India's nuclear-powered submarine rattles China
China recently has been concerned about India’s efforts to expand its influence in the East and South China Seas, where Beijing has asserted exclusive jurisdiction especially over maritime resources. Beijing is upset with India over its assistance to Vietnam in off-shore oil exploration.
At the same time, New Delhi has been equally concerned about China’s expansion into the Indian Ocean. Beijing strategists see the Indian nuclear ballistic missile submarine capability as threatening its access to the Indian Ocean through the Malacca Strait, where 25 percent of global trade takes place.
At the same time, India could use its future ballistic missile submarine force to block Chinese oil imports through the Strait, thereby causing major disruptions in the Chinese economy.
In response to this future prospect, China has set up a network of forward-deployed naval bases to protect its oil shipping lanes to the Middle East. Some of these facilities will be in the Indian Ocean, which New Delhi sees as a plan by Beijing to surround it.
However, New Delhi’s deployment of these SLBMs could complicate that strategy and actually position Indian submarines off of China’s shores, resulting in the threat to China of a ballistic missile attack.
India’s ability to launch a ballistic missile submarine will ensure that neither China nor Pakistan will be able to destroy New Delhi’s nuclear capability in a first strike. With the ability to launch a ballistic missile from a submarine, it completes New Delhi’s nuclear triad – launching a nuclear attack from land, sea or air.
The missiles will be placed on India’s Arihant nuclear submarine. It will be outfitted with four launch silos designed to hold 12 of the new missiles that have a range from 700 kilometers to 3,500 kilometers.
The Arihant is expected to be operational this year, with three more planned for construction and put into operation by 2025.
Sources say that this reflects a new Indian strategic direction to make the Indian Ocean its own area of influence in competition with the Pakistanis.