Submarines or carriers?

Rear Admiral Sudhir Pillai (Retd), India Today

India finds itself in a strange situation. On one hand, the Chief of Defence Staff says the Indian Navy does not need aircraft carriers, while the Chief of Naval Staff has been emphasising their continued utility. This needs to be looked at from a deeper strategic perspective lest we straitjacket military readiness at a time when the demands on the Indian Navy continue to rise.

With reference to the Chinese Navy’s rising competence, Sir Julian Corbett’s Some Principles of Maritime Strategy is informative. ‘The object of naval warfare must always be directly or indirectly either to secure command of the sea or to prevent the enemy from securing it.’

The shifting balance of power, aided by China’s economic rise and the emer- gence of a powerful Chinese Navy and associated land-based sea-denial forces, has forced the US and, in recent days, Britain, Canada and the EU, to pivot to the Indo-Pacific. Initiatives such as the QUAD, QUAD Plus and the Indo-Pacific Command are all aimed to protect the international maritime system.

The challenge emanating from the aggressiveness of China in the South and the East China Sea requires navies to think through sea-control concepts afresh and search for innovative counters to anti-access and area-denial strategies.

While it is beyond the scope of this article to look at doctrinal roles in detail, navies examine such aspects in great detail, and such assessments can be revealing.

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