Jakarta (The Jakarta Post/ANN) – “Where there is sugar, there are ants,” is perhaps the appropriate phrase to visualize the ongoing and increasing struggle among the major powers over influence in Asia – the continent with the world’s fastest growth and abundant natural resources. Along with these colliding interests, comes the race to exercise control and to tap the continent’s resources and huge potential.
The struggle among nations, particularly superpowers like the United States and the rapidly emerging power China, to gain control and influence over the world’s largest and most populous continent has unavoidably triggered an arms race and heightened tension – marked by an increasing military presence – in the region. The heavy military presence of those powerhouses, coupled with the need to secure strategic sea routes in the region, have made the continent’s surrounding seas seem a bit more crowded lately.
Media reports and analysis by military experts have specifically highlighted the increasing presence of submarines in Asian waters. Submarines are difficult to locate and harder to destroy. Along with the continuously improving and increasing use of stealth technology, submarines are the perfect defensive and offensive weapons for Asian countries, where maritime security is vital.
Today is, furthermore, an era when America’s submarine dominance in the region, particularly in the Pacific, is facing its biggest challenge since the Cold War. Nearly every maritime Asian country is fortifying its submarine fleet amid territorial disputes stirred up by an increasingly assertive China, the US’ interest in retaining control of the region and the lure of Asia’s bountiful natural resources.
It has been reported that China is pouring money into enlarging and modernizing its already giant fleet, and India is planning to procure a nuclear-powered attack submarine – the INS Chakra – on a 10-year lease from Russia. Australia is debating a submarine upgrade that could cost more than US$36 billion, while Japan is adding another eight to its 16-boat fleet.
Other Asian countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan and even Bangladesh either now have or are planning to acquire submarines. These are quite apart from North Korea, which has a large fleet of mini-subs, and South Korea, which has the capability to develop submarines of its own.
The increasing build-up of submarines and their presence in the region has reached an alarming level. A minor spat among two nations could escalate into a multilateral dispute through the interconnectedness and interdependence of nations in the region. Unless they are careful and exercise restraint, World War III could start from here.
tittle rewrite by TTV