Rajya Sabha TV- Security Scan: Security issues in Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean Region has been gaining potential for geopolitical rivalry due to its trade & economy. Chinese initiatives like String of Pearls and the One Belt One Road initiative signify its strong presence in Indian Ocean and these are in direct conflict with Indian interests in the region. India too has taken its counter measures to protect its interests in Indian Ocean.
- The sea lanes in the Indian Ocean are considered strategically most important in the world with more than 80% of the world’s seaborne trade in oil transits passing through it through Strait of Hormuz, Strait of Malacca and Bab-el-Mandab Strait. Major ports like Port of Singapore, Mumbai, Paradip, Durban, etc are present on its coasts.
- Indian Ocean has allowed interaction among people, culture and civilizations since long time. It provides major sea routes connecting the Middle East, Africa and East Asia with Europe and Americas. It carries a particularly heavy traffic of petroleum products from oil fields of Persian Gulf & Indonesia.
- The emergence of initiatives like String of Pearls is indicative of China’s growing geopolitical influence to increase access to ports and airfields, expand and modernise military forces, and make stronger diplomatic relations with trading partners. Chinese companies have made investments in several ports like Gwadar, Hambantota, Colombo, etc.
- China has been increasing presence of its navy looking at US which has deployed its navy all around the world. So, India needs to take strong counter measures as well. Chinese underwater presence, viz. submarines, are also a point of concern for India.
- In 1970s, India used to take Indian Ocean as a zone of peace. It was the leader of Non-Aligned Movement and did not want any superpower to be present in the region. From that stage, India is now moving towards forming Quadrilateral group with US, Japan and Australia. This shall improve security provisions in the Indian Ocean.
- Apart from security issues, Indian Ocean is also important for development of the areas that fall in the region so that trade and economy may prosper. Many of the island states in Indian Ocean are dependent on resources for which development is needed.
- Indian navy is moving towards being the net security provider in the Indian Ocean Region. India is also doing joint patrolling exercises with its maritime neighbours apart from the cooperation with major players like US and Japan. US navy has unparalleled power projection capabilities and operational strength, and is the major naval force in the waters of South and South-East Asia.
- India has historically focussed heavily on anti-piracy and counter-terrorism efforts across Indian Ocean. A number of efforts for this have been done in coordination with American forces now.
China has been increasing its presence in Indian Ocean Region. It is also making its navy more advanced and building its own aircraft carriers. So, India needs to keep itself at pace for which alliances like Quadrilateral are welcome step. Peace is very important in the region as economies are now shifting from West to East.