The draft National Maritime Policy will integrate and coordinate comprehensive national maritime capabilities, capacities and skills to accelerate India’s growth as a resurgent maritime nation, Indian Navy Vice Chief Vice Admiral G Ashok Kumar said. The policy formulated by NITI Aayog lays out 21 missions and 12 objectives for Indian Navy.
“The policy, once enacted, would play a significant role towards achieving of Blue Economy objectives,” he said during webinar on The Navy and the Blue Economy on April 23, 2021 .
The blue economy and maritime security are deeply intertwined, and mutually dependent on each other, said Indian Navy Vice Chief pointing that Navy is working towards ensuring maritime security, to provide a conducive environment for harnessing the blue economy’s immense potential.
He stated that as far as policy guidelines for blue economy is concerned, there have been a flurry of activities.
The Vice Chief recalled that in March 2015, in Mauritius, while handing over the first major military export, a ship named Barracuda, constructed at GRSE, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, has said, “To me the Blue Chakra or wheel represents the potential of Blue Revolution or the Ocean Economy. That is how central the Ocean Economy is to us”.
He also stated that in 2015, United Nations released a vision document entitled “Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.
That also included the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14 that states “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for Sustainable Development”
He said that the draft Vision for India in 2030’, enunciated in February 2019 during the Budget Session, outlines Blue Economy as one of the ten core dimensions of economic growth. Efforts to scale up the Sagarmala project for port-led development, was one of the goals.
The draft National Maritime Policy formulated by NITI Aayog lays out 21 missions and 12 objectives to integrate and coordinate comprehensive national maritime capabilities, capacities and skills to accelerate India’s growth as a resurgent Maritime Nation.
“The policy, once enacted, would play a significant role towards achieving of Blue Economy objectives,” he said.
In addition, the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways has also recently published its Maritime India Vision 2030 which was released during the ‘Maritime India Summit’.
With various policies and the vision in place, one of the inevitable requirements for successful fructification of these plans is a safe and secure maritime environment.
“This is where the Indian Navy plays a significant role,” Vice Admiral said.
With over 95 percent of trade by volume through the seas, with vast majority of energy requirements transiting through the seas, with over 2,75,000 fishing boats operating out of India, with vast offshore development areas in our EEZ, with over 7500 kms of coastline and over 1380 offlying islands, the maritime interests that the Navy is tasked to protect is huge.
With a focus on blue economy, these interests are bound to grow, thus greatly increasing the responsibilities entrusted with the Navy.
Navy’s role as a security provider for the Blue Economy is to maintain a secure and stable maritime environment, which enables unhindered pursuit of maritime economic activities.
“Since 2017, we have adopted the concept of Mission Based Deployments, through which our ships are deployed on sustained basis across our Areas of Interest,” he said.
These not only helps Indian undertake foreign cooperation initiatives for the nation, but also enables Indian ships to respond to any emerging situation without any delay.
“We have been deploying continuously at Gulf of Aden on an anti-piracy deployment since October 2008. You all may recall as to how the Indian navy launched Op Island Watch off the Lakshadweep group of islands in 2011 when piracy had spread well east,” he said.
This had resulted in almost the entire Arabian Sea being included in the Llyods War list, with commensurate increase in insurance premiums.
“Op Island Watch successfully negated that by pushing piracy back to areas around the Gulf of Aden,” Vice Admiral said.
Within Indian own Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), immediate support Vessel deployments take care of the security requirements of the offshore development areas.
Closer home, shouldering the overall responsibility of coastal security, our regular deployments, exercises with the states and a biennial pan-India multi-agency exercise Sea Vigil have enhanced our overall coastal security posture.
In addition to these deployments and processes, yet another aspect of Indian naval strength is foreign cooperation.
“We are firmly of the belief that with maritime threats being transnational in nature, our responses have to be multinational in character. There are numerous initiatives in this area too,” he said.
The Indian Naval initiative of IONS is now over 12 years old and has been very successful. Various working groups have worked to share best practices and enhance their ability to counter a variety of sub-conventional maritime threats and contingencies.
Secondly, the IFC IOR launched in December 2018 has now evolved into a maritime information hub for the entire region and beyond.
“Additionally, our information exchange agreements have helped eliminate illegal activities and maritime crime including piracy, IUU fishing, human trafficking and drug peddling. For instance, Indian Navy seized narcotics worth Rs 3000 crore off the coast of Kerala this week,” he said.
Yet another aspect of foreign cooperation with immense operational benefits is Reciprocal Logistics Exchange Agreements with a number of friendly nations.This has helped enhance our reach and sustenance even further.
The navy, in any case, is the only force capable of remaining present persistently in any given location – while retaining the flexibility and mobility to redeploy and assume alternate roles based on any given situation.
“Our Investments in Maritime Security Capabilities of own and littorals have led to enhancing their abilities to deal with maritime threats,” Indian navy vice chief said.
“Additionally, our CORPATs with our maritime neighbours and EEZ patrols for some of our friendly foreign countries, coupled with our expeditious responses when in need, have all elevated our status as the Preferred Security Partner and First Responder, with the Indian Navy contributing handsomely to the responsibility of shouldering Prime Ministers vision of SAGAR,” he stressed.
Talking about marine resources, he said navy’s capability building efforts have been a major contributor towards growth of ship building industry.
Right from inception, the navy has been deeply committed towards building its platforms indigenously. As on date, 39 of the 41 ships under construction are in Indian shipyards. “The Plough back effect towards the economy, skilling of our population in the field of ship construction, creation of jobs to ancillary industries, are all bound to be of positive support to the broader Blue Economy initiatives of the nation,” he said.
Further, when it comes to marine resources, one of the crucial requirements is that of oceanographic data.
While a number of ministries and agencies collect such data using their own resources, the Navy has now signed MoUs to mutually share such data.
“We now collate all these information from varied sources, including bathemetric and oceanographic data collected by our ships and aircraft on deployments, at NODPAC or the Naval Operational Data Processing and Analysis Centre,” he said.
He said that Blue Economy needs a stable and secure environment to sustain and grow – this is enabled through effective maritime security.
Maritime forces need budgets to grow and remain effective – these are enabled by a growing and prosperous economy – where the Blue Economy plays a crucial role.
The vice chief said the blue economy and maritime security are deeply intertwined, and mutually dependent on each other . “One cannot progress without the other.”
“Therefore, I am confident that we will be successful in moving ahead in cohesive and coordinated manner with a clear-eyed focus on the greater good – at the national, regional and global level,” he added.