CIA believe that aggressive acquisition and shipbuilding programs will enhance the Indian Navy’s future combat capabilities in all its mission areas, CIA declassified papers reveal
(February 7, 2017, Boston — Hong Kong SAR, Sri Lanka Guardian) “We do not believe Indian naval power can effectively challenge regular US operations in the Indian Ocean, at least until the next century,” a decalcified CIA paper has assumed.
However, the paper noted, “the Indians will be able to monitor US naval movements better with the Bear F aircraft and the nuclear-powered submarine but will not soon develop the capability to shadow US deployments regularly. Despite its support of Mauritius’s claim to Diego Garcia, India has shown no inclination to challenge the US presence there on anything but diplomatic grounds.”
“In our judgment, Indian naval forces are no match for regular US or French Indian Ocean naval deployments and would be hard pressed to challenge the Soviet or Australian task forces frequently present. In an Indo-Pakistani war, we believe the Indians would try to restrict foreign interference through aggressive naval operations close to shore, including a naval blockade of Karachi, to deter and even interdict maritime shows of support or resupply efforts to Pakistan,” the paper observed.
However, “in our judgment”, the paper noted, “the Indian Navy can defend the country’s contiguous waters and safeguard its maritime interests against threats from neighboring states, but it cannot carry out credible power projection operations very far into the Indian Ocean.”
“We believe India lacks sufficient advanced oceangoing warships, adequate support capabilities, and the requisite tactical expertise to conduct sustained, modern naval operations beyond coastal areas. Our assessments of critical naval mission areas reveal specific shortcomings that we believe retard power projection”.
We believe India considers its security concerns in the Indian Ocean over the long term are as important as those with Pakistan and China. New Delhi traditionally has relied on diplomacy to safeguard its Indian Ocean interests but lately is increasing its involvement in the internal affairs of Indian Ocean states-sometimes by military means. To support their Indian Ocean aspirations, the Indians are pursuing a naval modernization and expansion program to project power more effectively.
New Delhi’s Indian Ocean strategy centers on maritime defense and the assertion of its leadership over other regional states. It also includes supporting the internal stability of these states, protecting the interests of local Indian ethnic groups, and limiting-if not supplanting-foreign presences. New Delhi believes others in the region must not be able to threaten India militarily or be allowed to act in a way that may destabilize the area and invite outside interference in the region. India is most involved in the affairs of Sri Lanka, Maldives, Seychelles, and Mauritius but also is concerned with island states farther to the southwest and the Indian Ocean littoral countries.
The Indian Navy can defend the country’s contiguous waters and safeguard its maritime interests against threats from neighboring states, but it cannot carry out maritime power projection operations very far into the Indian Ocean or for an extended period. India lacks sufficient advanced oceangoing warships, adequate logistic capabilities, and the requisite tactical expertise to conduct sustained, modern naval operations beyond coastal areas. As a coastal force, the Navy is strongest in anti-surface, antisubmarine, and mine-countermine warfare missions; it is weakest in anti-air warfare and support missions.
India’s buildup of the Army and Air Force units it would use for power projection operations extends its reach beyond that provided by the Navy. The Army’s 54th Infantry Division and 50th Parachute Brigade are its frontline units for these operations, which would be supported by the Air Force’s Jaguar strike aircraft and a growing fleet of transport aircraft. India’s ability to conduct amphibious and airborne warfare missions give it a strong intervention capability against Sri Lanka or the smaller Indian Ocean island states of Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius, or Comoros. India would lose this military advantage if these island states’ forces were augmented by combat units of outside powers or if it attempted to intervene in islands farther from its shores or in littoral countries it does not border.
India’s power projection capability will grow slowly and its Navy will remain largely a coastal force for the remainder of the century. The recently leased Soviet Charlie I nuclear-powered submarine-to be used more for technical and training purposes than for operational activity-and the newly purchased Bear F long-range antisubmarine warfare-maritime reconnaissance aircraft are the first naval assets India has acquired that are not aimed specifically at improving its naval capabilities over Pakistan. Planned acquisitions will increase the Navy’s combat capabilities in all mission areas, but its ability to conduct sustained operations far from shore will remain weak. India’s military modernization and expansion will remain primarily focused on the more immediate Pakistani threat, and its intervention in Sri Lanka will command much attention and effort at the expense of other activities.
A rapidly expanding force structure, coupled with a dedication to indigenous production, will limit the Navy’s potential. Acquisition of more ships and aircraft is likely to outstrip India’s ability to man, maintain, and control the fleet efficiently. Domestic shipbuilding is beginning to overtake foreign purchases in naval acquisitions and slow the buildup, but it will lessen military purchases from Moscow and increase opportunities for the embryonic Inda-US defense relationship.
Indian naval power will not challenge regular US operations in the Indian Ocean at least until the turn of the century. New Delhi’s efforts to restrict outside involvement in the Indian Ocean will largely remain diplomatic. The Indian Navy not only is no match for regular US or French Indian Ocean naval deployments but also would be hard pressed to challenge Soviet or Australian forces frequently sent to the region. In an Inda Pakistani war, however, the Indians would mount aggressive naval operations close to shore, including a blockade of Karachi, to deter and even interdict maritime shows of support for or resupply efforts to Pakistan.
The declassified paper is reproduced below;