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PC : The Hindu

India has naval capabilities near the Indian Ocean chokepoints especially around the Malacca Strait which connects the Indian Ocean to the Western Pacific, these waters hold a lot of importance for China since it is a crucial route for energy and trade.

India had threatened a naval blockade of Pakistan previously during the 1971 war. New Delhi has never issued any such threat against Beijing. The Indian navy was reportedly placed on high alert following the Galwan Valley clash.

However, there was no official word on whether the Indian Navy was considering a blockade on Chinese shipping or whether it was considering interdicting Chinese tankers near the Andaman and Nicobar islands, or perhaps looking at diverting shipping traffic to and from China.

In June, reports hinted at chances of the United States moving its carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt into the Malacca Straits area in a show of support for India. In the same month, the Global Times was singing praises about China responding by carrying out Naval drills in the South China Sea.

China knows that it is on the backfoot in the Indian Ocean. Beijing knows that Malacca dilemma. India is in a position where it can monitor the traffic at the Malacca Straits or the Lombok and Sunda straits. It can put pressure on the movement of merchant ships while traffic in the high seas that is waters beyond 12 nautical miles from the coast cannot be impeded. This rule will not apply in the event of a war.

China’s disadvantage in high seas becomes all the more grave in the South China Sea where China is fighting six countries. Eighty per cent of China’s oil imports come through the Malacca Strait. It is also the route for a considerable amount of Chinese trade.

India has been strengthening its maritime cooperation with the Quad countries. In September for the first time, an American P-8 Poseidon long-range maritime patrol aircraft refuelled at an Indian base in the Andaman and Nicobar islands.

In October, New Delhi and Washington signed an agreement to expand military satellite information sharing. India is also planning to strengthen its maritime infrastructure. A deepwater port is being built on the great Nicobar island for $1.3 billion.

It is not for nothing that India is working towards building these naval capacities.