Inaugural Session

Time: 10:30 AM – 11:00 AM IST

Welcome Speech: Dr Joshua Thomas, Erudite Distinguished Fellow (International Relations), CPPR and Former Deputy Director, ICSSR, North Eastern Regional Centre.

Inaugural Speech: Mrs. Vijay Thakur Singh IFS (Retd), Director-General, Indian Council of World Affairs

Keynote Speech: Ambassador TP Sreenivasan, Former Ambassador of India and Governor for

India of the IAEA

Conference Host: Ms Purvaja Modak, Research Fellow, International Relations – Geo-economics, Centre for Public Policy Research

Session Summary

• Ms Purvaja Modak, Research Fellow, International Relations – Geo-economics, Centre for Public Policy Research introduced CPPR and welcomed the distinguished guests.

• Dr. Joshua Thomas, Erudite Distinguished Fellow (International Relations) pointed to the importance of free, open and inclusive Western Pacific Rim, Western Indian Ocean, Southern Ocean and Arabian Sea in his welcome remarks.

• Mrs Vijay Thakur Singh, Director General, Indian Council of World Affairs delivered the inaugural address. She highlighted the political, economic and strategic significance of the region, defining the opportunities and emerging challenges including strategic turbulence and great power rivalry. The importance of the region can be gauged by the number of forums that have emerged to discuss maritime issues, including ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), East Asia Summit, Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS). Due to the interconnectedness of the region, developments in one part can have ripple effects on the region at large. During India’s presidency at the UN Security Council, maritime security was identified as one of the three priority areas, pointing to the rising prominence of Indo- Pacific in India’s strategic calculus.

• Ambassador T P Sreenivasan delivered the keynote address, wherein he shared his experience of working in the United Nations and the evolution of maritime law and issues surrounding the same. He briefly spoke about the change in India’s stance, from a position of opposing military presence in the Indian Ocean, to the present day scenario where maritime security weighs heavily in India’s strategic thinking. China, for one, played an important role in this shift in India’s position, and although India has not institutionalized Quad, Chinese actions in Ladakh in recent times have pushed New Delhi to find an enduring partnership that ensures maritime security and secures our long term interests in the region.

Session 1: Western Pacific Rim Security Complex

Time: 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM IST

Key Speakers: Dr. Avinash Anil Godbole, Associate Professor, International Relations and Assistant Dean, O.P. Jindal Global University; Dr. Takeshi Daimon-Sato, Professor, School of International Liberal Studies, Waseda University, Japan; Dr. Pragya Pandey, Research Fellow, Indian Council of World Affairs.

Chaired by: Dr. Vijay Sakhuja, Former Director, National Maritime Foundation and Distinguished Fellow, Centre for Public Policy Research

Session Summary:

• Dr. Vijay Sakhuja chaired the first session. He spoke about the present day scenario of naval exercises, named Large Scale Exercises (LSE) taking place in the Western Pacific Rim by the US Navy and the Marine Corps. He mentioned how the Chinese Navy, too, has been undertaking exercises. He traced the roots of contestation dating back to almost 3 decades, and how the region is becoming a hotly contested area.

• Dr. Avinash Godbole discussed China’s ascendance over the years, its quest to become a norm maker, and its ever increasing role in the region. He pinned the role of powers such as the United States working alongside partners in establishing credible deterrence. He stated capabilities and capacity building of partners through job creation, manufacturing, and improving the middle classes would be a significant hedge against China.

• Dr. Takeshi Daimon-Sato explained the role of India in the world economy and an increasing cooperation with Japan to expand the security-strategic network. The convergence of India and Japan on various core issues, such as free, open and inclusive Indo Pacific – especially in the context of maritime expansionism of China through the ‘Belt’ of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – is of great importance to both the countries. He shared his perspective on India as a Gateway to Central and West Asia, especially in the light of the risks of the recent Afghan crisis.

• Dr. Pragya Pandey highlighted the prominence of Indo-Pacific in the strategic calculations owing to a rapidly changing geopolitical environment. She shed light on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the South Pacific and their greater Exclusive Economic Zones that are witnessing a push by China through large scale investments, resulting in Australia and New Zealand trying to augment their security concerns. India – Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership alongside India’s interest in formation of Forum for India – PacificIslands Cooperation are testimony of India’s active engagement in the region and a focus on maritime security.

• On the South China Sea, she pointed out numerous instances of China’s aggression. For India, economic and strategic calculations come into picture as huge volumes of trade pass through the vital sea routes.

Session 2: Western Indian Ocean – Southern Ocean Security Complex

Time: 12:10 PM – 01:10 PM IST

Key Speakers: Dr. R P Pradhan, Associate Professor, Department of Humanities and Social Science, BITS Pilani, K K Birla Goa Campus and Distinguished Fellow, Centre for Public Policy Research; Dr. Shelly Johny, Assistant Professor of Political Science, St. Aloysius College (University of Calicut) and Senior Fellow, Centre for Public Policy Research; Dr. Sankalp Gurjar, Research Fellow, Indian Council of World Affairs

Chaired by: Prof Dr. W Lawrence S Prabhakar, Author, Researcher & Professor, International

Relations & Strategic Studies, Advisor, Centre for Public Policy Research

Session Summary:

• Dr. Lawrence S Prabhakar started the discussion by describing the Western Indian Ocean and the Southern Ocean and the patterns of relationship and security. Dr. R P Pradhan followed up and discussed island chains, disputes over them and the ensuing security dilemma.

• Following this, Dr. R P Pradhan talked about how the Indo Pacific region is riddled with disputes over the islands, and how that has resulted in a security dilemma. For instance, Maldives has drifted towards China owing to Chinese investments in the island nation. The security concerns of India, or for that matter Japan, is driven by China’s investments in the Island nations, that have gained significance in recent times. This has prompted countries like India, US and Japan to make investments in an effort to balance power in these Islands.

• Dr. Shelly Johny gave insights on emerging threats and challenges to the Western Indian Ocean security complex, due to the development of new kinds of threats – such as drone attacks. The brewing discontent in the Persian Gulf region among the states, affects safety and security of the sea lanes. The security of the whole Indo-Pacific region depends on peace and security in the Persian Gulf.

• Dr. Sankalp Gurjar described how the region is beset with a number of security threats such as conflicts, terrorism, maritime piracy and weak states. In the light of the recent takeover of Taliban, there is a probability of drug trade getting a boost. India has been working with some of the regional partners but that creates dilemmas for it, as it is caught up in the rivalry of other great powers vying for influence in the region.

Session 3: Arabian Sea Littoral Maritime Security Complex

Time: 01:45 PM – 02:45 PM IST

Key Speakers: Rear Admiral Krishna Swaminathan, AVSM, VSM, Flag Officer Offshore, Defence Advisory Group and Advisor, Offshore Security and Defence to the Government of India; Dr. Uma Purushothaman, Assistant Professor, Department of International Relations and Politics, Central University of Kerala; Vivek Mishra, Research Fellow, Indian Council of World Affairs.

Chaired by: Vice Admiral M P Muralidharan, AVSM & Bar, NM (Retd), Former Director General, Indian Coast Guard; and Distinguished Fellow, Centre for Public Policy Research.

Session Summary:

• Vice Admiral Muralidharan started the discussion with the emerging importance of the Indo Pacific and a resultant focus on maritime security. He explained the fragility of the littoral states in the Arabian Sea and major choke points in Bab-el-Mandeb and Strait of Hormuz and Horn of Africa, and the region’s geopolitical, geo economic and geostrategic significance. He also highlighted that the region is essentially India’s backyard, and therefore any event in the region impacts India.

• Rear Admiral Krishna Swaminathan elaborated the role of geography, the compact nature of the region, and resultant spillover effects of any turmoil. He spoke of enduring conflicts, violence, terrorism, weak governance, and highly nationalistic populace in the region. On security, he mentioned the presence of non-traditional threats such as piracy, armed robbery, narcotics smuggling. On geo-economics, he elaborated on the choke points and their ramifications on international trade.

• He underscored the correlation between trade and energy security and how there has been a huge number of warships in the region that have made a permanent presence in the Arabian Sea. He finally concluded by mentioning four factors that will have a major impact in the future: the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, Chinese forays in the Indian Ocean Region and its BRI, the post COVID 19 scenario, Sixth Assessment Report or AR-6 on climate change and its effects on coastal areas.

• Dr. Uma Purushothaman pointed out the dangerous spread of radical ideologies from across the Arabian Sea. The main threats to peace, she mentioned, were the regional rivalries, State support to non-state actors and proxy wars, and lack of democracy. Piracy, maritime terrorism and narcotics smuggling are obvious challenges. Climate change that looms over would result in devastation of coastal towns and a wave of climate refugees. She concluded that burden sharing is the most viable option.

• Vivek Mishra delved on the security continuum in the context of the littoral security concept. He pointed to the growing multilateralism that can be attributed to three factors – the growing discontent in the region due to the US presence, resource constraints to maintain the large US Military deployments, and the scramble by China that has pushed other countries to the region in a bid to prevent Chinese hegemony. From a distant approach to a proactive approach, India has come a long way in actively engaging in the region, both bilaterally and multilaterally.

• Vice Admiral Muralidharan concluded the session by quoting an event of the past where our first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru put down the importance of maritime power and especially that of having a carrier.

Click here to read the event report in pdf format

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *