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[RSTV Archive] UN Debate: Maritime Security

India’s PM has addressed the UNSC open debate on the issue of Enhancing Maritime Security. In this article, we will discuss and analyse all aspects of this issue.

Maritime Security

  • Maritime security is one of the latest buzzwords of international relations.
  • Major actors in maritime policy, ocean governance and international security have in the past decade started to include maritime security in their mandate or reframed their work in such terms.
  • Core dimensions of maritime security involves the concept of blue economy, food security and the resilience of coastal populations.
  • A secure maritime environment provides the precondition for managing marine resources.

Dimensions of maritime security

Why it is significant?

  • Maritime security is of utmost significance to the world community as there are maritime concerns ranging from piracy at sea to illegal immigration and weapon smuggling.
  • It also deals with threats of terrorist attacks and environmental catastrophes.
  • For India, maritime security is an important aspect of national security as it has a coastline of over 7,000 km.
  • With advancement in technology, physical threats in the maritime region have now been overshadowed by technological threats.
  • India’s exports and imports have remained mostly across the shipping lanes of the Indian Ocean.
  • Therefore, securing Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOCs) have been an important issue for India in the 21st century.

Need for an agenda

  • In today’s economy, the oceans have an increased importance, allowing all countries to participate in the global marketplace.
  • More than 80 percent of the world’s trade travels by water and forges a global maritime link.
  • About half the world’s trade by value, and 90 percent of the general cargo, are transported in containers.
  • Many countries have invested significant resources in maritime infrastructure, trade, energy supply chains, cargo movements and processes.
  • China, undeniably a continental country, claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea islands and their adjacent waters.

5-point agenda for enhancing maritime cooperation

[1] Removal of barriers to legitimate maritime trade:

  • Global prosperity depends on the active flow of maritime trade. Any hindrance in maritime trade can threaten the global economy, PM said.
  • Maritime trade has always been part of the civilizational ethos of India.
  • PM termed this principle as ‘SAGAR’ Security and Growth for All in the Region.

[2] Resolution of maritime disputes peacefully in accordance with international law:

[3] Fight threats from natural disasters, non-state actors:

  • PM said the Indian Navy has been patrolling to counter piracy in the Indian Ocean since 2008.
  • It is enhancing the common maritime domain awareness of the region through our White Shipping Information Fusion Centre.
  • India has provided support for hydrographic surveying and training of maritime security personnel to several countries.

[4] Conservation of marine resources:

  • Our oceans directly impact our climate. Hence, it is very important that we keep our maritime environment free of pollutants like plastic waste and oil spills.
  • We also need to take joint steps against over-fishing and marine poaching, PM said.
  • He also emphasized the need for increased mutual cooperation in Ocean Science research.

[5] Promoting responsible maritime connectivity:

  • PM said it is well understood that the creation of infrastructure is necessary to boost maritime trade.
  • He advocated for appropriate global norms and standards to ensure that such infrastructure projects are carried out as per the fiscal sustainability and absorption capacity of the host countries.

A veiled dig at China

  • PM has indirectly cautioned that fiscal sustainability and absorption capacity of the countries have to be kept in mind in the development of such infrastructure projects.
  • The wanton disregard shown by China towards established maritime norms and rule of law has been unprecedented in modern times.
  • PM pointedly referred to “dangerous encounters between vessels at sea and provocative actions to advance unlawful maritime claims” in the South China Sea (SCS).
  • India’s initiative is a wake-up call for everyone to recognize and address the real and imminent threat to our common maritime heritage.

If Beijing locates, dusts off and re-reads the provisions of UNCLOS, it would be a major step forward.

Outcome of the UNSC meet

  • The meet was significant. Barring China, all others stressed the centrality of UNCLOS and international cooperation.
  • India’s concept of SAGAR and its vison of Indo-Pacific is receiving greater acceptability. Nations accept that the objective should be development for all.
  • The convergence of Russia and India is of great importance. While Russia is aware of the tension growing in the SCS, it is also concerned that none should disturb the strategic balance in the Arctic.
  • China has to make a choice whether it wishes to act as a responsible and mature nation and accept the international laws or would continue to flout them.

Securing the Indian Ocean

  • The Indian Ocean is the major gateway accounting for nearly 75 per cent of the world’s maritime trade and half of global oil consumption.
  • Any threats to the free movement of ships on these oceans and unfair practices have an impact on the global economy.
  • Therefore, regional trade relations based on internationally acceptable principles should be the way forward.

Way forward

  • The onus is on India to expand its horizons to safeguard its strategic and economic interests.
  • India’s legacy to the global policy basket could be advocacy for sustained focus on the maritime domain and the correlation with globalization, the blue economy, the health of the ocean and the overall impact on human security.
  • Security and equitable growth for all by husbanding the global ocean for future generations is a laudable goal and encouraging the UNSC to prioritize this issue is a worthy cause.

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