One of the main thrusts of the recently unveiled AUKUS trilateral security pact between the US, UK and Australia is delivering nuclear-powered submarines to Canberra. This is clearly aimed at countering China’s maritime belligerence in the Indo-Pacific region.
In fact, with China as the focus, the strategic-military power plays of the coming decades will be based on naval power, with submarines playing a vital role. Submarines can be great levellers in asymmetric military scenarios given their long range, stealth, strike and force projection capabilities. With nuclear submarines these factors are multiplied further, enabling longer operational periods.
This is precisely why countries from Singapore and Indonesia to Japan and Taiwan – which has been facing the brunt of Beijing’s military intimidation – are inducting submarines at a fast clip to counter Chinese aggression. Disappointingly though, India’s underwater fleet continues to lack the requisite teeth despite the fact that high seas are the only domain in which India can checkmate China given its natural geographic advantages.
However, today the Indian navy has 12 old diesel-electric submarines with only half of them operational at any given point of time. Additionally, the force has inducted just three of the six projected French Scorpene submarines and has only one nuclear-powered submarine with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles