Navy Chief warns of state-sponsored terrorist attack from the sea

India also unleashes military diplomacy against Pak-patron China's regional assertion and its Belt & Road Initiative, terming it an "entrapment"

March 5, 2019 By Vishal Thapar Photo(s): By Indian Navy
Indian Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba launching an exceptional attack on Chinese regional assertion and its Belt and Road 'Entrapment'

State-sponsored terrorists are being trained to carry out attacks in India from the sea and other frontiers, India's Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba told an international audience while delivering the inaugural address at the Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue in New Delhi on March 5.

The Navy Chief's disclosure creates the spectre of the "state sponsor of terror" attempting a repeat of the horrific 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai in 2008. Admiral Lanba's forewarning comes in the thick of heightened military tensions between India and Pakistan following the terrorist attack at Pulwama in Kashmir on February 14, the consequent cross-border air strikes by India on a major terrorist camp in Pakistan, and the subsequent confrontation between the two air forces over the Line of Control.

Without naming Pakistan, the Navy Chief said terrorist violence was abetted by a state which seeks to destabilise India. "The Indo-Pacific Region has witnessed multiple forms of terrorism in recent years, and few countries in this part of the world have been spared by this scourge. The global nature which terrorism has acquired in recent times has further enhanced the scope of this threat.

"You have all witnessed the horrific scale of the extremist attack in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir just 3 weeks ago. This violence was perpetrated by extremists aided and abetted by a state which seeks to destabilise India. We also have reports of terrorists being trained to carry out attacks with varying modus operandi including through the medium of the sea"

"India, however, faces a far more serious version of terrorism State-Sponsored Terrorism. You have all witnessed the horrific scale of the extremist attack in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir just 3 weeks ago. This violence was perpetrated by extremists aided and abetted by a state which seeks to destabilise India. We also have reports of terrorists being trained to carry out attacks with varying modus operandi including through the medium of the sea," Admiral Lanba said.

The Indian Navy Chief called for collective global action against the threat of state-sponsored terrorism. "We have seen how quickly terrorist groups evolve across the globe and this particular ‘brand’ of terror may well become a global problem in the near future. The Indian security establishment is continuously working to address this menace. It is imperative that the global community acts in concert to contain and eliminate terrorism, in all its forms," he emphasised.

"A unique blend of strategized financial aid, creeping territorial accretion, information operations, legal ambiguity and military assertiveness is being wielded by aspiring great powers to establish regional dominance. This is putting the region’s historically delicate stability under renewed pressure"

Admiral Lanba also sounded a grim warning against Chinese attempts to change the delicate regional balance in the Asia-Pacific through a combination of force and inducement. While he did not mention China by name, the reference to it was unmistakable. "Revisionist powers, in particular, have embarked on major geopolitical missions to gain influence in the Region. In the politico-military context, this has translated into concerted efforts to establish capabilities which enable dominance over the region’s shipping lanes and choke points," he said.

The Navy Chief contended that the "revisionist power" in the Asia-Pacific was attempting to undo a rules-based order established collectively by responsible maritime powers to keep the choke points secure, free and open for international maritime traffic for the common benefit of all. "A re-alignment of national priorities in some countries, dilution of long-standing international arrangements and changes in the global geo-economic balance have resulted in a perceived change in the global order. The Indo-Pacific Region particularly has seen the most active and assertive manifestations of strategic manoeuvring which defines such transition," he added.

"On multiple occasions over the last few years we have witnessed such assistance being offered for projects with suspect financial viability, limited local participation, and unequal benefit for the recipients. Some projects have also, arguably, been undertaken solely to support political and strategic designs with almost no benefit to locals. Such projects have been further enabled by the lack of any credible alternatives"

Admiral Lanba also launched a scathing attack on China's Belt and Road Initiative, terming it a hegemonistic, strings attached "entrapment". He called for an alternative to the aggressive Chinese assertion and "principled competition with respect to the core ideals of the international order".

"A unique blend of strategized financial aid, creeping territorial accretion, information operations, legal ambiguity and military assertiveness is being wielded by aspiring great powers to establish regional dominance. This is putting the region’s historically delicate stability under renewed pressure.

"On multiple occasions over the last few years we have witnessed such assistance being offered for projects with suspect financial viability, limited local participation, and unequal benefit for the recipients. Some projects have also, arguably, been undertaken solely to support political and strategic designs with almost no benefit to locals. Such projects have been further enabled by the lack of any credible alternatives," the Navy Chief with a candour not usually associated with Indian diplomatic pitches.

"It is, therefore, necessary to establish an environment where multiple options are available to countries seeking financial assistance, helping them to avoid getting ‘entrapped’ by those with unscrupulous designs"

"It is, therefore, necessary to establish an environment where multiple options are available to countries seeking financial assistance, helping them to avoid getting ‘entrapped’ by those with unscrupulous designs," he said.

"The effect of this increasing strategic footprint has also been seen in the political domain. In more than one nation, individuals who have lost the democratic mandate have sought to undermine political stability. The support to such individuals from certain quarters is well known. This trend all-but confirms the long-term intent of these nations," Admiral Lanba said, openly referring to China's support to discredited regimes in order to expand its influence.

The Navy Chief used this background to canvass for a far more benevolent Indian approach as an alternative to an aggressive China, and one that does not impinge upon the sovereignty of nations. Quoting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said, "India envisions the Indo Pacific as a free, open, inclusive region, which embraces all in the common pursuit of progress and prosperity".

"We seek to work with all stakeholders to evolve a common rules-base order for the region, which respects sovereignty, territorial integrity and equality of all nations irrespective of their size and strength. We seek to work alongside partners with shared values and interests, bilaterally or multilaterally to establish a stable and peaceful region," he said.

The Navy Chief made a direct reference to Chinese attempts at land grab through "ambiguous interpretations of international law, backed by demonstrated asymmetry of power, to make incremental changes to the status quo in certain regions both on land and at sea".

"Unilateral actions in direct violation of international arbitration mechanisms have furthered undermined security and stability in some regions. While it is acknowledged that there may be a case to revisit the rules and mechanisms which define the existing international order, it is also re-iterated that independent efforts to establish a ‘new set of rules’ within any sphere, based on asymmetry of power, will inevitably erode stability and undermine peace," Admiral Lanba said.

As the principal manifestation of India’s maritime power, the Indian Navy has adopted a cooperative security strategy aligned to the national vision of SAGAR or Security And Growth for All in the Region," he said, emphasising that India was militarily engaging countries in the Asia-Pacific to prepare for collective action to keep the maritime domains of the region ‘free’ and ‘open’ for all, and launch an effective response in the event of any disruption.

"We will partner with our maritime neighbours to establish the required capabilities and capacities required to secure their maritime zones...We will continue to engage with like-minded maritime forces through information exchanges and logistics sharing arrangements, to enable sustained ‘capable and effective’ presence wherever required in the region," the Indian Navy Chief said, in an unmistakable message to China.