of the matter will be examined and whatever preventative measures need to
be taken will be taken.”

Investigations in India and France will seek to uncover the key question of whether the
leaked data may have fallen into the hands of a foreign government and especially its
strategic rivals Pakistan and China.

The Australian has been told that the secret data was removed from DCNS by a former
sub-contractor in 2011 and taken to a private company in Southeast Asia before being
passed to a branch of that company in a second Southeast Asian nation. A disk containing the data filed was then posted in regular mail to a company in Australia.

DCNS is focusing its investigation on former employees and sub-contractors involved in
the project. At this stage it is not thought that the leak came from India.
The Turnbull government has tried to allay fears that the same sort of catastrophic data
leak of DCNS submarine data could occur when the French company designs its
Australian subs, to be called the Shortfin Barracuda.

Mr Pyne said he was confident that the subs program operated “under stringent security
requirements” governing sensitive technical data. Independent South Australian senator Nick Xenophon has called the leak disastrous and says the government should consider suspending negotiations with DCNS.
In April France was awarded the lucrative contract to build the $50bn new submarine fleet ahead of fellow bidders Germany and Japan.

The Scorpene leak is one of the largest and most damaging data dumps of its kind and
comes only three months after India began sea trials for the first of its six Scorpene subs.
The data leak is also a blow to the navies of Malaysia, Chile, and, from 2018, Brazil,
which also operate the Scorpene sub.
———-
A 2nd story published in the THE AUSTRALIAN, Aug 26, 2016

Pakistan, China ‘keen to get hands on leaked subs documents’

By Greg Bearup

Pakistani and Chinese spy agencies would be doing all they could to get their hands on
leaked documents that reveal the capabilities of India’s new submarine fleet, according
to two former high-ranking Pakistani generals. That was if they didn’t already have the documents, they said.

Former Pakistani army chief Jehangir Karamat said Australia should be “concerned”
about using the same French firm, DCNS, to manufacture its subs.

The report in the The Australian this week about a 22,000-page leak containing the
specifications of a French- designed sub destined for the Indian Navy has been the lead
story on Indian television and on the front pages of its newspapers.

“India assesses vulnerability of Scorpene submarines after a leak of secret data,’’ said the
headline on the Hindustan Times, while The Hindu led with a story about the sloppy
handling of the highly sensitive documents by DCNS: “Not a tight ship, submarine
project leaked like a sieve.”

Indian politicians and defence officials are fuming and are hunting the source of the leak
while trying to assess the damage.

“The French-designed subs are so advanced, so silent under water that they are extremely
difficult, if not impossible to detect,” said a report on English-language news channel
NDTV. “But according to The Australian, the leak of the 22,000 pages has technical
specifications that would make detection possible.”

General Karamat told The Australian the leakwas“mind-boggling’’. “I can understand Australia’s concern (that the same company is building its subs),’’ said General Karamat, who was previously Pakistan’s ambassador to the US. “I guess it’s too early to say anything but the report does mention that China and
Pakistan would be interested. Indeed, anyone involved in counter measures would be
most interested.’’

Retired general Talat Masood, who also served as secretary for defence production in
Pakistan’s Defence Ministry, told The Australian the leak was extremely embarrassing
to India and France: “The point here is that definitely Pakistan would be interested

to India and France: “The point here is that definitely Pakistan would be interested
because India has been expanding its naval fleet and it would very much like to know
what are the capabilities of the submarine … this document, to a large extent, would
reveal that.”

He said subs were vitally importance in the region. “The Chinese are building the
corridor, and so on, and also the Indians want to expand their influence on the seas and
the US has been supportive of that,” he said.
———–
New Scorpene India document published along with the above two stories with, as on the last occasion, parts redacted — inked, by the newspaper as too sensitive:

1) https://theaustralianatnewscorpau.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/system-and-operating-data.pdf.
It has the ‘System Technical Manual’ for underwater warfare sub-system — various sonars — distributed array, active array, etc, & ‘Operational Instruction Manual’ for combat management system

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Scorpene — Leaked DCNS Documents & ‘The Australian’ news report

What’s simply astounding about GOI’s (Parrikar’s) and the Indian Navy’s reaction to this massive leak at the DCNS end is their (1) complacent attitude (compare this to the alarm generated in Australia, which is buying another version of the Scorpene), (2) attempt to minimize the prospective damage to national security and the complete compromizing of the Scorpene submarine platform, and (3) straining to clear DCNS and France of any responsibility and hence legal and monetary LIABILITY for an event that normally should immediately imperil bilateral relations and, at the very least, result in the Indian govt demanding full financial restitution in terms of return of all monies paid so far in furtherance of the Scorpene contract, a massive deterrent penalty imposed on the French Company, and stopping of all Scorpene deliveries from the Mazgaon Dockyard Ltd (MDL). The first unit, Kalavari, and the next one coming up 4 years later than scheduled produced under DCNS aegis are now virtual junks. And an agreement with Paris that it will pay for whatever remedies may be available to make the two Scorpenes at all serviceable as fighting platforms (rather than as pleasure boats that, perhaps, can cart tourists seeking full submersible experience off the Mumbai shore). Indeed, the sea trials of the first of Kalavari, has to be terminated, and DCNS asked to take it back, not deliver the second one, unless these two submarines are to, whatever extent, modified to exacting professional standards.

Recall in this respect that Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi threatened to shut down bilateral relations with France in 1987 because of the infamous Coomar Narain case — a French defence attache was caught with official documents purloined by Narain, a “wheeler dealer” working for a wealthy Indian, Maneklal, as “economic intelligence”, precipitating an emergency visit by French President Francois Mitterand. (Refer http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/spy-scandal-with-more-arrests-new-facts-emerge-from-confessions/1/353922.html.) If that relatively slight offence produced such a huge reaction from Delhi, shouldn’t an unimaginably more significant event by the French supplier that pretty much finishes off the country’s submarine capability have proportionately graver consequences? Such as, at a minimum, an instant termination of contacts and military and every other contract? But here we have a maun Modi and a Parrikar who doesn’t seem to even understand the gravity of the situation.

Also bear in mind when perusing the published sample documents accompanying the story that these are in the “Restricted” category. Even so the Australian paper has felt compelled to redact the more sensitive data in them. There must be frightfully more sensitive documents in the trove of 22,400 off documents with much higher classification status now available to anyone willing to pay (Pakistan, China).

Reproduced below are ‘The Australian’ story about the DCNS’ India Scorpene submarine, along with the URLs for the sample of three documents published in this newspaper of Aug 24, 2016
———-
The AUSTRALIAN, Aug 24, 2016
Our French submarine builder in massive leak scandal
By Cameron Stewart

The French company that won the bid to design Australia’s new $50 billion
submarine fleet has suffered a massive leak of secret documents, raising fears
about the future security of top-secret data on the navy’s future fleet.
The stunning leak, which runs to 22,400 pages and has been seen by The
Australian, details the entire secret combat capability of the six Scorpene-class
submarines that French shipbuilder DCNS has designed for the Indian Navy.
A variant of the same French-designed Scorpene is also used by the navies of
Malaysia, Chile and, from 2018, Brazil, so news of the Edward Snowden-sized
leak — revealed today — will trigger alarm at the highest level in these countries.
Marked “Restricted Scorpene India”, the DCNS documents detail the most
sensitive combat capabilities of India’s new $US3 bn ($3.9bn) submarine fleet and
would provide an intelligence bonanza if obtained by India’s strategic rivals, such
as Pakistan or China.

The leak will spark grave concern in Australia and especially in the US where
senior navy officials have privately expressed fears about the security of top-secret
data entrusted to France.

In April DCNS, which is two-thirds owned by the French government, won the
hotly contested bid over Germany and Japan to design 12 new submarines for
Australia. Its proposed submarine for Australia — the yet-to-be-built Shortfin
Australia. Its proposed submarine for Australia — the yet-to-be-built Shortfin
Barracuda — was chosen ahead of its rivals because it was considered to be the
quietest in the water, making it perfectly suited to intelligence-gathering
operations against China and others in the region.

Any stealth advantage for the navy’s new submarines would be gravely
compromised if data on its planned combat and performance capabilities was
leaked in the same manner as the data from the Scorpene. The leaked DCNS data
details the secret stealth capabilities of the six new Indian submarines, including
what frequencies they gather intelligence at, what levels of noise they make at
various speeds and their diving depths, range and endurance — all sensitive
information that is highly classified. The data tells the submarine crew where on
the boat they can speak safely to avoid detection by the enemy. It also discloses
magnetic, electromagnetic and infra-red data as well as the specifications of the
submarine’s torpedo launch system and the combat system.

It details the speed and conditions needed for using the periscope, the noise
specifications of the propeller and the radiated noise levels that occur when the
submarine surfaces.

The data seen by The Australian includes 4457 pages on the submarine’s
underwater sensors, 4209 pages on its above-water sensors, 4301 pages on its
combat management system, 493 pages on its torpedo launch system and
specifications, 6841 pages on the sub’s communications system and 2138 on its
navigation systems.

The Australian has chosen to redact sensitive information from the documents.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said it was important to note the submarine
DCNS was building for India was a completely different model to the one it will
build for Australia and the leaked information was a few years out of date.
Nevertheless, any leak of classified information was a concern.
“We have the highest security protections on all of our defence information,
whether it is in partnership with other countries or entirely within Australia,” he
told the Seven Network today.

“But clearly, it is a reminder that, particularly in this digital world, cyber security
is of critical importance.” Influential senator Nick Xenon said he would pursue the security breach when parliament returns next week. Senator Xenophon, who leads a bloc of three senators, said Australia needed serious explanations from DCNS, the federal government and the Defence Department about any implications for Australia. “This is really quite disastrous to have thousands of pages of your combat system leaked in this way,” the senator told ABC radio.

Sea trials for the first of India’s six Scorpene submarines began in May. The
project is running four years behind schedule.

The Indian Navy has boasted that its Scorpene submarines have superior stealth
features, which give them a major advantage against other submarines.
The US will be alarmed by the leak of the DCNS data because Australia hopes to
install an American combat system — with the latest US stealth technology — in
the French Shortfin Barracuda.

If Washington does not feel confident that its “crown jewels’’ of stealth
technology can be protected, it may decline to give Australia its state-of-the-art
combat system.

DCNS yesterday sought to reassure Australians that the leak of the data on the
Indian Scorpene submarine would not happen with its proposed submarine for
Australia. The company also implied — but did not say directly — that the leak
might have occurred at India’s end, rather than from France. “Uncontrolled
technical data is not possible in the Australian arrangements,” the company said.
“Multiple and independent controls exist within DCNS to prevent unauthorised
access to data and all data movements are encrypted and recorded. In the case of
India, where a DCNS design is built by a local company, DCNS is the provider and
not the controller of technical data.

“In the case of Australia, and unlike India, DCNS is both the provider and incountry
controller of technical data for the full chain of transmission and usage
over the life of the submarines.”

However, The Australian has been told that the data on the Scorpene was written
in France for India in 2011 and is suspected of being removed from France in that
same year by a former French Navy officer who was at that time a DCNS
same year by a former French Navy officer who was at that time a DCNS
subcontractor.

The data is then believed to have been taken to a company in Southeast Asia,
possibly to assist in a commercial venture for a regional navy.
It was subsequently passed by a third party to a second company in the region
before being sent on a data disk by regular mail to a company in Australia. It is
unclear how widely the data has been shared in Asia or whether it has been
obtained by foreign intelligence agencies.

The data seen by The Australian also includes separate confidential DCNS files on
plans to sell French frigates to Chile and the French sale of the Mistral-class
amphibious assault ship carrier to Russia. These DCNS projects have no link to
India, which adds weight to the probability that the data files were removed from
DCNS in France.

DCNS Australia this month signed a deed of agreement with the Defence
Department, paving the way for talks over the contract which will guide the design
phase of the new submarines. The government plans to build 12 submarines in
Adelaide to replace the six-boat Collins-class fleet from the early 2030s. The
Shortfin Barracuda will be a slightly shorter, conventionally powered version of
France’s new fleet of Barracuda-class nuclear submarines.
Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said his officials believed the leak had
“no bearing” on the Australia’s submarine program.

“The Future Submarine Program operates under stringent security requirements
that govern the manner in which all information and technical data is managed now
and into the future,” Mr Pyne’s office said in a statement.
“The same requirements apply to the protection of all sensitive information and
technical data for the Collins class submarines, and have operated successfully for
decades.”

Restricted data
The secret information the leaked documents reveal:
• The stealth capabilities of the six new Indian Scorpene submarines
• The frequencies at which the subs gather intelligence
• The levels of noise the subs make at various speeds
• Diving depths, range and endurance
• Magnetic, electromagnetic and infra-red data
• Specifications of the submarine’s torpedo launch system and the combat system
• Speed and conditions needed for using the periscope
• Propeller’s noise specifications
• Radiated noise levels when the submarine surfaces
View the leaked documents below. If you are using a mobile device, you can view
the extracts on the desktop version of theaustralian.com.au
Secret submarine document one
Secret submarine document two
Secret submarine document three
——-
The published leaked documents ‘Restricted Scorpene India’ may be accessed at:

1) https://theaustralianatnewscorpau.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/secret-submarine-dossier-document-11.pdf for some structural details and communications equipment

2) https://theaustralianatnewscorpau.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/secret-submarine-dossier-document-21.pdf for acoustic signature and noise level

3) https://theaustralianatnewscorpau.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/subs-document-3.pdf

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Scorpene subs now good only for junking: Thank you DCNS!

The Indian Navy’s fleet of the French Scorpene submarine — the first of which, Kalvari, has entered service, is now completely compromized. The most secret data about the performance attributes and technologies incorporated in the Scorpene are now common knowledge, and the details in some 22,000 pages of this project has been “leaked” from the French company DCNS’ facility in France. The gist of these documents is published in the Aussie paper, ‘The Australian’ and is accessible at http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/defence/our-french-submarine-builder-in-massive-leak-scandal/news-story/3fe0d25b7733873c44aaa0a4d42db39e.

The restricted data, per the Australian news story, reveals information in the following broad categories the newspaper has, fortunately, not retailed:

• The stealth capabilities of the six new Indian Scorpene submarines

• The frequencies at which the subs gather intelligence

• The levels of noise the subs make at various speeds

• Diving depths, range and endurance

• Magnetic, electromagnetic and infra-red data

• Specifications of the submarine’s torpedo launch system and the combat system

• Speed and conditions needed for using the periscope

• Propeller’s noise specifications

• Radiated noise levels when the submarine surfaces

Assuming the DCNS data was stolen from DCNS computers by cyber thieves or by a staffer with eye on the main chance, with the express purpose of derailing DCNS’ contract with Canberra to build six Sorpenes for the Australian Navy, the Indian Navy is a collateral hit — its prospective sea-denial capability a lot of showpiece rubble, its submarines good for nothing when, not if, the China and Pakistan buy the entire stock of documents as they will. Not sure, at this late date, that DCNS can do anything structurally to change the stealth or cavitation parameters, for instance, and if they can, at whose cost? The disclosures about the diving depths, weapons, and sensor specifications are really damaging. Worse, what can or will the Indian Navy now do? Look at the categories and the comprehensive info about the Scorpene, what option’s left other than to junk the nearly $22 billion worth of French submarines?

France has always been distrusted by the US as being unable to safeguard its military secrets. One reason why Washington was relieved when General de Gaulle withdrew France from NATO in June 1966.

This blog has been full of posts retailing my suspicions on various counts about French military hardware in the context of the impending Rafale acquisition decision, and particularly with regard to DCNS’ bid for the Project 75i submarine. Will the Modi regime now go ahead with the Rafale aircraft buy considering its secrets, assuming there are any, may be spirited away from the Dassault vaults and made public as the Scorpene info was from DCNS? And, more worrying still, will Parrikar in order to please Modi, instead of blackballing DCNS for its lax attitude to secret data, shortlist it for the Project 75i?

Have always argued that the only secrets about military hardware India can be sure of is about weapons systems it has fully made itself — from design to delivery. Reason why Tejas, Arihant, Agni missiles are such force multipliers — but little else in the Indian military inventory is as the rest of the stuff is all procured from foreign countries, who will happily reveal their secrets if it serves their national interest. In this respect, recall that during the 1982 Falklands War, France shared with Britain the operating frequencies of the Exocet anti-ship missile it had sold to Argentina. Only Russia has been above board in this respect.

This DCNS leak is a god-sent opportunity for the Indian govt, MOD, and military services to correct their imported armaments-oriented attitude, and to begin investing fully in only indigenous weaponry. If even after this, the Modi-Parrikar duo persists with its tilt favouring Western foreign suppliers, then what’s there to do except await the inevitable — an India fast declining in status and standing.

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Modi’s LEMOA will make targets of Indian bases

Indian defence minister Manohar Parrikar is set to visit the US Aug 29-Sept 1. News reports suggest he will travel thither expressly to sign the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), a suitably worded derivative of the standard Logistics Support Agreement the US requires all its Treaty allies to sign. Parrikar was never enthusiastic about these “foundational” accords but is reduced to being the Sancho Panza to Modi’s Don Quixote.

The Americans are seeking enabling provisions in this agreement to specifically permit US naval and air elements to stage out of Indian air and naval bases, to repair and service its fighting assets, and to preposition critical, high-consumption, spares in special depots protected by US military personnel, etc. Such provisions are apparently proving the stumbling blocks.

Washington wants desperately to resolve these issues and is deploying the US Navy Secretary Ray Mobus and the US Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James to New Delhi to iron out these wrinkles so there’s a final document for Parrikar and US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to sign end-August. To assist in this process is Ashley Tellis, the only non-head of state foreigner who can have an appointment with Modi whenever Tellis desires it, who is now in Delhi. He is “softening up” MOD officials and preparing the ground for mutually acceptable wording that both parties can live with, and Mobus and James can sign off on. The affable Tellis, the arch fixer, is relied on by the US govt to smoothen things whenever it gets rough in New Delhi. With his deep contacts at the highest levels in PMO and MEA and his reach into the Indian military, he is expected to show the way out. Who is to say he won’t succeed? (Of course. Mobus and James will push the F-16 induction in IAF and production, etc., but these are ultimately sidebars for the media to chew on.)

That the Bharatiya Janata Party regime of Narendra Modi is serious about signing the LEMOA despite its potentially very negative strategic impact, indicates the Indian PM has seemingly gone daft, losing what little strategic sense he may have started out with.

But why is the US so eager? As pointed out in earlier posts, Washington thinks accessing Indian bases and military facilities are crucial to the US sustaining its operational military presence in the Indian Ocean region. It will allow US combat aircraft and warships embarking from Indian bases to be switched east to the South China Sea area or to the Gulf region in the west to provide overlapping coverage in conjunction with the US 5th Fleet assets based in Bahrain and the new and extensive facility the US is constructing at Duqm on the Omani coast, on the one side, and on the other side, with the US military forces based in Singapore and Darwin in northern Australia.

So, what’s the problem with LEMOA? As one understands it, there are sticking points in the draft-agreement originally produced by the US Department of Defense for the Indian MOD to work on. These have to do with writing the enabling provisions in the agreement permitting Indian military facilities to be used for repairing and servicing fighting assets, and storing spares in US military protected encampments. A possible compromise, considering the politically sensitive nature of some of the enabling provisions — such as the one regarding US military personnel protecting these military stores depots and, hence, breaching Indian sovereignty, is for the formal LEMOA to be filled with ambiguous language, but for there to be an accompanying secret document/memorandum detailing the specific terms and conditions that will legally sanction the uses of Indian territory and Indian military bases/facilities/installations/military infrastructure in the prescribed manner. But howsoever much the LEMOA circumscribes the US military presence, it will still mark India as a secondary power and American camp follower.

Other sovereignty-related issues may arise out of the stationing of US troops and military personnel on Indian soil. Whether stationed here or on R&R (rest and recreation), US soldiers, sailors, and airmen — a usually rambunctious lot — in Indian cities will create awkward social, and law and order problems. US may insist that any arrested US personnel will be handled under US law, what then? The social turmoil that could erupt can only be imagined if the long record of US troops proving a handful for the local police and sourcing social disturbance in night clubs and eateries, by “dating” Indian women, etc. Consider the social wreckage left behind by the US military wherever they have been based post-1945. How about Okinawa, where notwithstanding the US military’s presence there for nearly 80 years, the Japanese have been protesting the routine excesses of US troops?

There’s however a far more significant and deadly set of military and national security problems the Modi govt has obviously not given thought to. Consider this scenario, because Iran is very much the US radar: US bombers and strike aircraft, say, fly out of Indian bases to strike Iran. That would torpedo Indo-Iranian relations, of course, but also expose the Indian base(s) in particular, and India in general to retaliatory attacks, entirely legal under international law. But let’s make the scenario more plausible by assuming USAF aerial tankers take off from India to refuel US bombers coming out of Bahrain, on sortie to strike Iranian targets. This doesn’t in any way lessen India’s complicity in the US strike, or weaken Iran’s legal basis for counter-striking India and Indian military targets. This is precisely the sort of situations that could be created by signing LEMOA or any other “foundational” agreement with America.

Conceived above is a scenario involving a lesser power, Iran. But what will happen if India is in any way involved in US actions against China or Russia or their proxies in Asia? It will be a disaster.

If the MEA and PMO haven’t conceived of these dire, but very real possibilities, have the Indian armed services too been so seduced by Tellis’ pleasing demeanor and so deterred by Modi’s manifest desire to please Washington that they have sworn off their duty to alert the govt to the dangers of the course it is following? The pity is the political opposition is in complete disarray and cannot adequately play the Cassandra and sound the tocsin.

The fact is the Modi govt cannot have a LEMOA that will not violate Indian sovereignty. Where’s the urgent need for it, in any case, unless India’s security needs are conflated with those of America’s. As it is, there’s an arrangement that’s been followed since PM Chandrashekhar’s days in the early 1990s when US aircraft could refuel, etc here in India, with permission being given on a case-by-case basis. What are the arguments for upending it, unless the goal, by whatever means, is to make India a formal US dependency.

Unfortunately, my warnings post-1998 N-tests of the strategic perils of getting too close to the US, will come true. Whatever Modi may say, however he may justify the LEMOA, India is set to lose its sovereign decisionmaking status and strategic independence. Ironically, this is the doing of Modi, a man I had very early extolled as the singular nationalist hope to make India a great power. But Narendra Modi, alas, is in a long line of Indian rulers who, lacking strategic vision and the will not to subordinate India to any country in any way for any reason, will bring India down.

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Narrowing the Seas: Security Ramifications of the SCS Verdict

There’s an aspect of China’s seeking to acquire dominance in the South China Sea that the verdict on July 11, 2016, by the International Court of Arbitration at the Hague, did nothing to address and, which difficult military problem, curiously, has not so far been identified in international and regional strategic circles, nor have solutions been bruited about.

The problem concerns China’s narrowing this Sea by, quite literally, creating an obstacle course by forcibly annexing territory belonging to weak states, such as Philippines’ Scarborough Shoal in the Spratly Islands chain, and by creating ‘artificial’ islands. These are impediments designed to compel the navies of out-of-area powers and of the in-region disputant states, and, more generally, the $5 trillion worth of annual ship-borne trade transiting this area through select waterways that the Chinese can more effectively police. It will strategically disadvantage adversary navies, allow Beijing to exercise a whip hand over global and Asian trade, and, otherwise obtain a mere closum (closed sea) that countries will be able to access only at Beijing’s sufferance.

This article briefly examines the security ramifications of this development and proposes certain counter-measures that India, in particular, and other like-minded states, such as Japan, need to take. The most potent solution, it will be argued, is to respond by counter-narrowing the same sea for China. India can do this, it will be contended, by arming ASEAN members, starting with Vietnam, with the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile, which will tilt the “exchange ratio” hugely against Chinese warships, and to militarily exploit factors, such as the distance of the disputed islands, rocky outcroppings, and the “artificial” islands from the Chinese mainland against China, and skewing the advantage toward defender states.

Context

But to first set the context: The Hague Court not only rejected outright China’s expansive “nine dash line” claims in the South China Sea but declared illegal its occupation of rocky protuberances that at high tide disappear under water. It also declared illegal the artificial “islands” China has created by pouring cement on coral reefs in order to bolster its spurious claims, saying these do not endow Beijing with any exclusive economic zone rights and privileges, and condemned such manifestations of “land reclamation” on seven features just in the Spratly Islands area alone, and chided China for such construction it said were “incompatible with the obligations on a state during dispute resolution proceedings”. Even if Beijing cannot claim the 12 mile exclusion zones around these newly built islands, it will feel free to consolidate its presence and use them for military purposes.

But the Tribunal did cut the ground from underneath Beijing’s historical basis for its claims. Chinese junks plying the disputed waters in the distant past, it ruled, cannot constitute a foundation for China’s extensive claims in the South China Sea, which the Court virtually dismissed as so much nonsense. “There was no legal basis”, it said unambiguously, for China’s “historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’ ”. It is an injunction that will hereafter apply to Chinese claims landward as well, including large parts of Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin in Ladakh.

While the Philippines, which took China to Court, called for “restraint and sobriety” in the wake of the verdict, and was supported by India, Japan, and the United States, who called on all parties to respect it, China, predictably, rejected it. Foreign minister Wang Yi described it as a prescription for “a dose of the wrong medicine, which will not help cure the disease.” He went on to describe the malady as “fever” he accused external forces of “stirring up”. In any case, by imposing an air defence identification zone (ADIZ) and conducting live fire naval drills in the disputed sea conjoined to some severe diplomatic pressure, Beijing succeeded in having the 10-member ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) remove references to the dispute or the Hague verdict in the communiqué issued by the group’s 49th foreign ministers meeting in Laos on July 20. China’s strong arm tactics fit in with its preferred mode of negotiating separately and on bilateral basis with each of the disputant states, something that Beijing believes will render them more amenable. But most legal experts agree that even if the regional states end up dealing singly, one-on-one, with China they will hereon insist on the new legal template established by the Hague Court.

That regional countries are loath to cross China is understandable. They have profited from balancing economic cooperation with China and US’ security assurances. In the weeks prior to the Hague ruling, three US missile destroyers and the nearby USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group, had taken to “stalking” the artificial islands, such as those near the Scarborough Shoal the Chinese had forcefully annexed from the Philippines in 2013. These ships operated in the 14-20 nautical mile range of these islands ostensibly on freedom of navigation patrols (FONPs) permitted by the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS). The US will continue with such operations in the future to assert its rights. And more frequent FONOPs is also what New Delhi should dispatch to these waters to assert India’s right of free and peaceable passage.

Except the United States has not ratified this Convention, and neither has China, even as the ASEAN have done so, as have India in June 1995 and Japan a year later. Hence, such naval and air actions as the US may undertake against Chinese forces under the 2014 Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with Manila, which revives in a way the 1951 Mutual Defence Treaty that became defunct in 1992 with Philippines refusing to extend it could, theoretically, come under a legal cloud, unless the US warships fly the Philippine flag providing Manila and Washington the cover of self-defence, which last will not happen.

Chinese Buildup and US Response

Speed of buildup being of the essence, China, according to satellite intelligence, had by February 2016, erected a high frequency radar on Cuarteron Island able to monitor on real time, 24/7, basis the air and surface traffic in the southern part of the South China Sea, i.e., the northern end of the Malacca Straits. It augmented the radars already on Fiery Cross, Gaven, Hughes and Johnson South Reefs in the Spratlys chain, with helipads, and possible gun and missile emplacements too at some of these posts. Mapping the Chinese land reclamations in the South China Sea indicates a pattern. These are mostly grouped in the spread of the Spratly Islands right smack in the middle of the South China Sea – a quadrant that opens out to the East Sea in the northeast and the Malacca, Lumbok and Sunda Straits to the southwest encompassing most of the main oceanic trade-carrying highways.

To deter US carrier task forces from entering these disputed areas, Beijing has deployed the Dong Feng DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile system along with Hong H-K6 medium bombers (Chinese variant of the Soviet Tu-15) on the islands it has illegally occupied or constructed. The logic obviously is that if the US Navy can be made less confident in these waters, the other countries will offer no resistance at all. These artificial and natural islands bristling with radar/other sensors and weapons systems will constrict the passage ways, and all maritime traffic, including naval movements, through these waters will be subject to Chinese surveillance and effectively pass under Beijing’s control.

While Washington says it will contest what the US Pacific Fleet commander Admiral Scott Swift said at an October 2015 conference in Sydney, is an “egregious” tendency of countries, like China, to “view freedom of the seas as up for grabs, as something that can be taken down and redefined by domestic law or by reinterpreting international law” and to impose “superfluous warnings and restrictions on freedom of the seas in their exclusive economic zones and claim territorial water rights that are inconsistent with [UNCLOS]”, the US is unlikely to come to any ASEAN partner’s aid, EDCA or no EDCA, if this interferes or diverts from the larger US aim of reaching a modus vivendi with Beijing. The US Naval Chief, Admiral John Richardson, made this plain. “Cooperation [with China] would be great”, he said at a Center for New American Security conference held in Washington in June 2016, “competition is fine [but] conflict is the thing that we really want to avoid.” He was reflecting the views of US President Barack Obama, who in early 2016 negatived a muscular approach proposed by the head of the US Pacific Command, Admiral Harry Harris, per a news report, to “counter and reverse China’s strategic gains” in this region.

What India Can and Should Do

Washington’s willingness to compromise with China, and Beijing’s desire to prevent militarily riling America means these two countries will eventually work out a mutually acceptable solution that may not constitute rules-of-the-road for anybody else, or help the ASEAN disputants bolster their individual claims with respect to China. This is the main reason why it is in New Delhi’s interest to be proactive and to coordinate its policies to beef up the dissuasive military capabilities of the ASEAN states with those of, say, Japan. India and Japan cannot anymore afford to fallback on their default position of free riding on America’s security coattails in the hope their interests will be served, or to identify with the US military activity in the South China Sea not aimed at constraining China’s freedom of action.

Which are the littoral and offshore states that have shown the most grit in opposing Beijing? These are Vietnam and Taiwan, followed by Indonesia and Malaysia. Except, Taiwan for political reasons claims exactly the same nine dash-line space as China, and will not array itself against Beijing in this dispute. Empowering Vietnam is the best bet and could have a telling demonstration effect. India has a burgeoning economic stake in the Vietnamese sea territory with the Indian energy major, ONGC Videsh, in 2014 formally joining PetroVietnam to exploit the energy resources in Blocks 102/10 and 106/10 in the Paracel Islands area claimed by China, where it has 40 per cent and 50 per cent share respectively. Assets, such as giant rigs and the underway oil/gas exploration and drilling activity will have to be protected against adversarial actions in what Beijing calls “China administered waters”.

The strategic gains from arming Vietnam with specially devastating armaments having finally dawned on the Indian government, New Delhi agreed to sell/transfer to Hanoi the indefensible Brahmos supersonic cruise missile. Operationally deployed in coastal batteries and on Vietnamese warships and submarines, the Brahmos will have a chilling effect on the Chinese Navy’s secret “Fourth Fleet” tasked for the Indian Ocean and co-located with the South Sea Fleet on the Sanya naval base on Hainan Island. It could lead to Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia seeking similar armaments. With all these countries so armed, the same sea will be effectively narrowed and rendered equally dangerous for Chinese merchantmen and naval ships acting belligerently. When a cruise missile costing Rs. 10 crore can take out a destroyer costing Rs. 7,000 crore, Chinese commanders will soon face a huge operational dilemma. It will immediately inhibit Chinese commanders from casually ordering their vessels on provocative missions and combatant ship captains from courting risk. In this respect, China will also discover that the relatively long distance from the mainland to the disputed area can become a liability in terms of sustaining offensive naval or other military action. Scarborough Shoal, only 145 miles west eastern most island of the Philippines, is some 620 miles from the Chinese coast.

Thus, BrahMos versus Chinese warships, militarily exploiting the distance-differential from home areas, etc. are the sorts of asymmetries that countries within and without the South China Sea region need urgently to exacerbate. It is the only way to prevent China dominating the South China Sea.

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Published in ‘SP’s MAI’ (Fortnightly), Issue No. 16, 2016, at http://www.spsmai.com/experts-speak/?id=247&q=Narrowing-the-Seas-Security-Ramifications-of-the-SCS-Verdict

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