21st century will be the ‘century of the seas,’ says Indian Navy
Indian Economy relies on trade through the sea for survival and securing this is the biggest task. The way is through constant presence in the oceans by way of naval warships, surveillance planes, radars and at the coast having a series of sensors. The Armed forces and specially the Navy have to play a stellar role. To begin, the land forces, that are tasked to the Army, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the Border Security Force ensure safer borders and that relates in better economic environment .
The challenge is to get oil, natural gas ( of which India is major importer) and to export our goods safely.
According to Ministry of Shipping, 95% of India’s trade by volume and 68% by value is moved through maritime route. On the other hand 45% of the LPG being used in the country is imported. India coastline is 7516.6 km in length and the Indian Navy & the Coast Guard have been given the responsibility to secure it.
“There is little doubt that 21st century will be the ‘Century of the Seas’ for India and that the seas will remain a key enabler in her global resurgence,” says Indian Navy report titled ‘Ensuring Secure Seas.’ According to that report “the Indian Navy aims to effectively engage friendly maritime forces in the Indian Ocean Region and beyond, through port visits, bilateral interactions, training initiatives, operational exercises and technical support arrangements, in order to establish a cooperative framework that promotes mutual understanding and enhances security and stability in the region.”
The importance of Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOC) to a nation may vary, as per its geography and dependence on specific routes, both for transportation of essential commodities and for conduct of maritime operations.
According to the Indian Navy nearly 80% of the country’s crude oil requirement is met through maritime route. “The products of the petroleum industry account for about 15% of GDP. Taking into account the total oil imports by sea, offshore oil production and petroleum exports, the country’s cumulative ‘sea dependence’ for oil is estimated to be about 93%,” says the report.
Besides oil and trade, its fishing that is important
Fishing is another major source of revenue. The National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB) says India is the third largest producer of fish in the world, accounting for 6.3% of the world’s fish production. India’s fisheries sector contributes to 1.1% percent of the national GDP and 5.15% of the agricultural GDP. India’s present fish exports are more than Rs 33,000 crore.
With such huge reliance on trade through, the role of the defence forces in securing the economy is huge.
There is a rising presence of China at sea. There are reports that China is trying to ‘encircle’ India through its ‘String of Pearls’ policy. The ‘String of Pearls’ policy is a geopolitical concept. It refers to the network of the Chinese military and commercial facilities developed China in countries around India.
In geostrategic terms it refers to the Strait of Malacca, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, the Maldives, the Strait of Hormuz and Somalia. It also includes Bangladesh and Myanmar in Chinese strategy.
To counter the Chinese policy , India is constantly working with Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Iran, the Maldives and Seychelles and has launched a ‘Act East’ policy.
The recently concluded India-ASEAN summit, in New Delhi, speaks volumes of India’s strong relations with its neighbours. Vietnam is a crucial partner of India in ASEAN and it holds a key geopolitical position in the Indo-Pacific region. With the help of Vietnam, India can keep an eye on the maritime activities of China and act accordingly.
According to International data assessing companies approximately 80 percent of China’s oil imports and 11 percent of natural gas imports transited the South China Sea and Strait of Malacca. The latter is just 150 km south-east from an Indian Military base at Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Some 1.20 lakh ships pass through these straits annually. Of all the global trade 50 percent is done through these straits.
Piracy and armed robbery
At sea, this constitutes the oldest forms of maritime threats. These target maritime trade and also put the lives of people working onboard ships at risk, and threaten freedom to use the seas for livelihood and economic growth, affecting the maritime interests of a large number of countries.
Piracy has seen a rise in recent years in areas of maritime interest to India. This includes the Gulf of Aden and the Somali basin, from where piracy had spread across the Arabian Sea and to within 500 nm of the Indian mainland by 2011. Robust action by the Indian Navy and Coast Guard pushed piracy away from India’s maritime zones. The Indian Navy has also maintained a ship on patrol in the Gulf of Aden continuously since October 2008, safely escorting more than 3,000 merchant ships and nearly 25,000 Indian seafarers, besides other nationalities.