With increasing maritime threats, India is all set to establish a National Maritime Security Coordinator (NSMC). The NSMC will interface between the civilian and military maritime domain with the objective of enhancing security architecture and energy security of India.
|The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army|
Alfred Thayer Mahan had famously said in 1897, “Whoever controls the Indian Ocean, will dominate Asia. This Ocean will be the key to the Seven Seas in the 21st Century. The destiny of the world will be decided on its waters.”
Over the years, the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) has been a witness to piracy, drug-smuggling, human trafficking, terrorism, illegal arms trade and natural disasters. The various Maritime Security Initiatives (MSI) taken include Customs Trade Partnership against Terrorism (C –TPAT); Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy & Armed Robbery Against Ships (Re CAAP); International Ship & Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code); Automatic Identification System (AIS); Container Security Initiative (CSI) and; Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI). In addition, there areRegional Maritime Security Initiative (RMSI).
On December 22, 2018, India established the Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) manned by the Indian Navy at Gurugram (Haryana) for coordination with countries in the region
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of ‘Security and Growth for All in the Region’ (SAGAR) is based on an open and inclusive ethos for creating inclusive structure of maritime security in the region. India has been the first responder in maritime disasters related to cyclones, tsunami and pollution. Maritime security and countering terrorism and other crimes in the Indian Ocean has emerged as a focus area for India as part of its Indo-Pacific strategy and the doctrine of SAGAR.
The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) has been discussing Maritime Safety and Security (MSS) in the IOR. The IORA Working Group on MSS (WGMSS) established in September 2018 and presently chaired by Sri Lanka for a period of two years, is currently advancing the IORA Action Plan (2017-21). The second IORA Meeting of Experts on MSS held in India during November 2017 produced the “Blueprint for Maritime Safety and Security in IORA”, which serves as a base document for initiatives to be implemented by the WGMSS.
On December 22, 2018, India established the Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) manned by the Indian Navy at Gurugram (Haryana) for coordination with countries in the region. By then some 21 countries had signed the White Shipping Information Exchange agreements with India and many of them have posted International Liaison Officers (ILOs) at the IFC-IOR.
Over the past decade and a half maritime security is being consistently violated and threatened by China especially in Western Pacific and Chinese forays in the IOR have been on the increase
Over the past decade and a half maritime security is being consistently violated and threatened by China especially in Western Pacific. Chinese forays in the IOR have been on the increase. This has increased relevance of the concept of Indo-Pacific and the Indo-Pacific Initiative (IPOI), which was also discussed at the UNSC meeting on maritime security on August 9, 2021.
With increasing maritime threats, India is all set to establish a National Maritime Security Coordinator (NSMC) as reported in media on July 13, 2021. NSMC was recommended by the Group of Ministers (GoP) report in aftermath of the 1999 Kargil Conflict. Chinese forays into Indian Ocean via Pakistan and Myanmar will be on top of the NMSC agenda. The NSMC will interface between the civilian and military maritime domain with the objective of enhancing security architecture and energy security of India. He will work under the National Security Advisor (NSA) and act as the principal advisor to the government on maritime security domain.
As per media reports of August 10, 2021, Bangladesh, Mauritius and Seychelles are set to become full members of the Colombo Security Conclave, a grouping of India, Sri Lanka and Maldives focusing on maritime security, counter-terrorism and disaster relief. The offer was made at the first meeting of deputy national security advisers of the Colombo Security Conclave recently hosted virtually by Sri Lanka. Bangladesh, Mauritius and Seychelles currently have observer status with the grouping.
As the President of UNSC for the month of August 2021 by rotation as a non-permanent member, India pulled off a major feat on August 9, 2021, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired the first ever exclusive UNSC meet on maritime security. The meeting was attended by Presidents of Russia and Kenya, Prime Ministers of India and Vietnam and 10 ministers of other countries, seven of them foreign ministers including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
China was represented by Dai Bing, China’s permanent representative to the UN. This was not surprising considering China’s guilty conscience for blatantly defaulting international laws and conventions and maritime aggression, militarisation of the East China Sea (ESC) and South China Sea (SCS) despite the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling in 2016 that Chinese activities in the SCS are illegal.
Modi proposed five principles for ensuring global maritime security: removing barriers from legitimate maritime trade; encouraging responsible maritime connectivity; settling maritime disputes through peaceful means and on the basis of international law; jointly facing natural disasters and maritime threats created by non-state actors, and; preserving the maritime environment and resources.He stressed on the importance to settle maritime disputes peacefully and based on international laws.
Bangladesh, Mauritius and Seychelles are set to become full members of the Colombo Security Conclave, a grouping of India, Sri Lanka and Maldives focusing on maritime security, counter-terrorism and disaster relief
Indirectly referring to China, Antony Blinken said, "In the South China Sea, we have seen dangerous encounters between vessels at sea and provocative actions to advance unlawful maritime claims. The US has made clear its concerns regarding actions that intimidate and bully other states from lawfully accessing their maritime resources. And we and other countries including SCS claimants have protested such behavior and unlawful maritime claims in the SCS......Conflict in the SCS or in any ocean would have serious global consequences for security and for commerce. What's more, when a State faces no consequences for ignoring these rules, it fuels greater impunity and instability everywhere.”
Dai Bing responded that UNSC is not the right place to discuss issues of the SCS which is generally” stable with all countries enjoy freedom of navigation and over-flights in accordance with international law (sic), and that the US is not qualified to make “irresponsible” remarks. Referring to the PCA ruling on Chinese claims in the SCS, Bing said, “The SCS arbitration tribunal violated the Principle of State consent. There were obvious errors in the determination of facts and application of the law and its award was invalid and without any binding force."
Modi’s five-point principles were welcomed by all participants with majority speakers stressing on territorial sovereignty and the importance of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). As a result, the outcome document re-established the primacy of UNCLOS as the legal framework applicable to all activities including for countering illegal activities in the oceans. The document also focused on strengthening cooperation in maritime security against piracy, armed robbery and terrorist activities at sea, as also all forms of transnational organised crimes and other illicit activities.
China can, however, can be expected to continue as the rogue nation and will have to be collectively dealt through multiple resolute measures.