The Indian Navy chief, Admiral Hari Kumar, has proposed deepening relations between states in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), by adopting four principles that would govern future relations.
Hari Kumar made his proposals on Tuesday while addressing the Goa Maritime Conclave (GMC), one of the navy’s several multilateral initiatives aimed at bringing together the littoral states of the IOR into a cooperative maritime security framework operating under barely discernible Indian Navy leadership.
The navy chief’s first suggestion involves developing a working mechanism that is “structure light, but functionally heavy”. He suggested that this be based on common maritime priorities (CMPs), such as maritime law, information, strategy and protocols, or training and capacity building.
“We are willing to take lead in developing the training and capacity building pillar,” said Kumar, citing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s maritime vision of Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR).
The second suggestion was that “each one of us could bring to the table certain unique capabilities and expertise”, said Kumar. He indicated potential proficiencies in maritime law, combating sea-borne narcotics trade, maritime surveillance, or environmental stewardship.
“In addition to developing and operationalising the mitigation framework for addressing CMPs, this would also lay the foundation for establishing regional Centres of Excellence (CoE)”, proposed the navy chief.
The third, inter-related proposal involves developing CoEs as nerve centres of maritime security information pertaining to the IOR. As an example, the navy chief cited the setting up in Gurgaon of the Information Fusion Centre for the Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR). This underlines India’s status as the guardian of the Indian Ocean – a “net security provider” that brings together regional countries to safeguard global commons, freedom of navigation and provide security against challenges such as piracy, terrorism, gun-running, narcotics, human migration and illegal fishing.
The navy chief’s fourth and final suggestion was to rationalise and prioritise efforts under other bilateral, mini-lateral and multi-lateral constructs in the IOR. Besides the deployment of naval warships on visits to other countries’ ports and naval bases and joint training exercises, the Indian Navy has fostered maritime bonding through various multilateral initiatives such as the Goa Maritime Conclave, MILAN, Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS), the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and the Colombo Security Conclave, among others.
Since its inauguration in 2008, the IONS has grown in strength to 25 members and nine observers.
In order to bring together like-minded maritime nations of South and South Eastern Asia, the Indian Navy began hosting the Goa Maritime Conclave.
This year’s event hosted ministers and navy chiefs from 12 IOR countries, including Bangladesh, Comoros, Indonesia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Myanmar, Seychelles, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
MILAN has been another successful Indian Navy initiative for promoting engagements at the regional level. It is conducted biennially at Port Blair.
For tracking maritime activity, the Information Fusion Centre (IFC) at Gurugram has established itself as a hub in the IOR, through white shipping exchange agreements with 22 countries and one multi-national construct. International Liaison Officers from 14 countries have been invited to join the centre.
With inputs from Business Standard