Indian Ocean Region to face ever-increasing battery of threats and uncertainties: Foreign Secretary

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The Indian Ocean Region (IOR) will face an ever-increasing battery of threats and uncertainties, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Monday.

Addressing the Goa Maritime Conclave on “Maritime security and emerging non-traditional threats: A case for proactive role for Indian Ocean Region navies”, he also spoke of challenges arising from geopolitical volatilities.

A lack of commitment to settled international law has led to an increased militarization of the region, he said.

Militarization always adds to complexities, he added.

“The Indian Ocean Region, it is quite obvious, will face an increasingly complicated, rapidly evolving, and more demanding security situation, with an ever-increasing battery of threats and uncertainties,” Shringla said.

“This requires all of us, and in particular the navies, the coast guards and the maritime security agencies of this region, to do more together,” he said.

“India stands ready and willing to do its share – and more – in tackling these problems,” he added.

The conclave was organised by the Naval War College in Goa.

“Security in the context of foreign policy or diplomacy has traditionally been associated with countering external security threats – primarily military. Historically, diplomatic efforts to improve security have been about negotiating security alliances,” Shringla said.

“We now operate on the basis of an expanded concept of human security that takes a broader view,” he said.

“We are in the process of devising a new set of measures and arrangements that reflect this understanding of security. They are based less on the traditional concept of a military alliance and more on a cooperative approach, on prevention, on sharing of information, and, on promoting inter-operability across state borders,” he said.

Many of these cooperative activities that we undertake are in the policing and law-enforcement spheres, he said.

“It is my belief that these measures are more appropriate to the newer and rapidly evolving threat matrix that we are confronted with,” Shringla said.

Referring to the IOR countries, he said “We also inhabit a particular contemporary geopolitical and geoeconomics reality.”

“We are a part of the greater Indo-Pacific space. This is a construct that has, for a very good reason, attracted much diplomatic and strategic attention,” he added.

Shringla said the rapid growth of Asia’s share in global output, the business prowess of Asian companies and the growing Asian technological abilities are driving the global economic centre of gravity to the East.

The coronavirus pandemic is the greatest shock for our generation but also a moment of opportunity as all crises are succeeded by periods of growth, he said.

“Empirically speaking, crises accelerate transitions and the emergence of new realities. The Covid pandemic is certainly the greatest shock in the memories of our generation,” he said.

He pointed out that the pandemic locked down an entire planet, destroyed lives, claimed livelihoods, closed schools and educational institutes, and accentuated fault lines in many environments.

“Paradoxically, this is also a moment of opportunity. Empirically speaking again, all crises are succeeded by periods of growth,” he added.

The foreign secretary recalled that the Great Depression and the Second World War were followed by sustained economic growth.

“Major health crises have led to investments in medical science and public health that have transformed our lives,” he said, adding major economies are on the rebound.

He said that the pandemic has highlighted both the opportunity and the vulnerabilities of the maritime sector.

Shringla said this combination of opportunity and vulnerability is something that we will have to accommodate in our priorities and policies and to build in resilience, sustainability and reliability in our supply chain.

“As we all know, these massive logistical capacities cushioned some impact of the pandemic.

We have, however, now become painfully aware that the economic rebound is being stressed by shipping delays and shortages of containers,” the foreign secretary said.

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