Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Train the Way You Fight?

India and Japan forging closer naval ties is interesting politically. But in military terms, how would it be applied?

Japan and India are reacting to the Chinese threat:

India and Japan are set to discuss intensive naval exercises in the middle of a dispute over a group of uninhabited islands claimed by Japan, China and Taiwan.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Japanese counterpart Yoshihiko Noda are likely to ask officials to forge a bilateral security forum that will plan a course for maritime exercises in waters off both Japan and India.

Peacetime exercises in each other's waters are nice. But in war time, neither party's fleet will be sailing in the other's waters. Japan and India are on opposite sides of China and China's navy and air force will keep these two nations' fleets apart.

The only place the Japanese and Indians could cooperate is in the South China Sea. If India can count on air support, it could advance into the South China Sea to join with Japanese ships that use Taiwan as a shield to enter that contested body of water.

Assuming Japan doesn't need every ship it has in the gap between Taiwan and Japan's main islands.

But if Japan and India want to hurt China, supporting rivals to China's claims for South China Sea islands would be a lot of bang for the buck.

There is certainly interest in resisting the Chinese claims:

Observers say territorial disputes in the South China Sea will likely be a main focus at an upcoming meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. But they expect progress to be slow on a long-delayed code of conduct between the regional bloc and China.

Japanese and Indian naval power, combined with our air and sea power bolstered by Marines in (relatively) nearby Darwin, Australia, Southeast Asian states could send troops to islands they claim with some confidence that they could hold them in the face of Chinese opposition.

Japan would gain security for sea lines of communication and pen in Chinese power.

India would gain a buffer zone against Chinese naval power penetrating into the Indian Ocean.

And we'd deal with nations more willing to treat the South China Sea's navigation issues in a manner we can accept.

But for now, it's just a toe in the water with joint naval exercises.