From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Regional Maritime Information Fusion Centre (RMIFC)
Mains level : Paper 3- Increasing maritime domain awareness
The article analyses India’s efforts in increasing the maritime domain awareness while increasing the cooperation with the neighbourhood and other countries.
Indian Navy improving domain awareness
- The enemy at sea is often unrecognisable — a terrorist, a pirate, a criminal or a sea robber.
- Of late, the Indian Navy has been on a drive to improve domain awareness in the Indian Ocean.
- The Indian Navy’s efforts seem focused primarily on monitoring Chinese activity in the Eastern Indian Ocean, particularly in the seas around the Andaman and Nicobar islands.
- The Navy is seeking to expand India’s surveillance footprint by setting up radar stations in the Maldives, Myanmar and Bangladesh.
- Mauritius, the Seychelles and Sri Lanka have already integrated into the wider coastal radar chain network.
Increasing international cooperation
- Seven Indian Ocean countries — Bangladesh, Myanmar, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Mauritius and the Seychelles — will soon post Liaison Officers at the Indian Navy’s Information Fusion Centre-Indian Ocean Region in Gurugram.
- France already has an officer at the IFC.
- Four other Indo-Pacific navies — Australia, Japan, the U.K and the U.S. — have also agreed to position officers at the centre.
- As a result of such cooperation, IFC is fast emerging as the most prominent information hub in the Eastern Indian Ocean.
- India is increasing engagement in the Western Indian Ocean by positioning a Liaison Officer at the Regional Maritime Information Fusion Centre (RMIFC) in Madagascar.
- India has also posted an officer at the European Maritime Awareness in the Strait of Hormuz (EMASOH) in Abu Dhabi to assist in the monitoring of maritime activity.
Stronger partnership with France
- Delhi’s moves in the Western and South-Western littorals have been facilitated by France.
- Two countries have signed a logistics agreement in 2019.
- France is keen for a stronger partnership in the maritime commons.
- France has been instrumental in securing ‘observer’ status for India at the Indian Ocean Commission and is pushing for greater Indian participation in security initiatives in the Western Indian Ocean.
- However, the Indian Navy’s priority remains South Asia, where the naval leadership remains focused on underwater domain awareness in the Eastern Indian Ocean.
Concerns over increasing Chines presence
- There is concern that the Chines navy may be poised to develop a generation of quieter submarines that would be hard to detect.
- As a result, India has moved to expand its underwater detection capabilities in the Eastern chokepoints.
- India might also partner Japan in installing an array of undersea sensors near the Andaman Islands to help detect Chinese submarines.
India as a security provider: Manifestation of SAGAR
- India’s initiatives in the maritime domain are motivated by more than just strategic considerations.
- Shipping agreements with 21 countries in the Indian Ocean have enabled a comprehensive picture of maritime traffic.
- Efforts are under way to help smaller island states build capacity to combat regional threats.
- India’s military satellite (GSAT-7A) may soon facilitate a real-time sharing of maritime information with partners.
- These endeavours are a manifestation of Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) that advances the idea of India as a ‘security provider’ and ‘preferred partner’ in the Indo-Pacific region.
- Indian initiatives, however, are yet to bring about an alignment of objectives and strategies of regional littoral states.
- While cooperative information sharing allows for a joint evaluation of threats, countries do not always share vital information timeously.
To bring real change, India must ensure seamless information flow, generating operational synergy with partners, and aim to expand collaborative endeavours in shared spaces.