Rowdy debates about going for China’s “jugular” in the Malacca Strait should not obscure the practical difficulties.
The current phase of the Sino-Indian border conflict which began in May this year may go on for quite some time. India seems to be hunkering down for a long winter. Given the relative symmetries in strength ranged across the Himalayan border, there has long been talk in New Delhi of exploiting strategic alternatives. The most attractive has been the idea that India should use its maritime-geographic advantages and its comparatively greater naval capability in the Indian Ocean to dominate the outcome. However, degrading an enemy’s shipping always takes a long time and a lot of resources – the outcomes are not pre-ordained and could have unforeseen consequences.
The National Security College, with the support of the Department of Defence, is leading a two-year research project on Australia’s Indo-Pacific strategy in the Indian Ocean. As a part of this project, this paper cautions against calls for India to exploit its strategic advantage in the Indian Ocean to counter China. This paper first appeared on the Lowy Institute’s ‘The Interpreter’ on 25 August 2020.