India signals readiness to play a more muscular role in IOR. But we need deeper pockets to play the hard game


Delivering the keynote address at the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) conclave, Defence minister Rajnath Singh said that India had a role to play in the peaceful and prosperous co-existence of all countries, and that it was ready to supply weapons to regional partners. He further elaborated that New Delhi was ready to supply different types of missile systems, helicopters, warships, patrol vessels, guns, tanks and radars. This is clearly a sign that India is willing to play a more muscular role in the IOR in light of China’s aggressive tactics.

There’s no denying that in recent years Beijing has been trying to increase its footprint in the IOR, giving credence to its ‘String of Pearls’ strategy to surround India with a network of naval ports and bases. Plus, Chinese leaders have long obsessed over their so-called Malacca Dilemma, the narrow Malacca Strait through which more than 80% of China’s energy supplies pass and which the Indian navy can potentially choke off in the case of all out war. Hence, China has been really strengthening its naval fleet and today possesses the largest navy in the world.

Read – India ready to supply weapons to IOR countries: Rajnath Singh 

If India has decided to counter these Chinese designs by boosting defence ties with IOR neighbours, it is welcome. But it must be borne in mind that China has deep pockets to play the hard game. For New Delhi to match this it must quickly boost its economy and aim for a decade of double-digit growth. And that would entail resisting populist pressures and making reforms palatable to the population. Failing to do this will not only give China the upper hand but also create an impression among India’s neighbours that New Delhi can’t walk the talk.

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