India has a 7,517-km-long coast line, with rich maritime geography. Due to its importance for trade and vulnerability to state and non-state actors the maritime security of India becomes utmost important. State actors include governments or government backed organisations posing challenges to India, such as Pakistani ISI, China or China’s PLA. Whereas non-state actors are individuals or organizations not directly backed by governments such as terrorists, smugglers, extremists, etc.
Challenges posed by state and non-state actors to India’s maritime security:
Piracy: There is a persistent threat of pirate attacks on ships, especially around the Somali coast. This jeopardizes trade and commerce.
Terrorism: International waters are used by terrorists to execute their operations. For instance, the 2008 Mumbai Attacks occurred due to a maritime security lapse.
Illegal Migration: International Oceans are a better way to enter into another country’s territory than taking the land/air route. Thus, a higher degree of illegal migration happens through maritime waters.
Transnational organized crimes: The waters are also used for transnational organized crimes that inflict significant harm on the global economy and jeopardize the security of the state.
- This includes illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, trafficking in persons, illicit trafficking in firearms, etc.
Environmental catastrophes: The rising pollution level and climate change have enhanced the frequencies of cyclones, floods, etc. catastrophes across the world.
Chinese Assertion: China is increasing its influence in the Indian Ocean region, which may threaten India’s regional interest. Further, it may deter India with its naval might to coerce it on other issues.
Securing the sea lanes of communication (SLOCs): Securing SLOCs that traverse the oceans is of central importance to enhancing maritime security. Majority of India’s trade happens through SLOCs
Steps taken by India to deal with maritime security challenges
National Maritime Security Coordinator (NMSC): NMSC has been recently constituted to ensure effective coordination among multiple agencies dealing with threats from the high seas.
Security and Growth for All (SAGAR) policy: It aims to deepen economic and security cooperation with its maritime neighbors and assist in building their maritime security capabilities.
International Fusion Centre (IFC): India has established IFC for the Indian Ocean region in Gurugram. It aims at generating Maritime Domain Awareness on safety and security issues. Around 40 international liaison officers from partner countries will eventually be located at the IFC.
QUAD: It is a strategic dialogue between India, USA, Japan, and Australia. The objective is to ensure and support a “free, open, and prosperous” Indo-Pacific region.
Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS): It is an international governance mechanism established in New York on January 14, 2009. It aims to facilitate the discussion and coordination of actions among states and organizations to suppress Somali piracy.