Indian Navy Updates

Ram Madhav writes: India, making waves in the Indian Ocean


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA)

Mains level : India's historical maritime prowess and its subsequent decline

indian navy ships shivalik and kamorta visit ho chi minh city, vietnam

Central Idea:

The article highlights the historical significance of India’s maritime prowess in the first millennium and its subsequent decline, emphasizing the crucial role of naval power in economic prosperity. It underscores the shift of global power dynamics towards the Indo-Pacific region and the vital importance of the Indian Ocean to India’s trade and security interests. It calls for renewed attention towards leveraging India’s maritime potential and fostering cooperation among Indian Ocean nations to address common challenges.

Key Highlights:

  • India’s dominance in the first millennium attributed to maritime strength and extensive trade networks.
  • Decline in naval power coincided with economic decline during colonial rule.
  • Lack of focus on maritime affairs persists post-independence, hindering India’s maritime capabilities.
  • Indo-Pacific region emerges as the new global power center.
  • Indian Ocean identified as vital to India’s trade and energy security.
  • Indian government takes proactive steps to enhance cooperation and address common challenges in the Indian Ocean region.

Key Challenges:

  • Historical neglect of maritime affairs leading to underdevelopment of naval capabilities.
  • Competition from other major maritime powers like the United States and China.
  • Non-traditional challenges such as climate change and natural disasters impacting maritime security and trade.

Main Terms:

  • Maritime prowess
  • Indo-Pacific
  • Indian Ocean
  • Naval power
  • Trade routes
  • Maritime security

Important Phrases:

  • “He who rules on the sea will shortly rule on the land also”
  • “Lords of the Sea”
  • “Peninsular character”
  • “British Lake”


  • “He who rules on the sea will shortly rule on the land also.”
  • “So far as India is concerned, it should be remembered that the peninsular character of the country and the essential dependence of its trade on maritime traffic give the sea a preponderant influence on its destiny.” – K M Panikkar


  • Indian rulers’ dominance over the oceans in the first millennium facilitated extensive trade networks and economic prosperity.
  • The Portuguese, Dutch, French, and British conquest of the seas in the second millennium challenged India’s maritime dominance.

Useful Statements:

  • The Indian Ocean is not just a maritime geography but a civilization, carrying India’s cultural and civilizational influence.
  • Eighty per cent of India’s external trade and 90 per cent of its energy trade occur through Indian Ocean routes.

Examples and References:

  • Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA)
  • Fa-Hien’s account of maritime trade in ancient India.
  • Establishment of the Royal Indian Navy during British rule.
  • K M Panikkar’s warnings about India’s maritime importance.
  • The 7th Indian Ocean Conference in Perth, Australia.

Facts and Data:

  • India’s share of the world’s GDP was almost 33 per cent in the first millennium.
  • The Indian Ocean covers over 74 million square kilometers.
  • The Indian Navy has less than 200 combat vessels compared to 400 for the United States and 500 for China.

Critical Analysis:

The article effectively highlights India’s historical maritime prowess and its subsequent decline, emphasizing the importance of reinvigorating India’s naval capabilities in the modern context. It critiques the historical neglect of maritime affairs by Indian leadership and calls for greater attention towards leveraging India’s geostrategic position in the Indo-Pacific region.

Way Forward:

  • Prioritize investments in maritime infrastructure and naval capabilities.
  • Strengthen cooperation with Indian Ocean nations to address common challenges.
  • Increase diplomatic engagement in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • Enhance awareness and appreciation of India’s maritime heritage and geopolitical significance among policymakers and the public.

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