Indian Ocean Power Competition

Indian Ocean Power Competition

Indian Ocean CommissionIOCR


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).


  • 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 rescueop-ed snap


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.


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.


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 adriftop-ed snap


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.


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.


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 OmanPriority 1


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.


  • 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 regionop-ed snap


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Power equilibrium in the Indo-Pacific region


  • “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

[oped of the day] A new mould for Mauritiusop-ed snap


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : AU, IORA, IOC, Vanilla Islands

Mains level : Mauritius - India bilateral for Indian Ocean


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.


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


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 ArchipelagoPriority 1


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.


  • 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.

Assist this newscard with:

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 Islandsop-ed snap


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Vanilla Islands

Mains level : India - Indian Ocean islands


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 CORPATPIB


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.



  • 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 ProjectPIB


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.


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.
Posted on | Custom
Indian Ocean Power Competition

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


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).


  • 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

UNGA resolution demanding UK withdraw from Chagos ArchipelagoIOCR


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 PursuitIOCR


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UNCLOS

Mains level : Doctrine of Hot Pursuit


  • 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 – 2019IOCR


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


  • 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 ArchipelagoPrelims OnlyPriority 1


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


  • 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 islandop-ed snap


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


  • 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.
Posted on | Custom
Indian Ocean Power Competition

[pib] Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR)PIB


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: IFC-IOR

Mains level: Enhancing maritime security in the Indian Ocean Region


  • Raksha Mantri has launched the Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) at Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) Gurugram.

Information Fusion Centre (IFC)

  1. The IFC-IOR is established with the vision of strengthening maritime security in the region by building a common coherent maritime situation picture and acting as a maritime information hub for the region.
  2. The IFC has been established at the Navy’s Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) in Gurugram.
  3. IMAC is the single point centre linking all the coastal radar chains to generate a seamless real-time picture of the nearly 7,500-km coastline.
  4. All countries that have already signed white shipping information exchange agreements with us, about 21 of them, are IFC partners.

Challenges in IOR

  1. The Indian Ocean Region is vital to world trade and economic prosperity of many nations.
  2. More than 75% of the world’s maritime trade and 50% of global oil consumption passes through the IOR.
  3. However, maritime terrorism, piracy, human and contraband trafficking, illegal and unregulated fishing, arms running and poaching pose myriad challenges to maritime safety and security in the region.
  4. Response to these challenges requires enhanced situational awareness of the maritime activities in the region so as to enable security agencies function effectively.

Why such move?

  1. The scale, scope and the multi-national nature of maritime activities, make it difficult for countries to address these challenges individually.
  2. Hence, collaborative efforts between maritime nations in the IOR, was essential.
  3. IFC-IOR aims to engage with partner nations and multi-national maritime constructs to develop comprehensive maritime domain awareness and share information on vessels of interest.
  4. The IFC – IOR shall be a collaborative construct that will work with partners, countries as well as international agencies; to enhance maritime security and safety.
  5. It would also aim to work closely with the multi-national constructs and other information fusion centres.
Posted on | PIB
Indian Ocean Power Competition

UN begins talks on treaty to protect imperilled High SeasIOCRPriority 1


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: UNCLOS

Mains level: Measures undertaken by UN to protect High Seas.


Now Focus on Unprotected High Seas

  1. UN kicked-off talks on a 2020 treaty that would regulate the high seas, which cover half the planet yet lack adequate environmental protection.
  2. Sessions are planned to take place over two years, with the goal of protecting marine biodiversity and avoiding further pillaging of the oceans.
  3. The negotiations will relate to spaces beyond national jurisdictions, or areas that belong to no country in particular.
  4. Talk will focus on the high seas and the international zone of marine waters, or about 46% of the planet’s surface.

High Seas with no restrictions

  1. In 1982, the UN adopted the Convention on the Law of the Sea, but left the high seas free from restrictions.
  2. All States enjoy the traditional freedoms of navigation, overflight, scientific research and fishing on the high seas.
  3. The convention took effect in 1994, without the participation of the U.S.
  4. Since then, shipping routes have expanded considerably, and the resources of the ocean deep have aroused significant interest, whether by fishing or mineral extraction.

Protecting Marine Life

  1. Marine life is reeling from the impact of industrial fishing, climate change and other extractive industries.
  2. UN seeks to share responsibility to protect our global oceans before it is too late.
  3. Talks will focus on creating protected areas on the high seas, more sharing of maritime resources and technology, and research on environmental impacts.

Fishing restrictions

  1. Some whale-hunting nations, like Japan, Iceland and Norway, are expected to be more cautious than others because they fear overly strict fishing restrictions.
  2. The US is also resilient because they are opposed to all regulation of marine genetic resources as they did not ratify UNCLOS.
Indian Ocean Power Competition

India, Seychelles talk of ‘mutual welfare’ on Assumption Island projectPriority 1

Image result for assumption island map


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Location of Assumption Island and other archipelagos in IOR

Mains level: India-Seychelles defense cooperation


U-turn on Assumption Islands

  1. National Assembly of Seychelles last week refused to ratify the naval base that India has been planning to build on the island of Assumption.
  2. The island has been at the centre of high profile maritime diplomacy between India and Seychelles, which was boosted with Prime Minister Modi’s 2015 visit.
  3. It is not clear how both sides would take the project forward in the absence of a parliamentary ratification.

Enhancing cooperation through security and infrastructure

  1. PM Modi announced several initiatives for the strategically located country that included the grant of a major Line of Credit (LoC) for the purchase of defense hardware of $100 million.
  2. He also declared that both sides would intensify cooperation to carry out hydrographical studies of the maritime region and have declared exchange of necessary oceanic maps between two sides.
  3. India also gifted a Dornier aircraft to Seychelles.
  4. India is ready to finance three civilian infrastructure projects in Seychelles under Special Grant. Government House, New Police Headquarters and the Office of the Attorney General is included in this.

Other details

  1. Seychelles will soon be celebrating the 250th anniversary of the arrival of the Indian origin people to the archipelago.
  2. Visiting Seychelles President gifted two large Aldabra turtles that are unique and are known to live for centuries.
  3. Both sides sealed six agreements including one that will twin Panjim in Goa with Victoria of Seychelles.
Indian Ocean Power Competition

India’s proposed Assumption Island deal stands cancelledPriority 1


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Assumption Island, SAGAR Programme, a Map-based study of Indian Ocean Region (IOR)

Mains level: India’s counter arrangements in IOR against rising Chinese presence


India’s plan to build a military base in Seychelles now stands CANCELLED

  1. The deal was to include a 20-year access to the base, as well as permission to station some military personnel on the ground with facilities on the island funded by India, owned by Seychelles and jointly managed by both sides.
  2. The deal to build a military base at Assumption Islands was struck in principle in 2015 during PM Modi’s visit to Seychelles

Another Security setback after the Maldives

  1. The decision by the Seychelles President to drop the deal in the face of protests over a perceived loss of sovereignty is a blow to the government’s “SAGAR” (Security and Growth for All in the Region) programme.
  2. It also comes amid India’s troubles with another IOR country, the Maldives, where the government has demanded that India withdraw two helicopters, pilots and personnel from its atolls that had been sent there to help with maritime patrols.

Attempts futile

  1. In an attempt to engage with the Opposition in the Seychelles that had led protests against the agreement, India had raised the issue with Leader of the Opposition of Seychelles.
  2. Naval officials pointed out that India’s defense maritime cooperation with Seychelles is long-standing and some of the upgrade work on Assumption Island was already underway.
  3. India has resurfaced the old airstrip on the island as part of the infrastructure development project worth over $500 million.
  4. The cancellation of the agreement in a strategically important island could have far-reaching implications.


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

  1. SAGAR is a term coined by PM Modi in 2015 during his Mauritius visit with a focus on blue economy.
  2. It is a maritime initiative which gives priority to Indian Ocean region for ensuring peace, stability and prosperity of India in Indian Ocean region.
  3. 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.
  4. It is in line with the principles of Indian Ocean Rim Association.

IORA (Indian Ocean Rim Association)

  1. Established in 1997 in Ebene Cyber City, Mauritius
  2. 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 Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation.
  3. 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] Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) – 2018


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS),

Mains level: India’s maritime exercises with various nations and their impact


  • Iran is hosting the 6th edition of Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) and Conclave of Chiefs.
  • The IONS was conceived by the Indian Navy in 2008.
  • The forum seeks to enhance maritime cooperation among navies of the littoral states of the Indian Ocean Region by providing an open and inclusive forum for discussion on regionally relevant maritime issues that would lead to common understanding on the way ahead.
  • The inaugural edition of IONS was held in February 2008 at New Delhi.
  • The IONS Charter of Business was agreed upon by the Conclave of Chiefs and brought into effect in February 2014.
  • Under the IONS charter of business adopted in 2014, the forum has working groups on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR), Information Security and Interoperability (IS&I) and maritime security (anti-piracy).
  • A relatively young forum, barely in its 10th year of existence, it has grown into a formidable organisation with 23 members and 09 observers.
  • As the founder nation, India will also be conducting commemorative activities in November 2018 at Kochi, for celebrating its 10th Anniversary this year.


  • South Asian Littorals: Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Pakistan, Seychelles, Sri Lanka and United Kingdom (British Indian Ocean Territory)
  • West Asian Littorals: Iran, Oman, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates
  • East African Littorals: France (Reunion), Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, South Africa, and Tanzania.
  • South East Asian and Australian Littorals: Australia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Timor-Leste.


  • China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Madagascar, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Russia, and Spain.
Indian Ocean Power Competition

Seychelles says no to India’s proposal

Image source


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Assomption island project, PIO Parliamentary Conference

Mains level: India’s efforts for expanding its reach in Indian ocean region and issues related to it

Assomption island project rejected

  1. India’s plans to get a foothold in the Indian Ocean islands of Seychelles has received a setback
  2. Assomption island project was rejected by the Indian Ocean country earlier this week and it will not be ratified by its parliament

PIO Parliamentary Conference

  1. India hosted the PIO Parliamentary Conference in January
  2. The aim of the conference was to firm up ties with individuals of Indian origin who are spread across the world and are playing important role in their host societies
  3. Mr. Ramkalawan, Leader of Opposition in Seychelles, who is an ethnic Indian, was earlier in the race to occupy the post of the president of the country
  4. Mr. Ramkalawan remained a staunch opponent of the maritime project of India in the Assomption island

Importance of Assomption island project

  1. The island oversees the main energy route between the major Asian economies and the Gulf region
  2. The project was expected to host a naval facility
  3. The agreement covers within its purview shared efforts in anti-piracy operations and enhanced EEZ surveillance to prevent intrusions by potential economic offenders including those indulging in illegal fishing, poaching, drug and human trafficking
Indian Ocean Power Competition

‘China deploys warships in Indian Ocean’


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: East Indian Ocean (Map related)

Mains level: China’s increasing intrusion in IOR

Chinese naval contingent deployed near the Maldives

  1. A Chinese naval contingent has been deployed in the East Indian Ocean
  2. This comes at a time when the Maldives is undergoing a political crisis

Indian Ocean region: New tug of war

  1. The Chinese Navy’s ‘Blue 2018A’ fleet has been training in the East Indian Ocean for a week
  2. China had earlier warned against external intervention in the Maldives
  3. This was after the country’s exiled former President Mohamed Nasheed called for New Delhi’s intervention to release political prisoners
  4. China is trying to exercise influence over the Maldives usually within India’s strategic view
  5. Indian defense sources denied any movement of Chinese ships near the Indian Ocean island nation
Indian Ocean Power Competition

China develops underwater surveillance networks in Indian Ocean, SCS

Image source


Mains Paper 2: IR | India & its neighborhood- relations.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Maritime Silk Road, Gulf of Aden, Djibouti, Hambantota port, Gwadar port, Senkaku islands

Mains level: China’s rising military capabilities and its effects on India/world

New underwater surveillance network

  1. China has developed a new underwater surveillance network to help its submarines get a stronger lock on targets while protecting the nation’s interests along the maritime Silk Road
  2. This includes the Indian ocean

About the system

  1. The system, which has already been launched, works by gathering information about the underwater environment, particularly water temperature and salinity
  2. The Chinese system is based on a network of platforms — buoys, surface vessels, satellites and underwater gliders — that gather data from the South China Sea, and the Western Pacific and Indian oceans
  3. The Navy can use this data to more accurately track target vessels as well as improve navigation and positioning

China’s expansion in Indian ocean

  1. In recent years, China has stepped up naval expeditions to the Indian Ocean to fight the pirates in Gulf of Aden
  2. China is also seeking to establish logistic bases in the Indian Ocean
  3. The first such base was opened by China in Djibouti last year and it acquired the Hambantota port of Sri Lanka on 99 years lease for debt swap
  4. It is currently developing the Gwadar port in Pakistan as part of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

South China sea dispute

  1. China is involved in maritime disputes in the South and East China Seas
  2. It claims almost all of the South China Sea and has also laid claims on the Senkaku islands under the control of Japan in the East China Sea
  3. These islands are believed to harbor vast natural resources below their seabed
  4. The US has been periodically deploying its naval ships and fighter planes in the South China Sea to assert freedom of navigation in the disputed areas

How could this move affect India/world?

  1. The project is part of an unprecedented military expansion fuelled by Beijing’s desire to challenge the US in the world’s oceans
  2. By 2030 China will have 260 warships and submarines compared to the US’ 199
  3. Since the Cold War, the US had closely guarded the Western Pacific via “island chains”
  4. China is now moving in the same direction with ‘String of pearls’ around India and establishing bases in African subcontinent and other areas in Pacific ocean
Indian Ocean Power Competition

[op-ed snap] Out at sea: on the Indian Ocean Regionop-ed snap

Image source


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Gulf of Aden, Strait of Malacca, ASEAN, Goa Maritime Conclave

Mains level: Measures being undertaken by India to secure IOR


U.S. National Security Strategy

  1. In its National Security Strategy (NSS), the U.S. has called China a “challenger” and “rival” while welcoming India’s emergence as a “leading global power and stronger strategic and defence partner”
  2. The U.S. declared that it seeks to increase ‘Quadrilateral’ cooperation with Japan, Australia, and India
  3. The NSS also states that the U.S. would support India’s growing relationships throughout the region

India should be cautious

  1. India should be wary of any attempts at being pitted as a front in the U.S.’s efforts to check China’s rise
  2. While the notion of the Indo-Pacific sounds grandiose and enticing, India must not forget that its primary area of concern is the Indian Ocean Region (IOR)

Rules-based order

  1. India has always been wooed by both sides and has been a balancing power on the world stage
  2. For instance, India’s vote in the UN General Assembly over Jerusalem should be seen in line with a “rules-based world order.”

Chinese presence in the IOR

  1. India should hedge against the rapid expansion of Chinese presence in the IOR
  2. This is more important as Chinese army recently acknowledged that it is planning to explore the possibility of more foreign military outposts in Africa, West Asia, and other areas
  3. For India, geographically the area of concern, and so the area of focus, should remain the IOR, stretching from the Gulf of Aden to the Strait of Malacca
  4. As more powers make inroads into this strategically crucial space, India must consolidate its position and not expect others to do its job, for it would only mean ceding space in the long run

How to consolidate position in IOR?

  1. By beefing up Indian capacity and securing interests
  2. And then expanding partnerships to fill voids
  3. Over the last couple of months, there have been hectic parleys with various nations in various formats — quadrilateral, trilateral, etc
  4. While being part of various groupings is important, it is imperative that they are in line with our interests

Key initiatives

  1. Last month, India and Singapore concluded an overarching bilateral agreement for naval cooperation
  2. It is India’s second bilateral logistics arrangement and gives it access to the Changi naval base at the mouth of the Strait of Malacca
  3. India is also working out modalities for joint multilateral exercises with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
  4. India is also negotiating similar logistics agreements with several other countries
  5. Another initiative is the Goa Maritime Conclave hosted by the Indian navy last month where Navy Chiefs and maritime heads of 10 Indian Ocean littoral states brainstormed on ways to improve cooperation in the region
  6. It is an India-led initiative where the navy has offered to share information of maritime movement in real-time

Way forward

  1. The tags of net security provider and leading global power would mean nothing if New Delhi cannot undertake capacity building in its own backyard, be it South Asia or the IOR
  2. India should engage with like-minded countries in the region without getting entangled in groupings which are seen as being targeted or military in nature
Indian Ocean Power Competition

2017 ‘Ekuverin’: 8th India-Maldives joint military exercise to conclude today


Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Various Security forces & agencies & their mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Ekuverin, Free Trade Agreement

Mains level: China’s string of pearls strategy and its effect on India

Joint military exercise focused on counter-terrorism 

  1. The Indian Army and the Maldives National Defence Forces (MNDF) have been carrying out a joint military exercise in Belgaum
  2. The two-week long exercise which focused on counter-terrorism operations was conducted by small teams in a semi-urban setting
  3. The eighth edition of the exercise is named ‘Ekuverin’, which means ‘friends’ in Maldivian language

India-Maldives ties under strain

  1. Diplomatic ties between India and Maldives are under strain over a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed by the archipelago nation and China
  2. Recently, Maldives signed an FTA with China, becoming only the second country after Pakistan in South Asia to do so

India trying to counter China’s presence

  1. One of the key challenges to India’s role in the Indian Ocean Region is China’s activities in the region
  2. India has been conducting joint military exercises in the region to counter China
  3. One such joint exercise with Sri Lanka recently concluded in Pune
Indian Ocean Power Competition

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

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

Survey of polymetallic sulphides

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

What are Deep seabed polymetallic sulphides?

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

India sets sights on gold in ocean

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

Colombo port project not a security threat to India: Ranil

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

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

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

Protests against China-funded Colombo Port City project continue

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

Raja-Mandala: Maritime India versus Continental Delhiop-ed snap

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

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

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

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

Maritime Silk Road to reset Beijing-Colombo ties

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

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

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

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

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