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On Maritime Balance

Rear Admiral Raja Menon

Edited by V.R. Raghavan and Lawrence Prabhakar
Tata McGraw Hill, Delhi, 2008, pp. 406, Rs. 750.00


To see a book on maritime security produced outside Delhi, in the coastal city of Chennai, is a happy occurrence. Produced by the Centre for Security Analyses (CSA) it is the product of a seminar conducted in Chennai with funding from the Hans Seidel Foundation, Munich. The editors structured their conference on the basis of Barry Buzan and Waever’s thesis that any regional security complex would consist of systemic, functional, legal and transformational issues. The book has two ‘addresses’, by Rajiv Sikri, a retired Secretary in the Foreign Service and the other by a serving C-in-C of the Eastern Naval Command, Vice Admiral A.K. Singh. Sikri’s thrust is that India will largely ‘look East’, joining the economically progressive nations of the region, dumping the ones to the West caught up in unending internal strife. The unsaid recommendations are that the maritime security architecture of India should support the Eastward shift in ways yet to be explored. A.K. Singh suggests that the central source of tension—the systemic content, would come from the need to protect the Sea Lines of Communication that carry much of the world’s energy. As long as they are safe, navies can turn their attention to deal with the non-traditional threats emanating from terrorists, pirates and criminals.   Five articles constitute the systemic portions of the book. Written by Donald Berlin, Forbes and Rumley, Prabhakar, Andrew Yang, Katsuhisa Furukawa and Vijay Sakhuja, they cover summaries of trends in maritime security, asymmetric conflict in the western part of the ocean, evolving issues, China, Japan and the imprint of growing naval airpower. Berlin believes that naval power in the ocean is distributed between those preserving a kind of democratic ‘command of the seas’ and those who would challenge it. Some smaller powers are engaged in sideshows of their own, and the very small ones are worried only about ecology, climate and law enforcement. The US, says Berlin correctly, has taken littoral warfare to be its core strategy, and clearly a country that intends to fight in another’s littoral, anywhere in the world, does not need to strangle it slowly as lesser navies might be forced to do. The Indians are ‘shaping their strategic environment’ and China is changing geography. He sums up the major geopolitical thrusts executed by China, all of which could have been better pictorialized on a map. If Berlin’s version ...

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