Maritime Security

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  • 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

    Nishanthi asked- Who is responsible for formulating the maritime policy of India? What institutions/ministries are involved in the process?

    S.S. Parmar replies: Formulation of any policy is part of the overall national strategy. National strategy depends on a variety of tangible and intangible fields. These fields would collectively and at times individually have a bearing on the national interests. Therefore, the responsibility of formulating any national policy lies with the government. As far as maritime policy is concerned, a plethora of ministries and agencies would contribute to the maritime policy. Broadly, a policy could be broken into three parts – economics, security and diplomacy.

    The broad ambit of the maritime domain entails the involvement of a number of agencies, such as the Indian Navy, Coast Guard, mercantile marine, ship building industry, Department of Ocean Development, fisheries department, Oil and National Gas Commission (ONGC), hydrographic department, diplomatic corps, department of surface transport, Antarctic exploration wing - in essence any department which either deals with or has interest in coastal, oceanic or overseas activities. In order to implement steps that would ensure a cogent working of the policy, these departments which are part of the government are responsible for forwarding their cases, depending on the financial implications, to the concerned ministries that take up the cases for approval with the concerned financial body. In India’s case, it would be parliamentary committees.

    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.

    The Persian Gulf Cul-de-Sac

    With growing tensions between the US and Iran leading to a drawing of maritime red lines, the Iranian threat to close the straits of Hormuz and the US response could affect future maritime issues, oil supplies and the world economy.

    January 12, 2012

    Sandya asked: What is India’s perception regarding maritime security in the Indian Ocean?

    S. S. Parmar replies: India’s perception of maritime security stems from the “Freedom to use the Seas”. This is an important aspect that is the focus of any maritime nation’s outlook. There are some issues that require to be viewed and assessed when correlating maritime security to the Indian Ocean Region as they form the basis of India’s perception.

    • The IOR is a region of diverse economies and systems of governance. One third of the world’s populace resides here in a quarter of the world’s land mass. It consists of 56 littoral and landbound nations.
    • It accounts for 65% of strategic raw material reserves, 31% gas and more than half of the world's oil exports.
    • The region is the largest producer of rubber, tea, spices, and jute. Some other important minerals found are manganese, cobalt, tungsten, coal and iron ore.
    • This region has seen the maximum number of conflicts post the cold war and is considered the hub of global terrorism.
    • Piracy, gun running, human and drug trafficking are issues that are also affecting the maritime security environment.
    • Around 70% of the worlds natural disasters occur in the IOR.
    • The region has the presence of extra regional powers.

    Therefore the perception of India vis-à-vis the IOR is based on ensuring a safe and stable maritime environment that will firstly ensure security of India’s national integrity and sovereignty; secondly, protection of our national interests; thirdly, ensure safe passage of maritime trade both national and international; fourthly, ensure cooperation amongst nations to combat and reduce the impact of non-traditional threats like terrorism, piracy and natural disasters.

    These aspects require certain mechanisms that exist in the form of engagement with India’s maritime neighbours. India also engages the extra regional maritime players who have a stake in the IOR. This has led to bilateral and multilateral understandings at the diplomatic, economic and military levels that cover the issues highlighted above.

    The Proposed PLA Naval Base in Seychelles and India’s Options

    India must actively engage the island nations in the Western Indian Ocean and enhance the scope and deployment of the Indian Navy and its air aim in these waters.

    December 15, 2011

    Islandic Hop Scotch in the Indian Ocean Region

    The island hopping game being played out is an indication of China’s strategy for gaining access to the IOR by developing the capabilities of “reach”, “presence” and “sustainability”.

    December 15, 2011

    Case Study of MV Suez and Anti Piracy Operations: Lessons for India and Pakistan

    A study of how the case of MV Suez a pirated vessel was handled would serve to provide some invaluable lessons on how India and Pakistan should join hands to take on this menace in the Indian Ocean. An otherwise well conducted rescue operations by the Pakistan navy, resulted in a near collision between PNS Babur and INS Godavari endangering the crew and the ships. Briefly put, the MV Suez was hijacked by the pirates who held the ship and its crew hostage while negotiating the ransom money for over ten months.

    October 2011

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