This year, the nation is celebrating Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav marking 75 years of India’s independence. India’s Navy will celebrate 15th August 2022 to showcase its consistent ‘Make in India’ efforts by sailing its ships to all major regional ports of India and show its presence in four continental seas in exercises with friendly navies. Imbibing the spirit of Aatmanirbharta (self-reliance), the Navy is also slated to commission its 37,500 tonne home-built aircraft carrier Vikrant. It is expected Prime Minister Narendra Modi will unveil it after his address to the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort in New Delhi. Responding to the PM’s call for indigenisation, the Navy took over the ship from Madhu Nair, CMD Cochin Shipyard Ltd in Cochin, on 22nd July.
The oceans cover 72% of the surface of the earth and constitute more than 95% of the biosphere and sustain and support life and control the climate. They are a source of food for many sections of the world’s population, apart from accounting for tourism and transport of 90% of world trade by volume, besides being a major source of hydrocarbons which can meet the requirements of developing nations like China and India with their insatiable need for energy. They have immense potential for alternate sources of ‘Blue’ Energy’ with varying tides and temperature differences in layers of the seas.
The Economist, at the World Ocean Summit in 2015 gave a definition of Blue Economy as “A sustainable Ocean Economy that emerges when economic activity is balanced with the long-term capacity of an ocean eco-system to support this activity and remain resilient and healthy”. With unchecked exploitation of land for resources, the dependence of mankind on the oceans will not only become a means of sustenance but also an existential necessity in the future and will need freedom of navigation for trade.
Going forward, it will be crucial to balance the needs of India’s development with a sustainable model of economic growth across varied sectors like fishing to alternate sources of energy in India’s seas. India’s waters and interests will need to be protected by the Navy and Coast Guard so that country’s blue economy may thrive. The Navy also forges bonds for commerce and Prime Minister’s acronym SAGAR, Security and Growth for All explains it. This contributes to India’s geo strategic reach as the net security provider in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
War and peace are two sides of a coin that need constant attention for a nation like India seeking world power status. Modern war fighting doctrines and systems will also need to be supported by India’s maritime infrastructure ashore, and blue economy will be crucial to feed and meet the aspirations of India’s increasing population.
China is India’s geo-strategic competitor. This came home with the publication of the books on blue economy by ZERI in 1996 and updated by Gunter Poli when China pressed its claims on South China Sea with vigour and the world realised China wanted a larger swath of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for greater blue economy resources.
Blue economy has got re-defined as “marine-based economic development that leads to improved human-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities”. A sustainable economy from the oceans needs to be balanced and honed with the long-term capacity of India’s maritime plans. The Navy, Coast Guard and Sagarmala need traction together. Disagreements on who owns which part of the sea could lead to loss of economy, challenges to Navies and lead to friction in bilateral relations, even to war.
India’s landmass and its EEZ is extremely rich yet has untapped resources. India’s sea-bed exploration has barely scratched the surface and large sections of India’s population are dependent on the sea for their livelihoods. India is also the beneficiary of exclusive sea bed mining rights as per the allocation by the International Seabed Authority (ISA) in the central Indian Ocean Region (IOR), near where China has begun operations to mine nodules with deep sea vessels in areas allotted to it by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 1982. India will need vessels to explore and exploit in the deep seas.
A maiden seminar ‘Swavlamban’, by the Naval Innovation and Indigenisation Organisation (NIIO), was held at New Delhi on 18-19 July 2022. PM Modi graced the occasion as the Chief Guest with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh being the Guest of Honour. The two-day seminar saw enthusiastic participation by the academia, industry leaders, policy makers, think tanks, students and senior government officials, in addition to the naval personnel. Personnel at Command Headquarters and outlying units of the Navy also assembled at designated auditoriums spread across the country to participate online.
In his keynote address, Vice Admiral SN Ghormade, Vice Chief of Naval Staff touched on India’s blue economy and J Patil, head of Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers provided the industry perspective. Exchange of MoUs and release of the Indian Naval Directory of Industry Partners (INDIP) were also undertaken in the inaugural session. In the four interactive sessions, many themes were explored specific to accelerating niche technology induction into the Indian Navy, and fishing in India which contributes $ 7 billion from exports with around 1.3 million tonnes of seafood mainly to China and Japan. Efforts are on to increase it in view of its huge potential. Tourism is another laggard which must be revived after the Covid-19 pandemic abates with visitor-friendly regulations and private players. Cruise tourism to Indian ports and island territories too has great scope. The Navy and Coast Guard can ensure India’s security from the seas. The journey is long and far but the way head is clear. India has to depend on a thriving blue economy.
-The writer is a naval analyst and commentator. His book ‘Indian Navy at 75’ will be launched in August to cover the distance India’s Navy has covered since Independence. The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda