Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has voiced concern
over increased militarization and extra- regional nations maintaining a near
permanent presence Indian Ocean region
on "some pretext or the other".
This sort of militarization increases complexities for
the countries in the region, she said.
"The Indian Ocean has been peaceful over past few
decades. However, our collective decision to capitalize on this or not and how
we counter the emerging challenges will significantly influence the regional
peace and security in future," she said.
The Minister, who did not name any country for its undue
presence in the Indian Ocean was addressing the inaugural function of the Goa
Maritime Conclave of Navy Chiefs of Indian Ocean littoral states, which aims to
address the maritime challenges in the region. The meeting was hosted by the
Indian Navy at the Naval War College at Dabolim in Goa on November one.
Ms Sitaraman, was obviously referring to the presence of
Chinese Navy's presence in the region under the garb tackling the piracy menace
and choosing to opt for freedom of navigation in Indian Ocean region, the
concept she opposes in South China Sea. Ironically incidents of piracy have
fallen drastically in the region during the last one year.
An increased militarization in the Indian Ocean has
manifested in two interconnected forms in the region, Sitharaman said. "We
have also witnessed extra-regional nations maintain a near permanent presence
within the region on one pretext or the other," she said.
"In order to sustain such a presence through
operational turnaround, these countries, which are extra-regional, are creating
naval outposts as well as dual use infrastructure in the region. This sort of
militarization increases the complexities for the countries of this
region," Sitharaman said.
The defense minister also expressed concern over the
emergence of non-state actors in the region. "The concept of non-state
actors is not something new as the countries are dealing with this issue both
at land and at sea since time immemorial," she said in an obvious
reference to Jehadi terrorism, sponsored by Pakistan.
However, the recent surge in the number of non-state
actors, with support they enjoy from certain states, their enhanced
reach as well as access to the resources has brought the
issue to the forefront and demands a firm action," she said.
Referring to the 'blue economy', the Minister said the
sea bed has emerged as a futuristic and abundant source of relatively pure
thereby adding to the Ocean's economic potential.
The progress achieved and the efforts to harness clean
and renewable energy sources through off shore energy firms added a whole new
dimension to the economic and strategic impact of the
Ocean on countries of this region," Sitharaman said.
While it is good that the compulsion of globalization has
enabled economics to shape relationships between nations, the opaqueness in
strategic intent, by certain nations is preventing these
very relations from evolving beyond a transactional nature, she added.
The land based disputes and riparian issues,
predominantly a legacy of the colonial rule were a key cause for conflict in
the region.” As international behavior in the maritime domain is influenced
considerably by land based imperatives, cordiality or latent hostility
prevalent among nations on land tends to get reflected in the Seas too. She
In the past few years, China has set up or acquired
stakes in a series of infrastructure projects in the region and has recently
opened its first overseas military base at Djibouti in the horn Africa
strategically placed in the Asia Europe route through Suez Canal.
The Chinese Navy has maintained a steady presence of
warships and submarines in the Indian Ocean Region under the garb of anti
piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden.
To counter this, the Indian Navy has now put in place a
new concept of mission based deployment to maintain round the clock surveillance
on India’s vital areas of interest across the length and breadth of the Indian
Ocean region. This was decided at the Naval commanders meeting held in the
national capital last week.
conclave of Naval Chiefs of Indian Ocean littoral states intended to be held
every year, aims to bring together like minded countries to evolve collective
responses to challenges in the maritime domain.