The sail that Indian diplomacy, statecraft need

News:  Striking the right balance between continental and maritime security would be the best for India’s long-term security interests.

In this context, India’s decision to hosts the five Central Asia leaders at the Republic Day Parade holds significance for India’s continental security.

How India has progressed in terms of Maritime security?

More recently, India has taken many ambitious steps to correct the historic neglect of India’s maritime power and also as a response to the dramatic rise of China as a military power. For instance,

-National Maritime Strategy,

-Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) initiative for the Indian Ocean Region

-Initiatives relating to the Indo-Pacific and the Quad.

Why focusing only on Maritime security is not sufficient for India’s security interest?

Maritime security is important to keep sea lanes open for trade, commerce, and freedom of navigation.

It will aid in resisting Chinese territorial aggrandizement in the South China Sea and elsewhere.

It will also help littoral states resist Chinese bullying tactics in interstate relations.

However, maritime security alone is not sufficient for India to deter Chinese unilateral actions and the emergence of a unipolar Asia.

Because China’s rise is not merely in the maritime domain. It is expanding on the Eurasian continent. For example, Belt and Road Initiative projects in Central Asia and its dependency-creating investments, cyber and digital penetration across the Eurasian continent.

Hence, a continental strategy focusing on the Eurasian continent is necessary for India.

Why focusing on Eurasia is important for India?

For India’s continental strategy, the Central Asian region is an indispensable link as India id faced with Border and connectivity issues.  For example,

A persistent two-front threat from Pakistan and China.

Increased militarisation of the borders with Pakistan and China

India has been subject for over five decades to a land embargo by Pakistan

Difficulties have arisen in operationalising an alternative route through the International North-South Transport Corridor on account of the U.S.’s hostile attitude towards Iran

With the recent Afghan developments, India’s physical connectivity challenges with Eurasia have worsened.

Why evolving an effective continental strategy focusing on Eurasia will be a complex and long-term exercise for India?

Eurasian continent is presented with many issues/challenges currently, so this will not be easy for India as we would need to work with different partners on different agendas. For example,

The assertive rise of China.

The withdrawal of forces of the United States/North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) from Afghanistan.

The rise of Islamic fundamentalist forces

The changing dynamics of the historic stabilising role of Russia (most recently in Kazakhstan).

Interests in multilateral mechanisms of that region. For example, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, and the Eurasian Economic Union

Threat to Eurasian Security due to the ongoing rivalry between the U.S and Russia confrontation relating to Ukraine, Russian opposition to future NATO expansion, and new deployment of intermediate-range missiles.

What are the steps taken to bolster India’s relation with Central Asia?

In 2015, Mr. Modi visited all the five Central Asian states.

Recently, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar also hosted their Central Asian counterparts in Delhi.

What is the way forward?

India needs to acquire strategic vision and deploy the necessary resources to pursue our continental interests without ignoring our interests in the maritime domain.

Further, India should push for our continental rights, namely that of transit and access, working with our partners in Central Asia, with Iran and Russia.

Need for more proactive engagement with economic and security agendas ranging from the SCO, Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

Stabilising Afghanistan is also necessary.

India will need to define its own parameters of continental and maritime security consistent with its own interests.

Source: This post is based on the article “The sail that Indian diplomacy, statecraft need” published in The Hindu on 11th Jan 2022.

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