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The Troubled Ocean

Stephen P. Cohen

By K.R. Singh
Manohar Publication, New Delhi, 1977, pp. viii 321, Rs. 60.00

VOLUME III NUMBER 1 July/August 1978

This extremely well-produced book is­ one of the most thorough and com­prehensive studies yet published on the politics of the Indian Ocean, both in terms of littoral issues and the use of the sea itself. Although one may disagree with some of Dr. Singh’s arguments about the various powers as they jostle for influence in the area (if one can yet call the Indian Ocean an ‘area’) his book is a valuable aid to further analysis. It is not the last word on the subject, but it should be required reading for serious students. Of special value are data about the naval strength and strategies of the super­powers, the Ocean's resources and raw material potential and the interests of various littoral and extra-regional states in these resources. Dr. Singh has combed the published literature, the Indian press, U.N. documents, and the extensive American governmental material for relevant information, and has presented his findings in a cohesive and well-written manner. However, one can question some of Dr. Singh’s interpretations and analyses. His basic objective, ‘to explain the super­power and the big power rivalry in the Indian Ocean in the context of strategy and gun-boat diplomacy,’ is never fully realized. Dr. Singh argues that strategic ocean-going missile systems are intimately linked to ‘the politico-military strategy’ followed by nations that possess them, that is, the U.S., in the context of the Indian Ocean, as the U.S.S.R. does not station its SSBM vessels in the area. Such a view, and his extended criti­cism of ‘gun-boat diplomacy’ does not do full justice to the complex reality of superpower involvement in the region. For, in fact, there is no public evidence that the U.S. has routinely stationed Polaris or Poseidon submarines in the Indian Ocean (although familiarization cruises have been announced). There are, in fact, better stations for such vessels, and stationing a ship of any kind in the Indian Ocean means an additional transit period of several weeks to and from the home port. Diego Garcia is not yet capable of home-porting nuclear sub­marines. Finally, there is going to be a decline in at least American ballistic ­missile submarines as earlier boats are scrapped and the Trident programme has suffered major slippage. Dr. Singh’s strictures against gun-boat diplomacy (never really defined) are also unpersuasive. It is in the nature of almost ...

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