Indian Ocean Power Competition

Indian Ocean Power Competition

AUKUS Partnership for Indo-Pacific

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : AUKUS, Quad

Mains level : Maritime cooperations for Indo-Pacific

The Biden administration has announced a new trilateral security partnership for the Indo-Pacific, between Australia, the U.K., and the U.S. (AUKUS).

What is AUKUS?

  • AUKUS, as the partnership is being called, will strive over the next 18 months to equip Australia with nuclear propulsion technology.
  • As part of this, Australia will acquire nuclear-powered submarines with help from the UK and the US.
  • It will also involve a new architecture of meetings and engagements between the three countries, as well as cooperation across emerging technologies (applied AI, quantum technologies and undersea capabilities).
  • Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines, when they deploy, will be armed with conventional weapons only and not nuclear weapons.

Why such an alliance?

  • Tensions have been high between Australia and an increasingly assertive China, its largest trade partner.
  • Australia banned Chinese telecom giant Huawei in 2108 and its PM called for an investigation into the origins of COVID-19 last year.
  • China retaliated by imposing tariffs on or capping Australian exports.

Not to substitute Quad or others

  • This alliance does not and will not supersede or outrank existing arrangements in the Indo-Pacific region such as the Quad, which the US and Australia form with India and Japan, and ASEAN.
  • AUKUS will complement these groups and others.

Significance

  • There has been only one other time that the US has shared as “extremely sensitive” submarine propulsion technology — more than 60 years ago, back in 1958, with Great Britain.
  • The US is working to move past the 20-year war in Afghanistan and the chaotic U.S. exit from Kabul.
  • The Biden Administration has put countering China at the center of his economic and national security efforts, describing it as the biggest challenge of this era.

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Indian Ocean Power Competition

India’s leadership in the debate on maritime security

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UNCLOS

Mains level : Paper 3- Maritime security

Context

Indian PM recently addressed  the UNSC High-Level Open Debate on “Enhancing Maritime Security: A Case For International Cooperation”, convened by India.

Highlights of the UNSC debate on Maritime Security

  • India’s leadership: As President of the UN Security Council for the month of August, India’s leadership in the debate on maritime security has strengthened its credentials as a key stakeholder in the maritime commons.
  • Ocean as a common heritage: Prime Minister Modi described the oceans as a common heritage for humankind and a lifeline for the future of the planet.
  • Culture, history, geography: In enunciating five principles, Mr. Modi linked free and open trade to India’s civilisational ethos.
  • He outlined a far-sighted vision rooted in India’s culture, history and geography.
  • SAGAR: The relevance of SAGAR (Security And Growth For All In The Region) was also reiterated.
  • Need for a common framework: The global community needs to develop a common framework to deal with contemporary challenges, including maritime disputes and natural disasters.

Importance of high seas

  • Ninety per cent of global trade is conducted on the high seas, for the simple reason that it continues to be the most cost-effective mode of transport.
  • Spread of prosperity: Freedom of navigation and unimpeded commerce are key to the spread of prosperity. 
  • Critical supply chains depend on the concept of mare liberum (open seas).

Suggestions and role of India

1) Maritime dispute settlement  based on international law

  • The Prime Minister advocated the peaceful settlement of maritime disputes on the basis of international law.
  • The importance of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as the legal framework governing all maritime activity needs to be emphasised.
  • India’s acceptance of the award by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2014 paved the way for India and Bangladesh to put aside their maritime dispute and forge even closer ties.
  • In 2016, China summarily rejected the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling in favour of the Philippines.
  • The neo-colonial concept of mare clausum (closed seas) in the South China Sea is anathema to the future of the global economy.

2) Deling with natural disasters and maritime threats

  • Natural disasters and maritime threats posed by non-state actors have grown exponentially.
  • The global community needs to rally together to deal effectively with the ravages of cyclones, tsunami and maritime pollution.
  • First responder: India’s role as ‘first responder’ in the Indian Ocean, whether in thwarting piracy or providing relief after the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004, is well-documented.
  • The Indian Coast Guard’s operational reach and capability has vastly improved in dealing with environmental hazards and piracy.
  • White shipping agreements: India now has white shipping agreements with several countries.
  • Cooperation: The Indian Navy’s state-of-the-art Information Fusion Centre-Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) based in Gurugram hosts officers from the United States, Japan, France, Australia and the United Kingdom.
  • Training:The Indian Navy regularly offers a large number of training slots to friendly countries.

3) Environmental concerns

  • The oceans remain our lifeline.
  • Yet, they have been overwhelmed by plastic waste which chokes all forms of marine life.

4) Connectivity and infrastructure

  • Connectivity: The development of connectivity and infrastructure are also a major priority.
  • There are heightened concerns today over China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
  • Openness and transparency India stands for openness and transparency in the execution of projects, based on local priorities, with in-built fiscal viability and environmental sustainability.
  • Blue Dot Network: The U.S., Japan and Australia are also promoting better standards for global infrastructure through the Blue Dot Network.

Conclusion

India’s natural interests stretch across both the Indian and Pacific Oceans as reflected in its inclusive Indo-Pacific vision. No doubt, India’s initiative will further the prospects for a stable and enduring maritime environment.

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Indian Ocean Power Competition

Five-point Framework for Maritime Security

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Need for maritime cooperation

 

A week into India’s United Nations Security Council (UNSC) presidency, PM Modi has outlined a five-point framework for maritime security debate at UNSC.

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.

Threats to maritime security

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.

Indian Ocean Power Competition

Advocating for sustained focus on the maritime domain

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SAGAR

Mains level : Paper 3- Security and growth for all in maritime domain

Context

In an innovative departure from normal practice, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will preside (in virtual mode) over the UN Security Council, on Monday (August 9) when India holds the President’s chair for one month. The subject of debate is maritime security.

Issues with global maritime security

  • FON issue: There is  tension in the South China Sea over freedom of navigation (FON) rights in international waters and how China has laid claim to “territoriality” based on artificial structures (not natural islands).
  • This formulation has not been accepted by the US that has exercised transit rights in these waters.
  • Many ASEAN nations and Quad members such as Japan, Australia and India subscribe to the principle of FON and do not accept the Chinese interpretation of the “nine-dash-line”.
  • Traditional challenges: Piracy and non-traditional challenges at sea such as gun-running and smuggling are old chestnuts.
  • Maritime pollution: Accidents in the oceans have added to the anxiety about marine pollution and its downstream consequences for the health of the oceans.
  • Global warming: A UN report has come up with grim statistics about the impact of global warming on the chemistry of oceans.
  • This study notes that oceans have become more acidic as sea water absorbs more carbon dioxide.
  • Furthermore, the upper layers of the open ocean have lost between 0.5 per cent and 3.3 per cent of their oxygen since 1970 as temperatures have risen.

Way forward for India at UNCS: Security and equitable growth

  • The subject to be deliberated upon by the UNSC members is “Enhancing maritime security: A case for international cooperation”.
  • This would be an extension of India’s advocacy of SAGAR (security and growth for all in the region) in relation to the Indian Ocean region (IOR).
  •  At the UNSC strategic and security issues such as the South China Sea and FON would find little consensus as China is a permanent member and would stall any meaningful debate.
  • Focus on global goods: What may find support for a useful debate at the UNSC would be those areas that could be brought under the rubric of the “global good”.
  • For instance, the welfare of seafarers who are the sinews of the global merchant marine, has received scant attention in this Covid-scarred period and the IMO (International Maritime Organisation) has been unable to effectively address such issues.
  • Correlation with globalisation: India can also advocate for sustained focus on the maritime domain and the correlation with globalisation, the blue economy, the health of the ocean and the overall impact on human security.

Conclusion

Security and equitable growth for all by husbanding the global ocean for future generations is a laudable goal and encouraging the UNSC to prioritise this issue is a worthy cause.

Indian Ocean Power Competition

Places in news: Agalega Island

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Agalega Island

Mains level : Indian ocean power competition

Mauritius has denied a report that it has allowed India to build a military base on the remote island of Agalega.

Agalega Island

  • Agaléga are two outer islands of Mauritius located in the Indian Ocean, about 1,000 kilometers north of Mauritius island.
  • The islands have a total area of 2,600 ha (6,400 acres).
  • There is an MoU between the governments of Mauritius and India to develop the Agaléga islands and resolve infrastructural problems faced by Agaleans.

Why in news?

  • India asserts that these new facilities are part of its Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) policy, which aims to increase maritime cooperation between countries in the region.
  • Mauritius, for its part, has indicated that its coastguard personnel will use the new facilities.
  • But it is clear that the Indian investment of $250m in developing an airfield, port, and communications hub on this remote island is not aimed at helping Mauritius develop its capacity to police its territorial waters.

Significance of this area

  • The Agalega area is currently a blind spot for the Indian Navy and by building a military facility in it, New Delhi hopes to expand its maritime domain awareness.
  • In times of conflict, knowing the location of enemy ships and submarines, without being detected in the process, creates a significant advantage.
  • China’s naval forays into this region are the true motivator for its expanding naval presence.
  • In peacetime, effective maritime domain awareness helps establish international partnerships with like-minded militaries and also acts as a deterrent to both state and non-state adversaries, by signaling reach.

Conclusion

  • The Indian Ocean is now increasingly contested.
  • Whether or not China is deterred by India’s surveillance efforts, Agaléga is now a pawn in this new era of major power competition across the Indian Ocean and indeed the wider Indo-Pacific region.

Indian Ocean Power Competition

[pib] Exercise Kavach

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Exercise Kavach

Mains level : NA

A large scale all-services exercise ‘Exercise Kavach’ will be conducted next week under the aegis of the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC), the only Joint Forces Command of the country.

All-time generic question seeking ‘match the pairs’ can be asked from the news as such.  Click here for more exercises.

Exercise Kavach

  • The tri-services exercise aims to fine-tune joint war-fighting capabilities and SOPs towards enhancing operational synergy in the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal.
  • This exercise would involve assets of Indian Army, Indian Navy, Indian Air Force and Indian Coast Guard.
  • The exercise involves synergized application of maritime surveillance assets, coordinated air and maritime strikes, air defence, submarine and landing operations.
  • Concurrently Joint Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) exercise involving various technical, electronic and human intelligence from three services will be conducted.
  • The ISR exercise will validate the capabilities of intelligence gathering from space, air, land and sea-based assets/ sensors, its analysis and sharing to achieve battlefield transparency.
  • It would carry out amphibious landing operations, air landed operation, helicopters-borne insertion of Special Forces from sea culminating in tactical follow-on operations on land.

Indian Ocean Power Competition

[pib] Mission Sagar – II

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mission SAGAR

Mains level : India's SAGAR policy of Indian Ocean Region

As part of ‘Mission Sagar-II’, Indian Naval Ship Airavat had entered Port Sudan.

Mission SAGAR, unlike other missions, can create confusion with the name and its purpose. Make note of such special cases. UPSC can ask such questions as one liner MCQs.

Mission Sagar – II

  • Mission Sagar-II, follows the first ‘Mission Sagar’ undertaken in May-June 2020, wherein India reached out to Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles, Madagascar and Comoros, and provided food aid and medicines.
  • As part of Mission Sagar-II, Indian Naval Ship Airavat will deliver food aid to Sudan, South Sudan, Djibouti and Eritrea.
  • This mission is in line with the Prime Minister’s vision of Security and Growth for All in the Region ‘SAGAR’ and highlights the importance accorded by India to relations with her maritime neighbours.

Back2Basics

SAGAR Programme (Security and Growth for All in the Region)

  • SAGAR is a term coined by PM Modi in 2015 during his Mauritius visit with a focus on the blue economy.
  • It is a maritime initiative which gives priority to the Indian Ocean region for ensuring peace, stability and prosperity of India in the Indian Ocean region.
  • The goal is to seek a climate of trust and transparency; respect for international maritime rules and norms by all countries; sensitivity to each other`s interests; peaceful resolution of maritime issues; and increase in maritime cooperation.
  • It is in line with the principles of the Indian Ocean Rim Association.

IORA (Indian Ocean Rim Association)

  • Established in 1997 in Ebene Cyber City, Mauritius.
  • First established as Indian Ocean Rim Initiative in Mauritius on March 1995 and formally launched in 1997 by the conclusion of a multilateral treaty known as the Charter of the IORA for Regional Cooperation.
  • It is based on the principles of Open Regionalism for strengthening Economic Cooperation particularly on Trade Facilitation and Investment, Promotion as well as Social Development of the region.

Indian Ocean Power Competition

Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Freedom of Navigation Operations

Mains level : Not Much

Indian Navy is scheduled to hold another Passage Exercise (PASSEX) with the US to undertake Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOP).

Try this question:

Q.What do you mean by Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs)? What are its legal backings?  Discuss its significance.

Freedom of Navigation Operations

  • FONOPs are closely linked to the concept of freedom of navigation, and in particular to the enforcement of relevant international law and customs regarding freedom of navigation.
  • Freedom of navigation has been thoroughly practised and refined, and ultimately codified and accepted as international law under UNCLOS, in a legal process that was inclusive and consent-based.
  • The drafting of UNCLOS was driven in part by states’ concerns that strong national maritime interests could lead to excessive maritime claims over coastal seas, which could threaten freedom of navigation.
  • FONOPs are outgrowths of this development of international law, based on sovereign equality and international interdependence.

Significance of FONOPs

  • FONOPs are a method of enforcing UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) and avoiding these negative outcomes by reinforcing freedom of navigation through practice.
  • It is exercised by sailing through all areas of the sea permitted under UNCLOS, and particularly those areas that states have attempted to close off to free navigation as defined under UNCLOS.

Back2Basics: UNCLOS

  • The Law of the Sea Treaty formally known as the Third United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was adopted in 1982 at Montego Bay, Jamaica. It entered into force in 1994.
  • The convention establishes a comprehensive set of rules governing the oceans and to replace previous U.N. Conventions on the Law of the Sea
  • The convention defines the distance of 12 nautical miles from the baseline as Territorial Sea limit and a distance of 200 nautical miles distance as Exclusive Economic Zone limit.

Indian Ocean Power Competition

Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Greater Male Connectivity Project

Mains level : India-Maldives Relations

Following up on India’s announcement of a $500 million package to the Maldives, the Exim Bank of India and the Maldives’s Ministry of Finance signed an agreement for $400 million in Male.

Try this question from 2014:

Q.Which one of the following pairs of islands is separated from each other by the ‘Ten Degree Channel’?

(a) Andaman and Nicobar

(b) Nicobar and Sumatra

(c) Maldives and Lakshadweep

(d) Sumatra and Java

Greater Male Connectivity Project

  • The GMCP consists of a number of bridges and causeways to connect Male to Villingili, Thilafushi and Gulhifahu islands that span 6.7 km.
  • It would ease much of the pressure of the main capital island of Male for commercial and residential purposes.
  • When completed, the project would render the Chinese built Sinamale Friendship bridge connecting Male to two other islands, thus far the most visible infrastructure project in the islands.
  • At present, India-assisted projects in the region include water and sewerage projects on 34 islands, reclamation project for the Addl island, a port on Gulhifalhu, airport redevelopment at Hanimadhoo, and a hospital and a cricket stadium in Hulhumale.

Indian Ocean Power Competition

Ocean Services, Modelling, Applications, Resources and Technology (O-SMART) SCHEME

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : O-Smart Scheme

Mains level : India's deep ocean mission

The Union Ministry of Earth Sciences has informed about the progress of O-SMART Scheme.

Do you know?

India’s ambitious Deep Ocean Mission is an umbrella scheme under O-SMART initiative. Bottom of Form

O-SMART Scheme

  • The services rendered under the O-SMART will provide economic benefits to a number of user communities in the coastal and ocean sectors, namely, fisheries, offshore industry, coastal states, Defence, Shipping, Ports etc.
  • It seeks to address issues relating to SDG-14, which aims to conserve the use of oceans, marine resources for sustainable development.
  • It also provides the necessary scientific and technological background required for the implementation of various aspects of Blue Economy.
  • The State of Art Early Warning Systems established Scheme will help in effectively dealing with ocean disasters like Tsunami, storm surges.
  • The technologies being developed will help in harnessing the vast ocean resources of both living and non-living resources from the seas around India.
  • A fleet of research vessels viz., Technology Demonstration vessel SagarNidhi, Oceanographic Research Vessel SagarKanya, Fisheries and Oceanographic Research Vessel SagarSampada and Coastal Research Vessel SagarPurvi have been acquired to provide required research support.

Some of the modified objective

The objectives of O-SMART are:

  • To generate and regularly update information on Marine Living Resources and their relationship with the physical environment in the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ),
  • To periodically monitor levels of seawater pollutants for health assessment of coastal waters of India, to develop shoreline change maps for assessment of coastal erosion due to natural and anthropogenic activities,
  • To develop a wide range of state-of-the-art ocean observation systems for the acquisition of real-time data from the seas around India,
  • To generate and disseminate a suite of user-oriented ocean information, advisories, warnings, data and data products for the benefit of society,
  • To develop high-resolution models for ocean forecast and reanalysis system,
  • To develop algorithms for validation of satellite data for coastal research and to monitor changes in the coastal research,
  • Acquisition of 2 Coastal Research Vessels (CRVs) as replacement of 2 old CRVs for coastal pollution monitoring, testing of various underwater components and technology demonstration,
  • To carry out exploration of Polymetallic Nodules (MPN) from a water depth of 5500 m in the site of 75000 sq.km allotted to India by United Nations in Central Indian Ocean Basin, to carry out investigations of gas hydrates,
  • Exploration of polymetallic sulphides near Rodrigues Triple junction in 10000 sq. km of the area allotted to India in International waters by International Seabed Authority/UN and,
  • Submission of India’s claim over continental shelf extending beyond the Exclusive Economic Zone supported by scientific data, and Topographic survey of EEZ of India.

Also read:

Explained:  India’s Deep Ocean Mission

Indian Ocean Power Competition

India joins Djibouti Code of Conduct

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Djibouti Code of Conduct/ Jeddah Agreement

Mains level : Maritime Security of India

India has joined the Djibouti Code of Conduct/ Jeddah Amendment (DCOC/JA) as Observer, following the high-level virtual meeting.

Try this MCQ:

Q.The Djibouti Code of Conduct is related to:

(a) International trade in precious stones (b) Maritime Security (c) Data sharing on Terrorism related activities (d) Data Localization

Djibouti Code of Conduct

  • DCOC/JA is a grouping on maritime matters comprising 18 member states adjoining the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, the East coast of Africa and Island countries in the IOR.
  • The DCOC, established in January 2009, is aimed at the repression of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the Western Indian Ocean Region, the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.

Provisions of the code

  • The Code provides a framework for capacity building in the Gulf of Aden and Western Indian Ocean to combat the threat of piracy.
  • It is a partnership of the willing and continues to both deliver against its aims as well as attract increasing membership.
  • The Code was signed on January 29 by the representatives of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Maldives, Seychelles, Somalia, the United Republic of Tanzania and Yemen.
  • Since the meeting, further countries have signed bringing the total to 18 countries from the 21 eligible.

Significance for India

  • India joins Japan, Norway, the UK and the US as Observers to the DCOC/JA.
  • As an Observer at the DCOC/JA, India looks forward to working together with DCOC/JA member states towards coordinating and contributing to enhanced maritime security in the Indian Ocean Region.
  • Delhi has been steadily increasing its strategic footprints in Western and Eastern Indian Ocean besides Eastern African coastal states.

Indian Ocean Power Competition

Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Greater Male Connectivity Project

Mains level : India-Maldives Relations

India will fund the implementation of the Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP) in the Maldives with $500 mn packages.

Try this question from 2014:

Which one of the following pairs of islands is separated from each other by the ‘Ten Degree Channel’?

(a) Andaman and Nicobar

(b) Nicobar and Sumatra

(c) Maldives and Lakshadweep

(d) Sumatra and Java

About Greater Male Connectivity Project

  • The GMCP will consist of a number of bridges and causeways to connect Male to Villingili, Thilafushi and Gulhifahu islands that span 6.7 km.
  • It would ease much of the pressure of the main capital island of Male for commercial and residential purposes.
  • When completed, the project would render the Chinese built Sinamale Friendship bridge connecting Male to two other islands, thus far the most visible infrastructure project in the islands.
  • At present, India-assisted projects in the region include water and sewerage projects on 34 islands, reclamation project for the Addl island, a port on Gulhifalhu, airport redevelopment at Hanimadhoo, and a hospital and a cricket stadium in Hulhumale.

Indian Ocean Power Competition

Indian Ocean Commission (IOC)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IOC

Mains level : Indian ocean security

India is looking to post Navy Liaison Officers at the Regional Maritime Information Fusion Centre (RMIFC) of IOC in Madagascar and also at the European maritime surveillance initiative in the Strait of Hormuz.

Note the members of the IOC form map. One may get confused considering India as a permanent member.

About Indian Ocean Commission (IOC)

  • The IOC is an intergovernmental organization that was created in 1982 at Port Louis, Mauritius and institutionalized in 1984 by the Victoria Agreement in Seychelles.
  • The IOC is composed of five African Indian Ocean nations: Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Réunion (an overseas region of France), and Seychelles.
  • These five islands share geographic proximity, historical and demographic relationships, natural resources and common development issues.

Aims and Objectives of IOC

  • IOC’s principal mission is to strengthen the ties of friendship between the countries and to be a platform of solidarity for the entire population of the African Indian Ocean region.
  • IOC’s mission also includes development, through projects related to sustainability for the region, aimed at protecting the region, improving the living conditions of the populations and preserving the various natural resources that the countries depend on.
  • Being an organisation regrouping only island states, the IOC has usually championed the cause of small island states in regional and international fora.

India and IOC

  • India was accepted as an observer getting a seat at the table of the organization that handles maritime governance in the western Indian Ocean.
  • India’s entry is a consequence of its deepening strategic partnership with France as well as its expanding ties with the Vanilla Islands.
  • The IOC has four observers — China, EU, Malta and International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF).

Significance of IOC

  • For India, the importance of joining this organization lies in several things.
  • First, India will get an official foothold in a premier regional institution in the western Indian Ocean, boosting engagement with islands in this part of the Indian Ocean.
  • These island nations are increasingly important for India’s strategic outreach as part of its Indo-Pacific policy.
  • This move would enhance ties with France which is the strong global power in the western Indian Ocean.
  • It lends depth to India’s SAGAR (security and growth for all in the region) policy unveiled by PM Modi in 2015.
  • The move, India hopes, would lead to greater security cooperation with countries in East Africa.

Indian Ocean Power Competition

Mission SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SAGAR Programme

Mains level : India's SAGAR policy of Indian Ocean Region

As part of Mission SAGAR, INS Kesari has entered Port Victoria, Seychelles to providing assistance in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Try this question from CSP 2017:

Q. Which of the following is geographically closest to Great Nicobar?

(a) Sumatra

(b) Borneo

(c) Java

(d) Sri Lanka

Mission SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region)

  • SAGAR is a term coined by PM Modi in 2015 during his Mauritius visit with a focus on the blue economy.
  • It is a maritime initiative which gives priority to the Indian Ocean region for ensuring peace, stability and prosperity of India in the Indian Ocean region.
  • The goal is to seek a climate of trust and transparency; respect for international maritime rules and norms by all countries; sensitivity to each other`s interests; peaceful resolution of maritime issues; and increase in maritime cooperation.
  • It is in line with the principles of the Indian Ocean Rim Association.

Back2Basics: IORA (Indian Ocean Rim Association)

  • Established in 1997 in Ebene Cyber City, Mauritius.
  • First established as Indian Ocean Rim Initiative in Mauritius on March 1995 and formally launched in 1997 by the conclusion of a multilateral treaty known as the Charter of the IORA for Regional Cooperation.
  • It is based on the principles of Open Regionalism for strengthening Economic Cooperation particularly on Trade Facilitation and Investment, Promotion as well as Social Development of the region.

Indian Ocean Power Competition

[pib] Mission SAGAR

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SAGAR Programme

Mains level : India's SAGAR policy of Indian Ocean Region

As part of India’s outreach amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, ships have departed for Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles, Madagascar and Comoros, to provide Food Items, COVID related Medicines including HCQ Tablets and Medical Assistance Teams under Mission Sagar.

Mission SAGAR, unlike other missions, can create confusion with the name and its purpose. Make note of such special cases. UPSC can ask such questions as one liner MCQs.

Mission SAGAR

  • As part of the mission, INS Kesari would enter the Port of Male in the Republic of Maldives, to provide them 600 tons of food provisions.
  • The deployment is in consonance with the PMs vision of Security and Growth for All in the Region ‘SAGAR’.
  • This deployment is in line with India’s role as the first responder in the region and builds on the excellent relations existing between these countries to battle the COVID-19 pandemic and its resultant difficulties.
  • The operation is being progressed in close coordination with the Ministries of Defence and External Affairs, and other agencies of the govt.

Back2Basics

SAGAR Programme (Security and Growth for All in the Region)

  • SAGAR is a term coined by PM Modi in 2015 during his Mauritius visit with a focus on the blue economy.
  • It is a maritime initiative which gives priority to the Indian Ocean region for ensuring peace, stability and prosperity of India in the Indian Ocean region.
  • The goal is to seek a climate of trust and transparency; respect for international maritime rules and norms by all countries; sensitivity to each other`s interests; peaceful resolution of maritime issues; and increase in maritime cooperation.
  • It is in line with the principles of the Indian Ocean Rim Association.

IORA (Indian Ocean Rim Association)

  • Established in 1997 in Ebene Cyber City, Mauritius.
  • First established as Indian Ocean Rim Initiative in Mauritius on March 1995 and formally launched in 1997 by the conclusion of a multilateral treaty known as the Charter of the IORA for Regional Cooperation.
  • It is based on the principles of Open Regionalism for strengthening Economic Cooperation particularly on Trade Facilitation and Investment, Promotion as well as Social Development of the region.

Indian Ocean Power Competition

Significance of Indian Ocean Commission for India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IOC and its member countries.

Mains level : Paper 2- How increasing cooperation with IOC could help India in its vision enshrined in SAGAR?

India got an observer status at IOC (Indian Ocean Commission) in March. This article discusses the significance of IOC in the Western Indian Ocean. The IOC is also significant for India as India’s leadership is made clear in SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) which is “consultative, democratic and equitable”. There are things that India need to learn from IOC like-“bottom-up regionalism” and there are things that India can contribute to IOC like its expertise. These issues are discussed here.

About Indian Ocean Commission (IOC)

  • Founded in 1982, the IOC is an intergovernmental organisation.
  • It comprises five small-island states in the Western Indian Ocean: the Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Réunion (a French department), and Seychelles.
  • Though Réunion brings a major power, France, into this small-state equation, decisions in the IOC are consensus-based.
  • While France’s foreign policy interests are represented, the specifics of Réunion’s regional decision-making emerge from its local governance structures.
  • Over the years, the IOC has emerged as an active and trusted regional actor, working in and for the Western Indian Ocean and implementing a range of projects.

Maritime security by IOC and India’s interests

  • More recently, the IOC has demonstrated leadership in the maritime security domain.
  • Since maritime security is a prominent feature of India’s relations with Indian Ocean littoral states, India’s interest in the IOC should be understood in this context.
  • However, India has preferred to engage bilaterally with smaller states in the region.
  • The IOC is a cluster of small states which do not seek a ‘big brother’ partnership.
  • The IOC has its own regional agenda.
  • The IOC has made impressive headway in the design and implementation of regional maritime security architecture in the Western Indian Ocean.

MASE program and RMIFC to help maritime security

  • What is MASE program? The European Union-funded programme to promote Maritime Security in Eastern and Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean.
  • In 2012, the IOC was one of the four regional organisations to launch the MASE Programme
  • Under MASE, the IOC has established a mechanism for surveillance and control of the Western Indian Ocean with two regional centres.
  • RMIFC: The Regional Maritime Information Fusion Center (RMIFC), based in Madagascar, is designed to deepen maritime domain awareness by monitoring maritime activities and promoting information sharing and exchange.
  • The Regional Coordination Operations Centre (RCOC), based in Seychelles, will eventually facilitate joint or jointly coordinated interventions at sea based on information gathered through the RMIFC.
  • These centres are a response to the limitations that the states in the region face in policing and patrolling their often enormous Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs).
  • They deliver an urgently needed deterrent against unabating maritime crime at sea.
  • Which was only partly addressed by the high-level counter-piracy presence of naval forces from the EU, the Combined Maritime Forces, and Independent Forces.
  • Seven states in the region have signed agreements to participate in this multilateral maritime security architecture, and once ratified, will provide its legal foundation.
  • Many major powers have expressed interest in accessing the RMIFC.

In 2013, a question based on the “strings of pearls” was asked by the UPSC. In 2014 question with respect to the  South China Sea and the freedom of navigation was asked. On similar lines, a question can be asked from the Western Indian Ocean region dealing with maritime security. Such a question would require information about IOC.

What India can learn from IOC?

  • The IOC’s achievements offer an opportunity for India to learn, and also to support.
  • The IOC style of ‘bottom-up regionalism’ has produced a sub-regional view and definition of maritime security problems and local ownership of pathways towards workable solutions.
  • A 2019 policy brief published by the IOC ‘Strengthening Maritime Security in the Western Indian Ocean’, sets out how the counter-piracy response off the coast of Somalia delivered unprecedented regional and international cooperation in the domain of maritime security.
  • However, it resulted in multiple players, the duplication of actions, and regional dependence on international navies.
  • The IOC has been seeking more sustainable ways of addressing maritime security threats in the region, with the RMIFC and RCOC as part of this response.
  • Its regional maritime security architecture is viewed locally as the most effective and sustainable framework to improve maritime control and surveillance and allow littoral States to shape their own destiny.
  • Moreover, with proper regional coordination, local successes at curbing maritime threats will have broader security dividends for the Indian Ocean space.

How India can contribute?

  • Nearly all littoral states in the Western Indian Ocean need assistance in developing their maritime domain awareness and in building capacity to patrol their EEZs.
  • All would benefit from national information fusion centres that can link to those of the wider region.
  • With its observer status, India will be called upon to- 1. Extend its expertise to the region. 2. Put its satellite imagery to the service of the RMIFC. 3. Establish links with its own Information Fusion Centre.
  • As a major stakeholder in the Indian Ocean with maritime security high on the agenda, India will continue to pursue its interests and tackle maritime security challenges at the macro level in the region.
  • However, as an observer of the IOC, a specific, parallel opportunity to embrace bottom-up regionalism presents itself.
  • There are those in the Western Indian Ocean who are closely watching how India’s “consultative, democratic and equitable” leadership will take shape.

Conclusion

India, with its principles of leadership made clear in SAGAR has an opportunity to learn from and partner with IOC to reinforce the maritime security in the Western Indian Ocean.

Indian Ocean Power Competition

Indian Ocean Commission

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IOC

Mains level : Indian ocean security

India was accepted as an observer in the Indian Ocean Commission getting a seat at the table of the organization that handles maritime governance in the western Indian Ocean.

Indian Ocean Commission

  • The Indian Ocean Commission is an intergovernmental organization that was created in 1982 at Port Louis, Mauritius and institutionalized in 1984 by the Victoria Agreement in Seychelles.
  • The COI is composed of five African Indian Ocean nations: Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Réunion (an overseas region of France), and Seychelles.
  • These five islands share geographic proximity, historical and demographic relationships, natural resources and common development issues.

Aims and Objectives of IOC

  • COI’s principal mission is to strengthen the ties of friendship between the countries and to be a platform of solidarity for the entire population of the African Indian Ocean region.
  • COI’s mission also includes development, through projects related to sustainability for the region, aimed at protecting the region, improving the living conditions of the populations and preserving the various natural resources that the countries depend on.
  • Being an organisation regrouping only island states, the COI has usually championed the cause of small island states in regional and international fora.

India and IOC

  • India’s entry is a consequence of its deepening strategic partnership with France as well as its expanding ties with the Vanilla Islands.
  • India had made the application to be an observer. The IOC has four observers — China, EU, Malta and International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF).

Significance

  • For India, the importance of joining this organization lies in several things.
  • First, India will get an official foothold in a premier regional institution in the western Indian Ocean, boosting engagement with islands in this part of the Indian Ocean.
  • These island nations are increasingly important for India’s strategic outreach as part of its Indo-Pacific policy.
  • This move would enhance ties with France which is the strong global power in the western Indian Ocean.
  • It lends depth to India’s SAGAR (security and growth for all in the region) policy unveiled by PM Modi in 2015.
  • The move, India hopes, would lead to greater security cooperation with countries in East Africa.

Indian Ocean Power Competition

[op-ed snap] Navy to the rescue

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 3- Expanding the India's sphere of influence in IOR and humanitarian assistance in the region.

Context

Earlier this week, India sent an amphibious warship, INS Airavat, to Madagascar in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) to help in rescue efforts after the island nation was hit by a cyclone.

Humanitarian operations- Key component of peacetime strategy

  • A key component in IOR: In recent years, humanitarian operations have emerged as a key component of the Indian Navy’s peacetime strategy in the IOR.
    • In March 2019, the Navy deployed four warships for relief operations when Mozambique was hit by Cyclone Idai.
    • Indian naval teams played a stellar role in search and rescue operations and even set up medical camps.
    • A few months later, the Navy sent two warships to Japan to assist in rescue efforts following Typhoon Hagibis.
    • A year earlier, Indian vessels had delivered urgent medical assistance to Sulawesi, Indonesia, after it was struck by a high-intensity earthquake.
    • Operation Samudra Maitri was launched after a telephonic conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Indonesian President Joko Widodo, with naval planners mobilising assets and relief material in quick time.
  • India’s vision for IOR: The Navy’s new humanitarian approach, many says, is a maritime manifestation of India’s vision for the IOR, christened SAGAR (Security And Growth for All in the Region).
    • Lesson’s from tsunami: The Navy’s turn towards human-centred maritime security isn’t recent. It was in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami that naval commanders first recognised the importance of large-scale relief and rescue missions in the IOR.
    • For over a decade, considerable resource and energy have been spent developing specialist capability and skills for naval humanitarian operations.

India- A regional security provider

  • What is changing in India’s stance: What’s new today is New Delhi’s resolve to burnish its ‘regional security provider’ credentials.
    • The Navy has reached out to countries across the Indo-Pacific region, with greater deployment of assets, personnel and specialist equipment, showcasing an ability to undertake complex and diverse missions.
  • The highpoint for India: The highpoint of the Navy’s ‘benign’ efforts was the evacuation of over 1,500 Indian expatriates and 1,300 foreign nationals from Yemen in 2015 amid fighting for control of Aden.
    • Three years later, Indian naval ships were in Yemen again, to evacuate 38 Indians stranded in the cyclone-hit Socotra Island.

How the new role could help India?

  • India’s desire to be the linchpin of security: The Navy’s humanitarian impulse stems from a desire to be a linchpin of security in the IOR.
    • The concept of the first responder: At the core of the evolving operations philosophy is the concept of ‘the first responder’, with the capability and willingness to provide assistance.
    • Extension of the sphere of influence: The above approach has the potential to create an extended sphere of Indian influence in the IOR.
    • Projection of soft power: Naval leaders recognise that benign missions help project Indian soft power and extend New Delhi’s influence in the littorals.
    • Creating goodwill: Prompt response during a humanitarian crisis helps generate political goodwill in the neighbourhood.

Cause for caution with maritime presence

  • The issue with prolonged presence: While low-end naval assets in humanitarian mode create strategic equity for India, the prolonged presence of front-line warships in foreign waters has the potential to make partners anxious.
  • Shaping perception over naval presence: Naval power, experts underline, must be deployed discreetly, shaping perceptions in subtle ways.
    • Need to hide the underlying intent: The key is to not let the underlying intent of a mission appear geopolitical.
    • To ensure that motives aren’t misunderstood, and the assistance provided is efficient and cost-effective, it is best to use dedicated disaster-relief platforms.
  • India lacking inventory hospital ship: However, unlike the U.S. and China that have in their inventory hospital ships fully equipped for medical assistance, India deploys regular warships and survey ships converted for medical aid.
    • India’s improvised platforms do not match the U.S. Navy’s medical ship USNS Mercy or the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s Peace Ark.

Need for greater coordination

  • The Navy’s expanding array of humanitarian missions reveals a need for greater coordination with the Indo-Pacific navies
    • In particular the U.S. Navy, the Royal Australian Navy and the Japanese Self-Defense Forces- which possess significant experience and assets to mitigate humanitarian threats.

Conclusion

As natural disasters in the IOR become more frequent and intense, India’s regional security role is likely to grow exponentially. At the forefront of disaster scenarios, the Indian Navy and Coast Guard would find themselves undertaking demanding missions. Humanitarian operations could serve as a springboard for a larger cooperative endeavour in the maritime commons.

Indian Ocean Power Competition

[op-ed snap] A case of a maritime presence adrift

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- India's role and interest's in IMO and consequences.

Context

The International Maritime Organization (IMO), had mandated that merchant ships should not burn fuel with sulphur content greater than 0.5% beginning January 1.

Why the new sulphur content limit matters?

  • The previous limit of 3.5 %: Before the ban, fuel had a comfortable sulphur content limit of 3.5%, which was applicable to most parts of the world.
  • Problem with low content fuel: Many industry professionals feared that the new very-low-sulphur fuel would be incompatible with the engines and other vessel equipment.
  • Problems with past US limits: Past mandates on sulphur limits in American waters had led to many technical problems. There have been instances of ships having been stranded after fine particles separated out from the fuel, damaging equipment and clogging up devices.

How such regulations matter for India?

  • Sulphur cap one of the many problems: The global sulphur cap is only one of the many environment-related regulations that have been shaking up the shipping industry.
    • The industry is generally risk-averse and slow to accept changes.
    • For instance, efforts are ongoing to reduce nitrogen oxides (NOx) and ozone-depleting gases.
  • IMO project to decarbonise shipping: Further, the IMO has announced an ambitious project to decarbonise shipping in order to reduce carbon emissions.
  • How it matters for India? These regulations are triggering massive technological, operational and structural changes.
    • They come at a price which will have to be borne to a large extent by developing countries such as India.
    • India among 10 countries: The IMO currently lists India as among the 10 states with the “largest interest in international seaborne trade”.
    • Inadequate participation of India: But India’s participation in the IMO to advance its national interests has been desultory and woefully inadequate.
  • How it could matters: The sulphur cap, for instance-
    • Will reduce emissions.
    • Reduce the health impact on coastal populations but-
    • Ship operational costs are going up since the new fuel product is more expensive.
  • Refineries struggling to meet demand: As refineries including those in India struggle to meet the demand, freight costs have started moving up, with a cascading effect on retail prices.

Significance of shipping and the role of IMO

  • Significance of shipping: Shipping, which accounts for over 90% by volume and about 80% by value of global trade.
    • Role of IMO: It is a highly regulated industry with a range of legislation promulgated by the IMO.
    • The IMO currently has 174 member states and three associate members; there are also scores of non-governmental and inter-governmental organisations.
    • The IMO’s policies or conventions have a serious impact on every aspect of shipping including the cost of maritime trade.
  • How IMO functions
    • The IMO, like any other UN agency, is primarily a secretariat, which facilitates decision-making processes on all maritime matters through meetings of member states.
    • How treaties are made? The binding instruments are brought in through the conventions -to which member states sign on to for compliance -as well as amendments to the same and related codes.
    • Structure of IMO: Structurally, maritime matters are dealt with by the committees of the IMO –
    • The Maritime Safety Committee (MSC).
    • Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC).
    • Technical Cooperation Committee.
    • Legal Committee and the Facilitation Committee.
    • Each committee is designated a separate aspect of shipping and supported by sub-committees. Working groups and correspondence groups support the subcommittees.
  • Role of subcommittees of IMO: The subcommittees are the main working organs, where the proposals from a member state are parsed before they are forwarded to one of the main committees.
    • The main committees, thereafter, with the nod of the Assembly, put the approved proposal for enactment through the Convention, amendments, and codes or circulars.

India’s inadequate efforts at protecting the interest

  • How other countries deal with the issues: To ensure that their maritime interests are protected, the European countries move their proposals in unison and voting or support are given en bloc.
    • Permanent representative: China, Japan, Singapore, Korea and a few others represent their interests through their permanent representative as well as ensuring that a large delegation takes part and intervenes in the meetings.
  • How India is falling short? While these countries have fiercely protected their interests, India has not.
    • No permanent representative: For example, its permanent representative post at London has remained vacant for the last 25 years.
    • Representation at meetings is often through a skeletal delegation
    • India’s presentation inadequate: A review of IMO documents shows that the number of submissions made by India in the recent past has been measly and not in proportion to India’s stakes in global shipping.
  • “High-Risk Area” demarcation issue: The promulgation of “High-Risk Areas” when piracy was at its peak and dominated media headlines.
    • What happened in the issue? The IMO’s demarcation resulted in half the Arabian Sea and virtually the entire south-west coast of India being seen as piracy-infested, despite the presence of the Indian Navy and Coast Guard.
    • The “Enrica Lexie” shooting incident of 2012, off the coast of Kerala, was a direct fallout of the demarcation.
  • What were the consequences of the demarcation issue?
    • Increase in insurance costs: The “High-Risk Area” formulation led to a ballooning of insurance costs; it affected goods coming into or out of India.
    • It took great efforts to revoke the promulgation and negate the financial burden.
    • The episode highlighted India’s apathy and inadequate representation at the IMO.
    • NavIC introduction difficulty: There was also great difficulty in introducing the indigenously designed NavIC (NAVigation with Indian Constellation) in the worldwide maritime navigation system.
  • What could be the consequences in future?
    • EU’s documented procedure: In contrast, the European Union has a documented procedure on how to influence the IMO.
    • Agenda driven by developed countries: New legislative mandates, fitment of new equipment and changes to ship structural designs being brought on have been driven by developed countries.
    • Consequences for India: All the issues pushed by developed countries are not entirely pragmatic from the point of view of India’s interests.
    • Further, it will not be mere speculation to see them as efforts to push products and companies based in the West.

Conclusion

So far, India’s presence and participation in the IMO has been at the individual level. India should now make its presence felt so that its national interests are served. It is time India regained its status as a major maritime power.

 

Indian Ocean Power Competition

Iran, China and Russia’s joint naval drill in Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Geopolitics in Gulf, US-China trade war

Iran, China and Russia began a joint naval exercise in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman, in what is being seen as a response to recent US maneuvers in the region. The drill is expected to further provoke Washington.

Where?

  • The four-day exercise has been launched from the port city of Chabahar in southeastern Iran.
  • The Chabahar port, which is near Iran’s border with Pakistan, was built with Indian assistance and is operated by India.

Why is the Iran-China-Russia naval exercise significant?

  • Since 2019, the region has been a focal point of global tensions.
  • The Gulf of Oman, where the exercise is being held, is a critical waterway as it connects the Arabian Sea to the Strait of Hormuz, a 33-km wide passage which opens into the Persian Gulf.
  • It is located between energy producers Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman (the exclave of Musandam), and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
  • A fifth of the world’s oil passes through this waterway — around 30% of all sea-borne crude oil globally.

Why tensions have peaked?

  • In July, Iran detained a British oil vessel, the Stena Impero, for two months, believed to be in retaliation for an Iranian oil carrier that British authorities detained at Gibraltar earlier in the same month.
  • Tensions rapidly escalated in September, when the US accused Iran of carrying out drone attacks on oil fields in Saudi Arabia.
  • The attacks had immediately reduced Saudi Arabia’s oil production by half (5% of global oil production), until the affected facilities returned to full capacity by the end of the month.
  • Iran denied the allegations, and the responsibility was claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
  • US last year withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Tehran. The US has since pushed for Iranian energy sales to be cut off, crippling Iran’s economy.

Indian Ocean Power Competition

[op-ed snap] India must negotiate growing Chinese presence in Indo-Pacific region

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Power equilibrium in the Indo-Pacific region

Context

  • “Indo-Pacific” is today a buzzword that has been interpreted differently by various countries in their outlook or vision documents.
  • India is increasing the area covered by its Indo-Pacific policy to include the Western Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea.
  • This means that ASEAN is not only the heart of the Indo-Pacific, but includes the Gulf States and Africa.

Indo-Pacific concept

  • The Indo-Pacific is a geographic region of Earth’s seas, comprising the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean, the western and central Pacific Ocean, and the seas connecting the two in the general area of Indonesia.
  • The Indo-Pacific concept is also moving beyond economic, cultural and historical linkages to include an overarching strategic imperative.
  • Since 2011, the term ‘Indo-Pacific’ is being used increasingly in the global strategic/ geopolitical discourse.

When did the power game begin?

  • Back in 1971, when Sri Lanka proposed the notion of an Indian Ocean Zone of Peace (IOZOP), it was more about the presence of Western powers and establishment of foreign bases.
  • Ironically, China then stood with countries like India in opposing bases in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

India’s move forward in Indo-Pacific

  • India earlier opposed the presence of foreign powers in the Indian Ocean but it now carries out joint exercises with a number of them to promote interoperability.
  • It welcomes the presence of the US, Japan and other partner countries in the Indian Ocean as a counter to the growing Chinese presence.
  • In the Pacific Ocean, the debate was never about the presence per se of great powers.

Various power tussle

  • The US military presence on land and sea in the region was taken for granted after World War II.
  • The French and British too, as in the Indian Ocean, continued to have their colonies.
  • As a legacy state of the Soviet Union, Russia has never ceased to be an Indo-Pacific power.
  • It avenged the humiliating destruction of its navy in the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese war by driving Japan out of the northern Korean Peninsula and taking South Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands in 1945.
  • Today, it holds joint exercises with China in the South China Sea and a trilateral exercise with China and South Africa in the Indian Ocean.

Chinese assertion is at the core

  • In general terms, the scramble in the SCS is more about fishing rights, natural resources and the domination of trade and energy sea lines of communication.
  • However, the situation in the South China Sea is more complex.China has yet to produce a clear line with exact co-ordinates on a large-scale map in support of its claims.
  • Earlier, in 1974, China took the Paracel Islands from South Vietnam, with a US in retreat.
  • Later, China took Scarborough in 2012 and used swarming tactics involving fishing boats at Thitu Island against the Philippines in 2019, the defence treaty between the US and the Philippines notwithstanding.

Its inglorious justifications

  • China justifies its increasing forays in the IOR, including with nuclear submarines, by claiming that it has “always” had a historical right to the Indian Ocean, citing the few voyages of Admiral Zheng He’s fleet more than five centuries ago.
  • In fact, there was no Chinese presence in the intervening period because after the brief maritime interludes during the Ming dynasty, China was not a maritime power until recently.

US construct of the Indo-Pacific

  • The US, India, Japan, Australia and many others, advocates freedom of navigation and over-flight, and respect for the rule of law and international norms.
  • It adheres to many tenets of UNCLOS without having ratified the treaty.
  • However, China’s adherence to UNCLOS is more honoured in breach than in the observance.

The new battlefield for US-China trade war

  • The world today is undergoing a fundamental transformation. There are several facets to the emerging uncertainty.
  • Traditional and non-traditional security threats have grown in magnitude. For the US, China’s economic rise is redefining the geostrategic landscape of the Indo-Pacific.
  • There is no doubt that the US-China trade war has been disruptive. It has coincided with the power tussle in the indo-pacific.
  • This makes for difficult choices. Power, whether economic, political or military, is fractured. No single country can dominate on all issues.

Subtle shifts are more visible

  • Trade and technology are fiercely contested. Nationalism and regionalism are on the rise. There is less multilateralism but greater multi-polarity.
  • The “Asian Century” appears inevitable, but the question remains if it will be unipolar, bipolar or multipolar?
  • Will it be a century of peace and development, or will it involve long-drawn contestations?
  • Global engines of economic growth have shifted to Asia, first to the Asia-Pacific, and now, more widely, to the Indo-Pacific that includes South Asia.

Looking beyond geo-politics

  • The term Indo-Pacific is certainly more inclusive and better accommodates the growing aspirations of a wider constituency.
  • However, the economic success in the Indo-Pacific region has not been matched by stable security architecture. The region has some of the highest military expenditures.
  • Trade, territorial disputes and geo-strategic contestations are rampant.
  • This places limitations on the region’s ability to engage in a process of give and take as seen in the RCEP negotiations.

Way Forward

  • There are fundamental disruptions to the existing equilibrium in the Indo-Pacific.
  • The emergence of the US as a major energy exporter to Asia has eroded the importance of the Gulf oil producers in the Western Indian Ocean.
  • In the South China Sea, the dependence of ASEAN on China for its prosperity and security assurances is growing.
  • India at this juncture does not have to make a binary choice in the Indo-Pacific between a development-centric agenda with ASEAN centrality and a security-centric outlook revolving around the Quad.
  • India will have to manage its relations with China, no matter the challenges.

Indian Ocean Power Competition

A new mould for Mauritius

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : AU, IORA, IOC, Vanilla Islands

Mains level : Mauritius - India bilateral for Indian Ocean

Context

India prepares to host the prime minister of Mauritius, Pravind Jugnauth. He returned to power in the recent general elections. India needs to change the lens through which it sees the small island republic in the western Indian Ocean.

Historical sight

    • Diaspora – For too long, Delhi has viewed Mauritius through the prism of diaspora. This was natural since communities of Indian origin constitute a significant majority on the island.
    • Strategic angle – recently, Delhi has begun to see the strategic significance of Mauritius due to the great power contestation in the Indian Ocean.
    • SAGAR – during the visit of PM to Mauritius in 2015 SAGAR (security and growth for all) policy was unveiled. It was India’s first significant policy statement on the Indian Ocean.

Challenges in dealing Mauritius

    • Not an extension – the bigger challenge for Delhi in dealing with Mauritius is the urgent need to discard deep-rooted perception that Mauritius is an extension of India. 
    • Respecting identity – Mauritius is a sovereign entity with a unique national culture and an international identity of its own. 
    • Unique location – the island enjoys a special place in the Indian Ocean as a thriving economic hub and an attractive strategic location. 

Understanding Mauritius

    • Early European explorers sailed around the African continent and ventured eastwards to India.
    • They began to call Mauritius, the “Star, and Key of the Indian Ocean”
    • The Portuguese and the Dutch were the first to gain a foothold in Mauritius.
    • The French gained effective control over the island in the early 18th century.
    • The French developed sugar plantations introduced shipbuilding and developed a naval base.
    • A French soldier and colonial official, Félix Renouard de Sainte-Croix, described the island as “a central geographical point between every other place in the world’.
    • The British gained control during the Napoleonic wars and turned it into a garrison island to help secure the sea lines of communication between Europe and India. 
    • Diego Garcia, once part of Mauritius, today hosts one of America’s largest foreign military bases in the world.
    • The island is called a “central geographic point”. It is equally true for commerce and connectivity in the Indian Ocean.
    • It is a member of the African Union, Indian Ocean Rim Association and the Indian Ocean Commission.

What India can do

    • Strategic partnership – could look beyond sugar plantations to financial services and technological innovation.
    • Investments – new investments pour into Africa and get serviced in Mauritius. Mauritius can be the fulcrum for India’s own African economic outreach.
    • Vanilla islands of the southwestern Indian Ocean were dealt on a bilateral basis. India could think of them as a collective and make Mauritius the pivot of Delhi’s island policy.
    • Indian commercial activities in the southwestern Indian ocean – can use Mauritius as a pivot. Eg., as a banking gateway, the hub for flights to and from Indian cities and tourism.
    • Technology – India could also contribute to the evolution of Mauritius as a regional center for technological innovation. Mauritius demanded higher education facilities from India like the IIT.
    • Climate Change – climate change, sustainable development, and the blue economy are existential challenges for Mauritius and the neighboring island states. It will be the right partner in promoting Indian initiatives.
    • Security – for an integrated view of security cooperation in the southwestern Indian Ocean, Mauritius is the node.

Conclusion

All this and more is possible if Delhi takes a fresh and more strategic look at Mauritius.


Back2Basics

Vanilla Islands – Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mayotte, Reunion and Seychelles

African Union is a continental union consisting of 55 member states located on the continent of Africa.

Indian Ocean Rim Association is an international organization consisting of 22 coastal states bordering the Indian Ocean.

Indian Ocean Commission it is composed of five African Indian Ocean nations: Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Réunion, and Seychelles.

Indian Ocean Power Competition

Chagos Archipelago

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Chagos Islands

Mains level : Decolonization of Asian countries

 


In a heated statement, Mauritius has called the UK an “illegal colonial occupier” of Chagos Island after it ignored a UN mandated deadline to return Islands. The UN had given UK six months to process the transfer, a move the UK and the US have bitterly resisted.

Chagos

  • Mauritius has argued that the Chagos Islands has been a part of its territory since at least the 18th century.
  • The UK broke the archipelago away from Mauritius in 1965 and the islands of Aldabra, Farquhar, and Desroches from the Seychelles in the region to form the British Indian Ocean Territory.
  • In June 1976, after the Seychelles gained independence from the United Kingdom, the islands of Aldabra, Farquhar, and Desroches were returned by the UK.

Colonization of Chagos

  • The UK retained sovereignty over the islands after Mauritius gained its independence from Britain in 1968.
  • It has been under continuous British sovereignty since 1814.
  • The islands have since been used for defence purposes by the UK and the US, which established a military base on the island of Diego Garcia.
  • The entire Chagossian population was forcibly removed from the territory between 1967 and 1973, and prevented from returning.

An ICJ obligation for UK

  • The ICJ had said in its opinion that the UK Government is “under an obligation” to end its administration of the Chagos Archipelago as rapidly as possible.
  • It demanded that the UK withdraw its colonial administration from the Chagos Archipelago unconditionally within six months, enabling Mauritius to complete the decolonization of its territory as rapidly as possible.

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ICJ rejects UK’s claim of sovereignty over Chagos Archipelago

Indian Ocean Power Competition

[op-ed snap] Delhi might want to add another geography for its diplomatic lexicon — the Vanilla Islands

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Vanilla Islands

Mains level : India - Indian Ocean islands

Context

Vice-President heads to Comoros and other destinations in Africa. 

New frontiers – Vanilla Islands

  • India is devoting greater attention to the Indian Ocean. Many places that have long fallen off Delhi’s political radar are coming into view.
  • A group of exotic island states in the South Western Indian Ocean — The Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mayotte, Reunion, Seychelles — joined hands to promote tourism.
  • Many of them grow vanilla and so they call themselves after it.
  • Vice president is the first senior figure from the Indian leadership to visit the Comoros.

Island states – Significance

  • India is witnessing a growing interaction with the island states.
  • Prime Minister met leaders of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) on the margins of the UNGA last month.
  • Together they account for more than 40 members. Their large numbers and impact on the voting patterns in the UN and other multilateral forums had made island states of interest to major powers.
  • Immediate vulnerability to rising sea levels has made island states the most active champions of urgent global action to mitigate climate change.
  • Island states have also taken the lead in developing the concept of “blue economy” focused on sustainable use and development of ocean resources.
    India’s activism on countering climate change and promoting blue economy have made the island states special partners for India.
  • Many of the island states are also beginning to see themselves as large “Ocean States”. Due to the provisions of the Law of the Sea, the ocean states are entitled to large exclusive economic zones (EEZ).
  • Seychelles for example, has a land area of approximately 455 sq km spread over 115 islands and a population of barely 100,000. But its EEZ is close to 1.3 million sq km.
  • Comoros is a founding member of the International Solar Alliance. It is a member of the IORA that India is reviving. It is also a member of the Arab League and the OIC.

Vanilla Islands – the colonial past

  • In the colonial era, the Vanilla Islands were the object of rivalry among the European powers.
  • All the sea lines of communication between Europe and the Indian Ocean came round Africa and went through the Mozambique channel – the Vanilla islands became attractive way stations.
  • The Comoros was of special importance as it sits at the northern end of the Mozambique channel and provided a strong base to control the channel.
    France gained the upper hand among the European powers in the Vanilla Islands in the 18th century.
  • The construction of the Suez Canal obviate the need for European shipping to go round Africa. This reduced the strategic significance of the Vanilla islands.

Vanilla countries – current importance

  • African resources became important for Asian powers like China, Japan, and India. Thus SLOCS from Africa’s east coast and the Vanilla islands have once again become important.
  • The islands are looking to develop partnerships with the major powers.

What is in it for India?

  • India can contribute significantly to the security and prosperity of the Comoros.
  • India has had strong ties with one of the Vanilla Islands, Mauritius. India has long seen it through the prism of the Indian diaspora.
  • Only recently, India has begun to pay attention to the strategic dimensions of the relationship with Mauritius.
  • Foreign Office set up a separate Indian Ocean Division with a focus on the island states. It clubbed Maldives and Sri Lanka with Mauritius and the Seychelles, but left out the other Vanilla Islands.
  • India must begin to treat the Vanilla Islands as a single strategic space.
  • It can build on its traditional presence in Mauritius to launch substantive economic and defence cooperation with the littoral.

Indian Ocean Power Competition

[pib] 28th Indo–Thai CORPAT

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the Exercise

Mains level : UNCLOS

  • 28th edition of India-Thailand Coordinated Patrol (Indo-Thai CORPAT) between the Indian Navy (IN) and the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) is being conducted from 05 – 15 September 2019.

About the exercise

  • Indian Navy has been participating in the biannual Coordinated Patrol (CORPAT) with the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) since 2003.
  • The Objectives of the Indo-Thai CORPAT are to ensure effective implementation of United Nations Conventions on Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS).
  • UNCLOS specify regulations regarding protection and conservation of natural resources, conservation of marine environment, prevention and suppression of illegal, unregulated fishing activity/ drug trafficking/ piracy, exchange of information in prevention of smuggling, illegal immigration and conduct of Search and Rescue operations at sea.

Back2Basics

UNCLOS

  • The convention is also sometimes referred to as the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea treaty.
  • It defines the rights and responsibilities of nations with respect to their use of the world’s oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of marine natural resources.
  • It came into operation and became effective from 16th November 1982.
  • Before the nautical law of UNCLOS came into force, there existed a school of thought known as freedom-of-the-seas.
  • This doctrine had first come into operation during the 17th As per this law, there were no limits or boundaries set to the aspect of marine business and commercial activities.
  • Over-exploitation of the sea’s resources was immensely felt towards the middle of the 20th century and many nations started feeling the need to ensure protection of their marine resources.
  • Features defined by the UNCLOS are as follows:

Indian Ocean Power Competition

[pib] National Maritime Domain Awareness Project

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NMDA Project, SAGAR

Mains level : Maritime Security in IOR

  • Raksha Mantri visited the Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) and Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) located at Gurugram.
  • The two centres function under the National Maritime Domain Awareness (NMDA) Project.

About NMDA project

  • The NMDA project was launched in accordance with the vision of PM on SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region).
  • The IMAC monitors movement of more than 120,000 ships a year passing through the Indian Ocean.
  • The cargo carried by these ships account for 66 per cent of world crude oil, 50 per cent of container traffic and 33 per cent of bulk cargo.
  • Thus, IMAC performs a very crucial role in collecting shipping information, analysing traffic patterns and sharing the inputs with the user agencies.
  • IFC-IOR is a collaborative initiative by the Indian Navy in coordination with partner nations and multi-national maritime agencies to enhance Maritime Domain Awareness and Maritime Security.
  • The Centre is likely to host International Liaison Officers from the partner nations in the near future.

Back2Basics

SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) Programme

  • SAGAR is a term coined by PM Modi in 2015 during his Mauritius visit with a focus on blue economy.
  • It is a maritime initiative which gives priority to Indian Ocean region for ensuring peace, stability and prosperity of India in Indian Ocean region.
  • The goal is to seek a climate of trust and transparency; respect for international maritime rules and norms by all countries; sensitivity to each other`s interests; peaceful resolution of maritime issues; and increase in maritime cooperation.
  • It is in line with the principles of Indian Ocean Rim Association.

Indian Ocean Power Competition

[pib] Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : RECAAP

Mains level : Maritime Security in IOR

  • The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) will be co-hosting an international workshop that aims to deepen knowledge on issues related with piracy and armed robbery, the maritime agency said.
  • The two-day workshop has been organised in cooperation with the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) Information Sharing Centre (ISC).

ReCAAP

  • The ReCAAP stands for Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia.
  • It is the first regional Government-to-Government agreement to deal with piracy and armed robbery at sea in Asia.
  • The ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre (ReCAAP ISC) was established under the Agreement and was officially launched on 29 November 2006 in Singapore.
  • Presently, 20 countries are members of the ReCAAP including Australia, US, Japan, China and Bangladesh (Pakistan is not a member).
  • India had played an active role in setting up and functioning of the ReCAAP ISC along with Japan and Singapore.
  • The Centre has designated the ICG as the focal point within India for the ReCAAP.

Indian Ocean Power Competition

[op-ed snap] Ocean of neighbours

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Revival of bimstec is a strategic step in view of neighbourhood integration Policy.

CONTEXT

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first visit abroad in his second term to Maldives and Sri Lanka is being billed as the reaffirmation of Delhi’s traditional diplomatic emphasis on “neighbourhood first”.

Focus on ocean Island states

  • The visit to Male and Colombo offers the opportunity to firmly place the Indian Ocean island states into India’s regional geography.
  • Modi must now expand the ambit of the strategy to draw in Madagascar, Comoros, Reunion and Diego Garcia. Reunion is part of France and Diego Garcia hosts a major American military facility.
  • Similarly, Delhi should focus on a number of small islands that dot the sea lines of communication in the eastern Indian Ocean — the Cocos and Keeling islands belonging to Australia come readily to mind.

Dysfunctioning SAARC

  • At the only SAARC summit during his first term, held in Kathmandu at the end of 2014, Modi saw the forum’s dysfunction.
  • It could not wrap up regional connectivity agreements negotiated for years before, thanks to Pakistan’s decision to pull the plug at the last minute.
  • With SAARC going nowhere, Modi turned to the BIMSTEC grouping, invited its leaders to join the BRICS summit at Goa during 2016, and again last month for the inauguration of Modi’s second term.
  • Delhi should have no problem recognising that Islamabad is not ready for economic integration with India; it wants a settlement of the Kashmir question to precede any economic and political cooperation with India. That might take a while.

Revival of BIMSTEC

  • Modi’s focus on BIMSTEC was as much about rediscovering a forgotten regional organisation as it was about putting the Bay of Bengal on India’s mental map.
  • Over the last few years, Colombo has been persistent in claiming an “Indian Ocean identity” rather than a South Asian identity.
  • The future of the Maldives, sitting astride one of the world’s busiest sea lines of communication, is in the Indian Ocean.
  • Both of them are acutely conscious of their growing maritime salience and have not been hesitant to develop all-round political leverage.

Realities to be acknowledged

  • First, it needs to recognise that island states and territories — including the smallest pieces of real estate — are coming into strategic play amidst the return of great power rivalry to the littoral.
  • Second, the island states in the south western Indian Ocean form a coherent group and must be dealt within an integrated framework.
  • In eastern Indian Ocean, a focus on developing the Andaman Islands opens up possibilities for sub-regional cooperation with Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore.
  • Third, India needs to develop its own national capabilities — especially in the delivery of strategic economic and security assistance to the island states. Without that the ambitious goals identified under the SAGAR vision will remain elusive.

Conclusion

Finally, in his SAGAR vision, Modi signalled India’s readiness to work with other powers in promoting regional prosperity and security. There are big possibilities for collaboration with France, the US, Australia and Japan in different corners of the Indian Ocean. The joint bidding by India and Japan for the development of East Container Terminal in the Colombo port underlines the potential.

Indian Ocean Power Competition

UNGA resolution demanding UK withdraw from Chagos Archipelago

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Chagos Archipelago: Location and surrounding

Mains level : Decolonization measures across the world


  • India was among 116 nations to vote in favour of a UN General Assembly resolution demanding the UK to withdraw its “colonial administration” from the Chagos Archipelago unconditionally within six months.
  • This aimed at supporting Mauritius in its quest for the restoration of sovereignty over the island chain in the Indian Ocean.

Colonization of Chagos

  • The UK retained sovereignty over the islands after Mauritius gained its independence from Britain in 1968.
  • It has been under continuous British sovereignty since 1814.
  • The islands have since been used for defence purposes by the UK and the US, which established a military base on the island of Diego Garcia.
  • The entire Chagossian population was forcibly removed from the territory between 1967 and 1973, and prevented from returning.

An ICJ obligation for UK

  • The ICJ had said in its opinion that the UK Government is “under an obligation” to end its administration of the Chagos Archipelago as rapidly as possible.
  • It demanded that the UK withdraw its colonial administration from the Chagos Archipelago unconditionally within six months, enabling Mauritius to complete the decolonization of its territory as rapidly as possible.

Why India voted in favor of Mauritius?

  • As a part of India’s longstanding support to all peoples striving for decolonization, India has consistently supported Mauritius in its quest for the restoration of sovereignty.
  • India has age-old people-to-people bonds with Mauritius.

Assist this newscard with:

ICJ rejects UK’s claim of sovereignty over Chagos Archipelago

Indian Ocean Power Competition

Doctrine of Hot Pursuit

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UNCLOS

Mains level : Doctrine of Hot Pursuit


Context

  • The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) has apprehended a Pakistani fishing vessel off Gujarat and seized huge cache of narcotic drugs worth ₹600 crore in the international market.
  • During the hot pursuit, the crew threw bags containing suspicious material into the sea.
  • The Coast Guard team, upon boarding the vessel, took the crew into custody and retrieved the material.

Doctrine of Hot Pursuit

  • The doctrine of hot pursuit in international law recognizes the right of a State to pursue a vessel belonging to a foreign State which has violated any law within its territorial boundaries and jurisdiction.
  • The doctrine vests a right to pursue the delinquent vessel outside the territorial limits into the open sea and then can be taken into custody.
  • The fundamental rule of the maritime law states that all vessels have the right to navigate freely on the high seas.
  • Yet, the traditional notion has recognized the doctrine of hot pursuit as an exception to the principles of freedom on the high seas.
  • At a time when smuggling and piracy were rampant, this customary doctrine emerged to empower a coastal state to pursue on to the high seas a vessel that had violated its laws within its waters.
  • This denied the intruding vessel the opportunity to escape punishment by claiming protection under the right of free navigation on the high seas, which had been designed to protect innocent vessels.
  • Importantly, this customary doctrine did not extend to the territorial waters of a foreign state.
  • Decades later, this customary doctrine was codified in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of High Seas.

Hot Pursuit as per UNCLOS

  • The doctrine of maritime hot pursuit is codified in art 111 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
  • It recognizes that a vessel, if has committed a violation of the laws of a foreign state while in that state’s sovereign or territorial waters, may be pursued onto the high seas and seized.

Indian Ocean Power Competition

[pib] Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue – 2019

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: IPRD

Mains level: Geo-political importance of Indo-pacific region


News

  • The second edition of Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue (IPRD) – 2019 was recently held in New Delhi.

 Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue (IPRD)

  1. The idea of an IPRD was first conceptualized and conducted in 2018, as the apex level conference of the Indian Navy, organised by the National Maritime Foundation as the Navy’s Knowledge Partner.
  2. The annual dialogue aim to provide:
  • a platform for substantive and insightful discussions pertaining to the geopolitical developments affecting the maritime domain of the Indo-Pacific
  • policy-relevant inputs to the policy-makers and the public at large

Focus areas

  • Practical solutions for achieving cohesion in the region through maritime connectivity
  • Measures to attain and maintain a free-and-open Indo-Pacific
  • A regional approach to the region’s transition from a ‘Brown’ to a ‘Blue’ economy
  • Opportunities and challenges arising from the maritime impact of ‘Industry 4.0’ and
  • How the twin conceptualizations of ‘SAGAR’ and ‘SAGARMALA’ might best be made mutually-reinforcing on a regional level

Indian Ocean Power Competition

ICJ rejects UK’s claim of sovereignty over Chagos Archipelago

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Chagos Archipelago (map based)

Mains level: Decolonization of IOR


News

  • The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague has said in an advisory opinion that Britain has an obligation to end its administration of the Chagos Archipelago.
  • The Chagos Islands are home to the U.S. military base of Diego Garcia, under lease from the United Kingdom since the 1960s.

Ending Decolonization

  • The ICJ concluded that the decolonization of Mauritius was not lawfully completed, as a result of Britain’s continued administration of the Chagos Islands.
  • The continued administration of the territory by the U.K. amounted to a “wrongful act”, which was not consistent with the right to the people of self determination.
  • The judges concluded that any detachment of part of a colony had to be based on the freely expressed and genuine will of the people.

Why UK needs Chagos?

  • The defence facilities on the British Indian Ocean Territory help to protect people here in Britain and around the world from terrorist threats, organised crime and piracy.
  • Britain says that the islands will be returned to Mauritius when they are no longer needed for defence purposes.

Why ICJ intervened?

  • In his statement, the judge also noted that the original agreement had not allowed for third party involvement in the territory.
  • The base’s construction led to the displacement of some 1,500 people, who have been unable to return to the islands.

1965 pact

  • Under an agreement struck in 1965, in return for compensation to Mauritius and fishing rights, Britain has maintained control of the islands.
  • It has continued to do so despite efforts by Mauritius to regain control, and UN resolutions requiring it to complete the decolonization of Mauritius.
  • The ICJ held public hearings in September 2018 in the case after Britain was defeated in its attempt to halt a UNGA resolution calling for the UN’s highest court to delivery an advisory opinion on the issue.
  • In June 2017, the UNGGA adopted a resolution calling on the ICJ to delivery an advisory opinion on whether the continued administration by UK was lawful.
  • The UNGA win by Mauritius against the U.K., and the U.S.  was seen as a major blow to Britain.

Questioning its legitimacy

  • The legacy of colonialism and whether the kind of agreements struck between colonial powers and their colonies in the final stages cannot be legitimate.
  • While Britain contended that Mauritius freely consented to the detachment of the archipelago, Mauritius maintained that the choice faced was no choice at all.
  • The leadership of its independence movement had been forced into agreeing to the 1965 separation of the islands, fearful that if they did not do so, independence would not be granted.

Indian Stance

  • India too supported Mauritius in its case, with India’s Ambassador to the Hague telling the court last year that a historical survey of facts placed the archipelago as part of Mauritian territory.
  • Regarding the process of decolonization of Mauritius, it remains incomplete both technically and in substance as long as the Chagos Archipelago continues to be under the colonial control.

Conclusion: On Advisory Opinions

  • The ICJ which last week heard from India and Pakistan on the contentious case of Kulbushan Jadhav, can also deliver advisory opinions.
  • Unlike the Jadhav case, which is binding and non-appealable, advisory opinions are not binding, though they do carry substantial legal weight and are mostly adhered to.
  • However, there have been several occasions in which they have not been: such as the 2003 advisory opinion which obligated Israel to stop building the wall in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Indian Ocean Power Competition

[op-ed snap] Raja Mandala: Integrating the island

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Nothing much

Mains level: Rising importance of the Andaman Sea and the need to step up efforts in the region’s development


Context

  • Recently PM modi visited Andaman Islands.

What did he do in Andaman ?

  1. PM Modi has recently renamed three islands in Andaman & Nicobar. The three islands — Ross Island, Neil Island and Havelock Island — will now be called Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Island, Shaheed Dweep and Swaraj Dweep.
  2. He also hoisted a 150-feet-high national flag at Port Blair to mark the 75th anniversary of freedom fighter Subhash Chandra Bose’s declaration of the formation of the Azad Hind government in 1943.

Andaman has always been a neglected Island

  1. Prime Ministers of India rarely travel to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  2. Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi visited in 1984 and 1986 respectively and Manmohan Singh went there in early 2005 to review the tsunami relief operations.
  3. For political Delhi, the island chain was at best a remote outpost acquired by default from the departing British Raj.
  4. That attitude filtered down the entire system of governance in Delhi. For India’s continentalist security establishment, weighed down by difficult land borders to the north and the west, the Indian Ocean is a distant domain.
  5. The nation’s island territories — the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to the east and the Lakshadweep to the west — barely figure on Delhi’s mental map.

How will PM modi’s visit change the scenario?

  • Historical

Modi’s decision to time his visit with the 75th anniversary of Subhas Chandra Bose flying the tricolour in Port Blair has helped highlight the role of Andaman and Nicobar Islands in India’s freedom struggle.

  • Geopolitical
  1. The story of Bose, Japan and the Azad Hind government underlines the enduring geopolitical significance of the Andaman Island chain and its waters.
  2. In the 17th and 18th centuries, they were the site of contestation between European colonial powers — Portugal, the Netherlands, France and Britain.
  3. Britain, which occupied the islands at the end of the 18th century in search of a permanent military base, put them on the back burner in the 19th.
  4. From a potential platform for power projection, the islands became a penal colony for the Raj. The challenge for Britain came this time from the first Asian great power in the modern age — Japan.
  5. The imperial Japanese forces raced through Malaya, ousted Britain from Singapore, Burma and the Andaman Islands.
  6. It took the combined efforts of the British Empire , the US and nationalist China to reverse Japanese aggression.
  7. After the Second World War, the partition of India and the Cold War between America and Russia, the Andamans became marginal to the new geopolitics.
  8. Today as a rising China projects its economic and military power into the Indian Ocean, any strategy for regional balance would necessarily involve the economic and military development of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  9. As in the Second World War, so in the current juncture, it would involve considerable cooperation between India and its major strategic partners.
  • Economic
  1. That in turn leads us to the third imperative — of ending the deliberate isolation of the island chain and promoting economic development, tighter integration with the mainland, strengthening military infrastructure, regional connectivity and international collaboration.
  2. The Modi government has initiated some important steps in that direction, including on internet connectivity, visa liberalisation, tourism, building new ports, agreements for cooperation with neighbouring countries in South East Asia.

 

Way Forward

  1. Any large-scale development would inevitably raise questions about preserving the pristine environment of the Andamans and protecting its vulnerable indigenous populations.
  2. As the NDA government seeks to accelerate economic development and enhance the military potential of the Andamans, there will be many challenges ahead. But none of them are unique to India.
  3. As it tries to turn the outpost in the Andamans into a strategic hub, Delhi can draw much from the wealth of international experience on the sustainable transformation of fragile island territories.
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