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Sarang Tarare asked: How can India fulfill its vision of becoming the net security provider in the Indian Ocean?

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  • Abhijit Singh replies: India’s ambition to be a “net security provider” is a reflection of its keen desire for strategic prominence in the Indian Ocean. By encouraging regional stability through capacity-building, increased maritime diplomacy and provision of military assistance, New Delhi aims to burnish its credentials as a strong and dependable Indian Ocean partner.

    New Delhi often projects its maritime rise in benign terms, expressing its desire to shoulder more responsibilities by providing “public goods”. Its preferred approach has been to assist small island states in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) with capacity building programmes, greater domain awareness capability, as well as by physically undertaking maritime surveillance activities in their regional waters. While recent years have seen India expand its maritime presence in the Indian Ocean, the Indian navy has consistently highlighted its cooperative security approach, aimed at tackling the entire spectrum of security threats within the broader region – including challenges such as piracy off the coast of Somalia.

    In order to fulfill its vision of being an effective net security provider, however, India needs to look beyond the challenges of securing Sea Lines of Communications (SLOCs) and preventing transnational crime to play a greater developmental role in the region. The fact remains that the bulk of the Indian navy’s operational energies are spent in securing the Indian Ocean sea-lanes and in ensuring a stable maritime neighbourhood. By providing greater economic and developmental assistance, India will be able to lend greater substance to its maritime initiatives.

    For the success of its Indian Ocean strategy, India also needs to develop its strategic relationships, providing not just hard-security aid to small island states, but also economic and developmental assistance. New Delhi’s greatest challenge in the Indian Ocean is the dilution of its strategic leverage, brought on by the gradual fraying of its bilateral relationships. Providing strategic depth to its regional security ties will lead to an all-round recognition of India's pivotal role in strategic security in the IOR.

    Posted on March 27, 2015