Round Table Discussion: Indian Ocean – Strategic Interests by ORF and NMF at Chennai

by OldSailor on September 20, 2011


Round_Table_Discussion_Indian_Ocean_Strategic_Interests_ORF_NMF_Chennai_1A Roundtable Discussion on ‘Indian Ocean – Strategic Interests’ by Observer Research Foundation (ORF) and National Maritime Foundation (NMF) was held at Chennai on September 19, 2011.

The discussion was attended by academic community including college students, journalists, diplomats from U.S, Australia, Sri Lanka, serving and retired officers from the Indian Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and the Merchant Navy.

Here I bring out some interesting information and discussions pertaining to Indian Ocean:

  • If Indian Ocean can not be treated as India’s Ocean, the same logic applies to China as well (South China Sea can not be treated as China’s Sea).
  • India Chairs the Indian Ocean Rim-Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) for the years 2011 and 2012 along with Australia as the Vice Chair during this period.
  • IOR-ARC has three working groups:
    • Working Group on Trade and Investment (WGTI)
    • Indian Ocean Rim Business Forum (IORBF)
    • Indian Ocean Rim Academic Group (IORAG)
  • U.S interests
    • to ensure smooth flow of global energy supply and trade through safe Sea Lanes Of Communication (SLOC).
    • conduct regular naval exercises with India (like Exercise Malabar).
  • Some of the Indian Ocean Littoral States (Australia, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Yemen)
    • are still under developed economies.National_Maritime_Foundation
    • affected by human trafficking, drug trafficking, sea borne terrorism/piracy.
    • likely to be affected by climate change like rising sea level.
    • are facing conflict of interests in sharing marine resources like sea food, minerals etc.,
    • have territorial disputes, hostile attitude, lack of trust, misunderstanding etc.,.
  • Indian Ocean Littoral States must
    • develop common areas of interest in ocean bed exploration, hydrographic survey, disaster management and information sharing, shipping, coastal infrastructure, fisheries, weather forecasting, education, tourism, agriculture etc.,
    • strengthen bilateral and multilateral relationship (between navies like ‘Singapore India Maritime Bilateral Exercise – SIMBEX’, Sri Lanka -India joint naval exercise SLINEX)

An audio – visual presentation on ‘Indian Ocean – Strategic Interests’ was given by Commodore (Retd) S. Shekhar, Indian Navy, Regional Director, National Maritime Foundation, Chennai Chapter. Here are the highlights of his presentation (his personal views, not that of NMF):

  • India’s Maritime Domain policy documents are available in the form ofRound_Table_Discussion_Indian_Ocean_Strategic_Interests_ORF_NMF_Chennai_2
    • Indian Navy Vision Document published by Integrated Headquarters of Defence in May 2006.
    • India’s Maritime Military strategy by Integrated Headquarters of Defence in May 2007.
    • National Maritime Agenda published by the Ministry of Shipping in January 2011.
  • India’s national interest pertains to: Security, Economic prosperity, Global role in the Indian Ocean.
  • Security
    • Determinants of security by analysing the threats: as Perception, Geographics (Terrestrial, Maritime, Cyber), Response.
    • Responsibilities: protection of open seas by the Indian Navy; protection of coastal waters the Indian Coast Guard; protection of shore line by the Marine Police.
    • India has to address maritime concerns by assuming major power roles, safe guarding Indian Ocean and by understanding neighbourhood dynamics.
    • Areas needing attention: development of effective HUMINT (human intelligence) and ELINT (electronic intelligence), Reconnaissance, Surveillance, Tracking, Interception, Interdiction, Archival aspects.
  • Economy
    • Economic prosperity can be achieved by GDP growth by focusing on Natural resources, Market access, Technology acquisition.
    • Security needs of economics
      • India’s total trade volume with South-East, East Asian economies is larger than the trade volume with the European Union or the U.S.A.
      • Look East strategy: India has to safe guard trade and energy supply routes through Malacca and Singapore Straits in the Indian Ocean.
    • Economic responsibilities: Indian Ocean centric strategy formulation by taking inputs from Think Tanks, Industry bodies and implementation by coordination and by making effective use of the media.
    • Areas needing attention: Ship building, Ship repair, Development of Human Resources in the maritime domain, Sea food processing, Marine diversity preservation, Maritime disaster – prediction, protection, rehabilitation and piracy at sea.     Round_Table_Discussion_Indian_Ocean_Strategic_Interests_ORF_NMF_Chennai_3
  • Maritime Domain Action must focus on
    • Strengthening IOR – ARC.
    • Strengthening Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS).
    • Conducting seminars/conferences like Indian Maritime Technology Conference (IMTC) of January 2011 at Chennai and Ship Building Conference (Strategies, Human Resources, Infrastructure, Processes, Shipyard productivity – SHIPS 2011) to be held on 27 and 28 September 2011 at Kochi.
  • Global role for India
    • To safe guard SLOC by increasing the presence of the Indian Navy and reducing the presence of the U.S Navy in the Indian Ocean.
    • Areas needing attention: Closely link national strategy with maritime strategy; Strengthen maritime aspects of Look East policy; Bring in maritime awareness into the national mainstream; monitor the implementation of IOC – ARC decisions by all member states.

Some interesting interaction from the audience:

  • Piracy at sea:
    • As the piracy at sea is increasing with the demand for huge amounts as ransom, the insurance rates are going up for movement of cargo through sea lanes.
    • What is being done collectively to overcome this ?
    • As a short term effective method, piracy at sea has to be stopped by using Naval Forces.
  • China’s String of Pearls in the Indian Ocean Region: China is yet to develop credible presence in ports of Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Coco Islands etc.,
  • Strength of Indian Navy:
    • Are old warships being phased out, are replaced with new warships ?
    • Now private shipyards are also engaged to build warships to cater the growth of the Indian Navy.

Here are some photographs




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