Security in the Indian Ocean Region
Implication of the Galwan Incident for QUAD in the Indo-Pacific

Dr. Satoru Nagao
Fellow (Non-Resident), Hudson Institute

Does the Indian Ocean Region matter for Japan? Not a small number of Japanese think that the Indian Ocean Region is too far away. However, the Indian Ocean Region is rising as a Japanese security policy because the Indian Ocean Region is a key area for Japan's new security concepts such as the "Indo-Pacific" and the "QUAD." For example, the "Indo-Pacific" concept is used instead of "Asia-Pacific." The difference between "Indo-Pacific" and "Asia-Pacific" is the Indian Ocean Region. In the case of the "QUAD", the situation is similar. Because both Japan and Australia are formal allies of the US, Japan-US-Australia find it relatively easy to find opportunities to cooperate. However, India is a newcomer to the other three countries. The view from this situation is that the reason why Japan needs both "Indo-Pacific" and "QUAD" is because Japan needs to cooperate with countries in the Indian Ocean Region.

This article will examine what lessons Japan should learn for itself when it cooperates with the countries in the Indian Ocean Region, especially India. There are three questions to address to determine the lessons to be learned. Why does Japan need "Indo-Pacific" and the "QUAD"? What happened in the Indian Ocean Region? What are the implications of the Galwan valley incident? Answers to these questions will serve to indicate policy recommendations for Japan's "Indo-Pacific" and "QUAD" policy in the Indian Ocean Region.

1. Why does Japan need "Indo-Pacific" and "QUAD"?

For both "India-Pacific" and "QUAD", Japan was the pioneer in creating the concept of the Indo-Pacific and the QUAD's role in it. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's speech to the Indian parliament in 2007, entitled "Confluence of Two Seas," introduced the concept. He said, "By Japan and India coming together in this way, this ‘broader Asia' will evolve into an immense network spanning the entirety of the Pacific Ocean, incorporating the United States of America and Australia. Open and transparent, this network will allow people, goods, capital, and knowledge to flow freely." 1 Therefore, the key question for Japan's foreign policy is why did he need these concepts?

From his speech, one can see three reasons. First, he needed a way to link both the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. "Indo-Pacific" replaced the concept of the "Asia-Pacific," which did not include the Indian Ocean Region. Because of rapid economic development, both the Pacific and the Indian Ocean Regions are increasingly emerging as influential regions in world politics. In the past, Europe was the center of world politics. Therefore, when major wars broke out in Europe, the influence spread all over the world immediately. That was why the large wars in Europe were referred to as "World Wars ''. But now, not only Europe, but also the Indo-Pacific are rising in influence along with economical development. The International Institute for Strategic Studies in the UK pointed out that nominal Asian defense spending (excluding Australia and New Zealand) overtook that of NATO Europe in 2012. 2 Therefore, to explain current trends in world politics, Abe saw a need for new concepts that tied in all ascendant regions, including both the Pacific and the Indian Ocean Regions.

Second, Abe wanted to introduce both the Indo-Pacific and the QUAD at the same time because he knew that the rising Indo-Pacific should not be a China-dominated region. He explained his idea in his article, "Asia's Democratic Security Diamond," which was published in Europe just before he was sworn in as prime minister for a second time in 2012. 3 The Indo-Pacific is a concept that includes all countries around China. The QUAD includes all the great powers except China.

Thirdly, as mentioned above, he emphasized the idea because he wanted to highlight the importance of India. The "Indo-Pacific" is the concept instead of the "Asia-Pacific," which did not include India. In addition, the QUAD is a collaboration that includes India. Both Japan and Australia are US allies. There are plenty of opportunities to collaborate with each other. However, India is a newcomer. To cooperate with India, Japan needs the QUAD.

Therefore, Japan's "Indo-Pacific" and "QUAD" policy are dependent on the security in the Indian Ocean Region. And recently, in the Indian Ocean Region, India-China competition has been escalating.

2. What happened in the Indian Ocean Region?

(1) Expanding China's influence in the Indian Ocean Region (see Figure 1)

China has expanded its influence in the Indian Ocean Region since the 2000s. These moves have three facets such as infrastructure projects, the deployment of military forces and arms exports.

China has started infrastructure projects in the areas around India. Along with the Indo-China border, China has developed roads, tunnels, bridges, and trains in Tibet and Xinjiang Uygur Region. In Pakistan controlled Kashmir and Pakistan, China deployed military forces to build and secure strategic roads. China has also developed civil purpose ports in Gwadar in Pakistan, Hambantota in Sri Lanka, Chittagong in Bangladesh and Kyaukpyu in Myanmar. Because these infrastructure development projects lead to military deployments, these projects are a problem.

Since the end of 2000s, China's military deployment has escalated. In 2008, China dispatched naval warships for counter piracy measures to the coast of Somalia. After that China has deployed many naval ships under the name of "counter piracy measures." In 2017, fourteen Chinese naval warships deployed in the Indian Ocean and this was the largest naval deployment. According to Admiral Sunil Lanba, chief of the naval staff of the Indian Navy, Beijing has deployed 6-8 warships in the Indian Ocean. 4 Referring to China's ports development projects, some raise concerns that if the Chinese navy begins to use civil-purpose ports as naval supply bases, China could overcome its weakness, namely its lack of a naval port in the region. China also set up its first overseas naval base in Djibouti in 2017. According to the US AFRICOM commander, the pier of the Chinese naval base in Djibouti will be big enough to host their aircraft carrier soon. 5

China has been active in the continent side of the Indian Ocean Region. Since 2010, India confirmed that Chinese troops were building roads in Pakistani occupied Kashmir. After that, tens of thousands troops of Chinese armed forces and China's private military companies also deployed in Pakistan. On the Indo-China border, both ground and air forces have been active. The number of incursions in the Indo-China border reflected such a situation. In 2011, India recorded 213 incursions in the Indo-China border area, but in the following years, the numbers were larger: 426 in 2012, 411 in 2013, 460 in 2014, 428 in 2015, 296 in 2016, 473 in 2017, 404 in 2018. And in 2019, the number reached 663. Such activities lead to some crises like the Doklam crisis in 2017 and the Galwan incident 2020. Beijing has entered the Doklam heights, claimed by both China and Bhutan, insisting on building a new road to deploy more forces in 2017. This led to Indian and Chinese armed forces facing each other in a 75 days standoff along the 4,000 km Indo-China border (including the Line of Actual Control, a line separating the territory controlled by India from the territory controlled by China). In addition in 2020, 5,000 Chinese troops entered the Indian side of the border and clashed in the Galwan valley. At least twenty Indian soldiers died and 76 Indian soldiers were injured (details will be provided below). This incident has also continued the nearly ten months stand off of military forces.

Beijing has also been exporting weapons to countries around India and expanded its influence. Since the 1960s, China has exported many weapons to Pakistan. However, recently Beijing exported weapons to other countries around India. Submarines are especially notable. But Bangladesh received two in 2016, and Pakistan decided to import eight Chinese submarines for its navy in 2017.

The activities of these submarines indicate that they could potentially attack India's nuclear ballistic missile submarines, aircraft carriers, and sea lines of communication (SLOCs). These submarines also pose a threat for SLOCs of many other countries. The more China deploys its submarines, the more China can claim that China is "protecting" SLOCs of many countries in the Indian Ocean and expanding its influence, despite the US and India having been security providers in the Indian Ocean. This means that these submarines regulate India's influence in the Indian Ocean.

(2) India's counter measures (see Figure 2)

To tackle China's growing influence, India has also developed infrastructure, deployed military forces and exported weapons. In the Indo-China border and the Andaman Nicobar Islands, India has improved their infrastructure. India is also developing civil purpose ports in Agalega islands of Mauritius and upgrading a port in Sabang island in Indonesia. The Indian Navy also got rights to use Duqm port in Oman and Nha Trang port in Vietnam. Indian armed forces also deployed new fighter jets and cruise missiles at the front line of the Indo-China border area and coastal bases in the Indian Ocean. In addition, India also donated US$500 million for Bangladesh to buy spare parts for their fighter jets, 6 Kilo class submarines to Myanmar, and patrol ships to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. India also has been training pilots and crews of fighter jets and submarines from Vietnam and Malaysia. Fighter jets in Indonesia are also maintained by India. Singapore is using training facilities in India.

Compared with China, India's support is not well funded. However, China is alone but India is not. India can collaborate with many other countries. By using multilateral collaboration like "Look East Policy (later renamed "Act East Policy")", "Indo-Pacific", "QUAD", India tackled China's influence. Notably, India has received much military equipment from the US (such as C-17 heavy transport plane, C-130 middle size transport plane, AH-64 attack helicopter, CH-47 heavy transport helicopter, M777 ultra light howitzer, combat coats for harsh winter etc. India also plans to import unmanned aerial attack vehicles). The equipment gave India offensive-defense capability by attacking Chinese troops in Tibet. India also imported US equipment (such as P-8 anti-submarine patrol plane. India is planning to import unmanned aerial patrol planes and anti-submarine helicopters) from the US. The equipment gave India anti-submarine capability in the Indian Ocean. In the case of Japan, since 2014, Japan has invested in India's strategic road project in the northeast region of India. By using this road, the Indian army can deploy more forces and supplies to the border area.

3. What is the implication of the Galwan valley incident?

(1) The Galwan Incident and the military stand-off in the Indo-China border

The escalation of India-China competition in the Indian Ocean Region led to a lethal clash in June 2020, the so -called Galwan incident. The incident started when 5,000 Chinese troops invaded the Indian side of the Indo-China border. As 5,000 troops entered into the Indian side, the size of the operation was very big because these 5,000 troops needed logistical support and preparation. The incident appeared to be well planned.

In June 2020, despite both sides having agreed to withdraw, India and China clashed in Galwan valley in the process of withdrawing. However, Chinese troops ambushed Indian troops and 1,000 soldiers from both sides fought. 20 Indian soldiers sacrificed their lives and 76 Indian soldiers were injured (The Chinese side has not published any number of fatalities. In Feb 2021, China published a number but it was too small). 7

The number of fatalities caused by weapons. Chinese troops brought nail stubbed iron rods and killed Indian troops. On the Indo-China border, there is an agreement between the two sides that troops cannot use any firearms. This is the rule to avoid contingent conflict and to maintain peace. However, China exploited this rule and brought arms instead of firearms.

After the Galwan valley incident, both India and China have deployed far bigger military forces including tanks, boats, helicopters, fighter jets, and missiles. In August 2020, China deployed its latest weapons including DF-21 missiles, S-300 and S-400 surface to air missiles, H-6 strategic bomber with cruise missiles, J-11 fighter jets, J-16 fighter jets, J-20 fighter jets, Y-8J electric & surveillance plane, KJ-500 air early warning aircrafts, Ch-4 Unmanned aerial vehicle, Y-8 transport planes (for special force). This latest equipment was redeployed from other areas. And China also upgraded many air bases. A skirmish happened again. In September, because India had thought that China was planning to occupy another hill, India decided to occupy it before China reached the hill. Because Chinese troops also came to the hill, there was a possibility that a new clash would happen. To prevent the clash, the Indian side fired into the air as a warning. The clash was prevented but the shooting was a violation of agreement between the two sides. In addition, during the skirmish, one Indian-Tibetan soldier was killed from a land mine from the 1962 Indo-China war.The coffin was covered by both Indian and Tibetan flags and many Tibetans joined the funeral. In October, one Chinese soldier entered the Indian side and was arrested. The Indian side returned him to the Chinese side.

As a result, Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Monday said the situation was "very serious" in October. 8 And US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also raised alarm by pointing out that China has deployed 60,000 troops. 9

(2) India's counter measures

To tackle China's incursion and its military deployments, India has imposed many economic sanctions against China since April 2020. For example, in April, India set up a new rule to ensure a scrutiny of investments from companies based in neighboring countries. In June, India is considering imposing trade barriers and raising import duties on as many as 300 Chinese products. And in the same month, India banned 59 Chinese apps including TikTok. India added 47 more including Weibo and Baidu in July, 43 more in November. In July, the Indian government reviewed around 50 investment proposals involving Chinese companies under a new screening policy published in April. India also identified at least seven Chinese firms including Huawei, Alibaba, Tencent as companies connected to the People's Liberation Army.In the same month, nearly 370 categories of items such as toys, consumer electronics, glass, heavy machinery, rubber articles, paper, steel bars, steel tubes, and telecom items which are largely imported from China would be brought under the mandatory Indian Standards regime by March 2021. Chinese Ambassador to India Sun Weidong warned India that "Forced decoupling is against the trend and will only lead to a ‘lose-lose' outcome." 10

From September to October 2020 , India tested twelve missiles in 45 days. This was a very fast pace. And the missiles India tested included Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicles (HSTDV) which are not easy to intercepted by the current missile defense system, long range cruise missiles (BrahMos missiles, Shaurya missiles, and Nirbhay missiles), Prithvi II Ballistic Missiles, and Rudram anti-radar missile that destroy enemy radars before the main offensive operation. All of these missiles can be useful offensive capability against China. 11 Because China deployed the latest missiles and bombers, these tests showed India's retaliatory capability to deter China's missile attack.

In addition, the Indian government gave the Indian Army emergency powers to deal with complete freedom against any Chinese aggression. At the same time, the Indian government prepared an emergency budget to buy equipment, ammunition, fuel, food and building strategic infrastructure. And the US, France agreed to supply weapons to India. India, notably, got more than 60,000 combat coats from the US. This was very important equipment to work in the harsh winter season in the 5,000 m altitude Indo-China border. In addition, India invited the Australian Navy to the India-US-Japan trilateral Malabar Exercises 2020 to become "QUAD" exercises, decided to export BrahMos missiles to the Philippines, and attended the swearing-in ceremony of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen.

In February 2021, India and China agreed that Chinese troops would withdraw from Pangong Tso, which was one of the main areas China entered on the Indian side. That time, China deployed more than 200 main battle tanks in Pangong Tso and withdrew within two days. This move did ease the tensions and China's rapid move served as a warning sign to India because the rapid withdrawal capability was also a sign of rapid redeployment capability. 12 Chinese troops have still remained on the Indian side at four places on the Indo-China border. 13

Implication for Japan

Japan does not want the rising Pacific and the Indian Ocean Region to be a China dominated region. Therefore, "Indo-Pacific" and "QUAD" are needed. And in these concepts, the Indian Ocean Region is a new area and a key area for Japan. In the Indian Ocean Region, China has escalated its activities and Indian soldiers sacrificed their lives in the Galwan incident. Is there a lesson Japan should learn from this situation?

Indeed, the Galwan incident indicated that the Indo-China border is a key area for the QUAD. China believes the agreements among these four countries (Japan-India-US-Australia) as bilateral, trilateral, and quadrilateral (as "QUAD") are efforts at containment and therefore wants to stop them. To do so, which country would China choose to pressure? The most likely answer is India because China and India share a nearly 4,000 km land border (unlike Japan, US and Australia), allowing China to leverage its army. Moreover, China perceives that it can more easily persuade India to leave the US-led security framework because India and the US are not formal allies. Much like its behavior in the South China Sea, China is using its military to pressure India to drop foreign partnerships that might inhibit China. Therefore, there is a possibility that the more India cooperates with Japan-US-Australia bilateral bases, trilateral bases or "QUAD" bases, the more China will escalate its pressure toward India in the Indo-China border area. If so, the Galwan incident was one of the typical examples.

If "Indo-Pacific" and "QUAD" cooperation is key for Japan, Japan needs to support India in the Indo-China border area. For Japan, cooperation with India is important. For example, if India cooperates with Japan-US, India will not need to deal with all the Chinese fighter jets at the same time because China is likely to keep some of its fighter jets on their east side against Japan-US, and vice versa. If Japan's cooperation with India forces China's defense budget in a multi direction, it is easier for Japan to maintain military balance with China. Therefore, India joining as "QUAD" is interesting for Japan.

Therefore, Japan needs to persuade India to join the "QUAD". To persuade India, Japan needs to prove that the "QUAD" is beneficial for India even if India needs to take a risk on the Indo-China border. Japan needs to analyze the Indo-China border area and support India in a crisis. However, in Japan, there is a shortage of analysts on India As a result, analysis of the situation on the Indo-China border mainly relies on China experts and not on India experts. Japan must improve this.

The more China escalates its activities, the more Japan needs the "QUAD" in the "Indo-Pacific." The key issue is how to support India on the Indo-China border.

Figure1: China's activities in the Indian Ocean Region

Figure 2: India's activities in the Indian Ocean Region

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