Grey Zone SITREP: Growing Military Presence in the Indo Pacific and What It Means for 2023
The growing military presence in the Indo Pacific region may lead to a power struggle, with military expansion and the EU's naval presence potentially challenging China's ambitions for dominance
Hope you’ve all had a good week. There’s been some major developments over the week across the Indo-Pacific, which further complicate the region. For the sake of highlighting what’s important, I’ve altered the format of this SITREP to just give you the main underreported events over the past several days. I want to keep these digestible and make them less of a burden in terms of reading time.
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Cole // ALCON.S2
The Indo Pacific region is experiencing an increase in military presence, which could potentially alter the regional power dynamics. Several developments in recent times indicate that countries such as India, Australia, France, and the European Union are making efforts to increase their military capabilities in the region.
France's Offer to India
France has offered India a major nuclear submarine deal as part of India's program to develop six nuclear submarines. Under the deal, France will also share conventional technology from its Barracuda-class nuclear submarine program. If India goes along with the proposal, it will be another feather in the cap for the Atmanirbhar Bharat (Make in India) initiative of the Indian government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The offer may come as a nasty shock for China, which recently suffered a setback when the United States pledged to give five nuclear submarines to Australia as part of the AUKUS deal. With both India and Australia in line to get nuclear submarines for their respective navies, China may find it challenging to maintain its domination in the Indo-Pacific region in the future.
European Union's Naval Presence in the South China Sea
The European Union (EU) is looking to conduct port calls and joint naval exercises with the Philippines in the South China Sea as part of its efforts to increase its maritime presence in the disputed waters to assert freedom of navigation. EU Special Envoy to the Indo-Pacific region Richard Tibbels has said that the EU intends to step up its naval presence in the South China Sea to show the importance the bloc attaches to freedom of navigation and respect for international law.
China's Maritime Militia and Fishing Boats
After finishing with the Philippines, Chinese maritime militia and fishing boats apparently swarmed inside Vietnam's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea. The number of Chinese vessels in the economic zone increased measurably in the first two weeks of March, almost tripling the number observed at the end of February. An EEZ gives a state exclusive access to natural resources in the waters and in the seabed.
Italy's Deployment to the Pacific
Italy is deploying an aircraft carrier to the Pacific, which could increase the European presence in the Indo Pacific region. Italy's move could indicate that other European countries may follow suit in sending their navies to the Pacific.
ALCON Assessment - 6 month
As the year 2023 progresses, the growing military presence in the Indo Pacific region begins to take shape. India, following the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative, starts construction on its first nuclear-powered submarine, with plans to launch it by 2032. France's offer to share conventional technology from its Barracuda-class nuclear submarine program with India, coupled with the joint development of six nuclear submarines, cements the two countries' strategic partnership. As India's naval capabilities continue to grow, it becomes a significant player in the region and will likely be looked upon by the West to play a bigger role in countering Chinese expansion. However, the border disputes between China and India will likely take precedence for the foreseeable future.