India is a military superpower in every aspect, but the real dominance of a superpower is judged by what level of influence it has on other nations diplomatically, militarily & even economically.

India’s defence spending is now 4th in the world only behind the US, China & England, & it is all set to overtake England in this regard by 2018. As this shoots up owing to India’s rapid economic growth, India’s military activity in other nations will take a leap as well. As of now the following are India’s overseas military bases/stations –

  • Madagascar –

A listening post of the Indian Navy started its operations here in 2007. The monitoring station is located in Northern Madagascar & is linked with similar facilities in Kochi & Mumbai. This monitoring station provides India with electronic eyes & ears in the Southwestern Indian Ocean, & is crucial in gathering data on foreign navies operations.

  • Mozambique–

The Indian Navy took charge of the country’s sea security during the African Union Summit of 2003. The main motive of the navy’s patrolling is to keep piracy in check.

  • Seychelles –

The island nation sought India’s help for anti-piracy operations in its waters. The Indian Navy also patrols its EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone).

  • Oman –

India has established a naval air base in Muscat. The Indian Navy also has berthing rights here which means its ships can dock at Oman’s bases.

  • Qatar –

The historic Defence Cooperation Pact of 2008 signified India committing its military assets to protect Qatar from external threats. This pact is said to be just short of actually positioning troops on the ground.

  • Tajikistan –

The Farkhor Air Base in the nation has IAF’s presence for a long time, & this is IAF’s only active foreign base in the world.

  • Nepal –

A tacit understanding has developed where India has committed itself to the defence of the neighbour nation. In 2009 it was reported that the IAF was going to build an air base in Surkhet for its operations. Also, India is the largest arms supplier to the nation.

  • Vietnam –

The Indian Navy has berthing rights here as well. It also regularly gives Port of call here (Port of call means an intermediate stop for a ship on its scheduled journey for unloading & loading of cargo or taking on supplies or fuel). Cooperation between the two is rising rapidly to keep China in check. Exporting missiles & training Vietnamese pilots are some of the latest deals between the two countries.

  • Maldives –

The small island nation was saved from outside coup by India’s armed intervention. It is now under India’s security grid. India has set up radars on all 26 atolls & networked with the Indian Coastal Radar System. Sorties & patrols are a regular feature of India’s forces meant to keep the security of the Maldivian waters intact.

  • Bhutan –

Bhutan is surrounded by India on three sides & hence is under the defence cover of India. It is highly dependent on the IAF. The Indian Army has created a training mission termed IMTRAT that is responsible for military training of the Bhutan Army, & also for supplying arms & constructing roads in Bhutan.

Countering China’s String-of-Pearls

India is actively working – especially since Narendra Modi became the prime minister – to counter China’s expansion in the Indian Ocean which it carries out with the motive to neutralize India’s geographic advantage. The following lists as to how India is creating a ‘string’ of its own to counter the Chinese (in order from West to East) –

  • Iran –

India is investing heavily in the development of the Chabahar Port with the aim to bypass Pakistan & create an alternative route for easier & swifter trade, &direct access to Central Asia. This means India standing at par in the region in comparison to China which has presence in the Gwadar Port in Pakistan which is only 70 km away.

  • Maldives –

The island nation has assured it wouldn’t let China build a military base on its land. It is a crucial partner for India as elaborated above.

  • Sri Lanka –

Sri Lanka has good ties with China, but it was moving worryingly close to China during Rajapaksa’s time. The new government is seen as pro-India, & will re-examine its deals with China. This is a big boost to India’s geopolitical motives.

  • Andaman & Nicobar Islands –

The islands are close to the Malacca Straits that hold some of the major trade routes of the world. The Indian armed forces are rapidly expanding its presence here.

  • Bangladesh –

It is another country that has close relations with China, but India-Bangladesh ties are historical & cannot be undermined. During Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Bangladesh, India attained a massive victory when the two nations signed an agreement that allows Indian cargo vessels the use of China-backed Chittagong & Mongla Port.

  • Myanmar –

Despite all the investment China has made in Myanmar, India-Myanmar ties grow stronger. India is also committed to modernizing Myanmar’s armed forces & ensuring its maritime security.

  • Vietnam –

It is one of India’s most potent allies in countering China. As elaborated above the defence cooperation has boomeranged since 2014 as India recognizes the importance of China’s neighbour as a strategic ally.

  • Australia –

China’s naval activities have had Australia worrying too. India & Australia conducted a maritime exercise ‘AUSINDEX-15’ on the coast of Visakhapatnam in response to Chinese submarines in the Indian Ocean.

In fact, a tacit 4-nation alliance of the US, India, Japan & Australia is forming to counter China.

  • Japan –

Japan is the strongest of partners for India in this quest. After PM Modi’s recent visit to Japan, the nation decided to end its ban on export of weapons. The two signed a deal on the trade of the ShinMaya-US Amphibious Aircrafts that are the most advanced machines for maritime security.

  • Fiji –

Forty percent people in Fiji are Indians, & hence Fiji is crucial in stopping Chinese interventions in the Pacific. Since PM Modi’s visit to Fiji security ties between both are rising rapidly.

  • Mongolia –

Strategically, Mongolia can be to India what Pakistan is to China. Relations between Mongolia & China are tense. PM Modi had visited Mongolia & extended a $1 billion credit line, & it is expected that with time India-Mongolia’s ties will deepen further. Some even speculate that India may plant its missiles in Mongolia to counter China from its northern side.

Treaties or alliances with smaller nations are as imperative, if not more, than similar agreements with major powers. China sure has more economic & military might, but India possesses the goodwill & trust that may make all the difference in a world conflict.


Vinayak Jain