by Kamal Shah
The ‘Blue Economy’ has become an essential element of ocean governance vernacular over the past decade. Let us look at how the Indian Navy is working towards ensuring such maritime security and providing a conducive environment for harnessing the ‘Blue Economic’ ‘s immense potential. As far as Policy Guidelines for Blue Economy is concerned, there has been a flurry of activities. One may recall that it was in Mar 2015, in Mauritius, while handing over the first Indian major military export, a ship named Barracuda, constructed at GRSE, that Prime Minister Modi said, “To me the Blue Chakra or wheel represents the potential of Blue Revolution or the Ocean Economy. That is how central the Ocean Economy is to us”. In 2015, the United Nations released a vision document entitled “Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. That also included the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14 that states, “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for Sustainable Development”. The Draft ‘GoI’s Vision for India in 2030’, enunciated in February 2019 during the Budget Session, outlines Blue Economy as one of the ten core dimensions of economic growth. Efforts to scale up the Sagarmala project for port-led development was one of the goals.
The draft National Maritime Policy formulated by NITI Aayog lays out 21 missions and 12 objectives to integrate and coordinate comprehensive national maritime capabilities, capacities and skills to accelerate India’s growth as a resurgent Maritime Nation. The policy, once enacted, would play a significant role in achieving Blue Economy objectives. In addition, the Ministry of Ports, Shipping & Waterways has also recently published its Maritime India Vision 2030, which was released during the ‘Maritime India Summit. With various policies and the vision in place, one of the inevitable requirements for the successful fructification of these plans is a safe and secure maritime environment. This is where the Indian Navy plays a significant role. Sir Julian Corbett, the famous naval strategist, said that navies should be able to influence affairs on land. Although this was meant to be applicable in wartime, the Navy is probably the only service useful in peacetime. With over 95% of the trade, by volume, passes through the seas, with the vast majority of our energy requirements transiting through the waters, with over 2,75,000 fishing boats operating out of our country, with enormous offshore development areas in our EEZ, with over 7500 km of coastline and over 1380 off-lying islands, our maritime interests that the Navy is tasked to protect is vast. With a focus on the blue economy, these interests are bound to grow, thus significantly increasing the responsibilities entrusted with the Navy.
Maritime Security Operations
The Navy’s role as a security provider for the Blue Economic is to maintain a secure and stable maritime environment, enabling the unbridled pursuit of maritime economic activities. Indian Navy (IN) does this through a host of Maritime Security Operations. Let me mention just a few. Since 2017, the Indian Navy adopted the concept of Mission-Based Deployments, through which IN ships are deployed on a sustained basis across Indian Areas of Interest. These help India undertake foreign cooperation initiatives for the nation and enable our ships to respond to any emerging situation without any delay. Examples of Indian naval vessels reacting expeditiously to various SAR, HADR, exigencies and emergencies in the region and beyond are numerous. IN has been deploying ships continuously at the Gulf of Aden on an anti-piracy deployment since Oct 2008. Remember how the Indian Navy launched Op Island Watch off the Lakshadweep group of islands in 2011 when piracy had spread well east. This had resulted in almost the entire Arabian Sea being included in the Llyods War list, with a commensurate increase in insurance premiums. Op Island Watch successfully negated that by pushing piracy back to areas around the Gulf of Aden.
Currently, with the security situation being what it is off the Strait of Hormuz, IN has deployed ships on Op Sankalp, providing cover by embarking our Marine Commandos on transiting ships when required for safe passage through the area. Within Indian EEZ, IN’s Immediate Support Vessel deployments take care of the security requirements of our offshore development areas. Closer home, shouldering the overall responsibility of coastal security, IN’s regular deployments, exercises with the states and a biennial pan-India multi-agency exercise Sea Vigil have enhanced India’s overall coastal security posture. In addition, IN’s regular maritime reconnaissance sorties, ship deployments, the Coastal Surveillance Network, National AIS chain, PANS messages, LRIT data, space-based AIS inputs etc. all contribute to the development of a comprehensive MDA with which IN’s ability to ensure a secure maritime domain stands further enhanced.
In addition to these deployments and processes, yet another aspect of Indian naval strength is foreign cooperation. IN is firm in believing that IN’s responses have to be multinational, with maritime threats being transnational. There are numerous initiatives in this area too. The Indian Naval industry of IONS is now over 12 years old and has been very successful. Various working groups have worked to share best practices and enhance their ability to counter various sub-conventional maritime threats and contingencies. Secondly, the IFC IOR launched by IN in Dec 2018 has now evolved into a naval information hub for the entire region and beyond. This has been helped by setting up CSRS chains in other countries and signing WS Technical Agreements.
In conclusion, the Blue Economy needs a stable and secure environment to sustain and grow – this is enabled through adequate maritime security. On the other hand, with increasing maritime interests, balanced growth of the Indian Navy is inevitable. Maritime forces need budgets to grow and remain effective – these are enabled by a growing and prosperous economy – where the Blue Economy plays a crucial role. Hence, as one can imagine, the Blue Economy and Maritime Security are deeply intertwined and mutually dependent on each other – One cannot progress without the other.