Insights into Editorial: Full text of interview with Admiral Sunil Lanba, Chief of Naval Staff

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Insights into Editorial: Full text of interview with Admiral Sunil Lanba, Chief of Naval Staff


Context:

The Goa Maritime Conclave (GMC) was inaugurated by Honourable Defence minister at INS Mandovi, Goa. The first Goa Maritime Conclave saw the participation of Ten Indian littoral states.

For our collective aspirations to bear fruition and their impact to be sustainable, having a peaceful, stable and secure maritime environment in the region is a prerequisite.

What is the aim of Goa Maritime Conclave (GMC)?

The conclave was aimed at “Addressing Regional Maritime Challenges” wherein the deliberations were focused on emerging maritime threats and force structuring, maritime domain awareness, maritime security architecture, and maritime security challenges in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). 

  • It aims to bring together like minded nations to evolve and formulate collective responses to emerging challenges in the maritime domain.
  • It would also provide an opportunity to communicate our viewpoints in a forthright manner and collectively shape a favourable maritime environment for all countries in the region.

Reason for Security challenges in IOR

Though globalisation have enabled economics to shape transactional relationships between nations, incoherent behaviour by certain nations are preventing these very relationships from evolving beyond their transactional nature.

  • The IOR has progressively gained centre-stage largely due to the political impact of its regional dynamics on international geo-politics.
  • Increasing Chinese presence in Djibouti and the Indian Ocean.
  • On land, the unresolved borders and riparian disputes which are predominantly a legacy of the colonial era are some of the key causes of conflict.
  • Further, this stalemate in international relationships, is a product of many causes such as ideological differences, political insecurities, economic dependency, technological dependencies, inequitable access to resources, geographical imperatives etc.
  • The net impact of these differences is that trust deficit and tensions between nations continue to persist, on account of perceived challenges to sovereignty, despite positive economic interactions between them.

What is the outcome and take away from GMC?

  • The most important outcome is everyone acknowledged the centrality and importance of the Indian Ocean as a key gateway to connect the East and the West
  • The dependence of the global economy on the sea lanes of communication.
  • The key takeaways have been
  • The importance of coordination of efforts is realized.
  • Common security threats across all countries are identified.
  • Agreed on greater degree of coordination and information sharing to take things forward to provide maritime security and safety of the global commons of the Indian Ocean.

What are the threats identified and what is the plan to overcome them?

Common security threats identified are non-traditional threats in the form of maritime terrorism, unregulated fishing, and illegal fishing in the global commons, pollution, at sea piracy, drug and human trafficking.

  • It is agreed on need to put in place a coordination mechanism.
  • India already has architectures available with several island nations. As part of conclave, coordinated patrols are planned with a number of countries who are participating.
  • Identified the ways on how the information can be exchanged.
  • India will continue to work with likeminded nations.

Extra-regional navies making permanent presence in the Indian Ocean

When you look at geo-strategic situation in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), what is happening on the ground is a fact of life.

  • There is permanent presence of a large number of extra-regional navies in the IOR especially in the Northern Indian Ocean where at any given time there over 100 multilateral ships in the vicinity.
  • We need to be deploying surveillance missions so that we are aware what is happening.

Are we looking at more countries coming in as part of ‘coordinated patrols’?

India does coordinated patrols and joint patrols with nations who are our maritime neighbours.

  • We already doing it with Indonesia, Myanmar and Thailand.
  • We are doing Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) patrols for island nations of Maldives, Mauritius and Seychelles.
  • Some of the avenues available are – increasing the frequency, increasing the assets which are deployed during the coordinated patrols.
  • India has the Malabar series of exercise with US and now the Japanese Maritime Self Defence force joining it. That exercise will continue.
  • Chief of naval staff says that India is not looking at joint patrols with the US Navy at this moment.

What are the measures taken by India to safeguard its and other littoral states’ interests in IOR?

  1. Increasing the footprint of the Indian navy under the Mission Based Deployment
  • At the recent Navy Commanders Conference one key thing that came was increasing the footprint of the Indian navy under the Mission Based Deployment.
  • Consensus reached within the Navy to have mission based deployment so that our areas of interest can be kept under permanent surveillance.
  • It started off by having a ship deployed permanently in Andaman Sea and approaches to the Malacca straits.
  • Then mission based deployments are made in the North Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman and Persian Gulf.
  • Similarly, in the Northern part of Bay of Bengal and our surveillance in the South part, near Sri Lanka was increased.
  • Also sending ships to the Lombok and Sunda straits. So the ingress and egress routes of Indian Ocean region are being kept under surveillance so that we have better maritime domain awareness and know what is happening.

 

  1. Undertaking Capacity building:
  • India has been working in close liaison with island nations Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka.
  • It (India) is assisting them in capacity and capability enhancements in the form of training to their personnel and other is proving assets in the form of ships and aircraft.
  • India is also working with them in coordinated patrols, keeping surveillance of EEZ on their request.

 

  1. Information exchange with the littoral states
  • India has been examining signing of technical agreements and sharing of white shipping information.
  • India already has agreements in place with 12 countries and most of them have been operationalized.
  • Through these agreements information has already started to flow in and it is resulting in greater awareness.