With China frequently engaging in aggressive actions towards Taiwan over the past year, such as deploying its air force and navy in the surrounding areas, there is a common question about whether India would take action in the Strait of Malacca or the Andaman Sea in the event of a conflict between the United States and China over Taiwan.
GS2- International Relations-India and its Neighborhood- Relations.
Analyse the efficacy of a naval blockade by India in the Strait of Malacca or the Andaman Sea in the event of a conflict between the United States and China over Taiwan. (15 marks, 250 words)
- Any potential action in these regions would involve either imposing a naval blockade on commercial shipping or engaging in military operations against Chinese naval vessels.
- It’s essential to recognize that all countries have the right to freedom of navigation on the high seas, making a naval blockade against commercial shipping an impractical option.
- Historical examples, like the First and Second World Wars, show that naval blockades and sanctions can escalate into full-scale conflicts. In the ongoing tensions between Iran and the U.S. in the Strait of Hormuz, attempts to disrupt commercial shipping have led to military confrontations.
Limited Options of India:
- India faces various constraints when considering its options in the Strait of Malacca. Firstly, “distant blockades” that occur far from a nation’s territory can be legally challenged under international law.
- Secondly, the trade passing through the Strait of Malacca is not limited to China; it also plays a crucial role in the economies of Japan, South Korea, and India.
- Thirdly, the Strait’s length, approximately 500 miles, traverses the sovereignty of other nations like Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore, all of which would be negatively affected by a naval blockade. These countries are unlikely to support such a blockade.
- Additionally, identifying commercial shipping, its sovereignty, flag, registration, insurance, and cargo ownership is a complex task, often involving multinational elements and transshipment at ports in Southeast Asia.
- Furthermore, even if the Strait of Malacca were blocked, large carriers transporting goods to China can use alternative routes, such as the Sunda or Lombok Straits.
- China also possesses strategic petroleum reserves, further mitigating the impact of any disruption.
- A naval blockade or unilateral action against Chinese naval vessels would effectively be considered a declaration of war, potentially leading to a broader conflict beyond maritime engagements. China’s position in the United Nations Security Council and its regional influence would be used to oppose such efforts.
- The key question in the context of the Strait of Malacca is whether India’s strategic partners, particularly the U.S., would support the interdiction of Chinese vessels in a bilateral conflict between India and China, unless the U.S. itself were directly involved in a kinetic conflict with China. Even in such a scenario, there is no guarantee of support from other regional stakeholders, especially Southeast Asian nations.
- In the event of a U.S.-China conflict over Taiwan affecting the Indian Ocean region, India’s primary role may be limited to defending its territorial interests and the security of sea lanes for itself and its strategic partners.
India’s primary focus would likely remain on its continental borders with China, as it has traditionally faced military threats from China in this context. The growing U.S.-India partnership in various domains is expected to strengthen in the coming years, with the U.S. viewing India as a stabilizing force in the region. A strong India, both economically and militarily, can contribute to multipolarity in the Indo-Pacific region.