[op-ed snap] Narendra Modi’s Indian Ocean opportunity

  • Theme: Indian interests in forging economic links with Indian Ocean rim countries.
  • Opportunities in the region: The Indian Ocean has the potential to become the most important source of new global growth over the next 20 years.
  • According to research, India will be the world’s fastest growing nation in the decade to 2024. Also, four out of the world’s six fastest growing economies over that same period, will also be in east or southern Africa.
  • Other countries in the wider region are likely to grow comparably quickly too.
  • Issues: Lack of connectivity in the region- While these nations are set to grow individually, the links between them are often feeble.
  • Estimates suggest that a third of global bulk cargo and two-thirds of oil shipments cross the Indian Ocean. But most of this heads off elsewhere, rather than being traded between countries in the region.
  • Will creating a regional body help improve the situation? Possibly not, as an expanded Indian Ocean forum would bring together a diffuse grouping with little in common.
  • Also, the response to previous attempts to push alternative regional bodies is also hardly encouraging e.g. BIMSTEC
  • Meanwhile, there is little evidence that regional bodies do much to improve trade flows.
  • The way ahead: Taking cues from the success of China’s grand One Belt, One Road initiative, India should make a bigger, unilateral push to improve regional connectivity, including greater financial support for new infrastructure investment, and a new push to reduce trade barriers, beginning with its own.
  • E.g. pushing projects like the mooted Myanmar-Bangladesh-India gas pipeline, or providing greater development funding assistance to poorer neighbours.

Survey of polymetallic sulphides

  1. Initial estimated resource of polymetallic nodules on the site retained by India on the central Indian Ocean basin is 380 million tonnes
  2. However, the actual estimates will vary depending on the results of a detailed survey and exploration, coupled with results of test mining of nodules upon developing the mining technology
  3. Indian organisations such as the National Institute of Ocean Technology and the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research are involved with these surveys and developing specialised shipping vehicles
  4. Challenge: To develop the specialised drills and extraction-technology required to fish out the metals

What are Deep seabed polymetallic sulphides?

  1. Contain: Iron, copper, zinc, silver, gold and platinum in variable constitutions
  2. Formation: These are the precipitates of hot fluids from upwelling hot magma from the deep interior of the oceanic crust
  3. Interest: These compounds in the ocean ridges have attracted worldwide attention for their long-term commercial and strategic values

India sets sights on gold in ocean

  1. The Union Cabinet approved a proposal by the Earth Sciences Ministry to sign the agreement with the International Seabed authority (ISA)
  2. Aim: To get exclusive rights to mine for so-called polymetallic sulphides over 10,000 sq km around parts of central and southwest Indian ridges in the ocean
  3. Importance: While the long-term mining projects will fructify only over decades, they will be of immense strategic and commercial value
  4. Background: In 2002, India was granted permission only to explore ocean regions and prospect for precious metals
  5. The ISA, under the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), governs non-living resources of the seabed of international waters

Colombo port project not a security threat to India: Ranil

  1. News: Sri Lankan PM said that the Colombo Port City project will not have any impact on Indian security
  2. Background: China and Sri Lanka have decided to develop Colombo Port city into a financial hub
  3. Significance: Project will give a chance to Indian firms to invest in a Sri Lankan venture
  4. Sri Lankan PM also rejected the contention that China will manage the operations of Hambantota port

China, Sri Lanka eye new infra road map to anchor ties

  1. Context: Visit by Sri Lankan PM Ranil Wickremesinghe to Beijing
  2. What? Defining a new blueprint, based on rapid infrastructure development, to rail their growing ties for the future
  3. Affirmation by both countries supporting the $1.4 billion Colombo Port City project
  4. Opportunity: The end of Sri Lanka’s civil war and China’s adoption of its 13th five-year plan along with its Going Abroad strategy

Protests against China-funded Colombo Port City project continue

  1. Context: Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s planned visit to China
  2. News: Sri Lankan government is inching towards an agreement to revive the Colombo Port City Project
  3. Why:  adverse impact would be caused to marine ecology, environment and fishermen’s livelihood due to the project
  4. Govt response:  revival of the project is linked to compliance with all the norms and regulations

Learn more about String of Pearls

  1. Geopolitical theory: Regarding potential Chinese intentions in the Indian Ocean region
  2. Network of: Chinese military and commercial facilities and relationships along its sea lines of communication
  3. Extends from the Chinese mainland to Port Sudan
  4. Major choke points: The Strait of Mandab, the Strait of Malacca, the Strait of Hormuz and the Lombok Strait
  5. Strategic centers: Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Maldives and Somalia
  6. Indications of: China’s growing geopolitical influence through concerted efforts to increase access to ports and airfields, expand and modernize military forces & stronger diplomatic relationships with trading partners

Raja-Mandala: Maritime India versus Continental Delhi

The international fleet review is a reminder of India’s capabilities to help build an open, secure and prosperous Indian Ocean

  1. While bringing the Indian navy’s second international fleet review to a close at Visakhapatnam, PM emphasised, once again, the centrality of the oceans for India’s prosperity and security.
  2. On the economic front, India’s interests have become truly global.
  3. More than 40 per cent of its current GDP is linked to international trade. And most of this trade is sea-borne.
  4. On the positive side, Delhi has become increasingly conscious of its larger responsibility to provide public goods in the maritime domain.
  5. The political and naval leaderships have acknowledged the urgent need to cultivate special maritime relationships with key partners
  6. Amid the altering regional balance of power in the Indian Ocean
  7. The announcement that India will host its first-ever global maritime summit in April this year reflects Modi’s eagerness to shake Delhi out of its continental stupor
  8. The real challenge is to plugging the gap between, insufficient financial and institutional resources and the absence of effective bureaucratic mechanisms
  9. To implement declared objectives have meant that the gulf between India’s maritime promise and performance remains wide

Critical note on China’s “One belt One Road” initiative

  1. It undertakes 2 initiatives of Maritime Silk Road (MSR) and Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) on land.
  2. From Indian perspective, we need to have a broader geo strategic vision for Indian Ocean.
  3. Scenario is accentuated by Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka pledging support to China on this.
  4. Just like the Chinese, India needs to protect its core areas of interests such as trade, economy and resources driving the outreach of India’s maritime interests.

Maritime Silk Road to reset Beijing-Colombo ties

  1. In his visit last year, Xi won support from Sri Lanka and neighbouring Maldives for a new maritime Silk Road.
  2. China enjoyed close ties with Mahinda Rajapaksa but Sirisena’s administration has ordered all China-funded projects to be reviewed.
  3. But as the news develops now, the two leaders discussed a $1.5bn China-funded port city project Colombo and affirmed longstanding ties.

Project Mausam – India’s answer to China’s Maritime Silk Road

  1. It is a transnational program aimed to restore India’s ancient maritime routes and cultural links with republics in the region.
  2. Emphasizes on the natural wind phenomenon (monsoon winds) used by Indian sailors in ancient times for maritime trade.
  3. India also faces the difficult job of matching China’s stress on building landmark infrastructure in the region, including ports in Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

    Discuss: Good time to remind yourself that India agreed to support Iranian Chabahar port project on the shores of the Arabian Sea. Its close to the Pakistan’s Gwadar port (built with Chinese help).

Questions (attempt in the comments section)

1

Discuss why the Indian Ocean is considered as critical to the future of the world and India.

2

The problem in establishing strategic presence in the Indian Ocean region is that India’s ambitions seem to be running ahead of its capacity.” In the light of the slew of projects announced by India in the Indian Ocean region, comment on the statement.

3

Why is securing its interests in Indian Ocean important for India? How can India make use of its strategic advantage in Indian Ocean to counter possible threats by the rise of China? Critically examine.

4

India is facing new maritime challenges in the Indian ocean. Examine these challenges and explain what should be India’s strategy in addressing these challenges.







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