Maritime Security

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  • Jaydeep Asked: What are the security implications of China's ‘Maritime Silk Road’ for India?

    Abhijit Singh replies: In order to assess the security implications of the Maritime Silk Road (MSR), it is necessary to understand what the proposal really entails. China’s plan for a maritime corridor is intended at creating maritime infrastructure and enhancing connectivity in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. First proposed by President Xi Jinping during his trip to Southeast Asia in October 2013, the MSR was originally aimed at enhancing maritime cooperation between China and the ASEAN countries in the South China Sea. Recently, however, China reached out to Sri Lanka and India inviting them to join the MSR, revealing a wider vision for the Indian Ocean.

    An idea essentially premised on the leveraging of Chinese soft power, the MSR is potentially beneficial for all regional states in the near term. Part of its appeal lies in an allied initiative of a maritime cooperation fund announced by Chinese Premier Li Kechiang last year, which regional state have shown interest in. The sales pitch of “shared economic gains”, however, does little to conceal the proposal’s real purpose: ensuring the security of Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) in the Indian Ocean. In its eventual form, therefore, the MSR could end up setting up Chinese logistical hubs and military bases, linking up already existing ‘string of pearls’.

    As Beijing becomes more involved in the security and governance of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), it could pose a challenge to India’s stature of a ‘net provider of security’ in the region, thereby adversely affecting New Delhi’s geopolitical stakes and strategic influence.

    Posted on April 16, 2014

    Ramesh Reddy asked: What does it exactly mean when it is said ‘India is a net security provider in the Indian Ocean,’ and what are the factors responsible for the same?

    Sarabjeet Singh Parmar replies: The broad meaning that one can discern from various statements made about India being a ‘net security provider’ in the Indian Ocean is about India ensuring a stable, secure and peaceful environment in the region. The main aspects that are viewed as responsible for this can be construed as follows:

    • India’s predominant central geographic position in the region, especially overlooking the SLOCs that pass through the region.
    • India’s military capacity and capability that has a distinct reach in the region due to its geographic position.
    • India’s friendly relations and defence cooperation with most of the IOR nations.
    • India’s relatively strong economy and market capacity.
    • India’s non-hegemonic stance and its will and ability to provide assistance when requested.

    Posted on April 07, 2014

    Sreenivasuluraju asked: What are the advantages of Northern Sea route for India?

    Abhijit Singh replies: The opening of the Northern Sea Route (NSR), though significant for international trade, does not benefit India directly as the passage does not offer a shorter route for any cargo or energy consignment bound for Indian shores. The NSR is essentially a passage linking Europe with East Asia. While the increasing duration of its navigability – it was open for shipping for nearly six months last year, up from four months in previous years - benefits other Asian countries like China, Japan and South Korea because of their relatively larger volume of trade with the US and Europe, Indian trading and commercial interest are minimally affected.

    A permanently navigable NSR may, however, set the tone for a gradual recalibration of the international focus that the Indian Ocean presently enjoys as a 'trade highway'. Currently, the trade flow through the NSR is a miniscule percentage of global trade. But as use of the passage grows, it might result in a gradual shift in trade patterns with a relative decline in traffic being routed through the Indian Ocean. Speculative as the scenario may appear, if it ever does come to pass, India’s existing strategic clout and geo-political leverage in the Indian Ocean could be adversely impacted.

    Posted on March 07, 2014

    New Perspective for Oceanographic Studies in the Indian Ocean Region

    India’s location in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) compels it to play a larger strategic role in the region. The growing energy needs of China—with the Gulf continuing to be its most preferred source—further causes the Chinese merchant fleet to transit the IOR. To ensure uninterrupted supply of energy resource, the Chinese have started to increase their presence in the region and this has, in turn, encouraged the Americans to also deploy their marine assets in the region.

    January 2014

    Maritime Security in the Indian Ocean: An Indian Perspective

    For a maritime nation like India, its conception of maritime security of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and, specifically, its approach to maritime security has a long historical legacy. The modern Indian Navy has its origins in the colonial period. But it is the post-colonial period spanning independence and then the imperatives of the Cold War, and later to the interim phase in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union to the present day strategic partnerships—all of which have contributed to moulding the Indian perspective of maritime security.

    January 2014

    Is the Submarine Arm Losing its Punch?

    The explosions that gutted INS Sindhurakshak during the early hours of 14 August 2013 caught the imagination of an entire nation that watched the brief footage of the catastrophic event on their television sets. Barring some minor accidents which resulted in structural damage, this is the most tragic incident involving loss of lives in the 46 year history of the submarine arm.

    January 2014

    INS Vikramaditya – Deployment Options for India

    With the INS Vikramaditya’s arrival in India, it is time to undertake a dispassionate assessment of the ship’s possible uses and deployment options. The Indian navy would be well served if it considered employing the ship in a ‘soft power projection’ role – as a versatile asset to be used in diplomacy and regional outreach, disaster relief and humanitarian missions.

    January 21, 2014

    Pranathi asked: What could be the motive behind certain counties demanding Ross Sea to be declared as a marine protected area?

    Sarabjeet Singh Parmar replies: The proposal to declare the Ross Sea region as a Marine Protected Area (MPA) was put forth by New Zealand and the US in the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) meeting held in Hobart in 2012. In addition, a proposal to establish an MPA in the East Antarctica Area was also put forth by France, Australia and the EU. The proposals were also discussed in the special meeting of CCAMLR held in July 2013 in Germany. The proposals are still under consideration and would be discussed in further meetings. The proposed Ross Sea Region MPA encompasses roughly 2.27 million square kilometres. In 1.6 million square kilometres of the MPA, research fishing would be the only fishing permitted.

    The CCAMLR of 1980 is one of the three international agreements that along with the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 form the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS). The other two agreements are Convention for Conservation of Antarctic Seals of 1972 (CCAS) and Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty of 1991 (Environment or Madrid Protocol). Both CCAMLR and CCAS look at protecting living creatures. All 50 signatory nations are bound to honour all the four components of the ATS. Out of the 50 nations, 28 are consultative parties and 22 are non consultative parties. Consultative status enables nations to take part in the decision making in the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings (ATCM). The non consultative parties due to their accession to the treaty can attend the ATCMs but are not part of the decision making.

    The main essence of the proposal is to protect the area’s ecological structure, environment and promote research and other scientific activities amongst other reasons. This is apparently the main motive. As the proposal needs the approval of the consultative nations, any proposal that looks at any interest that does not contribute towards the ATS would in all probability be rejected.

    Rounak Singh Asked: Is Deep Sea Mining by China a reason for its assertiveness in South China Sea and Indian Ocean?

    Sarabjeet Singh Parmar replies: China has been allotted contracts for exploration only in two areas by the International Seabed Authority (ISA) for a period of 15 years, and therefore, it cannot form the basis of Chinese assertiveness:

    • In the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone (Pacific Ocean) till May 21, 2016, for exploration for polymetallic nodules.
    • In the South West Indian Ocean Ridge till November 17, 2026, for exploration for polymetallic sulphides.

    The assertiveness shown by China in the South China Sea is due to its sovereignty claims on the islands of the Paracel and Spratly group. In the Indian Ocean, China could be viewed as expanding its maritime footprint and presence rather than being assertive.

    Vikramaditya’s Induction: High-point for the Indian Navy

    Vikramaditya’s commissioning has re-ignited an old debate on the relevance of aircraft carriers. Proponents argue that it must play a central role in ‘blue-water’ plans while opponents posit that the carrier’s vulnerability and inadequate logistical sustainability render it an obsolete asset.

    November 27, 2013