New Delhi, June 30: Asserting that the Indian Ocean Region was an important asset for the country, National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval on Thursday said it was becoming competitive and has a potential for a clash of interests and the country has to be vigilant to protect it.
The NSA, addressing a meeting of the Multiagency Maritime Security Group on policy, emphasized the salience of maritime security in an increasingly complex and challenging landscape and said that defending maritime borders is complex.
During his speech, the NSA appreciated the role played by the Indian Coast Guard and the Indian Navy in strengthening the overall maritime security of the country.
“In national security discourse importance of land and maritime borders are very different. You cannot fence them, put 24×7 vigilance, concept of sovereignty in land borders is territorial and well-defined. Its focus has been less but its importance is much more. Defending our maritime borders is complex, with problems it causes and challenges it brings. But it serves several interests, especially strategic and economic… It is an important trade route globally,” the NSA said.
Calling the Indian ocean a great asset to India, NSA Doval said, “With the cardinal principle of security, our vulnerabilities are directly proportional to our assets. More we develop, more assets we create, more prosperous we get, greater would be vulnerability and greater would be needed for security.”
He said that in the changing geopolitical scenario, the Indian ocean which has been an ocean of peace is gradually becoming competitive. “We see a potential of having a clash of interest, we need to protect it and be vigilant,” he added.
“We have a responsibility towards neighbours be it disaster management or security for them, we have been doing it. We recently had an example of countries coming together when Colombo Security Conclave was held to tackle maritime threats in the Indian Ocean,” the NSA further said.
“The trajectory of this nation is well defined, we know where we are going. And when our time comes, India will not be able to become the power it deserves to be unless it has a very strong maritime system. This is perfect timing for it,” said Doval.
“In the last few years, the Government has given special attention to the maritime domain as enunciated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the SAGAR initiative in 2015, the announcement of India’s Indo-Pacific Policy in 2018 as well as growing focus on the blue economy,” he said.
He said that 95 per cent of Indian trade by volume is maritime and routed via 12 major and over 200 non-major ports.
“India is a maritime nation with interests that extend well beyond our maritime zones. 95 per cent of Indian trade by volume is maritime and routed via 12 major and over 200 non-major ports. Over 90 per cent of our hydrocarbon requirements are met through seaborne imports and offshore production,” Doval said.
He further said that with over three lakh fishing vessels, the marine fisheries sector is a major contributor to the economy and livelihood of the fishing community.
“As India’s economy grows, so will its dependence on sea-borne trade and maritime resources. Securing our maritime interests from a range of threats and challenges necessitates a coordinated approach,” Doval added.
“Maritime security has, therefore, rightfully gained prominence in India’s security discourse as well as international outreach. While chairing the UN Security Council High-Level Open Debate on Enhancing Maritime Security in August last year, the Prime Minister had exhorted for an inclusive approach for a safe, secure and stable maritime domain,” he said.
The meeting was chaired by the National Maritime Security Coordinator Vice Admiral G Ashok Kumar (Retd), who assumed charge as the country’s first NMSC on February 16 this year.
The group has members from key Central Ministries, Agencies and Security Forces dealing with maritime affairs and State Maritime Security Coordinators representing all 13 coastal States and UTs. The CNS and Deputy NSAs from NSCS were also present.
In a major decision to reform coordination of maritime security affairs at the apex level, in November last year, the Cabinet had approved the creation of the post of NMSC, under the NSA, at the National Security Council Secretariat. With this decision, a longstanding recommendation of the 2001 Group of Ministers (GOM) Report on ‘Reforming the National Security System’ got implemented.
This reform is intended to ensure a seamless approach to India’s maritime security cutting across geographical and functional domains. The constitution of the MAMSG by bringing together diverse stakeholders at the Centre and coastal States/UTs is a significant step in that direction.
At the inaugural meeting, a number of crucial policy issues on maritime security were taken up, including mapping of existing orders and policies on maritime security to identify gaps, review of standard operating procedures for maritime contingencies, security of ports and coastal infrastructure, creation of a national maritime database, capacity building of coastal States and UTs, promotion of blue economy, etc. A separate session was dedicated to discussion with State Maritime Security Coordinators.
The MAMSG is envisaged to provide a standing and effective mechanism to ensure coordination of all aspects of maritime security including coastal and offshore security, as well as fill the institutional, policy, technological and operational gaps in meeting present and future security challenges. Importantly, the group will also address maritime contingencies requiring an urgent and coordinated response. (Agencies)