China, India and Japan do not appear to be on the verge of breaking the bank in an effort to match each other’s construction. Still, from a vantage point of 10 or 20 years out, it might make sense for the Asian powers to think in terms of regulating their naval competition. India, China and Japan can all accomplish their national goals with a limited number of carriers. At some point, additional construction would simply spur the competitors to overbuild. A well-designed treaty on naval arms limitations would recognize economic and power imbalances between the three, take into account strategic realities and try to hold competition to within certain parameters. The motivating logic behind such a limitation runs as follows: India, China and Japan would each be as secure with four carriers as they would with eight, so long as they are assured that the others will not build eight themselves.
Over twitter, Dan Trombly suggests that the real arms race is for undersea assets. That’s an interesting claim, but whether or not it’s true there still might be good cause to limit carrier construction. Arms races happen because of military insecurity, but also because of prestige imbalance; even if China, India, and Japan want CVs primarily for prestige reasons, they still might be inclined to overbuild in order to match each other. My specific thoughts on submarine limitation are here.