• India and the US have recently held their first Maritime Security Dialogue recently which focussed on boosting cooperation in the challenging sector with Washington rebalancing its military assets to Asia Pacific.
Key points of the dialogue
• The dialogue covered issues of mutual interest, including exchange of perspectives on maritime security development in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region as well as prospects for further strengthening cooperation between India and the United States in this regard.
• It focused on strategic maritime security issues like
1. Asia-Pacific maritime challenges,
2. naval cooperation,
• They also agreed to launch a bilateral Maritime Security Dialogue
• The other initiatives agreed include the conclusion of a “white shipping” technical arrangement to improve data sharing on commercial shipping traffic and Navy-to-Navy discussions on submarine safety and anti-submarine warfare.
• They have also put out a joint strategic vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions, calling for the freedom of navigation and unimpeded movement of ships through the global commons or high seas, in an oblique reference to China putting embargos on the movement of ships and airplanes through the disputed waters of the South China Sea.
Why India must guard its maritime boundary?
• The primary maritime security challenges in the South and South-West Indian Ocean (SSWIO) include piracy at sea, narotics and small arms/light weapons trafficking and people trafficking. Increasingly, maritime terrorism is a distinct threat.
• It is important to focus on maritime security to ensure that the sea lines of communications (SLOCs) are kept free for navigation by ships and naval vessels.
• For deepening the evolving partnership in the maritime domain,
• For India to retain it's dominant position in the Indian ocean region and safeguard it's commercial and strategic interests, it is time that India should turn its strategic vision towards the maritime region.
India US recent developments in securing defence ties
• U.S.-India Defence Technology and Partnership Act in US Congress which would institutionalize Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) framework between India and US.
• signing of agreements like logistics support agreement (LSA) which will allow use of Indian bases for logistic purposes and vice versa, and likewise Basic Exchange and cooperation agreement (BECA).
• Emergence of US as the largest arms supplier to India
India’s engagement with multiple partners can be discussed as
• Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) between US and India
• Malabar exercise and plans to buy US-2 amphibian aircrafts from Japan
• Collaboration with Australia through IOR-ARC and IONS to establish Indian Ocean as Zone of Peace
Why is India engaging in multiple agreements?
• Now, India is focusing on multiple partners instead of relying on a single ally due to the fact that it wants to diversify the nations it shares contacts with for its defence and security.
• India hedges by deepening relations with the US and status quo middle powers such as Australia
• The strategic dimensions of the bilateral defence relationship has now moved from its politico-strategic attributes to taking on economic-strategic ramifications. So, India has shifted its focus from depending on a single country.
• To ensure security of the Indian ocean region, India needs to have good terms with all stakeholders in the region. So, India is working with the states in the Indian Ocean region and others to strengthen security and economic cooperation.
• The new focus on the Asia-Pacific highlights the security and economic dimensions. The US rebalancing of forces and counter-measures by China have created a new cold war. New partnerships are in the making in the Asia-Pacific, this has shifted the focus to need for multilateral partners.
• India is no longer hesitant about taking a larger responsibility for securing the Indian Ocean, promoting regional mechanisms and working with great powers like the United States and France with which India shares many interests. So, India has initiated a new process of multilateralism.
• The US’s rebalancing towards Asia, would mean assigning higher priority and political, economic and security resources to the Asia-Pacific region because of its dynamism and the increased assertiveness of a rising China.
• It would enable India to enhance its defence capabilities and take proactive steps to build and install marine infrastructure, provide patrol ships, contribute to capacity building and assist in patrolling to protect the SSWIO region against traditional and non-traditional maritime threats.
• The collaboration with different countries is likely to have additional benefits as well in addition to the defence security.
• Closer relationship with Australia, Japan and America is not only necessary for Defense purpose, but it can also help ensure continuous energy supply for India,
• It will help India overcome New Challenges in the Indian Ocean such as China's presence in the IO , building military naval bases, China increasing cooperation with strategically important SL ,Maldives , Pakistan and China -US rivalry for dominance by not depending on a particular country.
Additional measures India can take to address the maritime challenges
1) Build its naval strength, rapidly modernize its navy, develop civilian maritime infrastructure and island territories. Undertake maritime operations across littoral states to expand capacity.
2) Deepen bilateral, trilateral and multilateral military security cooperation with countries in the Indian Ocean.
3) Strengthen naval cooperation with maritime neighbors like SL , Maldives . Increase naval assistance and develop stronger relations with other island countries like Seychelles and Mauritius.
4) Expand its Multilateral-ism through forums like IO Rim Association and IO Naval Symposium.