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Tuesday November 19, 2019

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Indian Navy and Coast Guard - Synergy in Maritime Security

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To understand the importance of maritime capabilities one has to keep in mind the inexorable fact that 70.9 per cent of the globe is water and just 29.1 per cent is land. It is also a historical truism that the British Isles, a little bigger than a speck on the world map, for centuries sustained an empire on which the sun never set because Britain ruled the waves. Britain trawled the empire to sustain its economy and its global hegemony. With the sun having set on the empire decades ago, politicians and geo-strategists surmised that a vacuum had been created ‘East of Suez’. For a brief interlude, this vacuum was filled by the US whose aircraft carriers belligerently roamed the oceans causing turbulence in their wakes. After 1990 when the Soviet Union collapsed, US was the sole super power.

The phrase ‘East of Suez’ always had an implicit ambiance across the vast stretches of water from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean conjoined by the infamous choke point called the Malacca Strait. Today strategists unhesitatingly refer to it as the Indo-Pacific continuum. A craving to be able to cross these oceans in pursuit of fossil fuels has become the major cause for growing astriction in this region.

The depletion of landbased natural resources has already instigated nations to exploit offshore oil wells. But there are several other forms of mineral wealth on the ocean floor that are waiting to be exploited when market forces demand. Polymetallic nodules with high manganese and cobalt content, sulfides and phosphorites (feedstock for fertilizer factories for sustaining the food chain) has set the clairvoyant Chinese on an expansive and bullish exertion to control these resources. Chinese naval expansionism has unleashed dynamics affecting everyone from the US to India to the many nation states that comprise the ASEAN politico-economic grouping and the nations of the Pacific seaboard. What is emerging is a conflict between global stakeholders in the need for preservation of global commons and China that has been trying to restrict entry into claimed ocean spaces which once again has a pivot ‘East of Suez’.

India is surrounded by water on three sides, giving it a peninsular profile that dominates the Indian Ocean. The southern maritime approaches have been placid as compared to the Himalayan frontiers where foreign inspired insurgencies and frequent intrusions have made these snowbound confines real hotbeds of violence and tension. But the dual attack on Mumbai has ordained the nation to prick up ears on India’s maritime defence. The Indian maritime security apparatus has been reorganised to give the Indian Navy a pivotal role in designing and maintaining the security architecture. The Indian Coast Guard is a defence network that includes millions of fisherfolk living along coastal states that straddle a 7,000 km long coastline and make their living from the seas.

The Indian Navy has been assigned with the core responsibility of defending the maritime domain with Indian Coast Guard as second line of defence and local police, the third tier that deals with every kind of threat from piracy to drugs, gunrunning and terrorist networks. The Indian Navy is proudly acquiring latest stealth warships that are indigenously designed and constructed and is acuminating its skills with frequent joint exercises with important maritime nations. Eagerly awaited is the commissioning of nuclear armed Arihant submarine. The Indian Coast Guard too is rapidly acquiring new fast attack vessels, expanding its ability to intervene anywhere along the vast 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone at short notice.

Dear Readers, this edition deliberates upon the threats from the seas and challenges they incur. An in-depth analysis of emerging events across the Indian Ocean Region and the adjoining Pacific Ocean with suggestions on what course to follow to protect national interests is thought provoking. I am sure this edition will spawn a feeling of confidence in India’s maritime defence capabilities.

We all in Team DSA greet and salute our Sea Warriors on the Navy and Submarine Days that we celebrate in December.

Jai Hind!


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