Indian Ocean Region




Indian Ocean Region:

The Indian Ocean is one of the busiest and most critical maritime transportation links in the world. Almost a hundred thousand ships a year pass through these waters, carrying about half of the world’s container shipments, one-third of the world’s bulk cargo traffic and two-thirds of the oil shipments. The economies of many of the littoral countries depend heavily on the ports, the shipping, and most importantly, the vast natural resources that enrich these waters with an abundance of marine life.

The Indian coastline presents both, an opportunity and a challenge to India in terms of its foreign and security perspectives. India has an extensive coastline of about 7500 km and several hundred islands between Lakshadweep in the west and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the east. India’s southernmost tip is just 90 nautical miles from Indonesia. Its Exclusive Economic Zone is 2.4 million square kilometers and 90% of our trade by volume and almost all of our oil imports come through the sea. It is an opportunity for the enormous ocean wealth that it offers in terms of fishery, minerals, oil, etc. It is a challenge as it opens up India’s borders for free entry and exit for a variety of activities that may be detrimental to India’s national security.

Indian Navy’s first Maritime Vision was expressed in the Naval Plans Paper of 1948. During the 1965 India-Pakistan conflict, the role of the Navy was restricted to the protection of trade routes. It was only in the 1971 conflict that the Navy played a significant role. Indian Navy’s Maritime Strategy, today, speaks of the need to project power as a means of supporting foreign policy objectives.

The Indian government sought to harness India’s 7,500 km long coastline and 14,500 km of potentially navigable waterways and strategic location on key international maritime trade routes, through the Sagarmala Programme which aimed to promote port-led development in the country. Two programmes, Bharatmala and Sagarmala are compatible. The Bharatmala project is a more comprehensive road connectivity plan. Sagarlama complements it with port and river transport systems.

Indian foreign policy had evolved around three pillars during the cold war era: nonalignment in international relations; preservation of autonomy in domestic affairs; and solidarity among developing nations. This world view changed after 1991. Indian economy opened up under the economic liberalisation. India started to develop relations with different powers on the basis of a realist understanding of national interest. During the cold war era, India used to be considered a poor developing country. In the post-1990s India has emerged as a significant economic and technological power. It is now an active participant in world affairs.

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