Future Geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific Region
The deliberations at the two-day annual Maritime Power Seminar 2013 was to imbibe a sense of the Indo-Pacifics geopolitical posit on the world stage, its strategic compulsions and opportunities, and undertake dispassionate and rigorous analyses of issues
The deliberations at the two-day “Annual Maritime Power Seminar 2013” was to imbibe a sense of the Indo-Pacific’s geopolitical position on the world stage.
The aNNUaL MaRITIMe PoWeR Seminar 2013 was kick-started on February 21, 2013, at the Institute for defence Studies and analyses (IdSa), under the aegis of the National Maritime Foundation. The two-day seminar was Òto imbibe a sense of WKh ,QGR-3dFLfiF’V JhRSRoLWLFdo SRVLW RQ WKh world stage, its strategic compulsions and opportunities, and undertake dispassionate and rigorous analyses of issues relevant WR WKh ,QGR-3dFLfiF LQ WKh QhdU IXWXUh.
In his welcome address, admiral ( Retd) Sureesh Mehta, Chairman, National Maritime Foundation, said, ÒFor many long years, India has tended to view the Indian ocean as a cohesive entity which drove diplomatic relations between countries on its periphery, while a fairly dominant asia3dFLfiF ZdV VhhQ PRUh WKURXJK WKh hyhV RI regionalism. The integrated arena of the ,QGLdQ 2FhdQ dQG WKh WhVWhUQ 3dFLfiF, ZKLFK has more recently come to be referred to dV WKh ,QGR-3dFLfiF, KdV ehFRPh d Nhy VWUdtegic arena in the 21st century. and it is only of late that the world has begun to see WKh LQWhJUdWhG ,QGR-3dFLfiF dV RQh VLQJXodU maritime theatre. The shift in the strategic centre of gravity to the east makes it necessary that we explore the emerging secuULWy LPShUdWLYhV LQ WKh eURdGhU ,QGR-3dFLfiF region, what with the new constellation of economic and political stars such as China, Indonesia, Japan, australia and India, appearing on the geostrategic horizon.Ó
While long-standing maritime boundary disputes in the South China Sea attract much media attention, disagreements over territorial waters and eeZ in the Bay of Bengal are also on the rise. India, Bangladesh dQG 9LhWQdP WRGdy fiQG WKhPVhoYhV LQ WKh middle of such a dispute.
he focused on the China factor by saying, for some time now, there has been concern that the Indian ocean region could witness a major military surge by China, turning it into an arena for great power competition in asia to exploit the ÔÔstring of pearlsÕÕÑ a colloquial term for Chinese-funded ports and related infrastructure along the Indian ocean littoralsÑ to keep delhi off-balance. as China strengthens its ties with the Indian ocean Rim countries, India has sought to improve its naval and security cooperation with countries of east asia, including Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan.
Keynote Address by CNS
In his keynote address, Chief of the Naval Staff, admiral d.K. Joshi stated, ÒToday, there is a growing realisation of the centrality of the oceans in our socio-economic prosperity and recognition of India as an emerging power.Ó
he pointed out the fact that the term ‘,QGR-3dFLfiF’ fiQGV LQFUhdVLQJ PhQWLRQ LQ the strategic discourse today is evidence of the growing prominence of the region dV d JhRVWUdWhJLF hQWLWy. ,W VLJQLfihV WKh fusion of two geopolitically sensitive and economically vibrant regions, the shores of which are washed by the Indian and the 3dFLfiF 2FhdQV. GLYhQ WKh UhJLRQ’V YLWdoLWy, LWV GyQdPLFV FRXoG Zhoo GhfiQh WKh IXWXUh trajectory of political interactions of the world in the 21st century.
he cited three unrelated events which were instrumental in shaping global poliWLFV RI WRGdy. 7Kh fiUVW ZdV WKh eUhdN XS RI the Soviet Union in 1991. It brought the curtains down on the Cold War, thus causing a tectonic shift in the global strategic landscape. he attributed some of the success of globalisation, and the unprecedented economic cooperation among nations, to the new post-Cold War environment. The second event was the Gulf War of 1991, which followed the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The war marked a paradigm shift in the international security architecture from superpower rivalry to a new unipolar world order. The war also catalysed a revolution in military affairs, and more importantly, refocused global attention on the strategic relevance of Indian ocean. The third event was IndiaÕs economic woes in 1991, when India had to resort to extreme contingency measures to avert a balance of payment crisis. This became instrumental in propelling India towards economic liberalisation, which, two decades down the line, is widely read as the script of IndiaÕs growth story. There have been many more, such as 9/11, which have shaped the geopolitics in profound ways.
he addressed the core issue of geoSRoLWLFV RI WKh ,QGR-3dFLfiF UhJLRQ, ZKLFK spans three major continents and is home to nearly half the worldÕs population. From the east Coast of africa on the Western reaches of the Indian ocean across Middle east, the Indian subcontinent and Southeast asia to the Far-east and australia; the ,QGR-3dFLfiF UhJLRQ LV dQ dPRUSKRXV PLx RI numerous sub-systems. Geopolitics of the ,QGR-3dFLfiF LV WKhUhIRUh dQ dJJUhJdWh RI the dynamics of its constituents, emanating from the interplay within and between these sub-systems. Vibrant economic and civilisational exchanges over thousands of years, characterises political dealings between these disparate sub-systems. of VLJQLfiFdQFh LV WKh IdFW WKdW WKh RFhdQV remained a common thread in their interaction due to their dependence on maritime trade.
Hh UhLWhUdWhG WKdW WKh , QGR-3dFLfiF LV also prone to asymmetric threats such as piracy and maritime terrorism. Piracy in and around the Strait of Malacca currently is low key, only on account of ongoing stringent measures by the concerned littorals. Piracy off Somalia is another example of the maritime consequences of instability and lawlessness on land. With volatile regions dGMRLQLQJ dQG ZLWKLQ WKh ,QGR-3dFLfiF, WKhUh is need to guard against such threats while managing own maritime affairs.
,Q FRQFoXVLRQ, Kh UdLVhG WKh TXhVWLRQ: are we prepared to tackle the emerging challenges, either as a nation or as part of the larger regional or global community? The current national and international laws and conventions may be inadequate to meet evolving challenges such as piracy and highjacking of merchantmen, threat of suicide attacks, misuse of shipping containers, proliferation of WMd-related material, etc. Nuclear weapons are perceived to be game-changers in geopolitics. With new states pursuing clandestine nuclear weapon programmes, global power equations could shift in future. When such changes happen across volatile and resource-rich regions, how do we manage their adverse consequences in the maritime domain? Given the vast expanse of the oceans, no state alone can ensure security of the global commons. every state, therefore, has an obligation to contribute to maritime security, commensurate to its abilities, preferably in a cooperative framework.
“,QGR-3dFLfiF—7Kh /dUJhU 3LFtureÓ was presided over by ambassador Leela K. Ponappa and included papers presented by Rear admiral (Retd) K. Raja Menon on ÒMaritime Geopolitics in the ,QGR-3dFLfiF”; dQG DU HRQJ 1RQJ IURP WKh National Institute South China Sea Studies, deputy director, Research Centre for ocean Law and Policy. The next two papers on ÒUS 3LYRW WR WKh ,QGR-3dFLfiF” ZhUh SUhVhQWhG ey Captain Justin Jones, Royal australian Navy and ambassador h.K. Singh, India.
The session on ÒIssues and &KdoohQJhV LQ WKh ,QGR-3dFLfiF 5hJLRQ” ZdV chaired by Commodore (Retd) C. Uday Bhaskar. While dr Vijay Sakhuja articulated views on Òasymmetric Maritime ThreatsÓ, Lt Colonel Ibrahim hilmy of Maldives talked on ÒMaritime Piracy and the emergence of Private Maritime Security Companies in Indian ocean RegionÓ. ÒThe three GeosÑ Geopolitical, Geo-economic and Geophysical ChangesÑ and the Indo3dFLfiF” ZdV dGGUhVVhG ey &ohR 3dVNdo, &dQada. Rear admiral (JG) W.h.o. Teuteberg of South africa, talked about ÒCollaborative mechanisms to deal with piracy and suchlike maritime challenges in the regionÓ.
day two of the seminar began with session on the most topical subject of recent time, The South China Sea Focus, which was chaired by Vice admiral Pradip K. Chatterjee, deputy Chief of the Naval Staff. a very cogent presentation was made by Tomako Kiyota, Japan, on the ÒSouth China Sea ConundrumÓ. ambassador Yogendra Kumar of India spoke on ÒLittoral States role in the South China SeaÓ. This was followed by a very involved presentation by dr Mohan Guruswamy of India on ÒNon-resident Stakeholders in the South China SeaÓ. Commodore Caesar C. Taccad from the Philippines, spoke about ÒSouth China Sea boundary vexationÓ. Priyanka deSouza of India made a forceful presentation on Òhydrocarbon ProspectsÓ. The last presentation of the session was by veteran strategic thinker of eminence, Professor hasjim djalal, Indonesia on ÒaSeaN percepWLRQV dQG WKh Zdy dKhdG”, ZKLFK UhflhFWhG the most pragmatic views on coping with the evolving situation within the region.
The session on ÒRealignments and RebalancingÓwas presided over by Vice admiral (Retd) d.K. dewan. during the session, dr Vikash Ranjan articulated views on ÒIoR aRC and Regional dynamicsÓ. This was followed by dr arvind Virmani of India making a presentation on “$3(& dQG WKh ,QGR-3dFLfiF: $Q (FRQRPLF RealityÓto emphasise on the re-emergence of asia in the world economic order. Captain Yuki Sekiguchi from Japan spoke on the strategic importance of ÒMultilateral CooperationÓ within the region for peaceful coexistence. The last presentation of the session was made by Rear admiral P.a.d.R. Perera, Sri Lanka, on ÒInternational aid and humanitarian efforts.Ó
The concluding session of the seminar comprised the closing remarks by admiral (Retd) Sureesh Mehta, and the valedictory address by ambassador K.S. Bajpai of India. Finally, the vote of thanks was given by Commodore J.S. Shergill, executive director, National Maritime Foundation.
Admiral (Retd) Sureesh Mehta, Chairman, NMF; Admiral D.K. Joshi, Chief of the Naval Staff and Vice Admiral (Retd) Pradeep Kaushiva, Director, NMF, launching a book during the seminar