Indian Ocean Region

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  • Security in the Indian Ocean Region: Role of India by Rockin Th. Singh

    Maritime strategy is playing an ever greater role in Indian strategic thinking. As India reaches for great power status, it is increasingly turning to the Indian Ocean to expand its strategic space. Although it currently operates in co-operation with the United States, India has long-term aspirations towards attaining naval predominance throughout much of the Indian Ocean. In conjunction with an expansion of India's naval capabilities, there has been a significant strengthening of India's maritime security relationships throughout the region.

    May 2012

    Chinese Views of India in the Indian Ocean: A Geopolitical Perspective

    In recent years, China's strategic community has emerged as an increasingly vocal and influential constituent of Chinese policy debates. This article focuses on Chinese analysts steeped in the realpolitik tradition. These intellectuals and strategists discern a troubling trend towards intense competition and zero-sum interactions in the Indian Ocean. In their view, a progressively assertive India will set the pace of the impending maritime rivalries among the great powers.

    May 2012

    The Creation of Indian Integrated Commands: Organisational Learning and the Andaman and Nicobar Command

    India took an unprecedented step 10 years ago by setting up a joint theatre operational command for the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (ANC). This article seeks to examine the following questions: why did India decide to establish its first joint operational command? Why has the creation of this and other unified commands been so incremental in the Indian context? What are the arguments for and against jointness, integration and joint operational commands in the Indian context?

    May 2012

    Charting a Maritime Security Cooperation Mechanism in the Indian Ocean: Sharing Responsibilities among Littoral States and User States

    The main objective of this article is to highlight the challenge of maritime security in the region geographically bounded by the Indian Ocean. It studies the current status of maritime security in the region from both the traditional and non-traditional points of view. From the traditional security perspective, it examines the strategic interests of the major Indian Ocean players—the China–India competition and India–US relations in particular—in addition to the existing maritime disputes among the littoral states.

    May 2012

    A Neo-Nixon Doctrine for the Indian Ocean: Helping States Help Themselves

    In recent years the Indian Ocean has received significant attention from the defence-intellectual community in the United States. However, the actual strategic importance of the region to US interests is less clear. In an environment of fiscal austerity, if commitments abroad are not firmly linked to interests, any significant involvement in a region of secondary concern could contribute to ‘imperial overstretch’.

    May 2012

    A European Perspective on Maritime Security Challenges in the Indian Ocean Region

    The Indian Ocean Region (IOR), ranging from the Suez Canal in the west to the Strait of Malacca in the east, is of crucial importance for Europe. However, Europe's interest in the region's maritime space and its security challenges is limited.

    May 2012

    Indian Ocean Naval Symposium: Uniting the Maritime Indian Ocean Region

    The Indian Ocean, the third largest oceanic expanse in the world, is the birthplace of maritime civilisation and has always been an ‘active’ ocean. It is now perceived to be the world's centre of gravity in strategic terms, proving the prophetic words that are often attributed to A.T. Mahan: ‘Whoever controls the Indian Ocean will dominate Asia … the destiny of the world would be decided on its waters’.

    May 2012

    Vibha asked: What is the influence of China's growth on north-east India and the Indian Ocean region?

    Namrata Goswami replies: The influence of China’s growth on northeast India can be two-folds. The first is one in which the people of the northeast could get inspired by the Chinese economic growth model, especially in its south western province of Yunnan, and emulate such a globalising model. Already, the chief ministers of the region are ardent supporters of the “Look East” policy which aims to create land and rail connectivity between India’s northeast, Myanmar, and Yunnan in China. This could foster economic connectivity and bring in prosperity to the northeast. The other influence is more security related. China’s claim on Arunachal Pradesh and its water diversion plans on the Yarlung Tsangpo in Tibet are creating a public perception in the northeast that China is a threat to India. Hence, while China’s influence with regard to economic connectivity could be positive, its territorial claim and water diversion plans are negative influences.

    Similar is the case with the Indian Ocean. China views the Indian Ocean, especially the Malacca Strait, as the lifeline for its energy supplies and exports, which is critical to maintaining its internal growth. It wants to collaborate with other Indian Ocean countries to ensure the safety of these lanes. However, China is an authoritarian regime with a closed political system. Hence, its military modernisation, acquisition of an aircraft carrier and assertive claims on the South China Sea is creating an atmosphere of militarisation of international waters. The Chinese influence is thus highly securitised.

    Sandya asked: What is the role of Indian Navy in identifying, assessing and controlling non-traditional threats in the Indian Ocean?

    S.S. Parmar replies: The Indian Navy has a prominent role to play in addressing non-traditional threats. This task is done in tandem with other agencies like the Indian Coast Guard, maritime wing of police, governments of states with coastlines and intelligence agencies to name a few. Non-traditional threats can be broadly divided into two areas – those like maritime terrorism and piracy that require to be addressed by kinetic means, and those like humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR), search and rescue (SAR), pollution control, etc., that require to be addressed by benign means. Although pollution control is under the ambit of the Coast Guard, the Indian Navy provides the required assistance that is sought.

    The Indian Navy has mechanisms in place to assess, indentify and address these issues. These include identifying strong points and strengthening weak points so as to better manage situations both developing and developed. This involves deploying assets that would aid in combating the threats that arise from such non-traditional threats.

    Issues like terrorism and piracy that require application of force are addressed by patrolling areas identified as the most vulnerable with suitable assets in tandem with other agencies. For example, along the coast the Indian Navy has identified suitable places and established detachments that work with other agencies to assess the situation and patrol designated areas. Ships and aircraft also patrol the maritime zones of friendly nations on their request to combat terrorism and piracy. In addition, ships with embarked armed helicopters have been deployed in the Gulf of Aden since 2008 to combat piracy as part of the ongoing international effort.

    The benign role is assumed and assets deployed so that assistance is rendered both internally and externally in a fast and humane manner. The deployment of assets during the 2004 tsunami is a classic case in which relief was provided within 24 hours to the states on the east coast of India and Sri Lanka and within 72 hours to affected nations like Indonesia and Maldives. Unlike the threats emanating from terrorism and piracy that could be assessed based on intelligence inputs, disasters do not come with any warning and therefore the Indian Navy is always ready at short notice to deploy its assets as and when ordered.

    Buddhika asked: Can India alone deal with the non-traditional threats coming from the Indian Ocean?

    S.S. Parmar replies: The Indian Ocean is the third largest ocean and has an area of 73,556,000 sq km including the Red Sea and Persian Gulf. This vast area is home to many littorals and Island nations. Therefore, any activity in this ocean is subject to a plethora of issues stretching from strategic interests both intra and extra regional, national jurisdiction of maritime zones, varying national laws dictated by types of governance and economics, to capabilities and capacities of nations to address both traditional and non traditional threats that affect the existing security scenario.

    Non-traditional threats, such as piracy, terrorism, drugs and arms trade, and natural disasters, are trans- border issues that affect most of the nations that are either located in the region, or use the Indian Ocean as transit for their maritime trade, or have a presence for their strategic interests.

    The vast expanse of the area, number of nations involved, the magnitude of laws and the capacities and capabilities of nations make it a difficult task for one nation to deal with non-traditional threats. This is the reason why nations engage each other via bilateral and multilateral dialogues and understandings. India, on its part, engages nations in the Indian Ocean so that a comprehensive framework, optimally utilising national assets to counter the non-traditional threats, can be established.