Naval Exercise with China

There was an letter to the editor in the Financial Times (Asia) on the recent naval exercises off Shanghai.

Sir, The recent Indo-Chinese military thaw (“Indian flotilla in Shanghai for joint exercises”, November 13) is not driven solely by India’s concerns. Indeed, one vital fact overlooked by your writers is that the Indian flotilla is led by a “5,000-tonne Russian-built destroyer” rather than the newer and more potent 6,700-tonne Indian-built Delhi-class series that the Chinese would surely love to examine.

Along with India’s larger fleet of modern Kilo-class submarines and Krivak-class stealth frigates, India’s blue-water naval capabilities have long been a source of serious concern to China, which, for example, still lacks an aircraft carrier. In 2000, an Indian naval battle group operated unhindered for months in the South China Sea, ostensibly to conduct anti-piracy exercises with the South Korean and Japanese navies. At the time, a respected US intelligence consultancy (Stratfor) observed that the Indian move “to expand operations from the north of the Arabian Sea through the South China Sea and to establish an expeditionary-capable force not only threatens China’s areas of operation but also alters the balance of naval power in the region”.

More worryingly for China, India has recently begun sounding out Vietnam (and certain other countries in south-east Asia) to buy Indian warships, among them the Delhi-class destroyers conspicuously absent at Shanghai. Your writers may thus be misreading the message by focusing entirely on New Delhi’s concern “about China’s growing naval reach”.

Tosh Sheshabalaya, Managing Director, Allilon, 1180 Brussels, Belgium