How India’s maritime resurgence is helping harness blue economy

How India’s maritime resurgence is helping harness blue economy
Courtesy: ANI

New Delhi’s strategic convergence with Australia could prove to be a successful tool in harnessing the IOR’s rising geopolitical and economic importance.

With the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) fast emerging as the world’s focus in the maritime domain and a global economic highway, India and Australia – two of the largest powers among the IOR neighbours – have stepped up their collaboration to ensure the security and stability of the region.

In the case of India – which sits astride busy sea lines of communications which transit across the Indian Ocean – there is a long coastline of 7,516 km, over 1,300 islands and islets and an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of more than 2 million sq. km to take care of around the IOR. In addition, India has 12 major ports and over 200 minor and intermediate ports and 90 per cent of India’s trade by volume transits by sea – which has given rise to a vibrant shipbuilding industry, a thriving fishing industry, offshore oil and gas interests and deep seabed mining areas in the central Indian Ocean.

With such high stakes, New Delhi’s convergence of strategic interests with Australia in strengthening Blue Economy (BE) initiatives in the IOR could prove to be a successful tool in harnessing the IOR’s rising geopolitical and economic importance and global influence.

A convergence of strategic interests

While geo-economic and environmental consequences for India and Australia are far too large to ignore, they have also created significant opportunities to work together.
While geo-economic and environmental consequences for India and Australia are far too large to ignore, they have also created significant opportunities to work together.Courtesy: ANI

While traditional domains of BE projects include fisheries and aquaculture, renewable ocean energy, seaports and shipping, offshore hydrocarbons and seabed minerals as well as marine biotechnology and tourism, the initiatives of the IOR have taken on a more strategic dimension thanks to the other stakeholders at play.

“The seas are no longer a benign medium and globalization has resulted in increased vulnerability of the oceans. The threats and challenges in the maritime domain of the Indian Ocean are as wide and varied as they come. Who could have imagined that in the 21st century we would once again be grappling with pirates or that the major threat in the maritime domain would emanate from asymmetric warfare and maritime terrorism?

The other challenges include arms trafficking, drug smuggling, human trafficking and poaching,” said Admiral RK Dhowan, who served as the Chief of Indian Navy from 2014 to 2016, and currently the chairman of the National Maritime Foundation in New Delhi. “The instabilities and tensions in the Indian Ocean Region have the potential to flow into the maritime domain and the situation may best be described as fragile,” he said during a lecture delivered at the Australian National University.

Towards blue economy

Indian Navy undertakes Amphibious operations in the blue waters of Indian Ocean. New Delhi’s convergence of strategic interests with Australia in strengthening Blue Economy (BE) initiatives in the IOR could prove to be a successful tool in harnessing the IOR’s rising geopolitical influence.
Indian Navy undertakes Amphibious operations in the blue waters of Indian Ocean. New Delhi’s convergence of strategic interests with Australia in strengthening Blue Economy (BE) initiatives in the IOR could prove to be a successful tool in harnessing the IOR’s rising geopolitical influence.Courtesy: ANI

While geo-economic and environmental consequences for India and Australia are far too large to ignore, they have also created significant opportunities to work together – from boosting maritime defence infrastructure to fighting global warming and the destruction of precious marine resources. The ever-increasing environmental risks have added to the threat of climate change in the IOR, with both posing a major risk to the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in India and Australia.

“The IOR holds great significance in the future world order in terms of economic growth, natural resources, as well as major sea lines of communication. However, the economic geography of the IOR is not just expanding, it’s also being re-shaped and de-stabilised by China’s overarching influence through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), dominance over critical sea trade routes, and debt diplomacy,” said Ria Kasliwal, a Fellow with the Observer Research Foundation.

“For India and Australia, security and stability in the IOR is crucial. Being geographically and economically central to the IOR, any geo-economic contestations will have a huge impact on India… For Australia, there is an emerging acknowledgment of the importance of stability in the IOR, especially as the consistently increasing trade between Australia and the IOR will be under risk given China’s influence. Australia learnt the negative consequences of extreme dependence on China, having faced economic retaliation from the latter over the former’s inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus,” she said.

With vast maritime interests at stake, India has thus emerged as one of the pillars and key enablers of IOR, boosting peace and stability in the region as well harnessing the forces of blue economy.

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