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International Relations

A Secure Indian Ocean

  • 09 Aug 2021
  • 6 min read

Why in News

Recently, India has proposed to convene an open debate of the UN Security Council (UNSC) on enhancing maritime security.

  • The objective of this debate is to highlight effective international maritime cooperation to respond holistically to natural and manmade threats to maritime security.
  • It also reflects India’s international evolution as a maritime nation.

Key Points

  • Importance of Indian Ocean for India:
    • Long Maritime Boundary: With a coastline of over 7,500 km, India has a natural interest in enhancing maritime security.
    • Securing Sea lanes of Communication: In the Indian Ocean, three major Sea Lanes Of Communication (SLOCS) play a crucial role in the energy security and economic prosperity:
      • SLOC connecting the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean through the Bab al-Mandab (that transports the bulk of Asia’s international trade with its major trading partners in Europe and America),
      • SLOC connecting the Persian Gulf to the Indian Ocean through the Strait of Hormuz (transporting the bulk of energy exports to major import destinations like India, ASEAN, and East Asia),
      • SLOC connecting the Indian and Pacific Oceans through the Straits of Malacca (integral to the smooth flow of trade with ASEAN, East Asia, Russia’s Far East and the US).
      • The Indian Ocean region transports 75% of the world’s maritime trade and 50% of daily global oil consumption.

  • India’s Maritime Initiatives:
    • Disaster Management: The fallout of the 2004 tsunami, which took a heavy toll on human and natural resources, led to the creation of an Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System by the UN in 2005.
      • Through this, an international network seeks to prevent a recurrence of such devastation.
    • Anti-Piracy Operations: Faced with the increased threat from piracy originating off the coast of Somalia since 2007 to shipping in the western Indian Ocean, the Indian Navy participated robustly as part of a UNSC mandated 60-country Contact Group on Piracy off the coast of Somalia.
    • Security and Growth for All (SAGAR) Policy: India’s SAGAR policy is an integrated regional framework, unveiled by Indian Prime Minister during a visit to Mauritius in March 2015. The pillars of SAGAR are:
      • India’s role as a net security provider in the Indian Ocean region (IOR).
      • India would continue to enhance the maritime security capacities and economic resilience of friendly countries in IOR.
      • A more integrated and cooperative focus on the future of the IOR, which would enhance the prospects for the sustainable development of all countries in the region.
      • The primary responsibility for peace, stability and prosperity in the IOR would be on those “who live in this region”.
    • Abiding by the International Law: India accepted an United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) tribunal award on the maritime boundary arbitration between India and Bangladesh.
      • It envisaged contributing a new impulse to effective international economic cooperation among the littoral states of the Bay of Bengal (BIMSTEC).
    • Data Sharing: Sharing data on threats to commercial shipping is an important component of enhancing maritime security.

Way Forward

  • International Cooperation: Sustaining international cooperation to enhance maritime security requires two supportive frameworks in the policy and operational areas.
    • Rule-of-law Based Approach: There is a need to review the operational effectiveness of the UNCLOS.
      • Especially regarding the enforcement of its provisions on freedom of navigation, the sustainable exploitation of maritime resources, and the peaceful resolution of disputes.
    • Securing the Sea Lanes of Communication: Securing SLOCs that traverse the oceans is of central importance to enhancing maritime security.
      • Thus, the global debate must focus on ensuring equal and unrestricted access to SLOCs by states while resolving differences through peaceful means.
  • Engaging Private Sector: There is a need for an increasing role of the private sector in the maritime domain, whether it is in shipping, sustainable development through the Blue Economy.
    • Further, the use of the maritime domain can be leveraged to provide the critical submarine fibre-optic cables supporting the Digital Economy.
  • The ability of the UNSC to respond to the debate by endorsing a multiple stakeholder approach to enhancing maritime security would be a significant outcome, setting a paradigm for upholding “multi-dimensional” security in the 21st century.

Source: IE

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