Incident Between Chinese and Indian Navies – Get Used To This

In the first military stand-off between the two Asian giants since 1986, an Indian submarine and two Chinese warships came close to a confrontation in the Bab Al-Mandab Strait, the South China Morning Post reported on Wednesday, February 5,2009. ( see map below – The Bab Al-Mandab Strait separates Yemen and Djibouti at the western end of the Gulf of Aden.).

Two Chinese guided missile destroyers. Haikou and Wuhan,  were deployed last month to Somalia to escort Chinese merchant vessels crossing the piracy-threatened stretch.This was the first time that Chinese warships were sailing up the Arabian Sea, so close to India, after setting off from Hainan, the base of China’s southern fleet, and passing through the Straits of Malacca.

According to an article in the Telegraph, an Indian submarine played cat-and-mouse with two Chinese warships off the coast of Africa last month before it was spotted and “forced” to surface in the latest round of cold-war games between the two countries. When the kilo-class Indian submarine started “spooking” the Chinese warships is not known. But the Qingdao Chenbao, a Chinese daily, reported that the submarine was “forced” to surface on January 15 near the Bab Al-Mandab Strait after more than 30 minutes of manoeuvres.

The South China Morning Post reported that when the Chinese destroyers spotted the Indian submarine armed with 20 torpedoes, they scrambled onboard anti-submarine helicopters.
Other Chinese reports stated that when the submarine tried to jam the warships’ sonar system, the Chinese navy sent an anti-submarine helicopter to track it. The warships forced the submarine to surface after several rounds of manoeuvring, the Hongkong-based newspaper said, adding that the submarine chose to end the stand-off and leave the spot.


        Kilo Class Submarine               Chinese Destroyer Haikou         Chinese Destroyer Wuhan

But the rarity of the event with the Chinese arises from the rarity of the Chinese deployment in the Arabian Sea. While the piracy off Somalia has given China good reason to send its navy up India’s western seaboard, the presence of the Chinese ships offers the Indian Navy an opportunity to record their signatures.

Neither India nor China has officially confirmed or denied the reports. The Chinese media reported the incident and an Indian Navy source said “we do not discuss our deployments”.
An Indian Nevy spokesperson clarified that such an incident did happen but denied that an Indian submarine was involved. “There are many ways of tracking ships and I can tell you that the submarine that surfaced was not ours,” a senior Indian naval officer said. The officer said India does monitor the movement of warships on the Indian Ocean sailing from the Straits of Malacca to the Gulf of Aden and the other way round.

China itself adopts such tactics. In November 2007, China shocked the Pentagon when one of its Song-class submarines surfaced within sight of the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk during exercises in the Pacific between Japan and Taiwan.The Chinese submarine had broken through the protective shield that US aircraft carriers have around them as they sail in battlegroups.

We first began writing about the potential for a confrontation between Chinese and Indian Militaries in June 2008,  when India activated its world war II airbase located 8 km from the India- China-Pakistan line of control in Ladakh. That article was triggered by an uninformed comment of Dr. Jeffery Sonnenfeld of Yale Universoty. (see our article “Dr. Jeffrey Sonnenfeld of Yale – Is his ignorance symptomatic of Global Investors?” – June 14, 2008–is-his-ignorance-sympotomatic-of-global-investors-and-global-media.aspx

In 2008, India built an air base in Tajik-i-Stan, that allows India to monitor the China-Pakistan line of control in the Karakorum mountains.  This was India’s first military base on foreign soil. (See our article :“India – A Strategic Security Partner to the USA in the Persian Gulf” – September 27, 2008 –—a-strategic-security-partner-to-the-usa-in-the-persian-gulf.aspx

Jacqueline Newmyer, President of the Long Term Strategy Group and a security consultant to the United States government, was quoted on this topic by The New York Times “There seems to be an emerging long-term competition between India and China for pre-eminence in the region,…..India is preparing slowly to claim its place as a pre-eminent power, and in the meantime China is working to complicate that for India.”

We believe that Global Investors, Financial TV Anchors and commentators are as yet unaware of the deepening military rivalry between China and India. Our basic message to them is get used to more incidents like the one last month.

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