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INDIAN OCEAN REGION AND MARITIME SECURITY
Aug 29, 2015

Importance of maritime security, in present scenario is not only in part of traditional concept of security rather more earnest issues at hand are from non-state actors. The incidents like 26/11has further brought focus to this idea. In the post cold war era, new concept of security has developed out of critique of statism and state centric thinking on security. The focus has shifted to other aspects like freedom from economic and other forms exploitation, energy security, environmental security and others. The need is to recognize the fact that security is not divisible either in military, social, economic, political dimensions or between national and international aspects; these are trans-national issues with substantial security ramifications. 

Indian Ocean: Area of emerging geostrategic importanceINDIAN OCEAN REGION AND MARITIME SECURITY

  • Indian Ocean is going is going hog the limelight in coming century which is as many would say going to be Asian century.
  • One third of the world population lives in the region, including one quarter of the UN members and most of the third world countries. Geographically, Indian Ocean with an area of 68.56 sq. km is the third largest water body on the earth
  • Washing the shores of 3 continents India, Australia and Africa, and covering around 2% of the earth‟s surface.
  • Indian Ocean contains a great degree of wealth in the form of abundance of oil, natural gas, minerals.
  • The littorals contain more than 2/3 oil reserves, 35% of world’s gas reserves and 60% of uranium and 40% of gold and 80% of diamond deposits and large variety of other mineral substances, oil, iron ore, tin, bauxite, gold, diamond, manganese, uranium, and chromium.
  • More than 80% of the hydrocarbon requirements of the global economic powerhouses like China, Japan, South Korea and India are met from the imports from the Middle East which traverses through the Indian Ocean.
  • Interestingly while 40% of the global trade passes through the Indian Ocean only 20% is conducted among the littorals while 80% is carried out by the extra regional countries.The great Indian peninsular landmass jutting out for a thousand miles characterizes the Indian Ocean and lends it its name. Thus if India‟s location with respect to the Ocean offers it unique advantage it also has a daunting task of tackling a variety of security threats.  

Challenge in the Ocean 

  • Terrorism in Sea: The primary maritime security challenges in the SSWIO include piracy at sea, narcotics and small arms/light weapons trafficking, people trafficking and, increasingly, maritime terrorism is becoming a distinct threat.  The multiple sources of insecurity in the South and South-West Indian Ocean ( SSWIO) region affect the sea lines of communications (SLOCs), both for strategic and trading purposes.  From India's point of view it is important to ensure that these SLOCs are kept free for navigation by our merchant ships and oil tankers as also our naval vessels.

  • China Factor: China is increasing its footprint in the SSWIO countries through its private and state-owned companies which are building/managing maritime infrastructure in SSWIO countries, including in Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, etc.  The Chinese companies have leased ports (after either building new ones or upgrading existing ones) from the local governments or are managing the ports in these countries and appear to have exclusive use and access to these ports, currently for commercial purposes.

  • These could in the future provide a strategic option for Chinese naval ships to move in the region, as happened recently in Sri Lanka. Some analysts feel that the Chinese navy has had no historical tradition of projecting naval power beyond its coastal waters, but whether this still holds true today is a moot point.  The “String-of-Pearls” theory, with reference to China encircling India through setting up, upgrading or managing ports in India's neighbourhood, has been a cause of concern for India and many in the Indian security community do not see this as a legitimate reflection of Chinese commercial interests in the region or its strategic interest in protecting its SLOCs. While India need not be paranoid, the “String-of- Pearls” theory should not be dismissed out of hand. Though India has expanded its own power-projection capabilities and strengthened its security relationships in the SSWIO region much remains to be done.

  • Maritime Trafficking: Maritime trafficking including drug trafficking, human trafficking and illicit weapon trade can seriously undermine the maritime security environment. Drug trafficking leads to money laundering and funds from the sale of drugs are used to fuel gunrunning, insurgent and terrorist activities. Added to these is the trans-national security concern linked to human smuggling that has multiple effects, ranging from fuelling terrorism to illegal immigration causing socio-political instability

  • Narco-terrorism It is a corollary of maritime terrorism, as the terrorists groups targeting the region work hand in hand with drug cartels. Such is the geopolitical setting of the region that World’s two most illicit opium producing areas- Golden Triangle mainly in Myanmar and northern Thailand and Golden Crescent in Afghanistan and Pakistan, are in the Indian Ocean Region. The ocean has emerged as an important transit route for the dispatch of large consignments of narcotics to the Western world as also to the Far East. India's north eastern states of Manipur, Tripura, Meghalaya and Mizoram serve as an important and easy route for drug carrying couriers.

  • Human Trafficking: A large number of human smuggling syndicates and gangs have mushroomed all over the world and are engaged in a highly profitable industry. Smuggling by sea is the cheapest and easiest form of illegal transportation of migrants. Illegal trafficking and human smuggling by sea has increased in the Asia- Pacific region

  • Illicit weapons trade: Coastal gunrunning is another manifestation of maritime terrorism and has gained intensity. It is important to note here that seven tons of RDX and small arms landed on west coast of India in 1993 and used in Mumbai blasts were inducted by sea


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