Indian Ocean Reviewed at Chennai Conclave on India’s Strategic Foreign Policy

by OldSailor on April 27, 2011


Indian_Ocean_Chennai_Conclave_India’s_Strategic_Foreign_Policy_1A Conclave on “India’s Strategic Foreign Policy” was held on April 25, 2011 at Hotel GRT Grand, Chennai. India’s Interests in the Indian Ocean was discussed in this conclave. It is interesting to note that India is the only country to have an ocean named after it (not to be confused with seas named after countries).

Some interesting features of this conclave on India’s Strategic Foreign Policy are

Inaugural Session

Welcome Address: by Mr Rafeeque Ahmed, Chairman, FICCI TNSC.


  • Theme Address: by Dr Rajiv Kumar, Director General, FICCI.


  • Special Address: by Commodore S Shekhar, Regional Director, NMF.


  • Inaugural Address: by Mr Jayant Prasad, IFS, Special Secretary (Public Diplomacy), MEA, GOI.


  • Keynote Address: by Mr P Murari, IAS (R), Advisor – President, FICCI.


Session I: Strategic Aspects of India’s Foreign Policy

  • Session Moderator:  Mr P Murari, IAS (R), Advisor – President, FICCI.
  • Speakers:
    • Dr Rajiv kumar, Director General, FICCI.
    • Amb Santosh Kumar, Project Director, NIP, ICRIER.
    • Dr G Malviya, Professor & Head, Department of Defence & Strategic Studies, University of Madras.


Some interesting discussions of this session are:

  • Indian history reveals that India not only had a strategic culture but a very rich military heritage. Indian_Ocean_Chennai_Conclave_India’s_Strategic_Foreign_Policy_8
  • India, the largest democracy with growing economy is now a strong and developed nation in terms of Human Resources, Military, Space, Information Technology etc.,
  • India’s foreign policy has not yielded the desired results with our immediate neighbouring countries, despite India’s rich cultural, ethnic, linguistic bond with neighbours.
  • India’s foreign policy has not yet countered the Chinese (String of Pearls) growing influence with our neighbours.
  • Rashtra Dharma or National Interest can not be compromised by the Central Government citing Coalition Dharma.
  • We have to identify and define the components of ‘national interest’, to formulate the foreign policy.
  • National interest has to be looked into composite, holistic manner and it’s three major components are: Security, Economic prosperity, Global governance.
  • Security: Indian_Ocean_Chennai_Conclave_India’s_Strategic_Foreign_Policy_9
    • External – Transformation from unipolar to multipolar World, Neighbourhood (south Asia).
    • Internal – Neighbourhood, Others.
    • Economic – Energy, Domestic Market, Water.
      • Energy: Explore Oil & Gas, Hydro-power, Nuclear Energy, Non-Conventional Energy sources.
      • Any possible trade off between security and addition to energy supplies has to be carefully assessed.
      • Our neighbouring country, Nepal has economically feasible hydro-power potential of 42,000 MW.
      • Set up coordinative structure in MEA on water management.
    • Unstable neighbourood due to factors like militant ideology, population explosion, failure of governance etc.,
    • Needs of the future that are to be addressed today: Nuclear triad, Cyber security, Blue-water Navy.Indian_Ocean_Chennai_Conclave_India’s_Strategic_Foreign_Policy_10
  • Economic prosperity:
    • We must utilise domestic policy, foreign policy to achieve economic prosperity; it is not advisable to increase defence expenditure without increasing the overall GDP.
    • Trade and External Policy: Unilateral, Regional and Bilateral, Multilateral.
    • Water and Energy must be part of foreign policy to negotiate with our neighbours.
    • FDI:
      • Government’s role has to be that of a facilitator.
      • We must adopt ‘rifle’ approach instead of a ‘shotgun’ approach.
      • Our missions have to maintain a list of potential investors including NRIs.Indian_Ocean_Chennai_Conclave_India’s_Strategic_Foreign_Policy_11
      • We must concentrate on potential investors in SMEs in India.
    • In the year 2020, the biggest economy will still be the United States.
  • Global governance: pertaining to environment, climate change, disarmament, human trafficking, drugs, narcotics, space, law of the seas, sea piracy etc.,
  • Political Realism is the need of the hour in our foreign policy than mere political idealism.
  • Interaction by the audience:
    • Technology: A country that imports 70% of its military equipment, can not aspire to become a strategic power.
    • SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) has not achieved the desired goal yet.
    • India must open up the borders completely with neighbouring countries for trade.
    • Diplomatic offensive is necessary to stop China’s interference in Indian affairs.

Session II: India’s Interests in the Indian Ocean

  • Session Moderator: Rear Admiral Raja Menon (Retd).
  • Speakers:
    • Commodore S Shekhar, Regional Director, NMF.
    • Mr Jayanth Prasad, IFS, Special Secretary (PD), MEA, GOI.
    • Dr K Venkataraman, Director, Zoological Survey of India, Kolkatta.
    • Dr Utham Kumar J, Asst Professor, Centre for Strategic Studies, University of Madras.
  • Presentation by Commodore S Shekhar, Regional Director, NMF.
    • India has a vast coast line of around 7600 km, 2.5 million sq km of Exclusive Economic Zone, 13 major ports and around 200 minor ports.Indian_Ocean_Chennai_Conclave_India’s_Strategic_Foreign_Policy_12
    • Today much of India’s national strategy is predominantly peninsular, land based in concept and greatly suffers from lack of maritime orientation.
    • It is indicative of the national apathy to our rich maritime heritage and public ignorance about our maritime resources; this may be due to the political power in post Independence India being predominantly from the Hindi heartland.
    • Hence not much of national importance has been given to the important linkage between maritime affairs and national security.
    • As population increases, with limited land based resources, India has to look upon the Indian Ocean for sea food, energy (wind/tidal/thermal), oils, minerals, gas, ocean medicine, transportation, water sports, tourism etc.,
    • To harness Indian Ocean resources, do we have an integrated ocean based approach to encompass the following ?
      • Security
      • Foreign policy
      • Commerce and Industry
      • Ocean based resources
      • Technology
      • Human Resources development
    • Now, India needs to follow up with the creation of a Task Force which should work on Mission Mode, designated as the Strategic, Augumented, Maritime, Utilisation, Development and Result-oriented Action or SAMUDRA Task Force.
  • Presentation by Mr Jayanth Prasad, IFS, Special Secretary (PD), MEA, GOI.
    • India is geographically connected to most of the countries through the Indian Ocean.Indian_Ocean_Chennai_Conclave_India’s_Strategic_Foreign_Policy_14
    • India has to
      • Safe guard energy security.
      • Protect sea lanes.
      • Enhance coastal security.
      • Establish nuclear triad using sea leg.
    • India is in the process of setting up Asia specific security architecture.
  • Presentation “Perspectives on Marine Biodiversity Conservation” by Dr K Venkataraman, Director, Zoological Survey of India, Kolkatta.
    • Instead of looking into the ocean from the land, it is necessary to look into the land from the sea.
    • Man’s relationship to the sea still remains as a hunter rather than a cultivator.
    • Land based hunting was given up thousand years back; there is no reason for not stopping sea based hunting and switch on to sea-farming.
    • Indian Ocean extends over 30% of the ocean global area and is rimmed by 36 littoral and 11 hinterland nations sustaining about 30% of the world population.Indian_Ocean_Chennai_Conclave_India’s_Strategic_Foreign_Policy_15
    • Indian Ocean also accounts for 30% of the global coral reef cover, 40,000 sq km of mangroves, some of the worlds largest estuaries and 9 large marine eco systems.
    • India has long history of stake on Indian Ocean Marine resources.
    • 80% of the ocean pollution is from land based sources.
    • Analyzing the short comings in Indian Ocean Management:
      • Understand the problems facing Marine Diversity in Indian Ocean by co-relating the information from within Indian Ocean Countries.
      • Determine the true economic value of marine Biodiversity so that rational decisions can be made on the cost of management.
      • Focus management around the user to ensure compliance with and assistance in resource management.
      • Incorporate marine biodiversity into marine protected areas to buffer the reefs against outside damaging influences.
      • Control damaging practices and monitor the effectiveness of control.
      • Promote sustainable uses to realise the full economic potential of healthy marine biodiversity and monitor the effectiveness of management to ensure long term sustainability.
    • Present situation:
      • Sectoral management of different uses by different global and regional institutions.
      • Submarine cables.Indian_Ocean_Chennai_Conclave_India’s_Strategic_Foreign_Policy_16
      • Fisheries.
      • Shipping.
      • Marine scientific research.
      • Oil and Gas development.
      • Deep seabed mining.
      • Dumping and marine litter.
      • Emerging uses not yet adequately managed, legal/policy gaps: Bioprospecting, Carbon storage and sequestration, Iron fertilization, Mariculture facilities, Floating energy facilities.
    • Integrated Ocean Management policy in the Indian Ocean
      • Crimes at sea such as bio-piracy, bio-terrorism and illegal trade and trafficking.
      • Disaster management in the form of tsunamis, cyclones, floods and earthquakes.
      • Marine safety including search and rescue, salvage, accidents at sea; possible cooperation between Indian Ocean countries.
      • Environmental degradation due to oil spills, waste disposal and pollution by ships.
      • Offshore territorial conflicts generated by a need to control fisheries and minerals.
  • Presentation by Dr Utham Kumar J, Asst Professor, Centre for Strategic Studies, University of Madras.
    • Reality at seaIndian_Ocean_Chennai_Conclave_India’s_Strategic_Foreign_Policy_17
      • Conflict alone bears economic, political and strategic costs – a definite no-no.
      • Perpetual peace near impossible as there is clash of interest.
      • There is great interdependence with some instances of discord.
    • Seapower
      • Possessing physical characteristics such as naval strength, ship building, maritime infrastructure.
      • Employing these to alter others’ behaviour.
      • Seapower as input refers to actual naval might of a state.
      • Seapower as output refers to the ability to change other’s behaviour.Indian_Ocean_Chennai_Conclave_India’s_Strategic_Foreign_Policy_18
    • Navies are perceived as
      • Instrument of state policy.
      • Having compact diplomatic value.
      • An assurance to allies and friends.
      • Symbols of threat to adversaries.
    • Components of Naval Diplomacy
      • Expeditionary operations.
      • Humanitarian operations.
      • Naval presence: Coalition building; Picture building; Coercion – Deterrence, Compellence.
    • Advantages of Naval Diplomacy
      • Allows negotiating from a point of strength.Indian_Ocean_Chennai_Conclave_India’s_Strategic_Foreign_Policy_19
      • Indicates capacity to take control and enforce order.
      • Extend one’s reach and get involved elsewhere.
      • Enhance country’s image at home and abroad.
      • Demonstrate India’s technological prowess.
    • Limitations of Naval Diplomacy
      • Naval Diplomacy is as good as National Policy.
      • Success is hard to measure as influence might not be immediate or obvious.
      • Restricted by proper evaluation of situation, requisite offensive and defensive power, speed of action, control and effect.
    • Indian Navy
      • Naval Presence of India exhibits her seapower as input.Indian_Ocean_Chennai_Conclave_India’s_Strategic_Foreign_Policy_20
      • But what effect that has in furthering her interests or changing other power behaviour, that is seapower as output needs to be examined.
      • Though India’s naval presence is dotted along the Indian Ocean, we are in transition.
    • Points to ponder
      • Is increasing Naval Presence necessary ?
      • In times of crisis, does India possess the capability to overcome challenges ?
      • How far can Indian Navy help in protecting Energy Security interests, assets (like Sakhalin crude oil project and its transportation) ?
      • What are the force levels, naval platforms and other additional requirements needed to meet the enhanced responsibility ?

Vote of Thanks: was given by Mr Saravanan, Deputy Director, FICCI TNSC

Thanks to Public Diplomacy Division of MEA for this conclave and the citizens need frequent updates of this type from the Government.

Did you enjoy this article? Please subscribe to RSS Feed to receive all the updates!

Related Posts:

  • No related posts found

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: